Among the literary sources we identified but did not have space to mention in 20th Century Pub was Keith Waterhouse’s 1959 comic social realist novel Billy Liar.
It contains a chapter in which Billy Fisher, an aspiring comedian and writer in the fictional Yorkshire town of Stradhoughton, practices his stand-up routine at a local pub:
The New House was an an enormous drinking barracks that had been built to serve Cherry Row and the streets around it. The New House was not its proper title. According to the floodlit inn-sign stuck on a post in the middle of the empty car park, the pub was called the Who’d A Thought It. There had been a lot of speculation about how this name had come about, but whatever the legend was it had fallen completely flat in Clogiron Lane. Nobody called the pub anything but the New House.
There was a windy, rubber-tiled hallway where the children squatted, eating potato crisps and waiting for their mothers. Two frosted-glass doors, embossed with the brewery trademark, led off it, one into the public bar and one into the saloon…
The men who say [in the public bar] were refugees from the warm terrace-end pubs that had been pulled down; they around drinking mild and calling to each other across the room as though nothing had changed… The few items in the New House that gave it anything like the feel of a pub – the dartboard, the cribbage markers, the scratched blind-box, and the pokerwork sign that said IYBMADIBYO, if you buy me a drink I’ll buy you one – were all part of the same portable world, as if they had been wheeled here in prams in the flight from the old things.
This fictional pub has a concert hall which suggests to us that Waterhouse had in mind one built between the wars rather than in the period after World War II.
The Belle Isle, on an estate not far from where Waterhouse grew up, is one possible candidate as a model – a drinking barracks indeed, but now a nursing home.