Hilltop, “a new venture in public houses”, 1959

All pic­tures and text from Guin­ness Time, Autumn 1959.

Guin­ness have, in the past four years, been priv­i­leged to take part in a project which has now result­ed in the open­ing of a new pub­lic house which, both in its phys­i­cal lay­out and in the method of its plan­ning, exhibits sev­er­al new fea­tures.”

Modern pub windows.
The exte­ri­or of Hill­top.

The new pub is called Hill­top , and is in the South End neigh­bour­hood of Hat­field New Town. It is owned and oper­at­ed by Messrs. McMul­lens of Hert­ford, and it came into being after a most unusu­al piece of co-oper­a­tion.”

A crowd around the ale garland.
“Once the ale was pro­nounced good the Ale Gar­land was hoist­ed.”

It began when we found that the Hat­field Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion had no pub­lic funds avail­able to pro­vide the meet­ing place it had planned for the new pop­u­la­tion of this rapid­ly grow­ing neigh­bour­hood. The cen­tral site which had been reserved for this com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre would remain emp­ty and the only social build­ing would be a small pub­lic house which could not be expect­ed to meet all the needs of the local­i­ty. We thought this sit­u­a­tion offered a won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty for an exper­i­ment.”

1950s pubgoers.
“The busy scene in the Saloon Bar after the offi­cial open­ing.”

We approached the Cor­po­ra­tion and asked them if they would con­sid­er per­mit­ting a brew­er to pro­vide the ameni­ties they had planned to include in their com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre. They agreed. We asked Messrs. McMul­lens if they would con­sid­er expand­ing the plans of the pub­lic house they were to build in the neigh­bour­hood to pro­vide these ameni­ties, and they read­i­ly agreed.”

A bland looking modern cafe.
The cafe.
A group of families and children.
“The chil­dren, too, had free drinks (and buns) on open­ing night.”

Hill­top offers the usu­al facil­i­ties of a pub, three bars and an off-licence where alco­holic refresh­ment is avail­able dur­ing licens­ing hours. It also has an unli­censed cafe where soft drinks and light meals are served. Then there is a large hall for use as a the­atre or for danc­ing or din­ners, and three com­mit­tee rooms. All these rooms may be attached either to the licensed or unli­censed part of the build­ing… by lock­ing the nec­es­sary doors. In addi­tion­al the Hert­ford­shire Health Author­i­ties have two rooms allot­ted to them in which they run a local Health Clin­ic.”

Cool looking young men with guitars and cowboy hats.
“A local skif­fle group enter­tains cus­tomers on open­ing night.”

Notes: Hill­top was designed by Lionel Brett, opened on 11 August 1959, and is still trad­ing as a pub under McMullen’s, albeit renamed The Har­ri­er. Here’s how it looks today:

A Designer Reflects on Pubs, 1968

The typical English pub, sought after by the foreign tourist, is an established part of the British way of life. But like everything else it is changing. What was it, what is it and what will it be?”

That’s the ques­tion John Mer­il­ion asks at the open­ing of a sub­stan­tial arti­cle pub­lished in the arts sup­ple­ment of the Birm­ing­ham Post for Sat­ur­day 30 Novem­ber 1968.

Mer­il­ion was a design con­sul­tant work­ing in the Mid­lands and a lec­tur­er at the Birm­ing­ham Col­lege of Art and Design, and was appar­ent­ly still around as recent­ly as 2014. He was pro­fes­sion­al­ly involved in pub design as in the case of the Red Admi­ral on the Sut­ton Hill estate at the new town of Made­ley in Shrop­shire.

The Red Admiral, Madeley.
John Merilion’s but­ter­fly for The Red Admi­ral, Made­ley. SOURCE: Made­ley Mat­ters.

His arti­cle for the Post offers a sum­ma­ry of the devel­op­ment of the design of the Eng­lish pub with a strong line of argu­ment: Vic­to­ri­an town pubs were beau­ti­ful, offer­ing a bold, glit­ter­ing con­trast to the slum hous­es around them; but when brew­eries began to own large estates of their own pubs and then, after World War I, to set up their own archi­tects’ depart­ments, it all went wrong. They became too clean, lack­ing atmos­phere and dis­tinc­tion, as homes came up in qual­i­ty to meet them.

What’s real­ly inter­est­ing to us about this piece, though, is that Mer­il­ion offers a con­sid­ered, bal­anced, occa­sion­al­ly sur­pris­ing view of where pubs were at in 1968, at the height of the theme pub craze:

Ask most peo­ple and they seem to want atmos­phere – the only uni­ver­sal plea – with com­fort run­ning a close sec­ond. There are of course a few chaps who say that all they want is well-kept beer!

(Note there more evi­dence of the CAMRA ten­den­cy well before CAMRA.)

Nobody actu­al­ly says they des­per­ate­ly want to drink in a hunt­ing lodge in Har­borne, or beer cel­lar in Bear­wood, or a galleon on the Ring­way. How­ev­er, most peo­ple do not active­ly dis­like these sur­round­ings, and no doubt a strong case can be made out for their exis­tence. They are sure­ly prefer­able to the pseu­do-tra­di­tion­al Geor­gian or Tudor chintz tea-room ver­sions.

Despite seem­ing to stick up for theme pubs to a degree, Mer­il­ion goes on to stick the knife in:

This exten­sion of the name of the pub set­ting the theme for the entire inte­ri­or decor is a com­par­a­tive­ly recent inno­va­tion and is being employed exten­sive­ly where new urban pubs are con­cerned. Any why should the brew­ers neglect such a sure-fire idea which is obvi­ous­ly pop­u­lar with the cus­tomers? After all, the oppor­tu­ni­ties are fan­tas­tic – why not a Dr Who space-fic­tion set, or the labyrinth from Bar­barel­la… Only that all these things are sheer gim­mick­ry, equal­ly suit­able for cof­fee bars, restau­rants, night clubs and bou­tiques. They rep­re­sent lost oppor­tu­ni­ties for the dar­ing and excit­ing use of con­tem­po­rary meth­ods and mate­ri­als to main­tain the specif­i­cal­ly pub­lic house atmos­phere.

Too many theme pubs were exces­sive­ly lit­er­al, work­ing the theme through­out the whole pub, lit­er­al­ly “turn­ing the build­ing into a fake cas­tle, pad­dock or barn”. This pres­sure, accord­ing to archi­tects and design­ers he spoke to, came from the brew­eries, and the over-the-top, over-lit­er­al theme ele­ments were some­times applied to the pub after the fact, rather against the designer’s intent.

None of the new pubs in Birm­ing­ham were any good, in his opin­ion,  fail­ing to achieve a state of “friend­ly but not freaky”, though he does have a cou­ple of kind words to say about The Out­rig­ger in the city cen­tre where “a good atmos­phere exists in the pseu­do-galleon (com­plete with sea-sounds)”.

The Outrigger.
The Out­rig­ger, Birm­ing­ham, post­ed online by ‘Zak’. SOURCE: Birm­ing­ham Forum.

Merilion’s argu­ment here­after is a smart one: putting aside spe­cif­ic Vic­to­ri­an style and method, why shouldn’t a mod­ern pub design­er seek to achieve the same essen­tial effects of light, reflec­tion and “glit­ter” using up-to-date mate­ri­als? Sub­ur­ban pubs in the 1960s, he says, have bad light­ing – “an all-embrac­ing orange gloom” which fails to pro­vide highs and lows – why not take advan­tage of mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy to vary the colour and inten­si­ty through­out a pub?

It’s at this point that he comes out with some­thing we could have used a cou­ple of years ago when we were writ­ing 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub: a defence of the Chelsea Drug­store.

The Drug­store, as you might know, was Bass Charrington’s trendi­est, most self-con­scious­ly mod­ern pub, which opened in West Lon­don in 1968, and famous­ly appears in A Clock­work Orange as the futur­is­tic hall-of-mir­rors shop­ping bou­tique where Alex the Droog hangs out.

The Chelsea Drugstore, 1968
The Chelsea Drug­store. SOURCE: RIBA.

Mer­il­ion says:

One could dis­miss its decor as trendy and fash­ion­able… but nev­er­the­less is has much of the tra­di­tion­al atmos­phere, with its glit­ter­ing air of excite­ment, vibrant clien­tele and robust self-expres­sion.

Return­ing to Birm­ing­ham, then under heavy rede­vel­op­ment, he makes a final plea:

Let us hope that the brew­eries give the right archi­tects and design­ers a freer hand to pro­duce excit­ing and appro­pri­ate solu­tions. Please, not Ye Olde Meate Shoppe, The Town Gaol, and The Sink­ing Barge.

If you wan to read the entire arti­cle it’s avail­able via the British News­pa­per Archive here.

In gen­er­al, the BNA is a ser­vice we high­ly rec­om­mend to any­one with an inter­est in his­to­ry, nos­tal­gia or British cul­ture; it’s about £80 a year, or alter­na­tive­ly, you can prob­a­bly access it at your local library or archive.

Bits We Underlined In… A Year at the Peacock, 1964

BOOK COVER: A Year at the Peacock

There was a rash of memoirs by publicans in the mid-20th century and Tommy Layton’s A Year at the Peacock is a classic example, full of detail, riven with snobbery, and ending in unhappiness.

Paul Bai­ley (no rela­tion) tipped us off to this one a few years ago but we only recent­ly acquired a copy and set about it with the high­lighter pen.

Lay­ton (born in 1910) was a restau­ra­teur, wine mer­chant and drinks writer gen­er­al­ly described using words such as “iras­ci­ble”, “eccen­tric” or “quirky”. His self-por­tray­al in this book con­veys that bad-tem­pered eccen­tric­i­ty, exhibit­ing a remark­ably objec­tive view of his own rather sour per­son­al­i­ty.

The book tells the sto­ry of how he came to take on a pub in Kent, hav­ing first noticed its poten­tial while pass­ing through on the way to France on a wine-relat­ed mis­sion. In his first con­ver­sa­tion with the incum­bent pub­li­can Lay­ton gleans some inter­est­ing nuggets of infor­ma­tion about beer,  a sub­ject about which he is ini­tial­ly quite igno­rant:

Whose beer do you take?” I con­tin­ued.

Frem­lins. The hop-pick­ers like it far the best,” he said.

Hop-pick­ers?” I replied. “I thought they were all in Kent.”

You are in Kent here,” he said. “The bound­ary is a bit fun­ny round here.”

Then he loos­ened up a bit and gave me a fat, pleas­ant smile. “Cor! You should have seen the crowds here on the lawns before they start­ed installing the hop-pick­ing machin­ery. Hun­dred upon hun­dreds of them, all drink­ing pints as fast as you could pour it out. Why, we had to take over a huge shed which has been spe­cial­ly licensed as an over­flow ser­vice.”

Lay­ton even­tu­al­ly bought the pub, despite grim warn­ings from Mr Christo­pher, the out­go­ing pub­li­can (“You take prac­ti­cal­ly noth­ing here in the win­ter, and pre­cious lit­tle more in the sum­mer.”) and set about reju­ve­nat­ing the old inn.

Tommy Layton
Tom­my Lay­ton

A string of odd dis­cov­er­ies fol­low: the pub sold foul-smelling vine­gar and paraf­fin by the jug from casks stored in the cel­lar next to the beer; there was no bar, only  a hatch, so the per­son serv­ing had to stand for their entire shift; and the cel­lar froze in win­ter, but became a fur­nace in sum­mer.

As in the fic­tion­alised mem­oir We Keep a Pub a large part of Layton’s book is tak­en up with por­traits of pub­li­cans – in this case, the tem­po­rary man­agers he hires to do the actu­al day-to-day work of run­ning the pub, via an agency. Shep­herd is his clear favourite:

[He was] a thin mid­dle-aged man who to the inn at once, and the inn seemed to fit him to per­fec­tion. Beer was to him what wine is to me; a hob­by, a liveli­hood, and a darned good drink. Before inquir­ing about his accom­mo­da­tion, or food arrange­ments, and quite unaf­fect­ed­ly and in such a way one could not take offence, he went straight to the beer casks, pulled out the spig­ots, pulled him­self a glass of beer, held it up to the light and savoured it. An extra­or­di­nar­i­ly pleas­ant smile lit up his face as the bit­ter got his approval. He then did the same with the mild , and again he was hap­py.

Shep­herd patient­ly cor­rects all of Layton’s mis­takes, such as using optics designed for dis­pens­ing fruit cor­dials to hop-pick­ers’ chil­dren for spir­its so that every mea­sure was by default a dou­ble. He also edu­cates Lay­ton on the ben­e­fits of dif­fer­ent meth­ods of dis­pense, start­ing with a dis­sec­tion of “Beer from the Wood” served direct from casks on the bar:

It tastes much flat­ter, and the beer doesn’t retain its head,” said Shep­herd.

Actu­al­ly, the nau­se­at­ing white froth which appears on the top of a glass of ale is sup­posed to appeal to the beer-drink­ing pop­u­lace and pro­fes­sion­al brew­ers talk about ‘col­lar reten­tion’.

By and large Shep­herd was right; the advan­tages of below-ground cel­lars for beer in wood­en casks, in con­tradis­tinc­tion to the trou­ble-free beer dis­pensers in met­al drums under pres­sure, are irrefutable…

Among the advan­tages Lay­ton men­tions is that “There is no con­t­a­m­i­na­tion due to pipe smoke” – not some­thing we’d ever con­sid­ered giv­en the smoke-free days we live in.

If fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion was required that cask ale could some­times be a grot­ty prod­uct, Lay­ton pro­vides it in his account of the over­spill bowl which catch­es drip­pings from reused glass­es that cus­tomers insist must be filled right to the brim ever time:

[Over­spilled] beer from fifty dif­fer­ent mouths… is more often than note left in the bar all night and goes back into the casks for con­sump­tion the next day. I do not exag­ger­ate: this is what is hap­pen­ing all over Britain, and is a prac­tice that the Min­istry of Health… is try­ing to stop by forc­ing pub­li­cans to adopt a lined mea­sure so that the beer does not come up to the rim of the glass.

When he lat­er has a falling out with Shep­herd it is over his mis­han­dling of a recent­ly treat­ed cask: “I’d just topped that cask up with yesterday’s spillings… and they would have set­tled down nice­ly. Now they are all churned up.”

Lay­ton, hygien­i­cal­ly mind­ed and no lover of cask ale, is fair­ly warm towards con­ve­nient, clean keg bit­ters:

The beer in these con­tain­ers is brewed to appeal to the younger gen­er­a­tion; it is crisper and less oily than the cask stuff, and there are some who dis­ap­prove of it strong­ly. My friend Bri­an Fox, of the Vic­to­ry Inn, Arun­del, fumes with indig­na­tion at the thought of any free Mine Host stock­ing such swipes. But he is wrong; tastes change.

Else­where in the book you can enjoy Lay­ton express­ing his dis­dain for north­ern­ers and their dis­gust­ing cook­ing – “It may be all right up north… but down here we wouldn’t throw it to the pigs” – and rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the pan­cake; if we’d read it soon­er we might have cit­ed it in the sec­tion of 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub on the devel­op­ment of the gas­trop­ub.

After snot­ti­ly order­ing around a suc­ces­sion of man­agers, treat­ing them more like his per­son­al ser­vants than skilled agency staff, and end­ing up with worse and weird­er char­ac­ters each time.

Even­tu­al­ly, he has some­thing of a break­down:

The truth was that the Pea­cock Inn, Iden Green was wear­ing my nerves raw. I became aware of this when I drove up to the inn and real­ized that I had been sit­ting in the dri­ving-seat for some min­utes sum­mon­ing up the willpow­er to get out and enter the house.

Seem­ing­ly out of nowhere, but per­haps an oblique reflec­tion of his men­tal state, one of the final chap­ters is an account of a tour of the sites of Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps on the Con­ti­nent.

It isn’t a great book. Lay­ton isn’t a great writer. The struc­ture is episod­ic, digres­sive, and repet­i­tive. But, still, if you want a snap­shot of life in a coun­try pub in the ear­ly 1960s, here it is, from bot­tles of brown ale to “seg­ments of gherkin” on the bar on Sun­day after­noon.

Our copy cost a fiv­er and will no doubt prove a use­ful addi­tion to the Arthur Mil­lard Memo­r­i­al Library.

Ted Ray on Pubs: Wet Bars, Sodden Jackets, Dry Throats

My Turn Next, published in 1963, is an unreliable memoir of the life of a variety comedian viewed through the bottom of a beer glass.

Ted Ray was born as Charles Old­en in Wigan, Lan­cashire, in 1905, but was brought up in Liv­er­pool. His father was a come­di­an, also called Charles Old­en, and Ray entered the fam­i­ly busi­ness in 1927. He was per­form­ing in Lon­don by 1930 and by 1949 was a big enough name to have his own radio show, Ray’s a Laugh, which ran until 1961.

Like many come­di­ans of this era, Ray has all but dis­ap­peared from the pub­lic con­scious­ness, though the BBC run occa­sion­al repeats of the radio shows on 4 Extra. Here’s a snip­pet of him in per­for­mance, giv­ing what we gath­er was his trade­mark vio­lin schtick:

The book con­veys a sense of whim­sy, the gift of the gab, drift­ing here and there into Wode­hou­sian wit. We think it’s sup­posed to be obvi­ous that the bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion is false or exag­ger­at­ed, and there’s cer­tain­ly no men­tion of Aunt Lucy in any of the oth­er sources we’ve seen:

I lived with Aunt Lucy because my father and moth­er couldn’t stand chil­dren. I near­ly said moth­er couldn’t bear chil­dren, but that wouldn’t be true because she had six before she realised she didn’t like them. Some of the oth­ers lived in oth­er parts of the coun­try, and I didn’t see them again. They were con­stant­ly in my mind, how­ev­er, and I won­dered if their pub door­ways were as draughty as mine.

And with that bit of dark humour (ha ha, child neglect!) we get to what drew us to this book: its focus on beer and pubs. Ray’s Wikipedia entry refers to “golf­ing and alco­hol, two of his pas­sions” and My Turn Next cer­tain­ly con­veys his inter­est in the lat­ter.

For a throw­away book, per­haps designed to give Dad for Christ­mas, the writ­ing about booze is star­tling­ly evoca­tive, almost intox­i­cat­ing in its own right. He has a par­tic­u­lar tal­ent for con­vey­ing the phys­i­cal aspect of beer – it spills, it gets you wet, it stains your clothes, infus­es your kiss­es.

Uncle Reuben
One of the many George Houghton illus­tra­tions from the book.

Ear­ly in the book Ray describes learn­ing about pubs from Aunt Lucy’s hus­band:

My Uncle Reuben was a mag­nif­i­cent drinker. He would remain per­pen­dic­u­lar from open­ing time until just before he was slung out three min­utes after they closed. His left elbow on the wet counter, his feet in the saw­dust, he would shift twen­ty-five or thir­ty pints with­out a stag­ger… My Aunt Lucy didn’t drink and I nev­er told her where Uncle Reuben spent his time when he was sup­posed to be tak­ing me for a walk. Some walk. I was left in the pub door­way with an out­size bis­cuit while Uncle joined the oth­er Sons of Suc­tion in “The Grapes”.

Sons of Suc­tion! Mar­vel­lous.

He goes on to tell the unlike­ly sto­ry of how he, after Uncle Reuben’s death, kept return­ing to the pub out of habit, like an aban­doned dog, before final­ly pluck­ing up the nerve to enter:

I remem­ber forc­ing my way past a very smelly cor­net play­er, attempt­ing a liq­uid ver­sion of ‘Nir­vana’. The bell of his green and gold instru­ment was squashed – prob­a­bly as a result of push­ing it too far into the pub as some­body slammed the door… I entered the bar and stopped. The smoke was deep pur­ple and the per­spir­ing peo­ple all seemed to be talk­ing at once.

Sweat, smells, beer-soaked whiskers every­where.

Two men at a pub bar.
By George Houghton.

It’s hard to tell with­out foren­sic study whether the beer-based gags Ray rolls out were hack­neyed when he used them or if he orig­i­nat­ed some or all of them. Suf­fice to say the sto­ry of his first pint of beer elic­its a roll of the eyes in 2018:

Slow­ly I raised the glass to my lips. My palate revolt­ed at the earthy bit­ter­ness. But it went down, and I kept on suck­ing until I saw through the bot­tom of the glass. I put the glass down, filled my lungs again, and returned the Major’s stare.

Well, my boy?” he wheezed. “How’s that?”

Hor­ri­ble,” I said. “Can I have anoth­er?”

Which brings us to anoth­er nugget that grabbed our atten­tion: the ubiq­ui­ty of The Major. The ear­li­est ver­sion of this bit of pub wis­dom we know is from T.E.B. Clarke’s 1938 book What’s Yours? but Ray attrib­ut­es it to fel­low come­di­an (and famous mous­tache wear­er) Jim­my Edwards:

Jim­my Edwards has a the­o­ry that you can walk into any pub in Britain and say “Has the Major been in?” and the bar­tender will say “yes” or “no”. In oth­er words Jim­my believes that there is at least one Major to every pub.

With a friend I tried this out. We entered a pub in Finch­ley and inquired of the chap behind the bar if he had recent­ly seen the ‘Major’. The man gave me a blank look. “Major?” he replied. “I don’t know no rud­dy major.”

I was dis­ap­point­ed, but five min­utes lat­er the bar­man reap­peared with the lounge bar­man.

Here,” he said, “Char­lie knows the Major. He’ll tell you.”

Ray’s descrip­tions of the sad, des­per­ate char­ac­ters who hung around the­atri­cal pubs cadg­ing free drinks, booz­ing them­selves to death, are played both for laughs and sen­ti­ment:

There were times when Cyril found him­self short of cash, and some­times the land­lords of the pubs he fre­quent­ed had to close cred­it. But if noth­ing else, he was resource­ful. Once he went into the Gents, removed the light bulb from the its sock­et, insert­ed a half­pen­ny, and replaced the bulb. The first per­son to switch on the light pro­duced a short cir­cuit and plunged the whole house into dark­ness. It was the eas­i­est thing for Cyril to grope a bit and gob­ble up some­ones else’s pint.

Prob­a­bly the most quotable chunk of the book comes when Ray attempts to sum up the char­ac­ter of the British pub by giv­ing a bril­liant­ly spe­cif­ic descrip­tion in lieu of vague gen­er­al­is­ing:

Every pub, I mean when they’re com­fort­ably full, has nine men in suits, or sports jack­ets – six are bald, but they all keep their heads cov­ered; and ten woman – eight fair­ly home­ly, two rav­ish­ing.

There’s near­ly always an old man in a long over­coat, a cloth cap, and a cig­a­rette (near­ly all ash) that nev­er leaves his mouth, even when he coughs. His name is Bert and he can get you any­thing. Then there are two men in tril­bies and rain­coats who look like TV detec­tives, and are detec­tives.

Often you’ll find a rad­dled bejew­elled blonde who says she used to be an actress. She car­ries a snif­fling pekinese that must be kept away from a black tom­cat sleep­ing at the end of the bar…

Most reg­u­lars sup­port the bar as if they are afraid it will fall down. They like to be near the drink source. Oth­er cus­tomers shout their order over “the front line”, pass cash, and take ale as it is hand­ed over, like water buck­ets at a fire.

Counter drinkers are eas­i­ly spot­ted. The shoul­ders of their jack­ets are yel­low from drip­ping of beer on the over­head route.

Is all this per­haps a joke at the expense of Mass Obser­va­tion? Maybe.

There’s lots more to dig out but we can’t quote the whole book. Let’s just have one more line, though:

The best descrip­tion I know of an Eng­lish pub is a place where you get wet change.

How’s that for pithy?

Watney’s Pubs of 1966–67: Failsworth, Harlington, Lambeth, Stevenage, Wythenshawe

We continue to keep our eyes peeled for old in-house magazines from British breweries and most recently acquired a copy of Watney’s Red Barrel from February 1967.

It’s par­tic­u­lar­ly rich in pic­tures of mod­ern pubs, from Man­ches­ter to Lon­don. Let’s start with a trip to Wythen­shawe, a place we stud­ied in some depth when research­ing 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub, where we find the Fly­ing Machine and the Fir­bank.

The Fly­ing Machine was designed by Fran­cis Jones & Sons and built near Man­ches­ter Air­port, with “inte­ri­or dec­o­ra­tion fea­tur­ing vin­tage air­craft with some attrac­tive prints of biplanes”. Is it still there? Yes! But now it’s called the Tudor Tav­ern.

The Fir­bank was designed by A.H. Broth­er­ton & Part­ners and that’s about all the infor­ma­tion the mag­a­zine gives. That con­crete mur­al looks inter­est­ing, at any rate. The pub is still going, and award-win­ning, but has been the cen­tre of dra­ma in recent years with drug deal­ers attempt­ing to black­mail the pub­li­can.

The Brookdale, Failsworth.

Sad­ly there’s no exte­ri­or image of the Brook­dale in Failsworth, only this image of S.H. Thread­g­ill, M.D. of Watney’s sub­sidiary Wilson’s, receiv­ing a pint pulled by foot­baller Bob­by Charl­ton. This pub has been knocked down to make way for hous­ing.


The Long Ship pub in Stevenage.

The Danish Bar at the Long Ship pub.

Phwoar! The Long Ship in Steve­nage is a pub we first noticed in the back­ground of a scene in the 1968 film Here We Go Round the Mul­ber­ry Bush. It was the first Wat­ney Mann pub in the Hert­ford­shire new town and occu­pied the base of the South­gate House office block.

It has a real­ly inter­est­ing archi­tec­tur­al pedi­gree: that great gor­geous mur­al is by William Mitchell, a sculp­tor cur­rent­ly enjoy­ing a revival. It was six­ty feet long and depict­ed Vikings return­ing to their home­land after a raid on Eng­land. Sad­ly it seems this mur­al was just torn off and chucked away when the pub was demol­ished.

Obvi­ous­ly the bars in the pub were the Viking bar and (pic­tured above) the Dan­ish lounge and grill room.

The archi­tect was Barnard Reyn­er of Coven­try.


The Gibraltar pub near Elephant & Castle in London.

The Gibral­tar in St George’s Road, Lon­don SE1, near Ele­phant and Cas­tle, also has a name design­er attached: archi­tect E.B. Mus­man, who made his name with grand Art Deco designs in the 1930s, such as the Comet at Hat­field and the Nags Head in Bish­ops Stort­ford. It replaced a Vic­to­ri­an gin palace on the same site. Mus­man actu­al­ly went to Gibral­tar to make the sketch­es on which the sign was based.

In recent years it became a Thai restau­rant before being demol­ished in 2012–13 to make way for, you guessed it, yup­pie flats.

Interior of the Jolly Marshman, Abbey Estate, London SE2.

Still in Lon­don we have the Jol­ly Marsh­man on the Abbey Estate, Lon­don SE2. There’s no exte­ri­or shot in the mag­a­zine, only this image of the bar with “bas­ket­work light shades and, cen­tre back, the colour­ful mur­al of a ‘marsh­man’”. It was designed by J. Barnard of L.D. Tom­lin­son & Part­ners.  It has gone.


The Gamekeeper, Harlington.

Out at the end of the Pic­cadil­ly Line near Heathrow Air­port some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent was afoot in the form of the Game­keep­er, the fourth of Watney’s Schooner Inns. It was a restau­rant sup­pos­ed­ly in the shape of a pheas­ant built behind an exist­ing old pub of that name. It was a steak­house with seat­ing for 82 peo­ple. The archi­tect was Roy Wil­son-Smith who also designed the more famous Wind­sock at Dun­sta­ble. Aston­ish­ing­ly, this one still seems to exist – worth a pil­grim­age, we reck­on.


The pic­ture at the very top of this post offers a bare glimpse of anoth­er Schooner Inn, the Leather Bot­tle in Edg­ware, which appar­ent­ly closed in 2002.