GALLERY: Not Always About the Beer

We spent the last week and a bit flying round the north west of England looking at (a) brewery records and (b) pubs.

Sign: Public Bar, Parlour.

We needed dinner near our hotel in Liverpool and stumbled upon Thomas Rigby’s, an inter-war pub interior where class distinctions and waiter service were alive and well.

The seal of the Birkenhead Brewery Company Limited.

On our way to Port Sunlight we stopped to wonder at the beautiful but empty shell of a pub half-swallowed by a bland 1980s building.

Exterior of a 1900 pub converted to a Flaming Grill pub-restaurant.

We drank Greene King IPA at the Bridge Inn, a Flaming Grill pub-restaurant at Port Sunlight that was built as a temperance hotel in 1900.

The inter-war exterior of the Ship & Mitre, Liverpool.

We were drawn to this pub because its exterior looks just like an image from Basil Oliver’s 1949 book The Renaissance of the English Pub; as luck would have it, it turns out to be one of Liverpool’s beer geek pubs. (The one thing we didn’t research in advance was where had good beer because we didn’t expect to have any time for it.)

Exterior of Flanagan's Apple Irish pub with hen party survivor.

We drank Guinness at Flanagan’s Apple which, after months of reading about it, felt a bit like a pilgrimage.

Ashtray tables at Peter Kavanagh's.We hadn’t planned to go to Peter Kavanagh’s but, having just read about the eponymous publican’s custom designed ashtray tables at Liverpool Central Library, just had to see them in the person.

Hotel sign painted on glass of pub inner door.

In Bolton, we visited The Hen & Chickens, one of the few pubs mentioned in the Mass Observation survey papers that is still trading. Signs for vault on left, hotel on right, said the 1937 documents; in 2016 that, at least, hasn’t changed.

Wetherspoons sign: All Ales £1.69.

We needed breakfast so killed three birds with one stone with a trip to a Wetherspoon’s in an inter-war mock-tudor improved public house building. Highly efficient, and didn’t cost much either.

Tatton Arms, half-collapsed, behind security fencing.

We passed the decomposing corpse of the Tatton Arms, with dirty pigeons nesting in its gaping windows, on our way to look at an inter-war pub, now a restaurant, on a housing estate.

Public bar: stools, bare boards.

The Carlton, a listed heritage pub in Chester, has bare boards in the public bar…

Lounge bar: carpets, leather banquettes.

…and carpet in the lounge. The landlady told us that people still respect the distinction — couples dressed up for a night out stick to the best room, solo male drinkers stand and play pool in the public.

Public bar with tiles and painted walls.

At the Turnpike in Manchester, this wonderfully well-preserved 1960s interior offered a slight variation: tiles and paint in the public…

Lounge bar with carpets and wood panelling.

…but carpet and wood-panelling in the lounge.

There were others, too, just as interesting but where we didn’t get a decent photograph. It was great fun — just the mix of socialising, boozing and pondering that we like — but next time we’re up in that part of the world, it will be all about the beer. There’s only so much 2.8% keg mild even the most nostalgic of beer bloggers can stomach, after all.

12 thoughts on “GALLERY: Not Always About the Beer”

  1. Never been in the Turnpike, although I must have passed it many times. Note to local CAMRA people: ‘mild’ and ‘winter warmer’ pub crawls aren’t great for Sam’s pubs – although, in fairness, it’s hard to see what would be.

  2. I don’t think bare boards/carpet combinations are particularly rare, incidentally – I can think of another couple off the top of my head.

    1. No rarity implied! Having said that, it’s not something we often see down here in Cornwall these days. The pub we used to drink in in Goldsithney when we first moved down had a proper lounge/public distinction — carpet and curtains in the lounge, where the burghers drank; bare boards and euchre in the other room.

    1. Believe it or not there were a few pubs we visited where it was the most appealing thing on offer. We are also a bit soft about mild — kind of feel obliged to order it when we see it, regardless of format.

      1. I used to drink Shep’s mild, back in the early 80’s, not because I was a huge fan, (although it could be good at times), but because I thought I ought to. The beer was in danger of disappearing in cask form, and my local CAMRA branch at the time (MMK), thought the best way to ensure the beer’s survival was for members to drink it.

        Crazy, as I much preferred Shep’s Bitter (a good drink back then). The ironic thing was the company dropped it anyway; despite our efforts, proving that you cannot artificially create a demand for a failing product. I’ve never been a fan of CAMRA’s Mild May promotion since!

  3. Some very familiar sights there! Like Phil, I’ve never been in the Turnpike despite living not too far away for 30 years. Surely pub crawls of characterful, busy pubs with good beer would be ideal to encompass Sam’s.

    As a matter of interest, where are the “Wetherspoon’s in an inter-war mock-tudor improved public house building” and the “inter-war pub, now a restaurant, on a housing estate”?

    The fate of the Tatton is very sad. During my time in the area, Northenden has lost four of the six pubs it once had, although it now has one or two new-style bars.

    1. The spoons was The Gateway in Didsbury; the inter-war pub on the estate was the Yew Tree in Wythenshawe. (Apols if I’ve got geography and/or spelling wrong with either of those.)

      1. Ah yes, the Gateway is my second-closest Spoons and far more “pubby” than many others. I wouldn’t have thought of it as mock-Tudor, although the architecture is maybe a bit Jacobean.

        When we started our recent Didsbury stagger at 7.30pm on a Friday night it was absolutely rammed.

        1. It’s interesting that it took Spoons to actually make the Gateway work. Looking back to the early 1980s when it was pretty much in its original form you do realise how cavernous and quite soulless some of these “improved” 1930s pubs were.

    2. Mudgie – the Turnpike does feature on a Stagger of course (look out for the next one which encompasses it). Some of the interior is Sam Smith’s repro but much of what is there is from the original 1960s refit. Apparently the only feature it’s lost is a “hanging garden” of plastic flowers in one corner of the lounge although it’s difficult to imagine what that would look like now if it had survived the passage of 50-plus years.

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