Motel #1, 1953

This isn’t about pubs, or maybe it is: in June 1953 Britain gained its first American-style motel, The Royal Oak, at Newingreen outside Dover, Kent.

The Roy­al Oak was, as the name sug­gests, an old inn, appar­ent­ly estab­lished in 1560 and rebuilt in the 18th cen­tu­ry. It was around this core that the new motel was con­struct­ed by entre­pre­neur Gra­ham Lyon.

Lyon was born in Lon­don in 1889 and worked with ear­ly auto­mo­biles as a youth. In the 1920s he was a pio­neer of coach trips to the Con­ti­nent, dri­ving tourists around in a 10-seater Ford Mod­el T chara­banc. After World War II he entered the hotel busi­ness, start­ing with The White Cliffs in Dover. Some­thing of an Ameri­cophile, his deal­ings with Amer­i­cans dur­ing and after the war gave him the idea that Britain was defi­cient in hotels designed specif­i­cal­ly for motorists and so, in 1952, approach­ing pen­sion­able age, he set off to tour the US vis­it­ing more than 2,000 motels on an epic road-trip. He picked the brains of Amer­i­can mote­liers and came back ready to imple­ment his own take in the British mar­ket.

Aerial view of the Inn and Motel.

Each room in The Roy­al Oak motel had its own pri­vate garage and en suite bath­room. The larg­er suites had their own sit­ting rooms. For between 21s and 27s 6d per per­son (about £30 in today’s mon­ey) you got a Con­ti­nen­tal break­fast, a radio, a tea-mak­ing machine, tele­phone, a water dis­penser, and your car washed and valet­ed.

Sitting room at the motel.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Motel #1, 1953”

Trendy Pub Names of 1951: The Flying Saucer

In 1947 the world was in the grip of flying saucer fever in the wake of American pilot Kenneth Arnold’s supposed sighting of several UFOs in Washington State in June that year.

As far as we can tell, Britain’s first fly­ing saucer sight­ings of this peri­od were in Kent as report­ed in var­i­ous local news­pa­pers, such as the Dundee Evening Tele­graph on 10 July:

Claims to have seen a ‘fly­ing saucer’ have been made by two peo­ple liv­ing in vil­lages near Rochester, Kent.. Miss Tomkins, of The Nook, Snod­land, said, ‘At 10.30 on Wednes­day night I was aston­ished to see a pecu­liar round object in the sky trav­el­ling at great speed. I should say it was 1500 feet up.’ … A res­i­dent of Cuc­ton, about a mile from Snod­land, said he saw the ‘fly­ing saucer’ at the same time and described it as being sil­ver in colour.

Months lat­er there was anoth­er sim­i­lar event as report­ed in the Glouces­ter Cit­i­zen for 25 March 1948:

Mr and Mrs G. Knight of William Road, Ash­ford, Kent, claim to have seen a ‘fly­ing saucer’… They say it appeared to be a large ball of dull-red colour sev­er­al times the size of the largest star, and leav­ing a streak behind it. It was seen trav­el­ling across the sky in a south-east­er­ly direc­tion towards the Chan­nel between Folke­stone and Ash­ford.

This local angle per­haps explains why the name The Fly­ing Saucer was cho­sen for a new pub in Hemp­stead, Kent, announced in 1951. The sign by T.C.R. Adams (about whom we’d like to know more) was dis­played before the pub was up-and-run­ning, at an exhi­bi­tion in Lon­don to accom­pa­ny the pub­li­ca­tion of a book, Eng­lish Inn Signs.

Here’s one side:

Pub sign with cartoon spaceship/UFO.
SOURCE: Illus­trat­ed Lon­don News, 3 March 1951.

The oth­er fea­tured a car­toon of a woman hurl­ing crock­ery at her star­tled hus­band – fly­ing saucers, ged­dit? Ho ho.

This Dover/Kent his­to­ry web­site has more on the sto­ry:  it says the licence for the pub came from a slum estab­lish­ment demol­ished dur­ing clear­ance and was applied (we think) to a build­ing that had until this time been oper­at­ing as a work­ing men’s club.

Per­haps sur­pris­ing­ly, The Fly­ing Saucer is still there and trad­ing under the same name, hav­ing had many dif­fer­ent signs over the years, and what was a hip joke in 1951 has become a charm­ing quirk almost 70 years on.

Green Beer and Gimmickry, 1946

Green Bottles Standing on a Wall

We spent Saturday at the London Metropolitan Archives where, among Whitbread press cuttings, we found a 1946 article headlined HALF OF GREEN, PLEASE:

Green beer is back. It was a craze in night clubs in the ‘30s. I was offered a glass today, and if I had been drink­ing it in the dark I should not have been able to tell it from ordi­nary bot­tle dbeer. But it was bright green. Why?

I asked the Kent firm which brewed it. ‘It is sim­ply a nov­el­ty,’ I was told. ‘Makes peo­ple talk. They want some­thing dif­fer­ent… The green is obtained by adding a harm­less, taste­less veg­etable blue dye to the beer direct­ly it is brewed. Fresh­ly-brewed pale ale is light yel­low. Blue turns it green.’

The author goes on to explore whether oth­er colours are pos­si­ble, such as red. The answer is, yes, but green is eas­i­est.

A hand-writ­ten note in the clip­pings book says it’s from The Star and appeared on 21 Jan­u­ary if you want to look it up your­self. The same sto­ry seems to have gone glob­al in the fun­ny filler colum­nettes so there might be more sources out there, too.

We first had green beer about a decade ago, and there’s usu­al­ly a lit­tle con­tro­ver­sy about the prac­tice around St Patrick’s Day, but we were sur­prised to dis­cov­er that it had been going on as far back as the 1930s.

There’s also some­thing inter­est­ing about that state­ment ‘They want some­thing dif­fer­ent’ which sounds more like a quote from the 1990s, with its sea­son­al guest ales and spices and fruit, than from aus­ter­i­ty Britain.

Which Kent firm was it? We’ve dropped a line to Shep­herd Neame as (a) our best guess and (b) the hold­ers of a prop­er ful­ly curat­ed archive. We’ll update when we hear back.

UPDATE 11:36 15/05/2016

This is turn­ing into a bit of a live blog. Here’s a sto­ry on the green beer craze from the Exeter and Ply­mouth Gazette, 24 July 1931:

Green beer—the most suc­cess­ful nov­el­ty that the brew­ing busi­ness has known in gen­er­a­tion —is now being fol­lowed by white ale. This is not a new inven­tion as was green beer, but is the famous old milk-like prod­uct of South Devon where it used to be reg­u­lar­ly served in way­side hostel­ries… Now, how­ev­er, it is being re-intro­duced as a May­fair nov­el­ty, and is served at par­ties as com­pan­ion of green beer. Host­esses find that their women guests like beer—so long as it looks like some­thing else. 

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’?

VIDEO: Hop Harvest, 1965

From the fab­u­lous British Pathé archive on YouTube, this short film, made in 1965, is enti­tled ‘Tomorrow’s Beer’ and shows cock­ney hop-pick­ers at work in Kent.

Apart from the groovy music and bar­be­cue, it could have been shot at almost any time in the last 150 years.

On a relat­ed note, Kent Green Hop Beer Fort­night starts in a few weeks time, from 26 Sep­tem­ber to 12 Octo­ber.