20th Century Pub pubs

One of the 4,000: The Deerstalker, Bestwood

In the post-war period, up until the 1960s, around 4,000 brand new pubs were built. Among them was The Deerstalker on Nottingham’s Bestwood Park Estate.

The name is a clue to the brewery which built it – Mitchells & Butlers, whose trademark was the ‘Deers Leap’.

The leaping deer trademark.

We came across the pictures below in the January-February 1957 edition of the M&B in-house magazine, also called The Deerstalker:

“The Deerstalker is one of a number of new houses that the company are opening on new housing estates all over the Midlands. It may not be the largest or most magnificent of our houses, but, as you will see from our illustrations, its snappy contemporary decor will provide a cheery local for those inhabitants of the Bestwood Park Estate who are sufficiently enlightened to appreciate the fact that they will be better off with an M&B.”

The Deerstalker, January-February 1957, pp.10-11
A large, plain pub in brick.
The exterior of The Deerstalker

This pub was a long time in gestation, a licence being first applied for in 1950. That application was withdrawn when it became clear that post-war building restrictions would make construction impossible for some years to come. (Nottingham Evening Post, 31 March 1950; Nottingham Journal, 1 April 1950.) It seems to have been opened in around 1956.

Let’s have a look at that “snappy decor”.

A bar and tables.
We guess you’d call this the public bar?
A different bar with more comfortable chairs.
And this is, we suppose, the saloon.
A view of the same bar with typically 1950s wallpaper.
Same again, from a different angle.

Apart from the general sense of pristine mid-century modernity, there are a few things that catch the eye.

Taken from Formica: a modern plastic, 1938.

The clocks with their brushed metal faces. Those, we guess, formica-topped tables. And that absolutely fantastic wallpaper in the saloon. Here’s a sample, perspective corrected and tinted a vaguely appropriate colour for the period.

It looks as if was designed specifically with pubs and bars in mind, perhaps even commissioned by M&B for their own houses.

What happened next? Sigh. We’ve told this sad story so many times now. In 1957, a modern pub, clean and fresh, tastefully decorated in the latest style; by the early 1980s, as recounted by former landlady Caron Wiles at

“My husband Adrian and myself were the landlord and landlady at this pub in the early 80’s. There was entertainment 7 nights per week and we reduced it to 6 nights. Singers, comedians and discos all performed there. It was very busy and we made some good friends. We had a very loyal staff who remained with us throughout our tenure. There were also some very frightening occasions when the customers rioted and smashed tables & chairs and all the optics and bottles on the back of the bar, all the staff had to squeeze into the tiny office for safety until the police arrived to calm things down.”

It was renamed The Sportsman in 1993 and ceased trading as a pub at some point. It is now a convenience store but still recognisable.

SOURCE: Google Maps/Street View.
20th Century Pub pubs

The mystery of the Middlesex magistrates

One of the most frustrating parts of writing a book is having a theory but being unable to prove it. For example, we reckon Edwardian West London got improved pubs early because of the attitudes of the local licensing magistrates.

When we were researching 20th Century Pub we sought to trace the roots of the improved and enlarged inter-war suburban pub through a variety of movements and schemes – the Trust Houses, the Carlisle experiment, coffee shops and temperance houses. 

However, we also noticed that there were examples of pubs being built in similarly modest, up-to-date styles by private companies in the early twentieth century, particularly in West London, which were ostensibly nothing to do with these movements.

Pubs such as The Forester in Ealing (1909) and the Three Horseshoes in Southall (1916), both by Nowell Parr, showed a yearning for a rural, historic ideal.

Our general impression was that there seem to have been a lot of new pubs built in West London at this time, bucking the general trend for reducing the number of licences and the number of pubs.

We didn’t quite have the numbers to state this confidently in the book, though, although we did spend a fair bit of time looking at Middlesex Licensing sessions in the London Metropolitan Archive.

What we really wanted, but never found, was evidence that Middlesex magistrates looked favourably upon the right type of pub application from the right type of brewery. Fuller’s and The Royal Brentford Brewery seemed to have been particularly successful, for example. Meanwhile, Watney’s, Charrington and other big London brewers are notably underrepresented in the Edwardian period.

Or even, perhaps, we might have found that the magistrates helped influence the design of pubs in this area: “Do it this way, lads, and we’ll sign it off.”

Perhaps, though, it was less complicated than that. Maybe Middlesex magistrates, covering a huge area, were doing exactly the kind of thing that happened in Birmingham and other cities: refusing licences in slum districts but allowing them in well-behaved, leafy suburbs. But we don’t think so. In Birmingham, this kind of switch was often made explicit and we didn’t notice any such statements in the London records.

One day, when we’re allowed back in libraries, we’ll have another go at this. Somewhere in the paperwork – perhaps in the Fuller’s archive that we almost but not quite got into in 2016 – there must be notes on each of these individual licencing decisions.

In the meantime, we’ll think fondly of wandering around suburban streets with more than their fair share of unusually wonderful, remarkably beautiful pubs.

20th Century Pub pubs

The Monckton, Portsmouth: a pub built under fire

Something unusual happened in 1942: a new pub came into being. That’s right – not an inter-war pub, or post-war, but one built right in the thick of it.

When we wrote 20th Century Pub back in 2015-17, we included a chapter on the wartime pub because it felt important. Other chapters were about new developments and new types of pub coming into being; this was about recording a void, or pause.

Pubs weren’t built or opened during World War II, they were destroyed. Even if there had been a will to build, there was a shortage of manpower and building materials.

Of course there were odd exceptions: pubs whose construction was underway before the war, completed just over the line; and temporary pubs in shacks, sheds and stables which appeared later on.

But the Monckton in Portsmouth is, we think, the first example we’ve come across of a somewhat substantial, somewhat solid pub actually being built during World War II.

We say ‘somewhat’ because, well, look at it. A single storey, raw brick, no embellishments and windows like those of a pillbox. If you told us it was converted from an air-raid shelter, we wouldn’t doubt it.

Here’s what Philip Eley and R.C. Riley have to say in their excellent 1991 monograph on the Portsmouth pubs between 1900 and 1950:

[It employed] a beerhouse licence transferred from the Dockyard Tavern, Marlborough Row (which had been enveloped by the Dockyard extension)… The site had been bought by United Breweries in 1911, and remarkably, in the light of the ersatz nature of the ultimate construction, the first application for a licence in 1928 was backed by a design from [important local architect A.E.] Cogswell himself. Four subsequent unsuccessful applications between 1929 and 1939 can hardly have presaged what was arguably Portsmouth’s most distinctive drinking house until its closure in 1982.

The picture above, sourced from the same booklet, was taken in 1946 so this was clearly the pub in its finished state, not under construction as suggested here.

That page at includes another picture of the pub, though, prettied up in the post-war period, with rendering, whitewash and some cute external adornments.

Copnor Road in 1972

Copnor Road in 1972 with The Monckton in the background, via The News, Portsmouth.

Like many make-do-and-mend pubs of the 1940s and early 1950s, The Monckton survived longer than might have been expected, still trading into the 1980s.

What isn’t immediately obvious is why construction of this pub was authorised during a time of restrictions.

“Bet this was controversial,” we said to ourselves and it didn’t take long to find evidence that, yes, it was, in the form of a letter to the Portsmouth Evening News published on 13 February 1942:

Sir – On Sunday night I listened to Sir Stafford Cripps giving his very interesting and informative talk on Russia’s mighty effort to win the war. During this talk every listener was more or less asked, by Sir Stafford, to search his or her conscience as to whether they were engaged on or doing 100 per cent, work and thought, to bring about the same conclusion… I always feel that it is not fair to judge a nation’s effort by one own city or locality. There would, however, appear to something wrong in Portsmouth when I notice this afternoon a new public-house being built on Copnor Road. Surely the men engaged in this contract, and the materials being used, could be put to our war effort, at this critical time? I know the answer will be “a licence was granted,” but what right had that particular public servant to grant such a licence? He was given his present position to control the building industry and direct its use to the war effort, not to evade the Government Order (Restricting New Buildings) by issuing permits. It appears to that we want quite a number of men in key positions who can say and definitely mean it.

Our guess, pending further research, is that it was a question of morale.

Portsmouth lost 73 pubs to enemy action during 1940-41 and Eley and Riley reckon more than a hundred had been destroyed by February 1942.

Perhaps sparing a few bricks for the construction of a basic two-room pub felt worth it.

News pubs

News, nuggets and longreads 21 November 2020: laddism, lager, longing for pubs

Here’s everything bookmarkworthy on beer and pubs from the past week, including two pieces on hops and one about cornettos.

There’s an absence of anything resembling beer-specific news this week although it’s clear we are entering some sort of final phase with daily vaccine progress announcements. In the meantime, we’re all missing pubs and Jim Rangeley at Mashtun and Meow has expressed the yearning well:

I miss pints.

I miss a table with torn open packs of Sneiders Pretzels.

I miss lacing.

I miss a sarni for snap after early brew shifts.

I miss 4:15 lagers with the team.

I miss the joint acknowledgement that we are, indeed, in rounds.

I miss the pub.

Vintage photo of a woman behind the bar of an Irish pub.

SOURCE: National Library of Ireland/Flickr.

At Every Pub in Dublin Cian Duffy provides a fascinating insight into the long fight for women to be allowed to work behind the bar in pubs in Ireland:

Dublin’s then strong barmans union… prohibited the employment of women in unionised pubs, and the majority of Dublin’s pubs were unionised. Most non-union pubs were smaller, family operated premises with the larger and busier pubs that made up most of the volume of the trade, and of employment of external staff, being signed to union agreements… Dublin’s infamous longest strike – that at Downeys pub in Dun Laoghaire – actually related to the replacement of a unionised staff member with a barmaid.. The first attempts to get this ban overturned came from a less than ideal source – the publicans union… seeking to be able to employ barmaids so that they could pay them less than men, this being explicitly legal until 1974.

(Via @thebeernut.)

Hops against green.

At Zythophile Martyn Cornell asks “How important were hop varieties to pre-20th century brewers?” You’ll know the answer to this if you’ve ever looked at any old brewing logs:

The hops, in themselves, were pretty irrelevant, with perhaps the single exception that Goldings, as THE premium hop, were regarded as the hop to use in the most premium beers, such as IPAs. But apart from that, the concept of “hop variety” itself was scarcely developed, as far as brewers (but not growers) were concerned… For growers, varieties WERE important, but the importance of variety was not connected with flavour so much as yield…

Lager illustration.

For Pellicle Adrian Tierney-Jones has produced a characteristically spiralling, tumbling piece of prose-poetry on the subject of lager:

If ever there was such a hopeless descriptor of a family of beers of various colours, aromas, flavours and cultural mores, then lager is it. This is a variety of beers that encompasses the brooding, shadowy alter egos of bock, doppelbock and schwarzbier, the bright, cheerful treasure hoard of gold-flecked helles, pils, kellerbier and světlý ležák and not forgetting the amber assertiveness of a vienna or a märzen (oh and there’s also rauchbier, maibock, festbier, zoigl, tmavý ležák and American pils). I could cheerfully hang out with this family for the rest of my life.

Pub life.

Next up it’s, erm, us. We wrote a lot of ‘Pub life’ vignettes over the past few years. Then, when we came to put together our best-of collection Balmy Nectar, we realised they clicked together rather well as an extended piece which we called ‘The Complete Pub Life’. That is now available for everyone to read via our Patreon feed:

Two barmen in matching polo shirts, one small, one tall, stand behind the bar with arms folded engaged in debate with a regular sat at the bar.

The tall barman leads: ‘No, you’re not getting what I’m saying: I’m asking, does a staircase go up or come down? Which way does it go?’

‘Up,’ says the baffled regular. ‘If it didn’t go up, you wouldn’t need it to come down. That it comes down is a side effect of it having gone up in the first place.’

Diagram of EKG flavours.

SOURCE: Brulosophy.

At Brulosophy Paul Amico has been experimenting with East Kent Goldings. We all know the cliched descriptors but what does this classic hop variety actually bring to beer?

Participants were instructed to focus only on the aromatic qualities of the beer before evaluating the flavor. For each aroma and flavor descriptor, tasters were asked to write-in the perceived strength of that particular characteristic on a 0-9 scale where a rating of 0 meant they did not perceive the character at all and a 9 rating meant the character was extremely strong. Once the data was collected, the average rating of each aroma and flavor descriptor was compiled and analyzed… Like the blind tasters, I also perceived a bit more fruit than I expected based on existing descriptions, though floral notes and a mushroom-like earthiness were just underneath.

(Via Stan Hieronymus.)

The World's End: the 'gang' lined up at the bar downing lager.

For Burum Collective Paul Crowther has been thinking about beer and gender stereotypes in the so-called Cornetto Trilogy of films by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg:

Edgar Wright has had the same socialisation from media that is then being repeated in his own creations. Edgar growing up will have seen the same representations of men and women on tv and film and has unthinkingly reproduced them. His female characters drinking vodka tonics, his underage drinkers all being teenage boys, his pubs filled with men because that is just obvious, it doesn’t require thought… Does this mean Edgar Wright is a bad man, should we shun him and boycott the films? No, not at all. They are still good films and I’ll still enjoy them, whilst being aware of their shortcomings in this area.

And, from Twitter, there’s this.

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

bristol pubs

Your friendly neighbourhood craft beer bar

Somewhat against the odds, a new bar opened on Gloucester Road over the summer.

Sidney and Eden is the latest development from the team behind Bottles & Books, which had previously evolved from a comic book and bottle shop into a teeny-tiny tap room.

Technically S&E isn’t an additional bar on the scene as it takes the place of something vaguely bar-like that existed in those premises before. But this is very much a New Venture, with a clear idea of what it wants to be – a neighbourhood craft beer bar that can compete with city centre destinations.

It has 20+ taps and, from our observations, makes a point of covering a range of styles within that. It’s weighted towards the IPAs and exotic stouts but there’s also room for local standards such as Lost and Grounded Kellerpils and Belgian classics such as Saison Dupont.

Prior to Lockdown 2 it seemed consistently busy, at least by the standards of interregnum levels of activity. We saw a number of people we know from the Drapers in there, suggesting that, like Bottles & Books before it, it provides a complementary offer.

Pastry stout.

We managed a couple of sessions there before lockdown, under the awning in our woollens, including a truly delightful evening trying a succession of silly pastry stouts and enjoying them immensely.

We hadn’t really thought about the neighbourhood craft beer bar as a concept before. Our assumption has been that this sort of specialist tasting venue is still sufficiently niche that it only really makes sense as a city centre destination.

Sidney and Eden is a good 40 minutes walk from the centre, or 15 minutes on the bus. It’s well connected on public transport if you’re coming from the centre or from Filton but not if you’re in any other part of the city. With that in mind, it really has to appeal to sufficient numbers of local people to be a success.

But if you’re going to do it in any neighbourhood, this one is a really good choice.

It’s directly on Gloucester Road and thus benefits from (a) the presence of other good pubs nearby and (b) the general independent spirit and commitment to shopping local.

We suspect there was plenty of pent up demand in the nearby residential streets. If house prices are a measure of wealth then it’s a pretty prosperous area (we rent and, in fact, are having to move away from the area to somewhere cheaper) and yet, despite the large numbers of drinking establishments nearby, none had a serious craft offer (definition 2) until now.

Sidney and Eden certainly improved the quality of our lives in the couple of months it was open, and we really hope it survives the winter and thrives beyond. It’s currently open for pre-ordered takeaway beer.