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Beer history pubs

Bits We Underlined In… Sussex Pubs, 1966

We’re reading every page of every one of those Batsford pub guides. This time, it’s Rodney L. Walkerley’s Sussex Pubs published in 1966.

The Victory, Arundel: ‘In addition to the ales and stouts there is a surprising assembly of genuine continental lagers…’ This would be notable even today, especially outside major cities.

The Castle Inn, Bodiam: We knew that Guinness owned a pub — just the one — but had no idea where, and had never got round to Googling. But here it is, right next to the brewery’s own UK hop farm‘After the First World War it was leased to Lord Curzon and later, by the National Trust, to Trust Houses… and then to the Guinness company, who possibly wanted to discover if running a pub was as good for them as their advertising assures us their stout is for the consumer.’

The Prince of Wales, Bognor Regis: ‘Unusual beverages drawn from the barrel are apple, cherry and elderberry wines which, in my experience, should be partaken of with as much caution as delight.’ That sounds lovely, but he goes on: ‘Which reminds me of the chap who asked another in the bar: “Do you drink when driving?” To which the other replied: “No, I always stop at a pub.”‘ You can file that one under ‘changing attitudes to booze’.

The Caxton Arms, Brighton: ‘It used to be a dingy beer-house. Since it was taken over by an ex-star of cabaret and her husband it is anything but. It is immediately comforting, even if the odds and ends that decorate the place are a bit cluttered.’ This sounds like the prototypical hip, gentrified Brighton pub, doesn’t it? ‘[The] indispensable rooms are labelled “Adam” and “Eve” and notices implore you “Not to Panic” and “Don’t Worry”.’ Who knew those twee toilet signs had been around so long? And did Douglas Adams ever drink here?

The King's Head, Cacklebury, as drawn by Miriam Macgregor.
One of many lovely illustrations by Miriam Macgregor: ‘The King’s Head, Cacklebury’.

The King’s Head, Cacklebury‘Those who know tell me the best bitter is good, which probably accounts for the preponderance of local fanciers.’ Evidence of the existence of beer geeks — and a substantial body of them — before CAMRA came into being. There was something in the air, as we kept saying in Brew Britannia. The best bitter in question, by the way, still much-loved by ‘fanciers’, was Harvey’s of Lewes.

The Five Bells, Chailey: The management is fairly new, and the accent is on cooking and wines, and they even go so far as frogs’ legs and octopus. It’s that sort of place.’ It becomes clearer and clearer that ‘gastropubs’ existed long before the term itself came into being.

The Old Cross, Chichester: ‘There are two bars: Lounge and the Mediterranean Cocktail Bar where the barman will serve those cocktails with exotic names without batting either eyelid.’ How very sophisticated.

The Crown & Anchor, Dell Quay: ‘There are two bars — the Captain’s Cabin, which is the Lounge, and the Foc’sle which is the Public.’ Even quite traditional pubs couldn’t resist a little playful theme-ing.

The Tiger, East Dean: ‘The house purveys… morning coffee freshly distilled from ground beans and not out of a tin…’ Posh coffee in a pub 30 years before Starbucks gave everyone ideas.

Fletcher Arms, East Preston: ‘…tape-recorded music in the background…’ The beginning of the ‘piped music’ apocalypse.

Horseshoe Inn, Herstmonceux: ‘The original house, riddled with age and wood rot, was razed long ago, and on its remains the present inn was carefully erected to reproduce an ancient tavern… The medieval atmosphere is enhanced by old weapons, armour, coats of arms and copper-covered bar counters and tables. The effect is pleasant, not stagey.’ Next time you find yourself coo-ing over a Genuine Authentick Olde Worlde Pub, give the oak beams a prod to check they’re not made of plastic.

The Royal Oak, Hooksway: ‘There is but the one-bar room… and there is no bar, just a service hatch. Merely a small room, brick-floored, with little cottage windows on two sides, an old range-fireplace with logs glowing in winter and summer, settles round the walls, a couple of trestle tables, a few chairs, and on the plastered walls, late Victorian lithographs of ‘Soldiers of the Queen’… Beer (and cider) arrives from an inner room where the barrels are. No pumps, no pressure, no spirits, no juke box, no music, no coaches, no sign that the last of the twentieth century is rushing by just out of sight on the ridge behind the screen of trees.’ This is the best bit of writing in the whole book — a portrait of the ideal back-to-basics Proper Pub prefiguring the rhetoric of CAMRA and Christopher Hutt by years. (PS. It’s been decorated since…)

Jugg’s Arms, Kingston: ‘[Its] original fabric is a good five centuries old… About ten years ago this was a cottage in an orchard garden…’ Again, read the small print next time you find yourself in an ‘ancient tavern’.

The Crabtree, Lower Beeding: ‘The landlord’s interests are immediately reflected in the hall by his models of fighter aircraft… all of which he made himself over the years.’ This kind of eccentricity hasn’t survived in the world of chain pubs and pubcos, has it? ‘Their specialities are Chicken à la Kiev at 16s. 6d. the double portion…’ Exotic.

The Beresford Hotel, Middleton-on-Sea: ‘As this is a free house all popular beverages are available, from the barrels of Friary and Worthington E and the pressurised Whitbread, Flowers Keg and Watney Red Barrel.’ So, free to choose, they chose big national keg bitters, presumably because they were some combination of cheap/reliable/popular.

The Spread Eagle, Midhurst: ‘There is a lounge bar and for men of beer, who prefer it drawn from the wood, there is the Coal Hole underneath…’ Men of beer! Did he have the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood in mind, or were these just freelance beer geeks?

The Rising Sun, Nutbourne: ‘…”freshburgers” are a speciality.’ A bit of Googling suggests that ‘Freshburger’ was a branded infra-red grill manufactured by Gaggia for use in pubs, clubs and cafes. After 50 years, can we not now claim burgers as ‘traditional English pub food’?

Highlands Inn, Ridgewood: ‘More to the point perhaps is the choice of ales — Watney’s Red Barrel, Courage Tavern, Draught Guinness, Worthington E, Charrington’s Toby, M&B Mild, Flower’s Keg, all under pressure (barrels are out these days)…’ A presage of the struggle to come.

The Plough, Rusper: ‘…there is a choice of some thirty sorts of toasted sandwiches in the bar.’ Cheese, cheese and ham… Nope, that’s us out of ideas.

The Ship, South Harting: ‘There are the usual bars of a small inn — Saloon and Public — and there is a cold buffet. Given notice, they will produce a very find Madras curry as well, nor a Nasi Goreng, served in a small private room.’ Curry club!

The Hare & Hounds, Stoughton: ‘The landlord’s speciality is old English wines…’ We don’t really know what this means — is it this type of thing?

The Wheatsheaf, Willingdon: ‘You can help yourself to a pinch of snuff from a silver-mounted horn on the bar…’

The Royal Oak, Wineham: ‘A man who knows a good pub when he sees one remarked that Wineham’s Royal Oak was his favourite pub in the Hove-Henfield-Cowfold area, pointing out that Tim Peacock cares well for his beer that comes from the barrels behind the bar.’ More evidence of connoisseur-ism.

The Lamb, Yapton: ‘…the regulars do not stare at strangers.’ Useful information for any pub guide.

The Shoulder of Mutton and Cucumbers, Yapton: [The] draught beer is spoken of for miles around, on account of a cool cellar — rare in these parts — and a landlord who knows his beer, and keeps his pipes clean.’ And yet it isn’t listed in the earliest CAMRA Good Beer Guide we have at hand (1976) — what happened in the decade between?

7 replies on “Bits We Underlined In… Sussex Pubs, 1966”

Ah yes, I have fond memories of the Royal Oak at Hooksway from the early 80s when I used to visit a mate who lived around there. By then it had been modernised a bit, so it had a bar counter, but the beer was still on gravity.

It had a famously grumpy landlord. One one occasion he saw me tying a crisp packet into a knot and said “I bet you used to make model aeroplanes when you were younger!” (I didn’t actually). Another time he overheard us talking about beer and said “You’re not f*****g CAMRA, are you?”

That’s history for you – no neat beginnings. The self-consciously quaint hail-fellow-well-met archaism of the SPBW and (parts of) CAMRA (to this day) didn’t come out of nowhere. And from 1966 to 1971 is no time, historically speaking. You’ve got some of the materials there for a sketch of the world CAMRA came to challenge but also – perhaps more interestingly – the world they grew out of, Red Barrel and plastic beams on one side, Old English wines and “men of beer” on the other. And “Don’t Worry” signs, and bars called things like “the Captain’s Cabin”, on both sides – awful trendy fakery in some places, good hearty fun in others.

I suspect the “old english wines” at the Hare and Hounds in Stoughton would have been from the Gale’s Country Wines range. They are still listed by Fuller’s, though the range now is much reduced in size.
Back in the 1980’s and 90’s I can remember some pubs in Hampshire and West Sussex (Gale’s territory) having 20+ different bottles of the stuff behind the bar, including such delights as Birch Sap, Rosehip and Cowslip. My favourite was Blacker and Raisin.

On my football-watching travels in the 70s I well remember the Gale’s wines available in Portsmouth. A notorious heavy drinking friend of mine consulted the choice behind the bar and confidently requested a pint of Mead. He was disappointed to be told that it was sold in slightly smaller measures than that.

re – the famously grumpy landlord at Hooksway when asked where the toilets were, he said “there’s 40 F*****G acres of them across the road!

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