An Extraordinary Gentleman: the Brand New Victorian Pubs of Roddy Gradidge

MAIN IMAGE: The Markham Arms in 1976 © Klaus Hiltsch­er, used with per­mis­sion.

The architect and interior designer Roderick ‘Roddy’ Gradidge was both a conservative and a wannabe Teddy Boy proto-punk. Though he worked on all kinds of buildings, and wrote several books, he is usually described in short-form as one thing: a pub designer.

We’ve put togeth­er this pro­file based on the news­pa­per archives we were able to access, online sources, and the books in the ever-expand­ing Arthur Mil­lard Memo­r­i­al Library (our box room). As such, con­sid­er it a work in progress: when we get chance, for exam­ple, we’ll vis­it the RIBA library and see if we can come up with a more com­pre­hen­sive list of his projects. Here’s what we know for now.

John Rod­er­ick War­low Gra­didge was born in Nor­folk in 1929 but grew up in India where his father served in the colo­nial army. Young Rod­er­ick came back to Eng­land in 1943 to attend Stowe under the head­mas­ter­ship of J.F. Rox­burgh. Writ­ing in the after­math of Gradidge’s death the writer A.N. Wil­son, a friend, sug­gest­ed that Rox­burgh was a key influ­ence on Gradidge’s char­ac­ter:

When one thinks of the flam­boy­ant gallery of tal­ent fos­tered by that school­mas­ter – Pere­grine Worsthorne, Antony Quin­ton, George Mel­ly, – it is hard not to feel some con­nec­tion.

Flam­boy­ant is cer­tain­ly the right word: Gra­didge, who every­one describes as ‘huge’ or ‘mas­sive’, start­ed wear­ing an ear­ring in 1955 and ‘longed to be a Ted­dy boy’, don­ning the uni­form drape jack­et, side­burns, tight trousers and suede broth­el-creep­ers and devot­ing him­self to rock’n’roll.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “An Extra­or­di­nary Gen­tle­man: the Brand New Vic­to­ri­an Pubs of Rod­dy Gra­didge”

Panic on the Streets of Woking: Rise of the Lager Lout

 This bumper #beery­lon­greads post is ded­i­cat­ed to the kind folks who have spon­sored us via our Patre­on page, like Chris France and Jon Urch – thanks!

In 1988 the British government faced a now forgotten domestic crisis.

Pre­vi­ous­ly placid towns, vil­lages and sub­urbs up and down the coun­try were sud­den­ly awash with mob vio­lence – the kind of thing peo­ple expect­ed in for­sak­en inner cities but which seemed new­ly ter­ri­fy­ing as it spread to provin­cial mar­ket squares and high streets.

The police pan­icked, the pub­lic fret­ted, and politi­cians were pressed to take action.

What was caus­ing this rash of insan­i­ty? Who or what was to blame for this descent into mad­ness?

In Sep­tem­ber 1988 at an infor­mal press brief­ing John Pat­ten MP, Min­is­ter for Home Affairs, point­ed the fin­ger: the chaos was a result of ‘the Sat­ur­day night lager cult’ and ‘lager louts’.

Lager. Lager was to blame. A type of beer that had arrived in earnest in Britain only thir­ty years before as the upmar­ket, sophis­ti­cat­ed, sharp-suit­ed Con­ti­nen­tal cousin of the tra­di­tion­al pint of wal­lop.

Where did it all go wrong?

Skol advertisement, 1960: "British Brewer Goes Continental".
In the Beginning

Lager was first brewed in Britain as far back as the 1830s and had its first boom in pop­u­lar­i­ty, pri­mar­i­ly as a hip, high-price import­ed prod­uct, from the 1860s until World War I. (See Gam­bri­nus Waltz for more on that.) For the next 40 years or so it sat in the back­ground, very much a minor­i­ty inter­est, rep­re­sent­ed by imports from the Con­ti­nent and the occa­sion­al attempt by British brew­ers such as Bar­clay Perkins. In the 1950s it had a less than 2 per cent share of the total UK beer mar­ket.

The 1950s were an unset­tling time for British brew­eries. They could no longer rely on armies of indus­tri­al work­ers tramp­ing to the pub on a reg­u­lar basis to drink ale in sub­stan­tial quan­ti­ties. Young peo­ple seemed less inter­est­ed in pubs and beer and drawn rather more to burg­er bars, cof­fee shops, Coca Cola and pop music. Mild was def­i­nite­ly passé – a rel­ic of the slum era – and though sales of bit­ter were surg­ing, it too lacked glam­our. Bit­ter drinkers wore blaz­ers and smoked pipes. The tiny hand­ful of Lager drinkers, on the oth­er hand…

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Pan­ic on the Streets of Wok­ing: Rise of the Lager Lout”

The Pubs of Boggleton, 1837–2017

The development of Boggleton, a small English town which I have traced at set periods in the next pages, is symptomatic of all England. We can learn the character of a country from the scars and wrinkles on its face.”

John Bet­je­man, ‘1837–1937’, 1937

With apolo­gies to Sir John what fol­lows is our attempt to con­dense the over­all plot arc of the Eng­lish pub in the last two cen­turies. It’s simul­ta­ne­ous­ly a bit of fun – well, it was cer­tain­ly fun to write – and semi-seri­ous in intent, giv­en that the town is pur­pose­ful­ly gener­ic and com­plete­ly made up.

This also seems like a good place to announce what most of you have prob­a­bly already guessed from all the hints we’ve been drop­ping about The Big Project: we have a new book on the way. It’s going to be called 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub: from beer­house to booze bunker and is due out this sum­mer. It cov­ers every­thing from improved pubs to microp­ubs (the long 20th Cen­tu­ry, shall we say), via estate pubs, theme pubs, Irish pubs, Wether­spoons, and numer­ous oth­er stops.


Header graphic: 1837 town map.

Bog­gle­ton, being a rel­a­tive­ly sober town much dom­i­nat­ed by church folk, had only twelve pubs, to serve a pop­u­la­tion of 3,000 peo­ple. They were not called pubs at the time, how­ev­er. One, The Dol­phin, was most cer­tain­ly a great Inn, sit­u­at­ed on the main street, busy with coach­es and the hors­es that drew them. It had beds, served meals (grudg­ing­ly, it must be said) and all sorts of drinks from ale to wine. The build­ing ram­bled, was rid­dled with mice, and was marked by a gild­ed sign hang­ing over the street depict­ing some­thing like a mer-tiger.

The Red Lion on the mar­ket square was small­er, sag­ging and smoky, intri­cate­ly half-tim­bered. It too was an inn, at least on paper, but peo­ple rarely stayed or ate there. Some­times it was referred to as a tav­ern, but it was not quite that either – there was noth­ing of the city about it, and it had no wine of dis­tinc­tion. It was most often called a ‘pub­lic house’ and was busiest on mar­ket days when farm­ers from the sur­round­ing vil­lages came into town, stuffed into shirts and waist­coats, sweat­ing and mer­ry.

The rest were beer­hous­es, or beer­shops – small estab­lish­ments more-or-less resem­bling the cot­tages that sur­round­ed them. They were licensed to sell only beer and were brought into being by the pass­ing of the 1830 Beer­house Act. None had promi­nent or elab­o­rate heraldic signs and many were sim­ply known by the names of the peo­ple who ran them. Thompson’s Beer­house was typ­i­cal: a sin­gle room – for­mer­ly the par­lour of old Thomp­son’s own home – with bare plas­ter on the walls, scrubbed floor­boards, a bench against one wall, and a wood­en cask of home-brewed beer on a rough-hewn table in the cor­ner. The beer­hous­es could be wild places and soaked up work­ing men’s wages which wor­ried the pious peo­ple of the town, but all they could do was com­plain, and watch like hawks.


Header graphic: 1867 with Victorian manicule.

When the rail­way came in the 1850s, New Bog­gle­ton was cre­at­ed. There came row after row of hous­es for rail­way­men and for work­ers at the new fac­to­ries, as well as sub­urbs and vil­las for the well-to-do. And for 100,000 peo­ple, twelve pubs were hard­ly enough.

Despite the efforts of the Bog­gle­ton Tem­per­ance Soci­ety, found­ed in 1855, the beer­hous­es had grown in num­ber and some, the most suc­cess­ful, had increased in size, too, until they rivalled The Red Lion. Thompson’s had become The White Hart and scarce­ly a trace of the orig­i­nal dwelling from which it had sprung remained.

Nor could the Tem­per­ance Soci­ety pre­vent the mag­is­trates from grant­i­ng licences for new beer­hous­es on street cor­ners among the ter­races, until it was said that from any point in town you could always see two pubs. The Venezuela on Oxford Road, serv­ing the pis­ton works, was pur­pose built by the firm that con­struct­ed the sur­round­ing hous­es in 1860. It was small but nonethe­less had two rooms, one a touch more respectable and suit­able for fore­men and clerks.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Pubs of Bog­gle­ton, 1837–2017”

Brewhouse Death Trip

With apologies to Michael Lesy and James Marsh and a respectful nod towards the long-running ‘Strange Deaths’ column in Fortean Times, we present a macabre compilation of ways that breweries can kill you.

We have been col­lect­ing these sto­ries as we’ve come across them for a cou­ple of years now, and one has pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured on the blog. All are sad, many are tru­ly grim, and if you are prone to squea­mish­ness or shak­en by sui­cide or indus­tri­al injuries, you’ll want to stop read­ing now.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Brew­house Death Trip”

In Their Own Words: The 1975 Covent Garden Beer Exhibition

This arti­cle first appeared in the Cam­paign for Real Ale’s quar­ter­ly mag­a­zine BEER in 2015 and is repro­duced here with their per­mis­sion. The orig­i­nal beer mat in the main image was giv­en to us by Trevor Unwin. We’re very grate­ful to David Davies for the use of his con­tem­po­rary pho­tographs. 

In 1975, the Campaign for Real Ale invented the modern beer festival when it staged a five-day event with more than 50 beers attended by 40,000 thirsty members. Forty years on, we asked those who were there – volunteers, Campaign leaders and drinkers – to share their memories.

Chris Bru­ton (organ­is­er): A Cam­bridge branch mem­ber sug­gest­ed a beer fes­ti­val in the Corn Exchange at an ear­ly meet­ing in 1974. The main cred­it should go to the late Alan Hill – then a Per­son­nel Man­ag­er at Pye in Cam­bridge. The fes­ti­val made a sig­nif­i­cant prof­it, and the dona­tion to cen­tral funds was essen­tial to keep the Cam­paign afloat dur­ing a dif­fi­cult peri­od.

Chris Holmes (CAMRA chair 1975–76): Because of the suc­cess of Cam­bridge, some­one had the bright idea of a big­ger fes­ti­val in Lon­don. I’d like to say that we were being very sophis­ti­cat­ed and test­ing the mar­ket for a nation­al fes­ti­val but, real­ly, we just had the oppor­tu­ni­ty and said, ‘Let’s do it!’

Chris Bru­ton: By this time CAMRA had employed a Com­mer­cial Man­ag­er, Eric Spragett, who was a Lon­don­er. The main organ­is­ing trio was Eric, John Bish­opp and me. For some time a huge ware­house at St Katharine Docks was the favoured site but the logis­tics proved insur­mount­able. Final­ly, we found the old Flower Mar­ket in Covent Gar­den.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “In Their Own Words: The 1975 Covent Gar­den Beer Exhi­bi­tion”