Inside the Pub, 1950

Detail from an illustration by Gordon Cullen.
One of Gordon Cullen’s illustrations depicting an ideal modern pub.

Maurice Gorham’s best-known books on pubs are The Local (1939) and Return to the Local (1949), neither of which we have yet read. What we did acquire, thanks to a tip from Herb Lester, was a battered copy of Inside the Pub (1950), a pub designer’s manual which Gorham wrote with Harding McGregor (‘H. McG.’) Dunnet for the Architectural Press.

It’s an interesting book for various reasons but what leapt out at us were the opening lines of the introduction by J.M. Richards, on the subject of the alchemy of pub atmosphere:

If I were asked what are the qualities I would like to find in a pub I would say simply, ‘the right atmosphere’, and if asked to be a little more precise I would say that the right atmosphere is one which provides warmth, cheerfulness and a sense of seclusion and one in which the charm of the familiar is somehow combined with a sense of something intriguing just round the corner. A pub should make people feel at home and yet have the capacity to lift them a little out of themselves.

Later in the book, Dunnet says that many pubs built just before the war suffer from the lack of nooks and dividers, offering only a ‘large bleak interior’; they are sometimes ‘indistinguishable from post offices or banks’; they ‘deny the whole pub tradition and only succeed in discouraging the customer from joining his cronies round the kitchen chimney corner’.

We can think of a few pubs to which that description would apply.