The Man Within Compass: mystery solved?

A couple of months ago someone tagged us into a Twitter query: what is the origin of the name of a pub called The Man Within Compass? After weeks of digging around, we think we’ve sussed it.

The Man With­in Com­pass is a famous real ale pub in Whitwick, near Coalville, in Leices­ter­shire, and has been in numer­ous edi­tions of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide over the years.

Its name is appar­ent­ly unique and cer­tain­ly mys­te­ri­ous – none of the stan­dard ref­er­ences seem to even offer a sug­ges­tion. There’s no joy to be had from local his­to­ry web­sites, either.

So, we went through our usu­al research rou­tines:

1. Search the exact phrase using quotes (“man with­in com­pass”) to see if it appears in old books, news­pa­pers or the Bible. All the ref­er­ences we found were to the pub itself, or seemed unlike­ly to be con­nect­ed, e.g. John Locke uses those words in that order but there’s no obvi­ous link.

2. Search vari­a­tions on the phrase: “man­with­in com­pass” and “man with­en com­pass” (between unortho­dox spelling and dodgy OCR, this can some­times turn up results); “man­wid­den com­pass” (pub names are often man­gled ver­sions of place or per­son­al names); and “men with­in com­pass”.

3. Look for par­tial match­es: “man with­in”, “with­in com­pass”, “man * com­pass”, and so on.

It was “with­in com­pass” that unlocked it, specif­i­cal­ly lead­ing us to the fol­low­ing mass-pro­duced print from c.1820 at the British Muse­um web­site.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Man With­in Com­pass: mys­tery solved?”

Further Reading #2: Understanding IPA

We’d love to be able to buy a reference anthology of great writing on the subject of IPA. This post, a manifestation of wishful thinking, is the next best thing.

There is also an idea that when peo­ple ask for advice on where to read about the his­to­ry and cul­ture of IPA, which hap­pens from time to time, we can just point them here.

Hope­ful­ly, this series of links, in rough­ly this order, pro­vides the out­line of a nar­ra­tive with­out too many details and diver­sions.

It’s aimed at learn­ers, or peo­ple after a refresh­er, but we hope even jad­ed vet­er­ans will find a cou­ple of items they’ve missed.

Where we have been able to iden­ti­fy free-to-access sources we’ve pro­vid­ed links and in the cas­es of mate­r­i­al you have to pay for we’ve tried to sug­gest free alter­na­tives.

This one feels like more of a work in progress than the lager list. If you can sug­gest sub­stan­tial, solid­ly researched arti­cles that fill in gaps then let us know either in the com­ments or by email.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Fur­ther Read­ing #2: Under­stand­ing IPA

The Mystery of the Rock House Tavern

We spotted the above post one one of our favourite Instagram accounts the other day and thought it ought to be a doddle to track down the history of the Rock House Tavern. Well, it wasn’t, but we think we’ve got there, and the solution offers an intriguing glimpse into the past.

First, yes, Liz is right– there is no use­ful infor­ma­tion online, or in our copy of the 1975 pub guide, or in news­pa­pers archives. Search­ing for men­tion of pubs around that loca­tion in more gen­er­al terms, though, did point us to a 1986 book called City Pit: Mem­oirs of a Speed­well Min­er by Fred Moss. It might sur­prise some peo­ple to dis­cov­er that Bris­tol had coal mines but it did. Fred Moss was born in 1906 and start­ed work as a min­er in 1921. Here’s what he has to say about drink­ing, on p.37:

[Let] me tell you about “The Long Bar”. This con­sist­ed of a lane run­ning from Deep Pit Road to Hol­ly Lodge Road. There were just a few hous­es in Hol­ly Lodge, only a cou­ple of min­ers lived there. Now about half way up this lane there was a pond called the “Lil­ly Pond”. It was a pool con­sist­ing of water pumped from the near­by pit. In this lane there was also a sin­gle rail­way track, which was used to car­ry trucks of coal from Speed­well Pit to the main Great West­ern Rail­way line and of course the Mid­land Rail­way line. The track was also used to take trucks of small coal to the coke ovens and wash­ing plant.

Now, near this lane there was an off-licence beer house. The after­noon shift min­ers would buy beer at this off-licence and on a nice sun­ny day would to to this lane and have a chat and a drink before descend­ing the pit.… There would be twen­ty or thir­ty men either sit­ting on a grass bank of lean­ing against a wood­en fence drink­ing and chat­ting before work­ing and when the morn­ing shift came up from work, some of them would buy a drink and stand or sit in the lane before going home. Yes! I would say that was the longest bar in the world.

We find this fas­ci­nat­ing – anoth­er reminder that peo­ple enjoyed beer in all kinds of ways in the past, not only in what we would now recog­nise as pubs, and fol­low­ing all kinds of pat­terns dic­tat­ed by their work.

Fred’s mem­oir gives us some hard infor­ma­tion to work with and we are blessed in 2018 with easy access to his­toric maps, satel­lite imagery and Google Street View which means it’s quite easy to pin all this down.

Here’s the lane we think Fred is describ­ing as pic­tured in an OS map from the imme­di­ate post-WWII peri­od, via Know Your Place:

Map showing the lane, 'Brook Road'.

The Rock House is at the very bot­tom left cor­ner, marked “BH” for beer­house; the lane is Brook Road which runs off imme­di­ate­ly oppo­site pass­ing a reser­voir (the pond Fred men­tions?) and cross­ing a small rail­way line on the way to Hol­ly Lodge Road, which also fits with Fred’s descrip­tion. One small wrin­kle: there is anoth­er beer­house marked on the map, also near the point where the lane spits out, so maybe he didn’t have The Rock House in mind. But we still reck­on all this, espe­cial­ly the BH des­ig­na­tion on the map, explains why The Rock House is so obscure: though it may have start­ed as a prop­er drink-in beer­house c.1830, it prob­a­bly became a pure­ly take-out premis­es in the wake of the 1869 Licens­ing Act.

But that’s just some­what informed guess­work. If you know oth­er­wise, drop us a line or com­ment below. We’ll keep an eye out in books and archives as we go and, as Google Maps satel­lite imagery sug­gests the lane is still there and now a pub­lic foot­path, we’ll also go explor­ing and see what we can see.

Main image, top: Bris­tol min­ers c.1906 via City Pit.

BOOKS: A Scrapbook of Inns, 1949

The cover of A Scrapbook of Inns.

A Scrapbook of Inns by Rowland Watson, published in 1949, is a cut above the usual ‘quaint old inns’ hack job, its snippets of old books and articles acting as an effective index to beer and pub writing from public domain sources.

It’s not rare. We picked our copy up for £3.99 in a char­i­ty shop, still in its dust jack­et, and with a ded­i­ca­tion to ‘Syd­ney, with best wish­es from Rhode & all at Bed­ford, Christ­mas 1954’. There are plen­ty of copies for sale online at around the same price and we’ve seen mul­ti­ple copies in sec­ond­hand book­shops in the past year.

We think – assume – the author is the same Row­land Wat­son best known as a lit­er­ary edi­tor, born in 1890, and who died in 1968. He doesn’t have much to say about him­self in the fore­word, using those two brief para­graphs to ham­mer an impor­tant point: this anthol­o­gy is not a col­lec­tion of the usu­al quo­ta­tions from Pepys, Dr John­son and Dick­ens, but rather of obscu­ri­ties book­marked dur­ing decades of read­ing, most­ly from the 18th and ear­ly 19th cen­turies.

Con­tin­ue read­ingBOOKS: A Scrap­book of Inns, 1949”