Beer history pubs

Why No Northern Pub Guides?

We’re trying hard not to be unfairly London-centric with our latest Big Project but it’s really quite difficult.

We’ve got 20th Century London pub guides coming out of our lugholes (see above) and even its commuter zone is quite well covered:

Home Counties pub guides, 1960s.

But when it comes to the North, we’re all but stumped. There’s one bona fide classic

Mass Observation: The Pub and The People.

…but, otherwise, it’s a matter of scrabbling for scraps, like the chapters on working men’s clubs and immigration in Graham Turner’s The North Country, or the odd chapter in more general books about The Inns of Old England.

All this only goes to highlight one of the Campaign for Real Ale’s many contributions to beer culture in Britain since the 1970s: truly local guidebooks.

CAMRA local guide books 1990s-2000s.

Although even those tend to be sadly light on prose and the oldest and most interesting ones are extremely hard to get hold of.

So, that’s mostly a moan, but if you do happen to know of a Mancunian, Liverpudlian, Leodensian or Geordie equivalent of, say, Alan Reeve-Jones’s 1962 classic London Pubs then do let us know. Otherwise, we’ll keep nosing around for crumbs.

14 replies on “Why No Northern Pub Guides?”

Interesting point, and even the Mass Observation book looks at it differently than these others, it is an ethnological study, not a historical, architectural or gastronomic (beer or food) one.

My view is that the north, not being an “intellectual” centre as London, didn’t indulge these other interests. The pub was for beer, relaxation, a respite from the daily grind, not more. Also, temperance and the churches against alcohol were always stronger in the regions, it wouldn’t have been meet to take a stand for traditional pub culture when they had a strong voice, even had the inclination been there.


I have somewhere a copy of the Southport & Districts CAMRA guide “When The Sea Comes In” and a Lake District guide. You will get more guides in London because it is the biggest city in the UK and consequently has a higher number and much greater concentration of CAMRA members than anywhere else.

You could, you know, VISIT some Northern pubs. Rather than just writing about other people writing about them.

Have you got the non-CAMRA 1975 “Manchester Pub Guide”, which makes entertaining reading?

This was an era when city-centre pubs were often busy at lunchtimes and quiet in the evenings.

If not, let me know and I’ll send you a PDF.

I’ve got a copy of that guide somewhere at home, although I’m dammed if I can lay my hands on it at the moment. From what I remember it was quite a witty publication, with some quite detailed descriptions of the various pubs. There was even a spoof entry, which took the piss out of CAMRA in a jokey sort of way. Being somewhat naive back in those days, I actually spent some time looking for it, before it dawned on me that I’d been hoodwinked!

I have got loads of pub guides,
The Midland and Northern ones are Birmingham,Nottinghamshire,Derbyshire three guides,Sheffield two guides,Leeds two guides,Bradford,Kirklees,Halifax,Calderdale,Manchester four guides mainly city centre,Liverpool,Southport,East Lancashire,Cumbria two guides,York lots of guides,North Yorkshire two guides,Darlington.
I also have quite a few tied brewery guides that are in the Midlands and North,Home Ales,Shipstones,Mitchells,Joseph Holt,Lees,North Country,Mansfield,John Smiths not all of the tied estate,Tetley not all of the tied estate.
There may be more i have this is just off the top of my head without looking through them.

As in pre-CAMRA, pre-1970s ones? Or CAMRA ones?

Breweries’ own guides is a good call, though — we’ve got a nice Usher’s (Watney’s) one for the whole of the West Country, for example, from 1966.

No not that early,all are Camra guides at least i think so,
i have a Derbyshire guide called Real ale in and around Derby,it has over 400 pubs listed published in 1979,my only real ale guide to all pubs in Nottinghamshire was published at a similar time,the North County guide is great it lists all of their tied estate,got it when having a drink on the Castle Barge in Newark which was a North Country tied house when we did it in 1983.

I’ve got the histories of both Boddingtons and Greenalls, although I wouldn’t say they are much good as pub guides. Not unless you’re a fan of brand-spanking new, soulless, modern estate-type pubs, which breweries were especially keen to show off, back in the 1970’s. I can’t think why??

I still think of CAMRA as a conservation movement – or a resistance movement against New Modern Beer, which came complete with New Modern Pubs.

Just going through old CAMRA guides to be sold at CAMRA’s London Drinker Festival and I have ones for Cumbria, Leeds, Merseyside, North East Aleway, Scotland (too far north?), South Yorks, Tyne & Wear. One of the first and most influential guides was that to North Yorkshire, a true pioneer in its use of text and descriptions. And downstairs in my bookcase I am sure I have a lot more personal copies.

The northern chapters of Warren Knock’s and Conal Gregory’s book, Beer In Britain, is good in this area – here the telegraphic style works to advantage. True, the book is c. 1975 – post-CAMRA – but little influenced by CAMRA from what I can see. Knock and Gregory were Oxbridge guys – or that type – and came at it from a different direction.


I have a Burtonwood Brewery guide from 1967 which looks to list all their pubs, and something called “Inns of Character in Lancashire”, undated but priced 20p so ?early 1970s, and “Inns of the Midlands”by Norman Tiptaft from 1951 (which is excellent) and err yes that’s it …

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