Types of Pub, 1927

In researching his book The English Public House as it is Ernest Selley travelled to various towns around Britain and concluded that there were three types of pub.

  1. The Food Tav­ern – a type of pub that ‘def­i­nite­ly sets out to pro­vide meals… some­thing more than bis­cuits and cheese, sand­wich­es and cut cake’. These he found most­ly in large towns and cities and observed that they tend­ed to serve food at lunchtime, to busi­ness-peo­ple. This state­ment seems to con­firm the view that the wide avail­abil­i­ty of sub­stan­tial food in pubs is a rel­a­tive­ly recent devel­op­ment‘My expe­ri­ence, gen­er­al­ly, has been that, out­side lim­it­ed areas, there is no attempt to pro­vide meals on licensed premis­es.’
  2. Social Hous­es‘A tour round the pub­lic hous­es of any town will bring out the fact that cer­tain hous­es pos­sess greater social con­ve­niences than oth­ers.’ These are the kind of pubs with pigeon clubs, cycling clubs, music, come­di­ans, skit­tles, and cork clubs: ‘The chairman…says, “Gen­tle­men, pro­duce your corks,” The man who can­not pro­duce his cork has to pay for a round of drinks.’
  3. Drink Shops‘The low­est type of pub­lic house… which pro­vides prac­ti­cal­ly noth­ing in the way of social ameni­ties except shel­ter and liq­uid refresh­ment.’ There is con­ver­sa­tion but it is ‘about on a lev­el with the street cor­ner group’; there is saw­dust on the floor; and hard­ly any seat­ing.

How does that map with today’s pub scene? We’d say, based on our own un-sci­en­tif­ic obser­va­tions,  that the group in the mid­dle (live music and pigeon clubs) has shrunk, or become a kind of her­itage exer­cise; food tav­erns have become much more com­mon – almost the norm; while bare­bones ‘drink shops’ have become what peo­ple now call ‘rough pubs’.

(And there are, of course, new types and sub-types.)

An English Brewer in Belgium, 1924

Some time ago,’ begins S. H. Evershed’s account of his travels, ‘I was commissioned by a gentleman who had bought a small brewery in Belgium to fit up the brewery with the necessary plant’.

Martson, Thompson & EvershedYou might recog­nise the name Ever­shed from old labels for Marston’s of Bur­ton-upon-Trent. Ever­shed was a brew­ery tak­en over by Marston’s in 1905 and there were two gen­er­a­tions of men called Syd­ney Her­bert Ever­shed, father and son.  We can’t be quite sure which of them is respon­si­ble for this account but our guess is that it was the Syd­ney Her­bert the younger, born in 1886, who would have been in his thir­ties in 1924, and lat­er, as MD of the com­pa­ny, went on to intro­duce Marston’s Pedi­gree, in 1952.

This detailed account of his Bel­gian jaunt appeared in the May 1924 edi­tion of the Jour­nal of the Oper­a­tive Brew­ers’ Guild, an organ­i­sa­tion based in the north of Eng­land which even­tu­al­ly became part of the IBD. The jour­nal was writ­ten by brew­ers, for brew­ers, and gen­er­al­ly explored minute prac­ti­cal details of the brew­ing process, includ­ing what to feed hors­es for the max­i­mum effi­cien­cy, and the price of Isin­glass on the world mar­ket.

The Bel­gians’ motive was sim­ply to ‘brew under Eng­lish con­di­tions in order to get inside the Bel­gian tar­iff wall’ – that is, to pro­vide Eng­lish-style beer to Bel­gians who were thirst­ing for it with­out pay­ing high import duties intend­ed to keep out Ger­man goods in the post-war recon­struc­tion phase. (Think of Boston Lager being brewed at Shep­herd Neame.)

I found the brew­ery premis­es in excel­lent state – beau­ti­ful­ly con­struct­ed – on the tow­er sys­tem – with tiled floors on every storey… Almost all the win­dows were bro­ken, and half the roof tiles were off, while every par­ti­cle of brass or cop­per had been removed by the Ger­mans, includ­ing the cop­per, with its dome, mash tun taps and pipes, refrig­er­a­tor, and every bear­ing form the shaft­ing and boil­er house fit­tings.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “An Eng­lish Brew­er in Bel­gium, 1924”

Hazy Beer in the 1920s

Detail from mild ale label.

Ron Pattinson has recently been sharing tons of data on the quality of mild in the 1920s, including its clarity, as judged by assessors at Whitbread.

As point­ed out by one com­menter on our post about beer clar­i­ty from last week, that can give us an insight into whether hazy beer nec­es­sar­i­ly tast­ed bet­ter, or was thought to taste bet­ter, in the past.

We put Ron’s fig­ures into a spread­sheet (from 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11) and cut them var­i­ous ways. Here’s what we found:

  1. Beers being rat­ed on a scale of ‑3 to 2, of the 84 beers rat­ed 1 and 2, some 22 were described as hazy, cloudy or vari­ants there­on.
  2. Of the 60 beers scor­ing between ‑1 and ‑3, some 23 were described as bright or bril­liant.
  3. Some beers described as hazy or cloudy were record­ed as hav­ing ‘poor’ flavour, while oth­ers tast­ed ‘very fair’ or ‘good’.
  4. Beers described as bril­liant were gen­er­al­ly also found to taste good, though one was ‘poor’ and quite a few oth­ers were ‘fair’ (accept­able, with an over­all score of 1).

UPDATE 13/2/2014: Ron has clar­i­fied in a com­ment below that the numer­i­cal scores are his addi­tion, based on Whit­bread­’s more-or-less stan­dard­ised flavour descrip­tors.

In oth­er words, Whit­bread­’s tasters did­n’t find any par­tic­u­lar con­nec­tion between clar­i­ty and flavour.  Hazy beer was­n’t some­how bet­ter or more vir­tu­ous, but nor was it nec­es­sar­i­ly bad.

What we’d real­ly like to know is whether cus­tomers in the pub would have shown a pref­er­ence for the beer that looked ‘bright’ but had ‘unpleas­ant flavour, going off’.

The Renaissance of the English Public House

Basil Oliver’s The Renaissance of the English Public House was published in 1949 1947 and argues that the period between the two World Wars was a golden age of pub design and building.

Cover: The Renaissance of the English Public House.It is print­ed on post-war paper (rough and yel­low­ing) but is crammed with pho­tographs and floor-plans of spe­cif­ic pubs up and down the coun­try.

In his intro­duc­tion, Oliv­er observes that, in the peri­od before World War I, new pub build­ings were rare because of the ‘mis­guid­ed idea… that to improve build­ings was to encour­age drink­ing’. He observes, how­ev­er, that the pro­hi­bi­tion­ist urge actu­al­ly trig­gered a great resur­gence in pub design and build­ing: when the state began to run the brew­ing and pub indus­try in Carlisle in 1916, ‘it per­mit­ted unham­pered exper­i­ments in many direc­tions, but espe­cial­ly in the evo­lu­tion of the pub­lic house’.

County Arms, Blaby, near Leicester.
Coun­ty Arms, Bla­by, near Leices­ter.

An entire chap­ter of the book is giv­en over to the Carlisle State Man­age­ment scheme. Dur­ing WWI, Oliv­er says, improve­ments were lim­it­ed: the removal of hard-to-super­vise snugs and ‘snug­geries’ (small com­part­ments) to cre­ate ‘light and airy cheer­ful­ness’. After the war, new build­ings were com­mis­sioned, includ­ing The Gret­na Tav­ern, which replaced (Oliv­er reck­ons) six ‘snug-type hous­es’. We could not help but think of Wether­spoon’s.

Away from spe­cif­ic pubs, the more gen­er­al detail Oliv­er pro­vides on con­tem­po­rary pub cul­ture offer a use­ful com­pan­ion piece to the Mass Obser­va­tion book The Pub and the Peo­ple. On alter­na­tive names for the ‘pub­lic bar’, he observes that ‘Tap Room’ is out of fash­ion, and…

Saloon Bar has a faint sug­ges­tion of supe­ri­or­i­ty, and is the haunt of the ‘toffs’ (or would-be toffs) but even they fre­quent­ly require the inevitable darts-board. Smok­ing Room… is also pop­u­lar.… Pri­vate Bar and Bar Par­lour… are equal­ly indica­tive of their pur­pose – pri­vate trans­ac­tions and inti­mate con­ver­sa­tions – and from being pop­u­lar with the fair sex have vir­tu­al­ly become, in many hous­es, a Wom­en’s Bar.

The last, lin­ger­ing remains of Vic­to­ri­an moral­i­ty can be detect­ed in a coy dis­cus­sion of toi­lets: ladies’ and gen­tle­men’s lava­to­ries, he insists, must be apart from each oth­er, seclud­ed, but also easy to super­vise. (The hor­ri­fy­ing fact that peo­ple of both sex­es piss must be kept secret, but there should be no oppor­tu­ni­ties for han­ky-panky either.) Even today, it occured to us, the eas­i­est way to find the ladies’ toi­let is usu­al­ly to walk as far from the gents’ as pos­si­ble, and vice ver­sa.

As for beer, Oliv­er is quite clear: ‘From the con­sumer’s point of view, the ide­al way of receiv­ing his beer is direct “from the wood”, and – on a hot sum­mer’s day – from a very cool cel­lar.’ Cel­lars, he sug­gests, should be cut off from the out­side world, run­ning with damp, have earth floors, and be exposed as much as pos­si­ble to the cool soil beyond their walls. The ide­al, he con­cedes, is rarely pos­si­ble:

More like­ly is it that new ways of draw­ing draught beer will be invent­ed for con­di­tion­ing draught beer which will elim­i­nate all the com­pli­cat­ed para­pher­na­lia of beer engines, air-pres­sure instal­la­tions, flex­i­ble pipes…

The grand ‘Tudor man­sions’ of Mitchells & But­lers in Birm­ing­ham are also grant­ed a chap­ter of their own, high­light­ing the advan­tages to brew­ers of build­ing on new sites rather than restor­ing old pub build­ings: restau­rants, car parks, gar­dens, and even bowl­ing greens were com­mon. Lon­don gets a chap­ter of its own, too, with the rest of the coun­try, from Liv­er­pool to Devon, wrapped up in two more gen­er­al sur­veys of urban and ‘way­side’ pubs.

We spent a bit of time look­ing up pubs men­tioned on Google Street View. Many are gone alto­geth­er. Oth­ers were rebuilt on the same scale but with less style. A few remain, but often defaced with plas­tic ban­ners, ugly sig­nage, and accu­mu­lat­ed grime: the Apple Tree in Carlisle, fea­tured in the big image at the top, is now ‘Pip­pins’, and still a hand­some build­ing.

For a rather spe­cialised, tech­ni­cal book, Oliv­er’s prose is very read­able, with the occa­sion­al amus­ing turn of phrase and impas­sioned dia­tribe. We paid around £20 for our copy, which is not in great con­di­tion, but it isn’t rare or hard-to-find. Depend­ing on how inter­est­ed you are in the detail of pub design and/or this par­tic­u­lar peri­od, that might seem a bit steep, but we enjoyed it.