Friday, 15 January 2016

The 1950’s pub

Pubs may seem timeless, but pub culture has changed significantly over the last 60 years.  Often in subtle ways.

But the problem in researching this is that people rarely bothered to document pub life. It was too everyday to be considered worthy of comment. Which is why sources like “London Night & Day” (edited by Sam Lambert) are so important. Intended to instruct the visitor about the capital and its customs, it assumes no prior knowledge. Perfect.

The section on pubs is quite brief, but still holds some surprising information.

Many books have been written about pubs* In a paragraph, all we can do is to invite you to distinguish between the various sorts of pub, the various sorts of bar and the various sorts of beer. If you don't know the local customs of London pubs and want to be sure of asking for the right kind of drink in the right kind of bar, the following will be useful.

* Read back to the local by Maurice Corham and Edward Ardizzone. (Percival Marshall, 8s. 6d.) and inside the pub by Maurice Gorham and H. McG. Dunnett. (Architectural Press, 18s.)”
"London Night & Day" edited by Sam Lambert, 1951.

There’s a reason why I haven’t included the page number. The book doesn’t have any.

I’d certainly want to know where to drink and what beer to order, if I were a foreigner. Actually, I know what I’d order: a pint of draught Burton in the public bar.

Here’s a handy guide to the different rooms in a pub:

types of bar
Nearly all pubs have at least two bars: the public bar where the beer and decorations are cheapest, and the saloon bar, the superior end of the house, where you pay a penny or two more ; you will probably be using the saloon bar although in certain pubs it is "smarter" to use the public bar. In between these two there are mysterious doors marked private bar, which aren't private at all except in the sense that they aren't public—they are inbetweeners, so if you are an in-betweener walk right in. There may also be a jug-and-bottle bar where you can buy bottled beer or, have a jug filled with draught beer to take home. All pubs keep several kinds of bottled and draught beers.”
"London Night & Day" edited by Sam Lambert, 1951.

In early 1970’s Newark, where I started my drinking career, all the pubs had at least a public bar and a lounge. Even the ones that had only been built in the 1960’s. Now I’m not sure there a single genuinely multi-roomed one left. I think the Woolpack was the last. I don’t think any had a jug and bottle counter in the pub, but the Turk’s Head, a pub demolished and rebuilt in the 1960s, did have an attached off licence.

Leeds pubs in the late 1970’s were pretty well all still multi-roomed. A public bar at the front with the bar counter between it and the corridor, off which there were several other rooms. I know some – like the Adelphi – still retain this layout. But it’s sadly been swept away in others.

Next we’ll be looking at the beers on sale.

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