Category Archives: pubs

Pubs of London E17, 1991

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.

The Samuel Jones, Exeter

The Samuel Jones opened just before Christmas and is an outpost of Cornish brewing giant St Austell, occupying a converted warehouse on Exeter’s riverside.

If you weren’t in the know, you might not realise this ‘smoke and ale house’ is a St Austell project. Branding has been kept to a minimum, and the décor is more stylish than most of their Cornish estate — polished copper, reclaimed wood and exposed pipework, which make it feel pleasingly cluttered, warm and, for want of a better word, ‘cool’.

That ‘coolness’ is somewhat undercut by the evidence of corporate management: staff in matching waistcoats, scripted greetings, floor supervisors with earpieces, and a slick EPOS system. On our visit, it did, at times, feel a bit like a posh Harvester, though never downright soulless, perhaps because it was so buzzing, with almost every seat, from armchair to bar stool, occupied from the moment we arrived mid-afternoon up until we left.

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The Beer Cellar, Exeter

In the last year or so, Exeter has gained two drinking holes which make craft beer a key part of their offer.

Until recently, the stretch of the West beyond Bristol was short on Belgian, American and ‘new wave’ beer, and Exeter in particular seemed ripe for the plucking. We’ll look at St Austell’s new ‘smoke and ale house’ The Samuel Jones tomorrow, but first, here are some long-matured thoughts on The Beer Cellar.

Taking over a box-like unit previously occupied by a Chinese noodle bar, the Beer Cellar opened at the end of 2013. The people behind it also run the sister Cornish breweries Penpont and Firebrand, as well as owning adventurous off licences in Launceston and Truro.

Despite a superficial resemblance to the Rake at London’s Borough Market, when we first visited the Beer Cellar almost exactly a year ago, we didn’t take to it.

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Pubwatching With Desmond Morris, 1993

When Dave Tweeted the above at us last week, even before responding, we had ordered a copy of the 1993 book in question from Amazon for £2.81, delivered.

Pubwatching with Desmond Morris. (Cover)Pubwatching with Desmond Morris, despite his name and face on the cover, was actually written by anthropologist Kate Fox, based on research commissioned by the Brewer’s Society. It packs a lot of observations into its 64 pages: there are notes on types of pubgoer, games, typical pub conversations and etiquette, among other subjects. Of greatest interest to us, however, was an attempt to categorise pubs as they were at the turn of the 1990s.

Even if no such attempt can ever be definitive, every time someone tries, it is illuminating in some way. If nothing else, such exercises provide a snapshot of a particular point in time, and a particular perspective, as with the academic paper on pubs and bars in British cities c.2001 we stumbled upon last year.

The Morris/Fox categories from 1993 were:

1. The Serious-traditional pub, where ‘greater importance is attached to the authenticity of the ales’, customers are ‘middle class, and in the 25-50 age group’ and include ‘students… social workers, teachers, university lecturers and other dedicated non-profit-making professionals’, some of them ‘members of CAMRA… who are drinking for a cause, as well as for the taste’.

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Modern Pubmanship, Part 3: Broken Glasses

The third in an occasional series of guest posts by our etiquette expert R.M. Banks.

Having downed a goblet of Banks’s patented hangover cure, I find myself enjoying a moment of clarity in regard to a question that has been floating in the cranial ullage like a cellarman’s cigarette end: Should one, in this progressive age, emit a cheer when a glass is smashed by the barkeep?

‘Surely, Banks,’ you cry, haughtily (yes, I’m afraid these interjections of yours do strike me as haughty, and, there — now I’ve said it) ‘there are more pressing matters to which you might apply the newly-honed razor-like edge of the Great Brain? Affairs of nations, or matters metaphysical?’

To which I say: Many a mickle makes a muckle, and refuse to be drawn further on the matter.

Now, if you’ll only be quiet for a moment, let us away to the Red Lion, where we lay our scene: it is a busy Wednesday evening, shall we say, the usual crowd gathered around the quiz machine, and a hum of conversation almost equal in volume to the hum of the antique cheese rolls on the back bar. Then, in an instant, this idyll is disturbed: as if it were a greased aubergine, Bert the Hat’s favourite handled jug springs from the barkeep’s moist palms and onto the flagstones, whereupon it makes a sounds as of bells of gold, and retires from its long career as a vessel suitable for containing liquids.

For a sliver of a second, blessed silence falls, and then… well, what?

Continue reading Modern Pubmanship, Part 3: Broken Glasses