20th Century Pub pubs

Bottle & Jug

One night last week, guided by The Buildings of England, we made our way to the Shakespeare in Redland, Bristol, and gazed upon the ghost of its Bottle & Jug.

Bottle & Jug was a phrase we didn’t know six years ago which is why we found this oddly arranged historic sign on the side door of The Crown in Penzance so baffling — ‘Bottle Bar & Jug? Eh?’

Jug & Bottle sign at the Crown, Penzance.
Sorry this photo is so crap. It’s only from 2011.

We were being dim, of course — it’s Bottle & Jug, and then Bar. Here’s how Francis W.B. Yorke explains it in his manual for pub designers from 1949:

The out-door department, sometimes called ‘off licence’ or ‘off sales’, and formerly known as ‘jug and bottle’ department, is set aside for the sale of intoxicating drinks ‘to be consumed off the premises’, and by law may not be used (as formerly) for the consumption of drink. It may be planned off the general servery, or as a separate unit. It must be in direct communication with the street, quite shut off from drinking areas, and contain no seating. It is the only public room a child under the age of fourteen may enter.

The Shakespeare has a fairly well-preserved Edwardian exterior but much of the interior has been remodelled in 21st century style with every surface either grey paint or bare wood, and partitions removed to make one long bar room.

There are still odd bits to enjoy, though, such as the stained glass signs for LADIES and GENTLEMEN on the toilet doors, for example. Very helpfully for roving pub nerds there are also framed plans of the pub before and after its early 20th century rebuild.

A plan of the Shakespeare, Redland.

That’s how we spotted another lingering relic of the old layout: a narrow corridor of blue and white tiles running from the front door up to the bar. Assuming they are original (they look it) are all that remains of the old Bottle & Jug. They interrupt the floorboards, insisting upon the distinction between rooms that no longer exist, across the distance of a century.

Back before World War I, take-away customers (often kids sent by their parents — the cause of much worry for social campaigners) would come through what is now the main door and, between panels protecting their privacy, and that of sit-in drinkers, and order beer to go at the long counter which serviced all three parts of the pub.

It would be nice if those partitions were still there but in their absence it’s pleasing that the old layout can at least be discerned with some imagination, like the outlines of an Iron Age settlement visible in the bumps and ditches of an English field system.

3 replies on “Bottle & Jug”

Coincidentally, I came across some transcriptions from Charles Booths notebooks this morning.

There’s lots of fairly fascinating observations and comments, but this was one picked up on the notion of ‘harm’ ‘servant girls’ and the use of sweets to attract the custom of children going for their parents beer.

Nov 10th 1897. Interview with Mr. T. Cox, manager of 5 Public Houses at the Pembury Arms in Hackney, Amhurst Street. [The pub stil exists: The Pembury Tavern, 90 Amhurst Road, London E8 1JH, telephone: 020 – 89852205] (Booth B348, p179-187)

“Those to whom the most harm is done in public houses are the servant girls sent to fetch beer – not the children. In his houses he has a separate compartment for jugs and bottled so as to prevent this source of annoyance. Children sip, he has often noticed it. he never gives sweets – considers it unfair trading but has lost the custom of many children by doing so. “A child will go 100 yards further for their parents beer if they will get a sweet by so doing.” He did not think that the gift of a sweet stopped the habit of sipping.

There’s a few other references to the ‘jug’ trade.

And slightly removed I remembered a reference in fiction, and wonder how many there might have been – I can recall no other – from the 1930s.

In one of Dorothy L Sayers novels (Have His Carcass published 1932 chapter 15 The Evidence of the Ladylove and the Landlady), when in reply to Harriet Vane suggesting a spot of something, Mrs Lefranc while protesting that she couldn’t touch a drop of anything at that time of the day did allow that the jug-and-bottle at the Dragon just around the corner was very convenient – and that there was no doubt that a drop of gin did help ones dinner settle.

It didn’t take too long for Harriet to overcome Mrs L’s resistance and eventually ‘the girl’ was called to slip around to the Dragon for a suitable quantity of gin.

The off-sales counter in a Birmingham pub was called the “Outdoor”. It was an external door (always labelled Outdoor) leading to a counter with no further access to the bars. Birmingham had large numbers of multi bar “reformed” pubs. Their number is shrinking rapidly.

Off licenses in Birmingham are still called Outdoors.

Yeah, the word “outdoor” struck me as very odd arriving in Brum in ’83. Back then, quite a few pubs still had a separate room and the signage, although I never saw them being used for that purpose. I never really saw anything similar in Leeds, but then Brum’s pub scene was rather different; licensing magistrates had been largely Quakers, and so not that many pubs had been allowed, and those that were developed into behemoths to cater for demand; as such, they generally had plenty of room for an outdoor. And of course Brum had had Davenport’s “Beer at home” service – I’ve always assumed that drinking at home was perhaps more important there than in Leeds.

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