We’ve picked up a few new (old) books and magazines relating to pubs and beer and, as with this batch a few months ago, we think each is worth a few words.
First, Pearly Kingdom by Geoffrey Fletcher, which we got through Amazon for £8.80 delivered. Published by Hutchinson in 1965, it is a coffee table book of just over 100 pages, alternating short descriptive texts with full-page illustrations of typical ‘cockney’ scenes.
There are portraits of several pubs at an interesting time when the original hipsters were invading the East End. Fletcher laments the ‘self-consciously provided’ musical hall entertainment at the Waterman’s Arms, and misses the ‘spontaneous public-house sing-song by a bunch of locals grouped around a piano topped with glasses’. Of the City Arms, Millwall, he says:
The dress (expensive and flashy) of the younger clients and their taste in booze is something to speculate upon in these East End pubs — to those who knew them in the dark ages.
At the time of his writing, the Grapes, Limehouse, was ‘unspoiled’, and Fletcher’s illustration, in typically sketchy style, shows it surrounded by derelict Victorian buildings, and threatened by a precariously leaning gas-lamp.
His introductory essay recalls the Victorian era when
…pubs blazed their gaslit invitations from engraved windows… cheap beer, cheap gin, free clay pipes and a dazzle of light, and Impressionistic blur of faces, billycocks and barmaids, all reflected back kaleidoscopically from the rococo lettered mirrors on the walls.
Which reminds us of the William IV (we covet its mirrors) and of the fashionable young man, perhaps 19-years-old, we spotted strutting through Shoreditch in a jauntily-angled brown bowler hat. The 19th century never lurks far beneath the surface in London.
Covering similar ground with less flair is London Pride, a 1978 collection of etchings by Nancy Lui-Fyson, with text by Aubrey Noakes. We paid £3.50 for this 125 page A4+ hardback in a charity shop.
Printed on what seems to be a higher quality version of brown wrapping paper, it features many more illustrations of pubs than Fletcher’s book. This of Ye Olde Watling (formerly the City HQ of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood) is typical:
We’re not art critics but it seems fair to say Ms Fyson drew buildings better than people. For our purposes, Noakes’s notes are where it is at, recording in some cases details of the atmosphere and clientèle of particular pubs, which might come in handy at some point.
Finally, there’s Country Life magazine for 20 September 1973, which includes an article entitled ‘The Vanishing Small Brewery’ by Rex Wailes, for which we paid £7.75.
When we spoke to Patrick Fitzpatrick, who founded Godson’s, the original Hackney hipster brewery, in 1977, he told us that he had been inspired by an article on this subject while travelling in India. He thought it might have been in the Illustrated London News, but the only piece that fit the bill in that publication appeared too late to make sense in the chronology. Too late for the book, we think this essay is a much more likely candidate, but await Mr Fitzpatrick’s confirmation.
It’s hardly an essential read — a puff-piece, really — but there are some nice photographs, including one of Arkell’s in its idyllic countryside setting, and another of the coppers at Ind Coope in Burton-upon-Trent. It it also the only instance we’ve come across of nostalgia for vinegar breweries.