London pubs from a woman’s perspective, 1964

A drawing of a pub.
The Kings Head and Eight Bells by John Coop­er.

In 1964 Batsford published a guide to London with a twist: it was about where to go and what to do on sleepy Sundays. Such as, for example… visit the pub.

We picked up our copy of Lon­don on Sun­day at Oxfam in Cotham for £3.99. It’s not a book we’ve ever encoun­tered before, or even heard of.

We haven’t man­aged to find out much about the author, Bet­ty James, either, except that she wrote a few oth­er books, includ­ing Lon­don and the Sin­gle Girl, pub­lished in 1967, and Lon­don for Lovers, 1968. She was old­er than the girl­ish tone of the book might sug­gest – in her late for­ties, we gath­er – and twice divorced by the time she was pro­filed in the New­cas­tle Jour­nal in 1969.

Before the main event, indi­vid­ual pubs crop up here and there – the Grapes in Wap­ping is accu­rate­ly described as ‘an old saw­dusty riv­er pub’ where the staff give direc­tions to a par­tic­u­lar­ly good but hard-to-find Chi­nese restau­rant.

One of the best lines in the book, thrown away in an itin­er­ary for a walk, is, we’re cer­tain, a dig at male guide­book writ­ers of the peri­od who couldn’t resist rat­ing bar­maids:

The Colville Tav­ern at 72 Kings Road… [has] the best-look­ing bar­man in Lon­don. Ask for Charles.

Pubs are giv­en real, focused treat­ment in the dying pages of the book, which is a state­ment in its own right.

From Mon­day until Sat­ur­day this Sun­day is the Local Pub­lic House of some­body else in whom once has no inter­est what­so­ev­er. How­ev­er… on Sun­day at the hour of noon it is entered imme­di­ate­ly by the knowl­edge­able tosspot in order that he may refresh him­self in con­vivial com­pa­ny, while his wife cooks the joint to which he even­tu­al­ly return too late to avoid unpleas­ant­ness… Mean­while, the reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to this Sun­day Pub (whose Local Pub­lic House it is from Mon­day until Sat­ur­day) will repair to anoth­er Sun­day Pub because it is con­sid­ered not schmaltzy to take drink in one’s own Local Pub­lic House upon a Sun­day.

Inevitably, the first pub to get a write-up is the Grenadier, which we vis­it­ed ear­li­er this year:

This very old pub is impos­si­ble to find. You can wan­der around the chi-chi lit­tle mews sur­round­ing it, absorb­ing the untrace­able ema­na­tions of Guards sub­al­terns and debu­tantes with­out actu­al­ly ever see­ing any­thing but a chi-chi lit­tle mews… A dread silence occa­sion­al­ly falls upon the place… [because] some­body has mis­laid a debu­tante.

The Kings Head and Eight Bells in Chelsea sounds like fun, with peo­ple drink­ing out­side in the embank­ment gar­dens on Sun­day morn­ing, or block­ing the road ‘where they risk being knocked drin­k­less by oth­er cognoscen­ti in fast sports job’. It is, Ms. James says, ‘exclu­sive­ly patro­n­ised by absolute­ly every­body who isn’t any­body’. Sad­ly, this one seems to be a goner.

A drawing of a pub interior.
The inte­ri­or of the Square Rig­ger by John Coop­er.

Of course we got real­ly excit­ed at the descrip­tion of a theme pub, the Square Rig­ger in the City, near Mon­u­ment Sta­tion:

Ful­ly rigged with seag­ull cries and the sound of break­ing surf there is also an enor­mous social schism between the Captain’s Cab­in and the Mess Decks both 1 and 2… ‘Tween decks there are rope lad­ders, sails, and yard-arms and that. Togeth­er with a lot of beau­ti­ful­ly pol­ished brass bar-top.

We see from whatpub.com that it was a notable booze bunker, before its demo­li­tion in the 1980s.

Back to those clas­sic mews pubs of west Lon­don, the Star in Bel­gravia, of course, gets a men­tion, and rather a cheeky one: ‘Well now… The best thing we can say about this pub is that all the afore­men­tioned miss­ing debu­tantes may be dis­cov­ered here… recov­er­ing… And some of them sim­ply aching for the utter, utter blis­sikins of get­ting mis­laid again as soon as pos­si­ble’.

The Wind­sor Cas­tle in Kens­ing­ton appar­ent­ly had ‘Lus­cious sand­wich­es’ and quite the scene going on, with actors in the bar and ‘a pig ogling a cow in the pleas­ant walled gar­den’.

The last pub tip is giv­en reluc­tant­ly:

There is of course one Sun­day Pub to which affi­ciona­dos resort of a Sun­day evening. How­ev­er, it could so eas­i­ly be com­plete­ly ruined by hyper­me­trop­ic inva­sion that I hard­ly like to men­tion it. This is the Lil­liput Hall, a Courage’s house at 9 Jamaica Road SE1, where, at around 9 pm, com­mences the best not-too-far-out jazz this side of par­adise. The hun­dred per cent pro­fes­sion­al group ren­der­ings are led by the guv’nor, Bert Annable, a name to be con­jured with in the busi­ness, since he’s worked with Cyril Sta­ple­ton and Paul Fenoul­het, among oth­ers.

Sound like a laugh. Now, it goes with­out say­ing, flats, but the closedpubs.co.uk records some nice first­hand mem­o­ries.

We reck­on it’d have been quite nice to read an entire book about pubs by Bet­ty James. She seems to have a feel for them, and her arch­ness is amus­ing.

Bits We Underlined in… Surrey Pubs, 1965

Months later than its companion pieces here are the highlights from Surrey Pubs by Richard Keeble, published in 1965.

This is weird: we thought we’d writ­ten about all of these Bats­ford guides but it turns out that, though we anno­tat­ed the book with 800 Post It notes, and even wrote most of the post, we nev­er actu­al­ly pub­lished it. Per­haps Sus­sex Pubs con­fused us. Any­way, bet­ter late than nev­er…

Beer from the WoodSev­er­al pubs are men­tioned as serv­ing beer from the wood, such as The Whyte Harte and Bletch­in­g­ley, Ye Olde Six Bells at Hor­ley, the Jol­ly Farmer at Horne and the Swan at Thames Dit­ton, which had the best of all: Bass from the wood.

Drum­mond Arms, Albury – Pro­to-craft-beer-bar: ‘There is a choice of forty-sev­en dif­fer­ent bot­tled beers and there are some out­stand­ing wines on the list.’ The draught beer list includ­ed Fri­ary Meux ‘Tre­ble Gold’, a pale ale that per­haps bol­sters the argu­ment for ‘gold­en ale’ hav­ing exist­ed as a vague idea long before Exmoor and Hop Back crys­tallised and mar­ket­ed the con­cept.

Plough Inn, Bletch­in­g­ley‘The land­lord here… is a qual­i­fied opti­cian… [Ask him] to show your how to play “shut­ter­box”, a game he brought to this dis­trict.’ (Shut the Box?)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Bits We Under­lined in… Sur­rey Pubs, 1965”

Bits We Underlined in… Kent Pubs, 1966

This is the last of the 1960s Batsford pub guides we’ve be digesting over the last few months and it’s a good one.

Unlike some of his col­leagues on this project, D.B. Tubbs (Dou­glas Bur­nell ‘Bun­ny’ Tubbs?) attempts some humour in his writ­ing, appar­ent­ly inspired by Alan Reeve-Jones’s first entry, Lon­don Pubs, from 1962. Where Reeve-Jones fea­tured his fic­tion­al Com­man­der Xerx­es McGill in every oth­er entry (frankly, rather tedious­ly), Tubbs has an equal­ly fic­tion­al tome of pub lore, Hogmanay’s  Ety­mol­o­gy of the Bar (unpub­lished). He also uses some inter­est­ing turns of phrase, a cou­ple of which we might nick, e.g.:

  • Beer­man­ship – to be brushed up on in any pub with a choice of draught bit­ter.
  • Neo – self-con­scious­ly mod­ern pub design or decor.
  • Loungery – when Neo goes bad.
  • Old­worlderye – e.g. a buf­fet bar described as ‘Ye Snack­erie’.
  • Hin­ter­lan­ders – peo­ple from the out­er edges of Lon­don.
  • Wood­en bitter/wooden beer – beer from the wood, AKA tra­di­tion­al draught, AKA ‘real ale’.

And if you can fin­ish this book and not find your­self thirst­ing for a pint of his favourite bit­ter from Tom­son & Wooton of Rams­gate, 1634–1968, ‘with a real bit­ter tang’, then you’ve got a stronger will than either of us. (Their X India sounds inter­est­ing, too.)

Pref­ace – ‘[Some pubs] have been left out for rea­sons that you would under­stand if you had been there with me. Some­times it was the beer, some­times the wel­come and occa­sion­al­ly the quote food unquote.’

Crown & Scep­tre, Acol – ‘[The land­lord] has adopt­ed a par­rot… This poly­chro­mat­ic bird lies on its back, cross­es his (or her) legs to order, and can pick up a beer bot­tle with his (or her) beak.’

Wal­nut Tree, Ald­ing­ton – ‘The pub has an almost untouched exam­ple of a medieval kitchen.’ The pub web­site today has no men­tion of an his­toric kitchen.

Mal­ta Inn, Alling­ton Lock – ‘The beer is served not from the wood but from the bot­tom of the cask by “by com­put­er”.’ No fur­ther elab­o­ra­tion is giv­en but we assume he means they used elec­tric pumps.

Blue Bell, Bel­tring – ‘A Frem­lins house oppo­site Whitbread’s main farm… There is still a good deal of knees-up-Moth­er-Brown but far few­er hop pick­ing cus­tomers than there used to be because machines don’t drink. At one time the land­lord used to shut the pub­lic bar, fill a bath with beer and pass the pints out through the win­dow.’ Some­what rem­i­nis­cent scenes can be seen at the Blue Anchor in Hel­ston on Flo­ra Day when beer is served direct from the cask at the door of the cel­lar via plas­tic pipe.

The Old Cellars, Tenterden, as drawn by Alan F. Turner.
The Old Cel­lars, Ten­ter­den, as drawn by Alan F. Turn­er for Kent Pubs.

Woodman’s Arms, Bod­sham – ‘The land­lord, Mr Bob Har­vey… under­stands beer. Eight years ago, when he first arrived, a retired pub­li­can friend said: “The secret of keep­ing beer and ale, my lad, is to order it in advance so it can lay for two weeks before you tap it.” This hint he has tak­en ever since.… Only one brew is stocked so that it is always in con­di­tion… If you want a tes­ti­mo­ni­al as the Romany reg­u­lar called Bill. He drinks 22 pints of bit­ter every Sat­ur­day night then bicy­cles sober­ly home.’

Prince Louis, Dover – ‘The walls are fas­tened togeth­er at present by pic­tures, pho­tographs, post­cards, pen­nants, pis­tols, lifebuoys, mod­el ships and aero­planes, car­tridges, tracts, beer-mats and incen­di­ary bombs, nailed, pinned, screwed, glued and oth­er­wise attached, rather in the fash­ion of Dirty Dick’s.’ Dirty Dick’s is arguably the orig­i­nal ‘col­lec­tion pub’, a pre­cur­sor of the 20th cen­tu­ry theme pub.

George, Egerton – ‘in win­ter mulled ale’. A liv­ing tra­di­tion in this part of the world, or a bit of affect­ed ‘old­worlderye’? (Also at the Smug­glers Inn, Herne.)

Vigo, Fairseat – ‘Do you play Dadd­lums?’ Googles Dadd­lums; no. ‘If so, you may be run­ning short of oppor­tu­ni­ties because there aren’t many Ken­tish pubs where it is still played; if not, start at the Vigo.’ Bad news: though the link above says the Vigo still has its Dadd­lums table… it is now closed pend­ing a plan­ning deci­sion to turn it into a pri­vate house.

King’s Head, Crafty Green – ‘Hav­ing been a tea and rub­ber planter in Cey­lon Mr R.E. Jack­son makes a spe­cial­i­ty of Cey­lon cur­ries, which are cooked by his wife with spices spe­cial­ly import­ed from Cey­lon and veg­eta­bles in sea­son from Bom­bay.’ Yet anoth­er cur­ry pub – this, it turns out, may have been ‘a thing’.

Bell, Ivy­church – ‘and fried chick­en on Sat­ur­day nights’. So this wasn’t some­thing intro­duced to pubs by trend-chasers in the last decade or so?

Three Horse­shoes, Low­er Hardres – ‘Grills and a good dish called Beef fon­due… a good gob­ble.’ Has fon­due made a come­back in hip pubs yet, or is still 70s Din­ner Par­ty naff?

George & Drag­on, Speld­hurst – ‘How about that drink, though? Star (East­bourne) light mild and old ale; Frem­lins’ Three Star Bit­ter, Wor­thing­ton on draught. By pres­sure Flow­ers’ Keg, Whit­bread Tankard, Watney’s Red Bar­rel, Dou­ble Dia­mond, and draught Guin­ness, plus Tuborg lager. Two draught ciders, four draught sher­ries, six malt whiskies…’ And so on. A quick glance at a cou­ple of 1970s edi­tions of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide sug­gests it didn’t retain its rep­u­ta­tion as a beer des­ti­na­tion.

North­field House, Speld­hurst – ‘The mild and bit­ter are well kept, and served straight from the wood, and if you don’t know the dif­fer­ence that makes you shouldn’t be drink­ing draught beer at all.’ Oof! A hard line, that.

Hole in the Wall, Tun­bridge Wells – ‘[A] very spe­cial case, being not an ordi­nary pub but the back room of Mr Allman’s tobacconist’s shop. It used in Vic. times to be called “The Cen­tral Cig­ar Divan”, and still has its mahogany and black leather divans and a brass gas-jet lighter on the wall for gen­tle­men wish­ing to par­take of the weed.’ (a) Cen­tral Cig­ar Divan – hip­ster bar name! (b) Not that type of weed. © Sounds fas­ci­nat­ing but… it’s gone.

Pep­per­box, Ulcombe – ‘Inns with an unusu­al name are often good.’ Dis­cuss, 12 pts.

Vic­to­ria, Wye – ‘[In] the beer-drink­ing con­test at the Vic­to­ria… the brisker drinkers achieve a four-sec­ond pint, and acro­bat­ic frol­ics are to be seen with a dou­ble-deck­er coun­ter­bal­anced beer mug mount­ed in gim­bals.’ Respon­si­ble drink­ing! We’re strug­gling to pic­ture this steam­punk-sound­ing con­trap­tion.

Hood­en Horse [sic], Wick­ham­breaux – ‘One of the reg­u­lars is a one-eyed swan named Nel­son who lives down the road. It is quite respectable to see him, even after a long ses­sion.’ A friend of Lucifer the alco­holic don­key, per­haps? And who was ask­ing a few years ago about the ori­gins of the phrase ‘ses­sion beer’?

Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Pubs, 1965

As promised, we’re continuning to plough through those 1960s Batsford pub guides underlining interesting nuggets: this time, it’s the turn of John Camp’s Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Pubs.

Pub guides aren’t real­ly designed to be read, and long stretch­es of this one are pret­ty dry, but there was just enough salt in the caramel to keep us going to the end.

Part 1: Oxfordshire

The Lam­bert Arms, Aston Rowant: ‘Spe­cial drinks’ include Courage’s E.I.P.A. – would that be East India Pale Ale? The beer index at the back doesn’t elab­o­rate and this is the only pub in the book serv­ing it.

The Inn With­in, Ban­bury: ‘It is a free house, but might bet­ter be described as a “free-for-all” house. Vic­to­ri­an in design, one of the sev­er­al barn-like bars is dec­o­rat­ed almost entire­ly with mir­rors, the result being an impres­sion of being in the cen­tre of a long series of iden­ti­cal rooms stretch­ing away into the void.’ An ear­ly use of ‘barn-like’, there, now fre­quent­ly applied to Wether­spoon pubs and sim­i­lar. Was this Scaramanga’s Fun House arrange­ment not con­fus­ing to drunks? ‘At var­i­ous times one may enjoy roller-skat­ing, all-in wrestling, or sim­ply relax and watch a box­ing match!’ (There’s more on all this at the Ban­bury Guardian.)

The Rein­deer, Ban­bury: ‘The great glo­ry of The Rein­deer was, at one time, the Globe Room… [with] mag­nif­i­cent plas­ter ceil­ing and pan­elling said to have been designed by Ini­go Jones. Ceil­ing and pan­elling were removed and sold to an Amer­i­can col­lec­tor, but before this act of des­e­cra­tion could be com­plet­ed an enlight­ened cor­po­ra­tion bought them back, and hap­pi­ly they remain in this coun­try… Unhap­pi­ly there were not re-installed in the Globe Room.’ A rare bit of good news: even­tu­al­ly, they were.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Oxford­shire & Buck­ing­hamshire Pubs, 1965”

Bits We Underlined In… Sussex Pubs, 1966

We’re reading every page of every one of those Batsford pub guides. This time, it’s Rodney L. Walkerley’s Sussex Pubs published in 1966.

The Vic­to­ry, Arun­del: ‘In addi­tion to the ales and stouts there is a sur­pris­ing assem­bly of gen­uine con­ti­nen­tal lagers…’ This would be notable even today, espe­cial­ly out­side major cities.

The Cas­tle Inn, Bodi­am: We knew that Guin­ness owned a pub – just the one – but had no idea where, and had nev­er got round to Googling. But here it is, right next to the brewery’s own UK hop farm‘After the First World War it was leased to Lord Cur­zon and lat­er, by the Nation­al Trust, to Trust Hous­es… and then to the Guin­ness com­pa­ny, who pos­si­bly want­ed to dis­cov­er if run­ning a pub was as good for them as their adver­tis­ing assures us their stout is for the con­sumer.’

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Bits We Under­lined In… Sus­sex Pubs, 1966”