In 1947 the world was in the grip of flying saucer fever in the wake of American pilot Kenneth Arnold’s supposed sighting of several UFOs in Washington State in June that year.
As far as we can tell, Britain’s first flying saucer sightings of this period were in Kent as reported in various local newspapers, such as the Dundee Evening Telegraph on 10 July:
Claims to have seen a ‘flying saucer’ have been made by two people living in villages near Rochester, Kent.. Miss Tomkins, of The Nook, Snodland, said, ‘At 10.30 on Wednesday night I was astonished to see a peculiar round object in the sky travelling at great speed. I should say it was 1500 feet up.’ … A resident of Cucton, about a mile from Snodland, said he saw the ‘flying saucer’ at the same time and described it as being silver in colour.
Months later there was another similar event as reported in the Gloucester Citizen for 25 March 1948:
Mr and Mrs G. Knight of William Road, Ashford, Kent, claim to have seen a ‘flying saucer’… They say it appeared to be a large ball of dull-red colour several times the size of the largest star, and leaving a streak behind it. It was seen travelling across the sky in a south-easterly direction towards the Channel between Folkestone and Ashford.
This local angle perhaps explains why the name The Flying Saucer was chosen for a new pub in Hempstead, Kent, announced in 1951. The sign by T.C.R. Adams (about whom we’d like to know more) was displayed before the pub was up-and-running, at an exhibition in London to accompany the publication of a book, English Inn Signs.
Here’s one side:
The other featured a cartoon of a woman hurling crockery at her startled husband — flying saucers, geddit? Ho ho.
This Dover/Kent history website has more on the story: it says the licence for the pub came from a slum establishment demolished during clearance and was applied (we think) to a building that had until this time been operating as a working men’s club.
Perhaps surprisingly, The Flying Saucer is still there and trading under the same name, having had many different signs over the years, and what was a hip joke in 1951 has become a charming quirk almost 70 years on.
Taking the argument a stage further; if the pub has a tap room then I’m okay with swearing in moderation. I’m as guilty as anyone. In all other areas of a pub then there is absolutely no need for swearing at all. End of discussion here, and I’m fully behind Sam’s on this. I just don’t get the blanket ban across the entire estate, in all rooms. I don’t want to get judgemental, and it takes all types, but trying to enforce a swearing ban in somewhere like the very busy General Elliot or The Duncan in Leeds city centre would be like trying to plait snot. I quite liked the CAMRA stance, reported on in The Morning Advertiser , ‘Pubs should be encouraging good behaviour rather than opting for complete bans on those who swear’. I might go a bit further here myself and say, ensuring good behaviour.
I transferred my wort into two 5 litre stainless steel cooking pots and tied cheesecloth over the top to stop any insects from getting in. I left these under the trees in my garden overnight (1 cherry blossom and 2 sycamores)… I’m going to leave this for at least a year. I’ll check on it from time to time to see if it needs ditching, I’m not expecting much, it’s more just for my own interest of witnessing a spontaneous fermentation in action.
Fundamentally, for me, interior design in pubs is a retro project; one at its best when it is intuitively sympathetic to the building, whether it dates to 1974 or the 17th century. That need not be executed in clichéd ways with Victoriana and Punch prints (alarmingly, The Hinds Head will feature ‘eccentric curiosities’), nor does it mean your pub must look old, tatty and dingy. Pubs can be polished up, sensitively.
Though they never asked for the attention it must be incredibly fulfilling to have your work praised by strangers in the pub. Still, there are continuing elements that must be draining. Like running a social media account where people feel the need to unnecessarily tag you in every comment they make regarding your beer. Or even worse, where people don’t tag the offending brewery, but the brewer’s personal profile themselves, in order to really garner attention.
This selection of post-war pubs comes from 1961 editions of in-house magazines from two London brewing behemoths, Watney’s and Whitbread.
To reiterate what we said a few weeks ago, the primary point of this series of posts is to put the material in these publications somewhere where other people can find it. And, for clarity, we should say that these pubs weren’t all built or opened in 1961 — that’s just when the magazines covered them. Where a date of construction or opening is given, or is available from another reliable source, we’ve included it, along with the names of architects and photographers where possible.
1. The Buff Orpington, Orpington, Greater London (Kent)
This Whitbread pub was the permanent replacement for a prefab that was erected as a stopgap immediately after World War II. The lounge, in black and white, was decorated with reproductions of paintings of chickens, the Buff Orpington being a breed of hen. The tap room (public bar) had lemon walls and a red and blue tiled floor — so, something like this?
Is it still there? Yes, under the name The Buff, and it’s yet another post-war estate pub run by Greene King who seem to be keeping it in good nick, even if it has had some faux-Victorian bits glued on.
2. The Royal Engineer, Gillingham, Kent
The original pub of this name was at Chatham, near the Royal Engineers’ barracks. This new pub — a fairly handsome building for the period — was built by Whitbread as part of the shopping centre on a new estate at Twydall:
Where in the old house were shutters and frosted glass are now clear panes and airy louvres. Special attention has been paid to heating and ventilation; a pleasing feature is the lighting — more and smaller bulbs giving brightness without glare. Richly hued woods in servery, counters and doors set off with light paint and wallpaper… An unusual feature is the porcelain handles of the beer pumps. On each is a reproduction of the inn sign.
We can imagine some people reading that thinking that the shutters and frosted glass sound much nicer.
Knuckle Sandwich: Growing Up in the Working-class City is a study of the lives of Ordinary People and so of course features a pub or two.
It was written by David Robins and Philip Cohen and published by Penguin in 1978. The fantastic period cover design is by Red Saunders. The back blurb includes a quotation from ‘What’s My Name’ by The Clash and there’s plenty inside to interest students of youth culture, London life, and the polarised politics of the 1970s. As usual in this kind of book all the names are changed, including those of the estate itself, and the pubs. It’s possible some dates and other details were also adjusted to make it harder to pin down.
The overarching narrative concerns a particular pub which the authors call The Black Horse:
Monmouth estate is a ‘new’ GLC estate: it was first occupied in 1960 and is still (1977) incomplete… In the middle of the estate, as if stranded by the tide of ‘progress’, stood the old public-house, the Black Horse. A solid-looking building, with a large ground floor for business, a huge cellar, and two upper floors which had served as living quarters. The pub was scheduled for demolition, like so much else in the neighbourhood, and there were vague GLC promises of a community centre being built there in a few years’ time.
What happened next was that local youths, with the guidance of radical youth workers, decided to take over The Black Horse and make it an unofficial community centre instead. With the backing of a local tenants’ association, the Open Space Committee, squatters moved in upstairs ‘quietly and efficiently’, acting as caretakers. Before this it was used to stash stolen goods and as a hideout for teenage gangs, so people generally found this an improvement.
The estate’s other pub, called here The Cross Keys, was across the road from The Black Horse. Here’s how Robins and Cohen describe it:
The Cross Keys was the recognized headquarters of the local villains, the fraternity of scrap men, fences, shotgun merchants — another reason why the [Open Space] Committee would not go into it. (It offended their code of moral respectability — not one that was forged out of any deference to middle-class decency, however; it was more that they had a position to keep up.) He fact that the Cross Keys was often the quietest pub in the neighbourhood, and the brewers had withdrawn their franchise on the place, made some tenants suspect that the landlord must be involved in some close working relationship with his customers. Ironically, the local villains had an interest in the Black Horse… It was well-known they were after the lead and timbers contained in the old building. This was one of the main reasons why the committee had backed the squat, to prevent the roof mysteriously disappearing one night.
Near The Cross Keys was a dosshouse for old men and Irish labourers, the so-called ‘Gallagher lads’ who frequented the public bar of the Cross Keys:
By all accounts, Gallagher ran a tight racket and exploited his clients for whatever he could get out of them. He had made a considerable fortune in this rough trade. The area surrounding the Black Horse was considered dangerous largely because of his these lads’ presence. Before it closed the Black Horse had been their main drinking place. Unlike the Cross Keys it had been rough inside. A few weeks before closure, the public bar had been the scene of a stand-up fight between the Irish lads and some black workers living in the vicinity. The reputation of the Black Horse as a dangerous and undesirable place to go remained with it to some degree after it closed for business and opened for the community.
Over the course of the book we learn that the downstairs of The Black Horse was converted into a disco but then, with rumours of sex and drug use among the teenagers, tensions arose and the estate elders withdrew their support. The pub was then systematically wrecked and then burned down in what the authors describe as a ‘professional job’:
Three men had been seen entering the place — with a key — shortly before the wrecking was discovered. They, if it was they, had worked quietly, professionally, unemotionally. Who were they? One is tempted to say simply the self-appointed executioners of the sentence of this community on the ‘notorious’ old pub…
This all seems very interesting in the context of the 2010s and the rise of social-enterprise community pubs. These days such an attempt at revitalisation would never involve squatters and teenagers and the pub would probably remain a pub even if it did gain peripheral functions as well.
One question to which we can’t easily find an answer is where The Black Horse really was, or what it was really called. Based on the map in the book we reckon the Monmouth Estate is actually the Bemerton Estate, off the Caledonian Road. Assuming the pubs are placed somewhat accurately that means The Black Horse was probably really The Pembroke Castle which people seem to recall as being demolished c.1972-3 — perhaps actually when it was boarded up? Or maybe Robins and Cohen obfuscated the dates a bit, too. And the Cross Keys must surely have been — this is a weird name — The Cobbled Fighter.
Or maybe not. If you know for sure one way or another — perhaps you grew up round there, or have access to local newspapers from the period — do drop us a line or comment below.
UPDATE 11:30 24/04/2017: Ewan of Pubology fame has looked at some maps and reckons The Cross Keys must have been The Independent on its original site. The Cobbled Fighter is a bit of a mystery, picked up via Pubs Galore, but might have been a short-lived name for the same premises.
UPDATE 15:20 24/04/2017: Cobbled Fighter link changed from defunct pubology.co.uk page to pubsgalore.co.uk
The great British pub is at the heart of the capital’s culture. From traditional workingmen’s clubs to cutting-edge micro-breweries, London’s locals are as diverse and eclectic as the people who frequent them. That’s why I’m shocked at the rate of closure and why we have partnered CAMRA to ensure we are can track the number of pubs open in the capital and redouble our efforts to stem the rate of closures.
This is interesting because it seems rare for politicians in power to make really positive statements about the value of pubs given the wider conversation about the social effects of drinking.
For Draft magazine Brian Yaeger has been to ‘the end of the world’ — Patagonia and Easter Island, where beer is being made despite logistical challenges:
I first walked into Fuegian’s light industrial storage room, which was almost empty. That’s because, surprisingly, the company’s orders outpace its production. That’s just one of the logistical jigsaw pieces that puzzles manager Gustavo Alvarez. Imagine his headache when a piece of brewing equipment, already fairly well Frankensteined, needs a new part that takes 10 days to deliver by truck from Buenos Aires because the only way down is through neighboring Chile over dicey roads and then by ferry to Tierra del Fuego. When the brewers realized they needed more primary fermentation space, they simply welded more to the tops of existing tanks, explaining why some fermenters are 1,000 liters and others are 1,500 to 3,000.
For the employees… the results can be life-changing. Today, beers designed by [Rune] Lindgreen are available in almost 40 places around Denmark, including Dragsholm Castle, a Michelin-starred restaurant… ‘It’s really nice to be back brewing again, but at the same time it’s also a little confusing, since my job description has changed a few times. But I know that it is very common for start ups, that you’ll have to be able to wear more hats. I’m glad to be a part of this.’
My question is, ‘Do Australian brewers brew differently to US brewers?’ ‘No’, so why are we focused on the fact that when a US brewer exports their product they have an export label that has a date code identical to most Australian brewers or other imported brewers? Plus even though the US brewers have an export date code longer than their local market date code, the export date code in many cases is still shorter than exactly the same beer styles brewed locally by local brewers.
Mark Johnson tweeted about making the grave error of drinking a full can of Magic Rock Human Cannonball on the way to Hop City to himself. Five hundred millilitres of a 9% beer on a less than 45 minute train journey. A beer generally served by the third (a half at most) was now being consumed by almost a pint. But it’s so ‘drinkable’.
(This, we think, relates to a point we made last week about the disconnect between ABV and what we might as well call perceived booziness.)
I’m not narrow-minded and don’t think I’m squeamish, but getting my shoes covered in vomit before I even got through the door should have provided all the warning I needed… I’d already fought my way through the scaffolding yard masquerading as a car park by the time a huge beast lurched out of The County Oak and threw up over my feet… By the time the fully track-suited barmaid, with a bandage on her right hand, served me a pint of Kronenbourg I realised this was Shameless meets Celebrity Juice – but without the class of either of these programmes.
We’re a bit uncomfortable with this, truth be told — it feels mean-spirited and unabashedly snobbish — but, equally, it’s good to see coverage of the kind of pub that doesn’t normally get written about because it’s isn’t old, quaint or dainty. And it is honest.
When I was growing up in Sheffield in the 1980s, the most exciting shop in town was called Bringing It All Back Home. Named after a Bob Dylan album and beloved of the city’s Thatcher-era anarcho-hippy set… [it] stank of incense. All the time. And it is this vivid olfactory recollection that immediately springs to mind when I visit the Newington Temple pub just off Bold Street. Because this boozer seems to have spurned the usual perfume palette favoured by most British drinking dens – the heady scent of drip tray and Toilet Duck – and gone instead for the billowing fug of Neil’s bedroom from The Young Ones.
(We think this is one of the best ways to write pub reviews, by the way: pick an angle, or find a point to make, and work it.)
And finally via Twitter there’s this astonishing set of images: