This is the text of an anonymous advertisement (probably placed by the Brewers’ Society) that ran in The Times on 10 January 1940:
Disraeli once said that the real motto of the English people is — “something will turn up.”
It is certainly true that not even the advent of a European war, nor the threats of raids, nor the frustration of the black-out have dimmed our cheerful faith and philosophy among us.
It is in the pub where one sees it best. Around the glasses of beer the people of all classes have found a warm, bright, kindly atmosphere in which cheerfulness supplants alarm. The pub gives relaxation. It promotes our national democratic feeling.
And beer too has played its traditional part in keeping us friendly, buoyant and good tempered. Good barley malt and country hops brewed in the manner handed down to us through the centuries has been John Bull’s drink in many a hard day — giving him the health to withstand and courage to endure!
Britain has a pretty tame climate and snow is sufficiently rare that, when it does fall, the economy grinds to a halt as everyone reverts to childhood.
Where we live now, Cornwall, is even milder, with warm winters and cool summers. We never see frost, let alone snow, and even when it does snow up country it doesn’t seem to push past the Tamar.
What we do have is rain. Rain and gales.
Weather in which you can go to the pub as long as you don’t mind getting drenched and battered by the wind; as long as you don’t mind sitting there in wet clothes steaming like an old sock, dripping onto the floorboards; and as long as you don’t mind getting battered again on your way home. And, you know, all of that can be rather pleasant in a masochistic kind of way: there’s a cosiness attached to drinking a pint while items of street furniture stampede around town under substitutiary locomotion and the sea invites itself over the harbour wall in great chunks.
But we don’t usually drink anything special — there’s no imperial stout or barley wine in pubs in these parts anyway — though maybe it does nudge us away from the chiming brassiness of hops and towards beefier, browner bitters.
When it’s really bad, as in dangerous, as in batten-the-hatches and hope that’s not your roof tile shattering on the pavement, as in search and rescue helicopters overhead… Then we find ourselves huddling by the fire with Fuller’s Vintage Ale, Adnams Tally Ho or Harvey’s Imperial Stout.
After spending an afternoon reading about pubs in the National Archives at Kew we were keen to actually visit some and so decided on a crawl through the West London heartland of Fuller’s.
We started, as the sun began to set, at The Tap on the Line which is, handily, right on the platform at Kew station. A converted railway buffet bar inspired we guess by the Sheffield Tap, it’s also a bit like a mini version of the Parcel Yard at King’s Cross with which it shares a tendency to vintage tiling and scrubbed wood. There was lots of eating, not much seating, and a row of keg taps on the back wall. The ubiquitous Edison bulbs were also present and correct. It’s easy to admire the good taste with which it’s been put together, and pubs at stations are A Good Thing, but it did feel, frankly, a bit like drinking in the kitchen department of John Lewis.
On the tube to Gunnersbury we pondered what we did like in a Fuller’s pub and, rather to our own surprise, found ourselves thinking, wistfully, that we hoped the next one would be one of the mid-2000s refurbs with shiny orange wood and the full range of cask ales. With that in mind, The Old Pack Horse on Chiswick High Road was a sight for sore eyes: a grand, vaguely-art-nouveau exterior from 1905 with frosted windows full of gleaming light, advertising Public and Saloon bars. Though the interior was spacious there seemed to be lots of corners, cubby-holes and screens making it feel quite intimate. An antique metal sign advertising The Empire Bar lurked in the shadows above the bar evoking the period of pomp when the pub was built. The beer offer was cask-led… just — a new craft beer menu (mostly in bottles) was in the process of being rolled out, and was being pushed fairly hard by staff. The Thai restaurant at the back was a genuinely pleasing reminder of a decade ago when every pub in London seemed to have the same.
The Never Ending Pub Crawlis put together by Alan Winfield and alternates between accounts of recent expeditions and those from 30 years ago. The latter are accompanied by photographs which, though straightforward in style, have attained a certain romance with age, like this one from 1987:
We found both of the relatively new blogs above via Pubs of Manchester (@Pubs_of_Mcr on Twitter), a website of long-standing that also belongs in this list. Its author takes the time and trouble to document even the most lowly of pubs using every photograph he can harvest from private collections, old publications and various corners of the internet. A fascinating recent post, which is fairly typical, is this one about The House That Jack Built:
The House That Jack Built was a very distinctive 1970s estate pub, opening in 1975 at the newly-built Newbury Place shopping centre off Bury New Road in Higher Broughton… It was described in the Manchester Evening News at the time as ‘something entirely different’ – a maze of bars, passages and alcoves with an indoor tree house!
The tone is often rather wistful — so many of the pubs chronicled have disappeared, often only in recent years — which only underlines the importance of recording their existence before they are forgotten altogether.
‘I did a pub called Kitty Witches in Great Yarmouth with my mates on a few dinner time sessions back in June 1982. The pub was a small and single roomed with the bar facing. There were lots of witches hanging from the ceiling and they were also for sale. The pub was a Whitbread tied house and was in the middle of town. I would be very interested if you could let me know what happened to this pub.’ Alan Winfield
The building is still there, and still operating as a licensed premises, under the name Liberty’s Rock Cafe.
The extremely comprehensive Norfolk Public Houses website, referencing local licensing documents, suggests, however, that Alan’s memory of the date might be incorrect, as it was trading as The Lion & Lamb until 1987, when it looked something like this:
The 'Lion and Lamb' pub on King Street in Jan 1975.