Graham Turner’s fascinating 1967 book The North Country paints portraits of towns and cities from Wigan to Durham, often stopping off in pubs and clubs on the way.
You might remember us quoting from it before, on the subject of Pakistani migrants attempting to integrate into pub life in Bradford in the 1960s.
The rather less politically charged extract below, from a chapter called ‘Over the Top’ about Saddleworth Moor, grabbed our attention for a couple of reasons.
No group of people in the valley are in more demand than the members of the Boarshurst Silver Band. George Gibson, a large, enormously jovial man with a great red face who plays the ‘basso profundo’ and also teaches brass in the local schools, reckons to be out either playing or teaching ‘very near every night’… [He] said over a pint at the King William [that] finding players was not any particular problem – “you find me twenty-four instruments and I’ll find you twenty-four kids”. The King William, incidentally, is one of the pubs in Saddleworth which has treated itself to wall-to-wall carpeting, an extravagance which [local character] John Kenworthy thinks has changed them from forums of discussion into mere drinking places. At one end of the bar were a group of the men we had been drinking with the night before at the Gentleman’s [Club], now deeply engrossed in a catholic selection of racing papers. At the other were half a dozen men in overalls.
- Carpets were seen as taking pubs downmarket, somehow? Making them more frivolous?
- A reminder that pub carpets aren’t a great old tradition – they’re a relatively new development.
- And, carpets aside, a reminder of how class segregation can happen even without physical boundaries.
In case you’re wondering, by the way, the William IV is still there, and still trading as a pub.