CAMRA’s East London & City Beer Guide is a fascinating document which, across three editions from 1983 to 1991, charts changes to the drinking landscape.
We’ve had the 1986 edition for a while, and have 1983 (finally) on the way, but 1991 arrived this week, looking as if it had come fresh from the binders, the spine un-cracked. (“Printed by Calvert’s Press (TU) Worker’s Co-Operative”.)
We turned to the section that covers Walthamstow, London E17 — an area we know particularly well — which prompted a few observations.
1. It hasn’t changed that much. The Grove, the Windmill, the Plough and a few others have gone, but many others are still there — the Lord Brooke, the Lord Raglan, the Lord Palmerston, the Chequers, and so on, many in better shape now than they were when this book was written.
2. It’s always seemed odd that there’s no Wetherspoon’s in Walthamstow (the nearest is across the line into Leyton). Now we know that the College Arms on Forest Road was a JDW (Younger’s Scotch Ale at 79p a pint!) but, at some point, the firm abandoned it — something it seems it’s always been pretty ruthless about.
3. The Village, which looks like a well-worn and traditional Victorian pub, actually opened in 1989. The building is Victorian but the premises was formerly (Boak thinks, calling on childhood memories) residential. For that matter, The College Arms was formerly two shop units and the Coppermill an off-licence, so these change-of-use conversions have occasionally gone the other way.
4. Pubs change their names a lot. The Tower Hotel became Flanagan’s Tower, which became the Tower Hotel again, which is now the Goose. The College Arms was formerly ‘Cheeks American Bar‘. What is now the Waltham Oak on Lea Bridge Road was formerly the Chestnut Tree, but began life with what might be our new favourite pub name: The Little Wonder.
The content of all three editions is available at this splendidly old-school website if you want to investigate further, but the 1991 edition is also generally available for pennies.