london pubs

The Lost art of Drawing Pubs

In the nineteen-sixties and seventies, there was a flood of books about pubs, many of which included illustrations.

London Pubs by Alan Reeve-Jones (1962) has many lovely drawings by artist Miriam Macgregor, who went on to become a well-respected engraver. Her rendition of the Mayflower in Rotherhithe is below.

The Mayflower pub, Miriam Macgregor, 1962.

When Assheton Gorton provided drawings of pubs for the 1973 edition of Martin Green and Tony White’s Evening Standard Guide to London Pubs, he also tackled the Mayflower.

The Mayflower pub by Assheton Gorton, 1973.

Both of the above are interesting and entertaining books, which cannot, unfortunately, be said of The Alka-Seltzer guide to the Pubs of London (1976). Its illustrations, by ‘Myerscough’, are quite nice, though. He, she or it unfortunately ignored the Mayflower, but instead created a block print of the nearby Angel at Bermondsey.

The Angel pub, Myerscough, 1976.

As colour printing got cheaper, beer books and pub guides became home to a certain kind of tasteful, arty photography, and illustrations like these became less common. These days, they tend to be filled with free images, snapped by the author on a phone or digital camera, or borrowed from the internet. That seems a shame.

Note: we’ve reproduced the images above in low-resolution for, er, illustrative purposes, and will remove them if asked to do so by copyright holders.

13 replies on “The Lost art of Drawing Pubs”

On a similar theme, in the 50s and 60s the AA published “Illustrated Road Books” of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland with a full page of pen-and-ink drawings of various sights opposite each page of gazetteer entries. You wouldn’t get anything like that now.

Likewise, no modern Wainwright would produce hand-drawn illustrated maps.

Ah, as you are connoisseurs of well-limned drawings of pub scenes, you must obtain the first edition (early 1980’s) of Stephen Morris’s The Great Beer Trek. Morris is an American and of that particular northeastern variety, the Vermonter. His book was very influential on the budding beer scene in America despite that it largely chronicled the old-school breweries which were still kings of roost in circa-1980. This is probably because the book is a fine piece of travel literature “tout court”: the deft, often humorous drawings (of taverns, breweries and life on the road), is frosting on the cake.

Morris has a plan afoot to redo the Trek for the modern age, some information on it is here:

If you scroll down you can see some of the drawings which added to the delight of the book.


Those drawings are excellent. The illustrator could probably make a bit of money selling prints to beer geeks.

A drawing is how one person sees something. It is a point of view. In a photo, lies truth. The man vomiting into the gutter outside the wetherspoons against the backdrop of a fight, with the building of the pub framing the violence at heart of what it is to be human. A greater art is to reflect the truth of the human condition.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but the great Geoffrey Fletcher (of The London Nobody Knows fame) was a great lover of pubs. Most of his books feature at least one, accompanied by one of his atmospheric sketches. Can’t recall which of his books it’s in, but his description of Hennekey’s (now The Cittie Of Yorke) is particularly memorable.

One example (actually a painting) is here:

From the unattainable woman in the singlet (and what’s he got…?) to the awe-inspiring beardie in unseasonal black, all sad beery blokedom is there.

Don’t think you’ve mentioned it to us before, TIW. Thanks for the tip.

Have you seen Bernie Carroll’s drawings of pubs? He does pen and sketches of each pub in a village, town, or city. Google images displays quite a bit of his work. I have a postcard of his from my local town, and it makes a handy pub crawl reminder!

No, we hadn’t come across Bernie’s work before. They look as if they’re drawn from photographs — very precise.

I know the look of the Angel very well — I’ve never been in it but it’s on “my” stretch of the Thames Path and I’ve regularly walked and run past it for years. And it no longer looks very much like this, though I can see the resemblance. Amazing how you can know about pubs you’ve never been in — this one was once an inn attached to Bermondsey Abbey, although the current building is clearly Victorian.

We used to go there quite a lot but it did seem to get rougher and rougher over the years. Heard a bloke threaten to cut another bloke’s ‘froat’ last time we were in.

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