Beer history pubs

East Anglian Pubs, 1965

Batsford published a whole series of guides to pubs in the South and East of England in the 1960s. Vincent Jones wrote the guide to East Anglia and here are some nuggets that caught our eye.

Introduction: ‘Houses owned by all sorts of brewers are here; but there is a preference for those which belong to East Anglian breweries and sell East Anglian beer. This choice is purely personal.’ Buying local, resisting monopoly — the SPBW-CAMRA tendency?

Sorrel Horse, Barham, Suffolk: ‘Those who fear that the bread and cheese and pickles pub has altogether disappeared may take courage for here one is and a very fine one too.’ We can’t recall the last time we found a pub like this though we remember them from childhood.

→ Queen’s Head, Blyford, Suffolk: ‘Among the snacks he is noted for his Scotch eggs.’

Lord Nelson, Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk: ‘They are mainly drinkers of mild ale in this area: it is drawn from the cask.’ More evidence of the East Country as mild territory; interesting to note cask, draught and ‘drawn from the wood’ are used interchangeably throughout. (More on the development of the language around cask/keg here.)

The Snowcat, Cambridge: ‘This is a modern house, with a modern name, built in 1959 to serve a modern community.’ That is a good modern name — shame they chickened out and eventually renamed it ‘The Grove’. ‘It is unusual among public houses… in having its cellar on the first floor, giving gravity feed of the beer to the bars through glass tubes. Traditionalists need not flinch: the beer is just as good and it keeps better; the probability is that it will arrive in your glass in better condition than in many older pubs.‘ We’d like to see a photo of this setup.

→ Ye Olde George, Chatteris, Cambs: ‘In the dining-room the house specialties are curried mutton and curried prawns.’ There are lots of exotic dishes like this mentioned throughout the book suggesting that, in this part of the country at least, the food in many pubs had moved beyond the primitive by the mid-1960s.

→ Queen Victoria, Dunmow, Essex: ‘Behind the bar is a true country servery in the manner of a traditional farm dairy, a massive beam supporting the roof with beneath it a long line of casks full of the local beer, produced by one of the smallest breweries in the country.’ The brewery was Dunmow; we’d never heard of it; it was acquired by Charrington in 1965.

The Never Turn Back, a modern pub in Cambridgeshire.
One of the many Leo Gibbons-Smith illustrations from the book.

→ Red Lion, East Bergholt, Suffolk: ‘You may put the children in the garden, where there is a swing and a slide, and in either of the commodious bars take your beer drawn from the wood.’ Between us, we spent a lot of time playing on slides in pub gardens. The author is generally in favour of outside facilities for kids.

→ Eight Bells, Hadleigh, Suffolk: ‘[A] pub which still has its snug is one to treasure.’

→ Angel, Heckfordbridge, Essex: ‘The draught beer here always come up in beautiful condition, which is not surprising, apart from the skill of the landlord, since two streams from spring which rise in the car park flow underneath the cellar…’ It’s unusual to read about beer condition in books from this period; as you’ll discover at the end of this post, Mr Jones had a thing about the temperature of beer.

→ Manning’s (Victoria Inn), Ipswich, Suffolk: ‘It is a popular place for lunch among business-men and offers a variety of cold meats and salads, with in the winter soups, hamburgers and the like.’ Burgers are a pub staple now — this must be one of the earliest appearances.

→ Margaret Catchpole Hotel, Ipswich: ‘[In] the winter… the [Tollemache Cobbold] Old Strong from the cask should certainly be tried.’ This reads as if it’s come from a CAMRA guide book published a decade later.

→ The Prince Albert, Lowestoft, Suffolk: ‘This is a bold effort by a small country brewery [Adnams] to provide something outstanding in modern pubs and it comes off. It was built in 1960 and has been justly praised both by architects and pub-users… Altogether it is a great success and certainly worth a visit by all save the most confirmed anti-modernists.’ Adnams as pioneers of modernist pub architecture! It now looks like vaguely Victorian (via Google Street View):

The Dolphin, Norwich, Norfolk: ‘And yet it is just a local pub — a notable act of civic responsibility.’ An asset of community value, you might say?

Jolly Sailor, Orford, Suffolk: ‘Below in one of the bars there is a glass case of stuffed Chinese muff dogs bred in the reign of Henry VIII. It’s that sort of pub.’ Like something from The League of Gentlemen?

→ The Dolphin, Stisted, Essex: ‘The present licensee keeps three aviaries of ornamental pheasants, Barbary doves, bantams, Guinea fowl and budgerigars.’ And why not?

The Swan Hotel, Thaxted, Essex: ‘One specialty of the house is its unusual offering of eight different draught and keg beers…’ That’s an early beer exhibition, then.  The beers were: ‘Cask beers: Rayments Bitter, Worthington E; Keg beers: Bass, Charrington Toby, Flower’s, Ind Coope Double Diamond, Watney Red Barrel, Whitbread Tankard’. All the keg bitter, basically. Was Worthington E ever a cask beer, or has our author been tricked?

The Ship, Wells Next the Sea, Norfolk: ‘It is a true fisherman’s pub. Long may it resist all modernisation.’ It didn’t and now seems to be a holiday cottage.

The Cock, West Winch, Norfolk: ‘Here is a bold attempt to provide a really modern pub, built in 1963. The plastic sign is rather brash but the building itself is interesting and pleasing. The technically minded will, perhaps, like to know that it has a hyperbolic parabaloid roof construction.’ The roof is less exciting than it sounds and the pub is now a Chinese restaurant:

→ End note — ‘Chill Follies’: ‘Heresies and vandalisms are rife… We are even being advised to chill our stout… These are fads for those who frequent hot lands. Kick drinks may be as ice-cubed as you please. No drink you want to taste should ever be so treated. This is no snobbism but a matter of fact… English beer is a drink of subtle and complex flavours which you can lose if you treat it ill. It is brewed to be drunk at cellar temperature. The ideal for draught bitter is ± 55°F. Keg and light bottled beer may be taken a degree or two cooler. Strong beer should never be ruined by chilling… In these things let tradition be your guide. Do not suffer the PR gents to befog you with foreign snobberies.’ That probably wouldn’t seem out of place copied-and-pasted as a comment on a blog post about cask vs. keg, craft beer vs. real ale.

We bought our copy of this book for £2.81, delivered. It barely looks to have been read though it does smell pleasingly of woodsmoke.

12 replies on “East Anglian Pubs, 1965”

Fascinating stuff. You don’t seem to come across collections of exotic pets (or tropical fish) in pubs now. Also confirms that the first multi-beer freehouses sold a range of kegs.

By coincidence, I was re-reading The Death of the English Pub by Christopher Hutt the other day in which he cites the Prince Albert as a good example of modern pub design.

I’m sure I’ve read that at that time Draught Bass and Worthington E were actually the same beer, but sold under different names to suit local preferences.

We used to go to a pub in Harringay about five or so years ago where the landlord kept tropical fish and monitor lizards around the place. Very odd place generally, bit of a Mad Max vibe. Since closed down, perhaps unsurprisingly.

Worthington E had a long and venerable history as a cask beer long before it was marketed as a national keg brand.

Ah, The Snowcat. I never went in, but used to cycle past it regularly, as it was in a rough part of town. It’s now Cambridge Gurdwara, having shut as a pub a few years back…

The Snowcat in Cambridge was one of two Greene King pubs with an upstairs cellar where the cask beers came down a see through pipe (the other was the Silver Jubilee in Peterborough (dating from 1977) which I went in regularly in the eighties when it was a successful local). Both now have closed and this dispense presumably consigned to the history books.

Mild was still an ever present in Suffolk and Norfolk pubs in the early eighties – GK, Tolly, Adnams and Norwich (Watney Mann) all brewed it and sold it in all their pubs and together they comprised the overwhelming majority of the pub ownership in the two counties – the Norwich Mild was keg although they did for a time sell a cask mild (Bullards Mild).

The Batsford Pub Guides were an interesting series, although I’ve often wondered why they stopped at just six. Over the years I have managed to accumulate all half dozen, and reviewed them here on my blog, back in December 2012. Strangely enough, two of the photos seem to have disappeared from the post.

As I said at the time, “These six guides provide a fascinating snapshot into a world of pubs and beers that has changed out of all recognition, and in some places vanished altogether. It is a world that precedes the start of my drinking career by some 10 years, but is a world I can still connect and empathise with; a world that is at times still familiar yet at other times distant.”

Thanks for sharing that link, Paul. We probably did read it when you posted it but the old memory banks occasionally fail us.

We said to each other this morning as we put this post together that it’s a shame there’s no guide to, say, Derbyshire, or Cheshire, in the series.

“The Four Candles”, a ‘Spoons branch in the centre of Oxford, is a modern-day version of “The Snowcat”, as it too has an upstairs cellar !

I used to drink in the Sorrel Horse near Ipswich from time to time in the mid-70s. The landlord was a lovely old eccentric who quite regularly held lock-ins on Saturday nights. It was a Tolly Cobbold pub and the beer was always immaculately kept.

Dark beer was very popular in East Anglia back then. My favourite was Tolly’s Cobnut but I also liked Adnam’s mild mixed with their brown ale. Alas, for better or worse, these brewing styles have long gone

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