QUOTE: Ian Nairn on Pub Atmosphere

Detail from the cover of MODERN BUILDINGS IN LONDON: London Transport roundel and crane.

“The White Knight [in Crawley]… is a common type done extremely well, not so much in its architecture as in its atmosphere, which seems to hit off exactly the balance of friendliness and circumstance which a New Town pub needs. If there was less fretting over architecture and more over atmosphere our towns would be better places.”

From Modern Buildings in London, London Transport, 1964

We used a line from this in a piece we wrote about Nairn available in Back of a Beer Mat, our free e-book collecting various beer-related ‘longreads’.

The Bare Minimum Number of Pubs

Thesis: any settlement — a village,  estate or neighbourhood — needs, at the very least, two pubs.

We’re deep into reading and research about the design and distribution of pubs in the mid-Twentieth Century — how did the authorities and breweries decide how many to put, where, if they bothered at all? (See here for some context.) Reading about estates with no pubs at all, or with one lost amid a domino rally of tower blocks, has got us thinking about how many pubs is enough.

Years ago, on a visit to North Wales, we were told a joke about why every town needs two churches: ‘There’s the one I go to, and the one I don’t.’

We reckon that same logic applies to pubs.

Idealists might say one pub, where everyone goes and gets along, laughing merrily as they debate the issues of the day, is fine. But, in practice, people fall out, get divorced, come to blows over the organisation of the Maypole committee, and so on, at which point they need another pub to strop off to.

People need to feel they have a choice — the opportunity to exercise personal preference (sometimes, that might even be about beer) and to choose their company.

Perhaps there’s another requirement implicit in that: the two pubs need to be different — not a strong point of pub building and management in the 1950s and 60s.

GALLERY: Pub Architecture, 1846

We’ve been reading Victorian Pubs by Mark Girouard (1975; rev. 1984) which pointed us toward J.C. Loudon’s Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm and Villa Architecture and Furniture published in 1846. This being the 21st century, it’s available in full online via Archive.org, and has about 50 pages on inns and pubs (pp.675-726).

These designs are ideal templates rather than referring to specific pubs — has anyone ever seen an Italianate or Swiss-style inn in the wild? (Serious question.)

Proposed Public House

As ‘new towns’ and Corbusier-inspired estates were built in the rubble and green field of post-War Britain, pubs were a focus of debate.

At least that’s what preliminary research for one of several embryonic projects we have on the go suggests, though we’ve a lot more reading and pondering to do. In the meantime, here are a few nuggets we’ve stumbled across which start to hint at what else might be out there for us to find.

The argument seems to have been between, on the one hand, those who thought pubs were essential components of working class communities; and, on the other, those who saw pubs as part of slum culture, and so regarded this as an opportunity to sweep away a ‘social evil’ that was holding back progress.

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Do We Want Beer Architects?

Last week’s article in the Wall Street Journal about conflict between traditional brewers and ‘beer architects’ in Belgium appalled someone we follow on Twitter:

Now, we’re not sure if the world needs beer architects, or if the term is one we’d like to see stick, but it’s an interesting way of framing the discussion.

Until fairly recently, there were no architects — only builders, and, later, master builders. Then came people like Christopher Wren — intelligent to the point of genius, and bred to practice good taste at a pitch most humans can’t detect — who made a living conceiving of buildings or estates; sketching them; modelling them… and then contracting someone else to get their hands dirty in the construction.

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