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20th Century Pub pubs

When did ladies’ toilets in pubs become a thing?

We take it for granted today that a pub will have toilet facilities for women but this wasn’t always the case – and they arrived surprisingly late in the game.

What prompted us to look into this, as is so often the case these days, was a question asked on Twitter:

Though we’ve written extensively about 20th century pubs, and a fair bit about Victorian ones, and occasionally about pub toilets (oh, the glamour!) this wasn’t something we felt able to answer off the top of our heads.

Grabbing a couple of books, we gave a provisional response…

…and then spent yesterday evening and a little time this morning digging further.

The first stop was Mark Girouard’s Victorian Pubs from 1975. This hefty book goes into enormous detail on the development of pubs in the 19th century and, helpfully, includes quite a few floor plans of important or typical establishments.

SOURCE: Victorian Pubs, Mark Girouard, 1975.

In the example above, photographed from original architect’s plans, you can see that the only toilet facilities at all are two urinals on the far side of the billiard room. The pub in question is The Assembly House in Kentish Town, North London, built in 1896, as a big, beautiful state of the art city pub – not some ancient provincial grot-hole.

Is the omission of toilet facilities an oddity of this particular establishment? Perhaps they just forgot to put them in?

Well, other plans in the book – not always original, sometimes redrawn – show pubs from around the same time with urinals only, sometimes in the yard or leaning against an outer wall of the pub.

One particularly interesting example, The Queen Victoria in Southwark Park Road, actually lost its ‘WC’ in an 1891 refit, thereafter having only one small urinal – but more drinking space.

Girouard provides floor plans of all four floors of the grand Elephant and Castle, built in 1897. The ground floor has no toilet facilities at all; on the second floor, again accessible only via the ‘billiard saloon’, there are ‘Gents’. The hotel rooms on the third floor share a single ‘WC’ – presumably reserved for guests.

At this point, we paused to take stock and think about toilets more generally. (How did we end up like this?) Fortunately, Historic England provides a pocket history of the ‘public convenience’ online:

By the late Victorian era many local authorities were providing public conveniences. It was routine to find toilets in workplaces, railway stations, parks, shops, pubs, restaurants and an array of other places… The vast majority of the early facilities only served men. One explanation may be that Victorian society believed ‘modest’ women would not wish to be seen entering a public convenience… The lack of provision for women meant that they were often forced to stay close to home. This restriction is known as the ‘urinary leash’. Today some consider it to be a deliberate means of controlling women’s movements and ambitions outside of the home.

With that in mind, it makes sense that little would be done to provide ladies’ toilets in pubs, where women were not quite welcome or proper. That’s not to say women didn’t go to pubs or enjoy drinking – only that they were primarily male spaces where women were more-or-less grudgingly permitted, and judged.

It feels obvious but we can probably say, then, that ladies’ toilets in pubs became more common, then standard, as the presence of women in pubs became more common, then standard.

That aligns broadly with:

  • women’s liberation during and after World War I
  • the ‘improved public house’ movement.

In his 1947 book The Renaissance of the English Pub architect and historian Basil Oliver provides plans of many pubs built during the first half of the 20th century, on ‘improved’ lines. Most of these do include a ‘Ladies Lav’, ‘Ladies WC’ or even ‘Ladies cloaks’. He provides interesting commentary, too:

[On] the general question of lavatories, a most important one in planning a public house. Mr. H. R. Gardner, F.R.I.B.A., in an article on ‘The Modern Inn, Design and Planning’, refers to the arrangement of the entrances to men’s and women’s lavatories which, as he concisely puts it, ‘may be placed directly from their respective bars, with proper supervision, but in no way secluded; and on the other hand they may be placed near the entrances to the bars and dining room with less supervision but more seclusion. In the smaller houses economy may be achieved by placing one lavatory for men between the saloon and public bars, with an entrance from each.’… Town standards in sanitary arrangements are not invariably applicable to public houses in country towns and rural places. Even where lavatories are incorporated inside the building, in the up-to-date manner, it is usually desirable in any case to supplement them with urinals in yards and gardens. Customers expect to find them there and, if nuisance is to be avoided, such conveniences should be provided. The habits of centuries can be neither suddenly nor easily changed…

He also observes that “ample and convenient lavatory accommodation, for both sexes” was a notable feature of pubs in the Carlisle State Management Scheme, from 1916 onward. In Liverpool, he tells us, there was an expectation that brewers would include separate facilities for men and women on both the cheap and more exclusive sides of each pub. Here’s an example, The Farmers’ Arms, Huyton, from 1934:

SOURCE: The Renaissance of the English Pub, Basil Oliver, 1947.

So, to answer that original question, a pub with ladies’ toilets wouldn’t have been astonishing in 1930 but would have been a sign that it was an up-to-date establishment.

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beer reviews bristol

Walking in a lager wonderland

Baltic porter, Schwarzbier, Helles, Kellerpils, Dunkel, Altbier, Saison, Tripel – Lost & Grounded’s embrace and mastery of Continental beer styles continues to delight us.

For our third round of drinking out since things sort-of reopened on 12 April we went, again, to their taproom about ten minutes from our house. It’s peaceful, well managed and, of course, convenient. That we are developing a crush on the beer doesn’t hurt either.

On this most recent trip, we started with Helles, at 4.4% and £5 a pint. It is still excellent – although perhaps this time it seemed a little softer and more hazy than when we first encountered it a few weeks back.

Long Story, a table beer at 3.2% with pronounced Belgian yeast character, was less successful, with a stale, papery note haunting its tail. But Ray was less bothered by that than Jess; perhaps you’ll love it.

We then moved on to the Schwarzbier, Amplify Your Sound, at 5.2% and £5.50 a pint. Billed simply as ‘dark lager’, you might expect a Dunkel, but this is definitely a degree beyond that – vinyl black, with a coffee-cream head. There is perhaps a passing note of grassy hops but, in the main, this is about the treacly bass notes. Mild without the mud; more well-polished Porsche than Morris Minor.

How often do you see a Baltic porter on offer? We reckon that, for us, it’s been maybe five times in our entire 14-years of beer blogging. So, even if you’re already feeling a bit giddy and 6.8% seems scary, even if it’s £6.50 a pint, you’re obliged by law to order at least a half.

Fortunately, with Running With Spectres (a play on the name of their regular beer Running With Sceptres) Lost & Grounded have nailed it. Rich without being sickly, figgy pudding fruity, it feels like a dignified rebuke to the marshmallow sundae imperial stout merchants. You could also label it ‘double stout’, we reckon – another style that barely exists but which tends to be more warming than intimidating.

Between L&G and Zero Degrees, we’re a little spoiled in Bristol for serious attempts to brew in European styles. But we’d still welcome perhaps one or two more – especially someone who might fancy cloning Jever.

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News

News, nuggets and longreads 1 May 2021: Cerveise, craft, cadence

Here’s our regular weekly round-up of writing about beer and pubs, featuring Norman knights and cold cans in New Orleans.

Let’s start with Martyn Cornell and his notes on ‘How to brew like a medieval knight’. His dissection of a 13th century “rhyming treatise… in the Norman French of the 1200s” is fascinating, illuminating stuff:

Going through the process, the would-be brewster looking to turn orge (barley) into “cerveyse” first had to steep  her barley in a large vat. When it was soaked and the “eauwe” drained off, she was to carry the grain to a clean-swept “soler” or upper floor and “la coucherez” until it had properly germinated: it should now be called “breez”, or “malt”, and not “grain”, Bibbesworth said. The malt should be stirred by hand, and left to stand in “heaps or rows”, an essential practice to stop the grain over-heating as it sprouted and to ensure the growing sprouts and rootlets did not get so tangled the malt turned into an unseparatable lump.


Spezial Brau, Bamberg

For Pellicle Adrian TIerney-Jones has written about smoke and the mysterious, primal edge it brings to beer:

Back in spring 2018, I visited Bamberg and Schlenkerla’s home Brauerei Heller… Inside the yard and the brewery, the aroma of smoke hung in the air like a company of ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings, while a tasting of the beers with a brewer took me on a journey through the various rich levels of smoked beer. Every beer it produces has its own character, with the 8% Double Bock, Eiche, being particularly luscious in its smokiness, coming from the use of oak in malting as opposed to beechwood… Later at the Schlenkerla tavern, amongst the vaulted arches and the time-scrawled, brown wooden panelling, amidst a soundtrack of chatty, beery, slurping, masticating people and the warm fog of roast meat, I finally felt I had reached the heart of smoked beer. 


Carling Billboard

After a few weeks of intense debate over questions of independence in beer it’s no surprise to find Lily Waite writing about “craft beer’s self-inflicted existential crisis” for Good Beer Hunting:

Since I began working in the industry in 2015, the idea that “Big Beer” was the enemy prevailed. Craft beer forums would censor discussion of any beers available for purchase in supermarkets; breweries who “sold out” to Heineken, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Kirin, or any other “macro brewery” would become taboo; and I, like many of my peers, would ardently avoid drinking anything but “craft” beer. The idea of the shadowy, underhanded Big Beer operative lurking around every corner, desperate to snatch back the sliver of market share stolen by independent beer, permeated the spaces I inhabited. “Fuck Big Beer!” was the message, and we were its evangelists… But what’s the most serious challenge—the conglomerate of multinationals collectively known as “Big Beer,” or craft beer’s own flaws? 

(As we’ve been saying since 2014, craft beer isn’t necessarily better but is often more interesting; and we understand why people get upset when independence has been presented as important up until the moment it isn’t.)


Kolomyja, Galicia

Gary Gillman continues to explore what feels like a fruitful and barely-trodden avenue: Jewish-owned breweries in Eastern Europe. This week, he’s been getting to know the Brettler Brewery of Old Kolomyja, Galicia:

Kolomyja had a very substantial Jewish population before WW II, half or nearing that level since the mid-1800s… Most Jews were craftsmen, e.g. cobblers, tailors, and potters, or factory workers, peddlers, or shop-owners, with small, often unpredictable incomes… A small percentage did become wealthy. They helped their compatriots by giving employment, creating loan societies, and funding social and religious causes. This was a vital assist before the era of governmental supports, although continual labour agitation suggests working conditions were dreary… The Brettlers were in the well-off group, with interests in grain milling among other enterprises… Litman Brettler was an estate lessee. His son Jakub Brettler, described in the Memorial Book as a millionaire, founded the brewery in 1890.


A pub.

Jess has been reading the New Statesman since she was a kid and rolling her eyes at Nicholas Lezard’s regular column since it began. His recent thoughts on pubs, however, did hit home:

Everyone keeps asking me if I’ve gone to the pub yet. “Have you gone to the pub yet?” they ask. No, I reply, I have not gone to the pub yet… Except it is more than that. When people ask me if I’ve returned to the pub, I feel as if they’re asking a vicar if she’s gone back to church yet, or a passionate football fan if they’ve seen a match yet… But there is a terrible price to pay for loving the pub, and that is the price of going to the pub. Prices vary wildly up and down the country, but in London and the south in general they are eye-watering…


Miller Lite

Reader Nick Cowley sent us a link to this story about a Miller Lite super-loyalist by Doug MacCash. We were ready to dismiss it as a bit of sly brewery PR but couldn’t resist this description of New Orleans artist Lance Vargas’s considered opinion on the matter:

According to Vargas, there is only one brew that is perfectly compatible with the Crescent City’s climate and cultural milieu, and that beer is Miller Lite. Vargas could have also slaked his thirst with Miller Lite in 16 or 24-ounce cans, but that too was out of the question… As he explained it, the great virtue of Miller Lite is that its ethanol content is such that one “can go all day,” sipping from one 12-ounce can after another, without undue fatigue. To attempt to switch to another size could “ruin your cadence,” he warned, resulting in unpredictable, possibly undesirable effects. It wasn’t something he was willing to risk.

Cadence! What an interesting idea. One of the problems with drinking in rounds is how easy it can be to lose your own rhythm.


Finally, from Twitter, there’s this:

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

Categories
pubs

Lateral flow before you go

We’re writing this because it seems not everyone knows you can order more or less as many COVID-19 lateral flow tests as you like, for free.

Along with vaccines, which are understandably getting more attention, this is potentially a gamechanger in trying to prevent what we saw last summer – a slow build up of cases which, as we learned the hard way, can easily turn into something worse.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of doing one of these tests, it’s a bit fiddly first time, but we’ve now got into the rhythm of it. You get a result in 30 minutes.

We’re being encouraged to do them twice a week and report the results – but you don’t have to, if you’re worried about the government abusing your data.

They are not always reliable, and a negative test should not be seen as a green light to do what you want. However, if everyone who was going to socialise did one before they went out, and then didn’t go out if they tested positive, that could play a significant role in suppressing any third wave.

It’s not mandatory – at the moment, anyway – but feels like it’s something we could all do, pretty easily, to help protect our fellow customers, hospitality workers and society more generally.

We’ll certainly be doing them regularly. Anything to help pubs stay open for good and make them really feel safe.

Categories
20th Century Pub pubs

The joy of Glasgow pubs in 1901

In 1901, James Hamilton Muir conducted a survey of life in Scotland’s biggest city, including notes on its pubs and the drinking habits of its citizens.

Now, Glasgow is well off our beat, though we very much enjoyed our stay there a couple of years ago. When we wrote 20th Century Pub, after a little hesitation, we decided to focus on England rather than wade into the complexities of cross-jurisdictional licencing law and drinking culture.

Still, every now and then, we stumble upon something interesting about Scotland and decide it’s worth flagging, more in the hope that someone with local knowledge will dig deeper.

This time, it’s Muir’s book Glasgow in 1901. Who was Muir? Apparently, he didn’t exist – it was a shared pseudonym for James Bone, a journalist, and churchman Archibald Charteris.

In a section entitled ‘His Howffs’, they describe the late-Victorian Glaswegian’s preferred haunts starting, perhaps surprisingly, with tea shops, or tea rooms:

It is not the accent of the people, nor the painted houses, nor yet the absence of Highland policemen that make the Glasgow man in London feel that he is in a foreign town and far from home. It is a simpler matter. It is the lack of tea shops. You  understand and sympathise with the question that he never fails to put to his southern friend, ‘A say, whit do you folk dae when ye want a good cuppa tea?’ And the Londoner, what can he answer? Barring gin palaces and restaurants (where tea is equally tabooed) he knows no middle between, let us say, Fuller’s on the one hand and a shop of the Aerated Bread Company on the other… Glasgow, in truth, is a very Tokio for tea rooms. Nowhere can one have so much for so little, and nowhere are such places more popular or frequented.

A while ago, we wrote about the erotic fixation on barmaids which marks much Victorian and Edwardian writing about pubs. Tea shops, it seems, had a similar appeal:

The girls who now are waitresses in tea shops would have been domestic servants fifteen years  ago… Once installed, she may discover that a covey of young gentlemen wait daily for her ministrations, and will even have the loyalty to follow her should she change her employer. This is the only point in which she resembles a barmaid, from whom in all others she must be carefully distinguished. She is less the Juno, and more the Cricket on the Hearth; less knowing, less familiar with the eccentricities of bibulous man, more quiet and domesticated… To other people she has a more human interest, and to a young man coming without  friends and introductions from the country, she may be a little tender. For it is not impossible that, his landlady apart, she is the only petticoated being with whom he can converse  without shame.

Some, ‘Muir’ tells us, saw tea shops as a newfangled distraction, luring young men from the pubs where, by rights, they ought to be:

It is said that the tea shops have done away with the daylight drinking which used to be common among Glasgow clerks a decade or two ago. Of these stirring times legends still exist in many offices, and the raw novice is told how, when the first of the month fell upon a Saturday, the whole staff, braving the ‘guvemors,’ would sally forth in the forenoon to a howff in Drury Street and leave the porter to keep the office; or how the process clerk of a lawyer’s firm would each morning, punctually at ten, leave his desk under the pretext of ‘business at court,’ and late in the afternoon return warm with liquor and less than steady of foot. These days have gone for good or bad, and the clerk of the period must, at least by day, be reckoned among the sober  people… And so perhaps there is something in the complaint of men who have come back from the hard drinking of their youth, that tea shops are a snare for the feet of the young. In the old days, they say, to frequent a public-house demanded of a man a certain inclination towards licence, a certain disregard for propriety ; in fact, a certain pronouncedness of character. Hence youths of rectitude passed by on the other side. Nowadays, the very innocence of the liquid purveyed in a tea shop is the devil’s own device for soothing the conscience of the strictly bred. They enter, thinking no evil, and at the end issue as tea-sodden wretches that are worse than drunkards. Moreover, they inhale the smoke of cheap cigarettes. 

Having read more than one recent elegy for the death of daytime drinking and the lunchtime pint, it’s amusing to think that this was written more than a hundred years ago.

Before we get to pubs, the next category of ‘howff’ is the club – ‘If the tea shops are meant for the coming man, clubs exist for the man who has arrived, and public-houses for him who is overdue.’ These were exclusive, ‘Muir’ suggests, but hardly impressive: ‘The New Club has a most imposing house in West George Street… [but] has rather the air of being about to fall into the street’.

The Old Burnt Barns, Hamilton Street, Glasgow, in 1898, via Virtual Mitchell.

So, finally, we get to the main event – Glasgow pubs at a time when it was the second city of a global empire. Surely something special, right?

You cannot say that in Glasgow they have a distinctive character. They are of the most ordinary kind — brilliant, garish places, with barrels behind the counter, sawdust on the floor, and the smell of fermented liquor in the air. They are purely shops for perpendicular drinking, for the Magistrates, in the interests of the young, have succeeded in making them places in which no man, from the fatigue of standing, will linger long.

Oh. That’s a disappointment.

An interesting side note provided at this point concerns Manchester pubs which ‘Muir’ tells us was famous for its ‘sing-songs’ and ‘cosies’. These ‘random gatherings’ of people singing together were, ‘Muir’ suspected, fundamentally ‘un-Scots’: ‘It offends one’s sense of reserve, even one’s self-respect, and perhaps it is incompatible with the drinking of whisky.’

The prevalence of whisky drinking, the lack of seating and the foul weather seem, in the jaundiced view of ‘Muir’, to have made a big night out in Glasgow something of an ordeal:

[The] public-houses of Glasgow are crowded, garish, inhuman, unmerry places, to which men come for  refuge from the rain. They have no provision for a continued sojourn. So rare are seats, that if there chance’s to be a sitting-room in the shop a ticket is placed in the window to announce the fact. Thereby they encourage drinking, if not in one particular public-house, at least in several. For, after a while standing grows wearisome, and the frozen stare of the barmen at your elbow makes you unwelcome if you do not drink up and have another, and so your idle person goes out in the wet street, and once more, when the desolation of the rainy night has seized upon him, enters another public-house, to find as before that the relief is short. Then out again, and in once more, and so on till the clock strikes eleven, and the devious direction is home. A natural instinct for comradeship and brightness has driven him from a squalid home into illuminated streets, and from these the weather drives him for shelter to the public-house. Tis his only refuge from discomfort and weariness, and if he goes home drunk, he never meant to, and you cannot blame him.

What’s really interesting is the conclusion to which this leads ‘Muir’: to tackle the problem of excessive drinking, make pubs nicer places to be. This is very much in line with the trend towards ‘improved public houses’ in England at around the same time:

And if that is a task too great for a municipality, or even for the State, then as a makeshift the publicans must be persuaded to change their shops into open as well as actual club-houses for the poor, in which not the only attraction shall be drinking. The drawings might shrink, but the publican must bear in mind that he is a social pariah only because he is a social parasite, and that the loss to his purse might be the price of his advancement to esteem. The wish is Utopian, of course, and the very hopelessness of realising it will give the advocate for municipal public-houses another argument for his cause.

This theme is hammered home later in a section on the personality and life of the typical Glaswegian working man, who is ‘not plump and genial like the Englishman, but a spare, reserved, sardonic person… [unwilling] to be seen with his wife in public’:

He could not, without offending a convention established among decent folk, take her into a public-house, and if he were to leave her outside he would hardly mend the matter. At a bar he might fall in with men he was ‘weel acquent wi,’ and might share in the round that was going; to withdraw then without returning the favour were the part of a sponge. And to say his wife waited for him on the pavement were worse than no excuse. The finger of scorn would rise and the sardonic chaff, for which he and his kind are famous, would play about him. ‘A merrit man, God help ‘um, a merrit man.’ And so his wife remains at home while he follows his own life. Partly the Magistrates are to blame. Their praiseworthy object has been to prevent the public-house from becoming what it is in England, the family sitting-room. They have made it an unlovely place, where the solitary person is not tempted to stay long after his liquor is over his throat. And women, except the poorest, do not frequent it. But the men by favouring the practice of ‘standing drinks round,’ have made it into their club, and so long as it is thus used, it works, together with overcrowded tenement houses, to make family life rather an impossible thing. 

This little dip into one view on one part of the history of Scotland’s pubs has made us think we need to read more. Anthony Cooke’s A History Of Drinking: The Scottish Pub Since 1700 looks like the obvious place to start.