pubs quotes

H.E. Bates Evokes a Country Pub, 1934

It must be forty years since my aunt began to keep the pub of which I am writing; and less than five years since she ceased to be the landlady of it… It was not prim, and I am pretty sure it was not always proper, but it had about it a kind of austere homeliness. The floors were of polished brick, the tables were scrubbed like bleached bones, and the lamps shone like alter brasses. There were three rooms — the bar, the smoke-room, and the parlour — and they had characters of their own. And just as I see my aunt in perpetual black, so I never think of that pub without remembering the mild beery smell that all her scrubbing could never wash away, the odour of lamp oil and the faint fragrance of old geraniums sun-warmed in the summer windows.

From ‘A Country Pub’ by H.E. Bates, New Statesman, 25 August 1934

4 replies on “H.E. Bates Evokes a Country Pub, 1934”

It looks as if the pub might well be the Chequers, Yelden.

The description resembles earlier photographs – and could that be Matilda in the one when Praed’s Brewery owned it?

Matilda and her husband Benjamin (no mention of him by Bates) Waters presided for over 20 years, the last seven or so by Matilda alone, in her own right. And perhaps succeeded by son Charles. But there are differences in last names (Waters and Watts) – possibly down to transcription errors:

1 Rushden Echo & Argus, 14th July 1922, transcribed by Kay Collins

The licence of the Chequers Inn, Yelden, formerly held by the late Mr B Waters, was transferred at the Sharnbrook Petty Sessions last Friday to Mrs Waters.

The Chequers was sold again in 1922 to Campbell Praed and Company Ltd. of Wellingborough, and Matilda Watts became landlady. Her son Charles took over the property in 1929 and extended it by adding two more bedrooms and a bathroom.

2 ‘The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting the Chequers [DV1/C190/5] found that the tenant, Matilda Waters, paid brewers Campbell Praed and Company Limited of Wellingborough [Northamptonshire] £15 per annum in rent. Accommodation comprised a tap room, a bar parlour, a skittle room, smoke room, a kitchen and three bedrooms. A weather-boarded and tiled stable for two horses, a store shed, a shed and stable and brick and corrugated iron lean-to stood outside. The tenant also leased a grass field of 0.861 of an acre adjoining.

The valuer considered trade would be about twenty gallons of beer per week on average, “Trade in bottled beers, minerals and spirits is negligible”. On 10th June 1927 there were four barrels and one half-barrel in the cellar, three of them tapped. The valuer opined: “I think at least one barrel per week”. It was the “only pub in parish”.’

List of licensees

1906-1922: Benjamin Waters;
1922-1929: Matilda Waters;
1929-1936: Charles Watts;


Sadly even the 1950s re-built Chequers is closed – though the suggestion is that a refurbished pub might be opened as part of development of the garden.

“…and the faint fragrance of old geraniums sun-warmed in the summer windows. ”

The valuer’s findings show how marginal a business of a rural pub was almost 100 years ago with sales of approximately one barrel (36 gallons) a week and a rent,in 2017 terms, of £3,000.00 per annum even when rural populations were considerably less mobile and alternative forms of entertainment more or less unavailable. The findings show that rural pubs may have had difficulty surviving for many years even before the impact of more modern pressures. Thanks, Dominic for sharing your research.

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