20th Century Pub london

A Docklands pub in danger, 1987

In 1987, the end was near for The British Oak at Poplar, East London, because Docklands, with a capital D, was coming into being and a compulsory purchase order had been served.

We came across this small story of the loss of a specific pub through ‘Eastenders’, an episode of the ITV weekly documentary series World In Action available via BritBox. Jess being a Londoner, and Ray being a hopeless nostalgist, we often find ourselves watching this kind of thing and there’s invariably a pub somewhere among the grainy footage.

The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was set up by the Government in 1981 with the intention of regenerating what had become largely wasteland as London’s docks moved out of the city to places like Tilbury, as a result of containerisation. The LDDC was given unusual powers to grant planning permission and issue compulsory purchase orders – whatever it took to make this land profitable, in short.

Detail from the 1976 Dockland Strategic Plan. SOURCE: A London Inheritance.

At the time, much was made of the effects of this regeneration programme on local people, many of whom faced eviction, with the LDDC insistent that it was under no obligation to provide replacement housing. Roads needed widening, railways needed building, and old buildings couldn’t get in the way of progress.

The British Oak was a victim of the same process. As the narrator explains:

The landlord of the British Oak hoped to see some benefit from the changes. Four years ago he sold his home and put his life savings into the pub. When he bought it, the Corporation told him there were no plans for this street. Now, they want him out.


The landlord isn’t named in the documentary – does anybody know who he was? – but he and his wife were certainly not impressed:

Her: I’ll stay until they put a bulldozer through it.

Him: And then I will drive a bulldozer through the London Dockland Development Corporation’s guv’nor’s house myself.

It was a free house in 1986, formerly an Allied Breweries pub, formerly Ind Coope, formerly Taylor Walker. The building we see in the documentary dates from 1927.

The interesting thing is that, despite the melancholy tone of the documentary, the pub building survived much longer than might have been expected. London pub historian Ewan Munro suggests it was there until around 2003, although it seems to have ceased trading much earlier, in around 1991.

In fact, this makes it worse, doesn’t it? They bought out the landlord, shut the pub down and then… Did nothing with it for more than a decade? Then they built a small surgery with a car park. The road wasn’t widened. No great Progress was made.

It turns out the LDDC was responsible for the demolition of several pubs in the 1980s including this one described in The London Drinker for July 1988:

Another East End landmark has disappeared, this time due to the LDDC (London Docklands Demolition Co – sorry, that should read Development Co). What was lastly called Lipstick and before that the Londoner, originally the Eastern Hotel, 2 East India Dock Road E14, has been demolished. Originally it was a Truman house and had an illuminated moving one-legged Ben Truman hopping across the front of the building proclaiming that there were more hops in Ben Truman.

Now that we would have liked to have seen.

And if not pubs, what did the LDDC want? Well, wine bars, of course. Mangetout, Rodney – mangetout!


There are things in ‘Eastenders’ that feel both familiar and strange. On the one hand, we’re still living in the age of the property developer, for whom pubs are too often an obstacle to be removed to make way for flats. On the other hand, however, it’s startling to hear yuppie talking heads ‘saying the quiet part out loud’:

It’s really up to [the local people] to see the benefits and opportunities… Certainly I think there’s winners and losers in any situation in life. In Docklands, the people I work with and the people I’ve met generally find Docklands to be a successful area to be living and working in… I think the resistance is a lack of understanding of what is being created here… Local people are not used to the kind of change that is happening and they don’t understand the kind of change that is happening to them.


News, nuggets and longreads 12 June 2021: BrewDog, Gateshead, Soviet beer

Here’s all the writing around beer, breweries and pubs that struck us as important or interesting in the past week, from breweries under scrutiny to pub life in Gateshead.

Undoubtedly the biggest story of the week was the open letter from former BrewDog employees to the Scottish brewery’s management, criticising its “culture of fear”. Eloquently expressed, calmly indignant and signed by more than a hundred individuals, it prompted a series of responses from BrewDog – clumsy, at first, then sinister (an invitation to current staff to sign a counter-letter) until a careful party line coalesced. The story went viral appearing on the BBC, Guardian and CNN, not to mention across the trade press. The story trended on Twitter in the UK for around 24 hours. Punks With Purpose, the campaign group, responded with a second open letter, refusing to let up the pressure. Martin Dickie, co-founder of BrewDog, issued his own separate statement via Instagram.

This story has its own momentum and it doesn’t feel to us that there’s much to be added by commentary from the sidelines, especially of the popcorn.gif variety. This shouldn’t be about gloating, entertainment or vindication – that original letter is what matters. We’ve all had bosses we didn’t like or worked at companies that were imperfect but how many of us have ever felt moved to band together with a hundred former colleagues to demand change?

The museum building.
SOURE: Eoghan Walsh/Brussels Beer City.

At Brussels Beer City, Eoghan Walsh treats us to a long piece on the difficult birth of a new museum of Belgian beer:

Fear of corporate dominance was just one of the criticisms Belgian Beer World received following the July 2015 announcement. The activists who had strong-armed the city government into pedestrianising the central boulevards were turning their attention to what this new public space would look like, and who it would be for… Soon posters began appearing in windows decrying a “Disneyfication” of Brussels caused by a city administration as more interested in catering to tourists than the needs of local residents. In Belgian Beer World they saw the corporate privatisation of what was nominally a public space. The entrance steps to the Bourse were long used as a rallying point for protests, for the celebration of sporting triumphs, and in 2016 – in the wake of the Brussels terror attacks – as a spontaneous memorial. Public intellectuals like Lieven Van Cauter feared the building would abandon this civic role in its new guise, saying it was a project to make you vomit.

Women in a brewery.
SOURCE: Alexei Bryanov/TASS/Russia Beyond.

At Russia Beyond (hmm…) Anna Sorokina tells the story of the Soviet beer Zhigulevskoye, brewed in numerous places, to different recipes – a brand that became a style:

The shop and bar at the Zhigulevsky brewery in the city of Samara on the Volga River is always busy. At any given time, customers are enjoying a few beers, either inside or near the takeaway window outside, or they are milling around waiting for a fresh batch of their favorite brew to be served. The beer is delivered to the store via an underground pipe, and locals say that it is far superior to what is available in shops elsewhere since proper Zhigulevskoye beer cannot be stored for more than a couple of days… Despite a long queue, customers at the brewery shop are served quickly. Each customer eagerly removes the top from an empty bottle they have brought with them and hands it over to the shop assistant, who fills it with beer from a hose. The customer then quickly replaces the top before the foam begins to rise, and the shop assistant is already serving the next customer.

(Via @kmflett.)

Black letter on a stone beer mug.

Andreas Krennmair bought an old stone beer mug from one of his favourite breweries but was puzzled by the specific brand name printed on it. As any normal person would, he immediately embarked on several days’ worth of research to work out when it was manufactured:

The earliest person named Franz Köllerer that I was able to identify was Franz Seraphim Köllerer, born on Sept 14, 1839 in Schönram. The Köllerer family must have been reasonably wealthy, as Franz was able to attend grammar school in nearby Salzburg… Another sign of Franz Köllerer’s wealth is how well-travelled he was. Not only can his name be found in public records that he stayed in Salzburg, Linz and Graz several times during the 1860s and 1870s, a book titled Deutscher Parlaments-Almanach (German Parliament Almanac) credited him with having travelled abroad to Hungary, the principalities along the river Danube, Turkey, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Greece and Italy… “Why would he be mentioned in such a book?”, you wonder. Very simple: because he got elected as Member of Parliament to the German Reichstag in Berlin in 1874, for the district of Rosenheim, a role in which he served until he stepped down in 1877. According to Salzburger Chronik in 1874, he was “not a studied man” but a well-known man with a “healthy heart and mind from the midst of the German people”.

Low resolution image of a glass of water.

Jess has been reading How Bad Are Bananas? – the carbon footprint of everything by Mike Berners-Lee and so we were interested to see a pair of posts (one | two) on sustainability in beer by Kelsey Picard at Science Made Beerable:

Brewing is a very water and energy-intensive process. On average, the entire production process of brewing will consume 60 kWh for every 100 litres of beer produced, which can be regarded as a significant contributor of greenhouse gases… Water is used in every step of the brewing process, but only a small amount actually makes it into the final product. Inside the average brewhouse, it takes 8L of water to produce 1L of beer. At less efficient breweries, the ratio can go as high as 13L to one. Cleaning uses the most water; 4-10L per L of beer, and additional water is needed for cooling and packaging. Much of the water used in breweries is lost to evaporation or is simply sent down the drain… Where breweries are sourcing their water, how much they are using and what they do with it after makes a big difference to the sustainability of a beer. Australian craft breweries are increasingly installing water meters at various sections of the operation to reduce water consumption during the beer production process as well as recovering water throughout the brewing process to be used in cleaning processes that do not require high quality water… This 8L of water per 1L beer usage doesn’t account for the irrigation and chitting of the barley or growing hops. 

You’ll notice a mention of BrewDog in there which has sparked a thought in our minds about how much easier it might be for consumers to assess a brewery’s green credentials than some vague notion of its decency.

The Three Tuns
SOURCE: JThomas/Geograph, CC BY-SA 2.0

For Esquire, would you believe, Chris Stokel-Walker has written about a community rallying round to keep The Three Tuns in Gateshead afloat and what it might say about the fate of pubs in a post-pandemic world:

The road is almost at an end – hopefully. The Three Tuns reopened outdoors on 12 April, like many pubs able to carve out an outdoor seating area. The regulars who remained – those not carried away by old age and loneliness – pulled together to help Smith. Some of the lads who most devotedly propped up its bar of an evening converted old barrels into seating… “It was just hands-on to make sure it could reopen again, because it is important to people,” says [Lauren] Tierney on a glorious summer evening a week after it reopened. That night was the first time Tierney and [partner Steve] Parnell would take a night off from visiting the Three Tuns since it opened. After a long period of closure and lost money, the pair wanted to ensure the pub’s landlord felt justified in reopening – and who could blame them? “It’s that novelty of being able to go back out again,” says Tierney. “A lot of the people I see in the pub I’ll only see in the pub,” says Parnell, who is godfather to a fellow drinker’s children, and was best man at another’s wedding. “You get very close, then it all shuts down, and you never see each other for months.”

Finally, from YouTube, new-to-us archive footage of a prefab post-war pub being thrown into existence.

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

marketing pubs

FAQ: Which brands would have been on sale in a 1960s pub?

“Which brands would have been available in an ordinary English pub of the 1950s or 1960s, including spirits and wines?” – paraphrased from correspondence

To answer this, let’s pick a year; and let’s make that year 1965 because we’ve got a good reference to hand: James H. Coombs’ Bar Service: careers behind the bar – volume one.

We’ve written about this little volume before. First, there was a post about its advice on beer. Then there was a companion piece with some nuggets on pub life.

The bit we’re going to look at today, though, is arguably the most boring section in which Mr Coombs provides a long list of the types and variety of booze a good pub ought to carry.

Here’s the raw information from those, oof, twelve chapters. We’ve only included items where a brand name was mentioned, plus a couple of example of beers where ‘brewery’s own’ would be the brand.

Bottled beersBrand
Pale ale (light ale)Brewery’s own
Brown aleBrewery’s own
Double DiamondInd Coope
John Courage (JC)Courage
Red BarrelWatney Mann
Ben Truman (Ben)Truman
Barley WineBrewery’s own
Colne Spring AleBenskins (Ind Coope)
White Shield (natural beer’)Worthington
Bass (Red Shield – ‘natural beer’)Bass
Green Shield (pasteurised)Worthington
Bass (Blue Triangle – pasteurised)Bass
SKOLInd Coope
Black LabelCarling
Mackeson (milk stout)Mackeson (Whitbread)
Guinness Extra StoutGuinness
Russian StoutBarclay’s (Courage)
Draught beers (cask)Brand
Mild ale (XX)Brewery’s own
BitterBrewery’s own
Draught beers (keg)Brand
Red BarrelWatney Mann
Red HandInd Coope
FlowersFlowers (Whitbread)
Apple Vintage WineMerrydown
Babycham (sweet)Showerings
Babycham (dry)Showerings
Baby BubblyGoldwell
Pink LadyGoldwell
Soft drinks and mixersBrand
Perrier WaterPerrier
Vichy WaterVarious
Apollinaris (water)Apollinaris
Hunyadi-Janos (water)n/a
Contrexeville (water)Perrier
Evian (water)Evian
Malvern (water)Schweppes
Buxton (water)Buxton Mineral Water Co.
Springwell (water)n/a
Tio Pepe (sherry)González Byass
Dry Fly (sherry)Imported by Findlater Mackie Todd
Double Century (sherry)Pedro Domecq
Celebration Cream (sherry)Pedro Domecq
Bristol Cream (sherry)Harvey’s
Bristol Milk (sherry)Harvey’s
Bristol Dry (sherry)Harvey’s
Various sherriesWiliams and Humbert
Carlito (sherry)Wiliams and Humbert
Dry Sack (sherry)Wiliams and Humbert
Canasta Cream (sherry)Wiliams and Humbert
Walnut Brown (sherry)Wiliams and Humbert
Various sherriesVarela
PortCroft, Dow, Fonseca, Cockburn, Sandeman, Warre, Rebello Valente, Taylor, etc.
Porto BrancoSandeman’s
ChampagneAyala, Bollinger, Clicquot, Goulet, Heidsieck, Pol Roger, Moet, etc.
Ginger WineStone’s
VermouthNoilly Prat
“Straw-tinted” ginBooth’s
Gin (Geneva)Holland’s
London Dry GinSquires
London Dry GinCornhill
Fruit cupPimm’s
Caroni RumTate & Lyle
Lemon Hart RumUnited Rum Merchants
Lamb’s Navy RumUnited Rum Merchants
Daiquiri RumUnited Rum Merchants
Ron BacardiBacardi
Various brandiesMartell, Hennessy, Otard, Courvoisier, Remy Martin, etc.
Bitters and aperitifsBrand
Fernet-BrancaFratelli Branca
Pernod 45Pernod

Now, clearly, you wouldn’t find all of these in every pub but, per the original query, if you included these brands as dressing for a film set in 1965, they’d probably look appropriate.

So, that’s the boring list. What about other, sexier sources? Advertising from the period, for example…

Stone's Green Ginger Wine
SOURCE: Brewery Manual 1966.
Hi! Heineken.
SOURCE: Brewery Manual 1966.
Varela sherry
SOURCE: Brewery Manual 1966.

…or beer mats…

A selection of beer mats from around the 1960s.
Some beer mats from our collection from the 1960s and 70s.

… or old photos.

The bar of a pub.
The Crown Hotel, Hadleigh, 1965. SOURCE: Hadleigh and Thundersleigh Community Archive.

In the above pic, also from 1965, we can’t make out many brands but we’ve definitely got Watney’s Red Barrel, Double Diamond and something not on Mr Coombs’s list, Tia Maria.

20th Century Pub london

The Battle for the Boot, 1914-15

In the early 20th century The Boot, a pub on the High Street in Edgware, North London, was the focal point for a battle between brewers and licensing magistrates. Was it one pub too many, or did it perform a vital social function?

While browsing the wonderful British Newspaper Archive trying to find out more about the Middlesex magistrates we came across an interesting story about The Boot from the Hendon & Finchley Times for Friday 2 July 1915.

It’s about how the pub was initially refused renewal of its licence by the local justices but had that decision overturned by the Middlesex Licensing Committee – twice.

The Boot c.1910
The Boot in 1911. SOURCE: Colleen/PubWiki; our own image clean up.

What seems to have happened is that the local justices were keen to close the pub purely because, in their view, there were too many in the area.

Look at the map above (via the National Library of Scotland) and you’ll see that there were, indeed, quite a few ‘P.H.’ in the area, not to mention the Railway Hotel just up the road.

But the magistrates were unable to provide any convincing evidence as to why that pub in particular should be the one to close.

They had tried the previous year, and the decision had been overturned by the licensing committee.

The full newspaper report paints a fascinating picture of the changing, evolving nature of pubs at this time, particularly in growing suburbs:

The house was small, the bars were extremely small, and the roofs so low that a person wearing a hat could hardly stand upright. The house was 31 yards from fully-licensed house, The Red Lion, the same side of the road, and about yards from a commodious, well-built, and fairly new beer house called The Surrey Arms, also on the same side of the road. The other direction, 220 yards away, was The King’s Arms, another fully-licensed house. All of these three houses were very superior accommodation to The Boot. The total population within a quarter of a mile radius, as near as could be ascertained, was 350. that at the present moment there were four licences within the area for 350 people.

The Boot in 1900
SOURCE: Possibly Barnet Archives – the subtle watermark may offer a clue.

The representative for the Gore Division justices (who were the ones that turned down the renewal) went on to say that

as the brewers had another house in the immediate neighbourhood, it could not be argued that those who liked the beer to be obtained at The Boot would suffer. They would hear that the other house, The Surrey Arms, coupled with the two fully-licensed houses, could easily deal with the trade which at present was being done at The Boot, and if the other side argued that it could not, then there was plenty of room for enlargement.

He also said that beer being served through windows was causing blockages in the passage outside.

In an unusual defence of this sort of pub, the Chairman of the committee “suggested that The Surrey Arms might not be so attractive to people in humble life” and that he “understood The Boot was a favourite house with this class of people”.

The justices’ representative replied that “he quite appreciated the point that there were always people who preferred a house where they might touch the ceiling in preference to a better building, but in considering whether a house was redundant they must differentiate the ordinary rules and consider which were the better premises”.

There is then a fairly lengthy recap of a report that was commissioned comparing The Boot to The Surrey Arms – “an excellently arranged house”. 

A local policeman then gave witness and said there had been “no complaint” about the conduct of The Boot. After further appeals from the licensee’s representative, pointing out how much trade The Boot did, and how difficult it would be for The Surrey Arms to absorb this, the Committee upheld their decision from the previous year to renew the licence.

They refrained from ticking off the local justices for bringing the case back with no new evidence but there’s certainly an undercurrent of irritation evident in the report.

The Boot was demolished in the 1960s and replaced with a modern shopping precinct fittingly called Boot Parade.

The Surrey Arms continued in various forms, including as a Shisha Lounge and a night club, until it was eventually demolished in May 2020.

Meanwhile, there is an ongoing campaign to save the nearby Railway Hotel, with a petition here.


News, nuggets and longreads 5 June 2021: Theocracies, Desi Pubs, Downtown Hops

Here’s the writing about beer culture and pubs from the past week that grabbed our attention, from rampant egotism to the value of cask ale.

The conversation about sexism, harassment and bullying in beer has continued. Charlotte Cook’s piece for Ferment, the promo mag for a beer subscription service, is a must-read, combining righteous anger (based on personal experience) with precise criticism:

Greg Koch of Stone is often humorously called ‘The Beer Jesus’, but there are plenty of brewery owners out there who would take that at face value. These companies are not run as businesses but as theocracies, where the Good Book is in fact the proclamations on Twitter of the brewery owner – and the disciples are those who have invested in whatever crowdfunding scheme they have shilled… I strongly feel that this is the root of the problem with misogyny in beer. The ego trip that takes place when someone tells you that you’re incredible and make the best beer in the world can easily drive people to act in ways that they wouldn’t normally, and as the praise keeps pouring in, so does the need for the serotonin hit that it provides. This also leaches out into the wider company culture and explains how these abuses can be enabled without repercussions from within.

Meanwhile, Jan Rogers, the managing director of Marble Brewery has announced that she is stepping down in the wake of accusations of a toxic working environment. That she also mentions having considered suicide underlines why, in our view, it’s important to avoid so-called pile-ons, if possible. Equally, the conversations still need to be had – and telling people who feel they’ve been abused or mistreated to ‘calm down’ won’t cut it either.

SOURCE: @thegladpub on Twitter.

For Pellicle, David Jesudason has written about ‘desi pubs’ – pubs in England run by British Asians. From his own experiences of racism in pubs as a young man to a focus on the story of a specific pub in South London, it’s a fascinating read, sometimes grim, often hopeful:

I was hoping my first visit to a pub would be a rite of passage… Aged just fifteen, I felt more anxious about being the lone brown face in a white environment than I was about being served my first pint. Opening the door, an old man at the bar shouted: “Anyone order a mini-cab?”… The town I lived in, Dunstable which borders Luton in Bedfordshire, had very few Asians like me in it—apart from, guess what? Nothing could have prepared me for the humiliating laughter that broke out after being mocked for daring to enter their world… It didn’t stop me from having my first ever pub pint that evening (Wadworth 6X) and it hasn’t dimmed my love for pubs in the intervening 20 years. Moving to a more diverse area helped, but even then there were many establishments that I didn’t feel comfortable in… I found my confidence by visiting so-called desi pubs, where I was served by other British-Asians keen to make these spaces their own.

Cask ale

Roger Protz has been writing about beer for, oh, a couple of years now, and it’s a memory of a marketing campaign of 30-odd years ago that brings his latest piece to life for us. It’s a call to action for the industry, arguing that to boost cask ale, it needs to be treated with some reverence:

I recall some years ago, when Whitbread was still involved in brewing, that it produced an oyster stout and placed small booklets on pub tables describing the history of the style and the way it’s made… When I sat in the Blacksmiths Arms in St Albans supping this delicious beer and reading the booklet, I noticed that many other customers were doing the same. They not only had a fine drinking experience but had also learned a little about the history and heritage of British brewing… We should build on that experience. We should encourage brewers to top their pump clips on beer handles with the simple message ‘Great British Beer – our heritage’. This should be backed by booklets with explanations about the myriad beer styles in the cask sector – mild, bitter, IPA, barley wine, stout, porter, golden ale and many more.

Khaya Maloney outside his greenhouse.
Khaya Maloney. SOURCE: Lucy Corne/GBH.

For Good Beer Hunting, Lucy Corne has written about a “startup hop farm” in the unlikely location of downtown Johannesburg, South Africa:

Originally constructed as a fort, Constitution Hill in Johannesburg is best known as a prison—both Nelson and Winnie Mandela were incarcerated here during the apartheid years. Today, the low-rise, red-roofed complex is a museum, made up of the 19th-century fort; the Women’s Jail, with its castle-like facade; and the stark cells known as Number Four, where Black male inmates were held… Away from the main building sits the car park, a near-empty garage with nothing to single it out but a gently snoozing security guard and a dark doorway tucked away in a shaded corner. That door leads to a rickety staircase that climbs upwards. Here, on the roof, Maloney meticulously tends downtown Johannesburg’s first hop farm. 

Illustration: "Wodge of cash."

You might or might not make it through the paywall to read this piece – we find the Financial Times quite erratic in that regard. At any rate, it’s an interesting piece by Judith Evans and Alice Hancock about the business end of British brewing in these strange times:

Most [breweries] been supported by UK government loans and support schemes, but operators fear that as that tapers out, small brewers could face tough decisions on the viability of their businesses… The number of UK breweries declined in 2020 for the first time in 18 years, after more than doubling in size in the previous decade to 1,823, according to data from the Campaign for Real Ale… Some have spied an opportunity. Luke Johnson, an investor in hospitality businesses including Patisserie Valerie and Gail’s, completed a £5m deal this month to buy Curious Brewery, a brewer run by the English vineyard Chapel Down, out of administration… Johnson plans to create “an alliance of beers” that could be brewed through the Curious facility. “We will pursue a buy-and-build strategy . . . In the coming 12 months there will be quite a few craft beer brands that need recapitalising and we have the resources to do that,” Johnson said.

That sounds… Is ominous too loaded a word?

Distancing poster in a pub.

We’ve put this at the end because, ugh, it’s all a bit miserable. With the COVID-19 stats currently having a wobble the proposed end to COVID-19 restrictions in England on 21 June is looking less likely. That means pubs might have to continue trading with controls and restrictions in place. One the one hand, we feel their pain – it’s hard work to administer, more difficult to make a profit and compromises the experience for drinkers. At the same time, there has been a slew of outbreaks and hot-spots connected to pubs, including this notable example in Leek. All anyone can do, we suppose, is try to follow the rules and support pubs in whichever way they feel comfortable. For our part, that means sticking to outside, for a little while more at least; and being as little nuisance as possible to hot, stressed, masked-up staff.

On a more cheerful note, check out the replies to this Tweet for some enthusiastic recommendations:

And for more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.