Saddleworth Pub Carpets, 1966

Wall to Wall pub carpeting.

Graham Turner’s fascinating 1967 book The North Country paints portraits of towns and cities from Wigan to Durham, often stopping off in pubs and clubs on the way.

You might remem­ber us quot­ing from it before, on the sub­ject of Pak­istani migrants attempt­ing to inte­grate into pub life in Brad­ford in the 1960s.

The rather less polit­i­cal­ly charged extract below, from a chap­ter called ‘Over the Top’ about Sad­dle­worth Moor, grabbed our atten­tion for a cou­ple of rea­sons.

No group of peo­ple in the val­ley are in more demand than the mem­bers of the Boarshurst Sil­ver Band. George Gib­son, a large, enor­mous­ly jovial man with a great red face who plays the ‘bas­so pro­fun­do’ and also teach­es brass in the local schools, reck­ons to be out either play­ing or teach­ing ‘very near every night’… [He] said over a pint at the King William [that] find­ing play­ers was not any par­tic­u­lar prob­lem – “you find me twen­ty-four instru­ments and I’ll find you twen­ty-four kids”. The King William, inci­den­tal­ly, is one of the pubs in Sad­dle­worth which has treat­ed itself to wall-to-wall car­pet­ing, an extrav­a­gance which [local char­ac­ter] John Ken­wor­thy thinks has changed them from forums of dis­cus­sion into mere drink­ing places. At one end of the bar were a group of the men we had been drink­ing with the night before at the Gentleman’s [Club], now deeply engrossed in a catholic selec­tion of rac­ing papers. At the oth­er were half a dozen men in over­alls.

So:

  1. Car­pets were seen as tak­ing pubs downmar­ket, some­how? Mak­ing them more friv­o­lous?
  2. A reminder that pub car­pets aren’t a great old tra­di­tion – they’re a rel­a­tive­ly new devel­op­ment.
  3. And, car­pets aside, a reminder of how class seg­re­ga­tion can hap­pen even with­out phys­i­cal bound­aries.

In case you’re won­der­ing, by the way, the William IV is still there, and still trad­ing as a pub.

6 thoughts on “Saddleworth Pub Carpets, 1966”

  1. pub car­pets aren’t a great old tra­di­tion

    My sweet sum­mer child(ren), car­pets aren’t a great old tra­di­tion. Wall-to-wall car­pet­ing in British hous­ing isn’t, any­way – I grew up in hous­es with wall-to-wall lino and a few indi­vid­ual car­pets or rugs (down the stairs, in the hall, in front of the fire, by your bed if you were lucky). If any­thing that pub was ahead of the trend; “wall-to-wall car­pet­ing” was still being sold as some­thing new & dif­fer­ent well into the 1970s.

    The bloke who seems to be say­ing the car­pet destroyed the high­brow ambi­ence does sound odd, but I think it makes sense if you think who in par­tic­u­lar would have been put off by a bare-boards pub inte­ri­or. I think he’s talk­ing about women com­ing into the pub, in short, with the inevitable effect of dis­rupt­ing the intel­lec­tu­al dis­cus­sions which invari­ably break out when men are on their own (I’m sure Ray will con­firm this). Army mess­es, boys’ board­ing schools, rug­by clubs – they’re all noto­ri­ous havens of civilised con­ver­sa­tion on seri­ous top­ics, and at one time the pub­lic bar was no dif­fer­ent. It’s the price of progress, I’m afraid.

  2. Slight­ly provoca­tive point, but I won­der how many of the age­less fea­tures of British pub life are actu­al­ly fair­ly con­tin­gent things that just hap­pened to be around their height of pop­u­lar­i­ty when 60-some­thing pub enthu­si­asts were in their prime? See also the idea of bit­ter as the authen­tic, unpre­ten­tious beer of the mass­es rather than “the boss­es’ drink”.

    1. As a folkie, I fre­quent­ly come across songs and cus­toms that are sup­posed to be authen­tic sur­vivals from some incred­i­bly dis­tant era – the word ‘pagan’ gets thrown about a lot, which would pre­sum­ably take us back to 400 AD or ear­li­er. By way of a real­i­ty check, it’s inter­est­ing to think about just how far back any liv­ing person’s sense of “how things have always been” or “the way things used to be” can pos­si­bly go. I reck­on it’s, at the very most, [your age] minus 5 for “how it’s always been” and [your age] plus 50 for “how it used to be” (tales of your par­ents’ child­hood & your grand­par­ents’ young days). Any­thing before that is just plain gone.

      1. I think Dou­glas Adams absolute­ly nailed this. He was talk­ing about tech­nol­o­gy, but it applies just as well to social and cul­tur­al stuff in my expe­ri­ence:
        “I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reac­tions to tech­nolo­gies:
        1. Any­thing that is in the world when you’re born is nor­mal and ordi­nary and is just a nat­ur­al part of the way the world works.
        2. Any­thing that’s invent­ed between when you’re fif­teen and thir­ty-five is new and excit­ing and rev­o­lu­tion­ary and you can prob­a­bly get a career in it.
        3. Any­thing invent­ed after you’re thir­ty-five is against the nat­ur­al order of things.”

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