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 thoughts on “Bottle & Jug”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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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