As you may have guessed, in this blog I intend to waffle on about pubs, with specific examples drawn from London. As of May 2014, I have around 6000 photos of London pubs on Flickr, so although I can’t pretend to have any kind of comprehensive coverage, I’ve probably got a pretty good sample set to draw upon.
My intent is not to review specific pubs. Although value judgements may come into it to a certain extent, you can go to a website such as Fancyapint (or Randomness Guide to London, to which I contribute) to get that kind of information. Instead, I want to try and categorise the pubs and talk about the salient features of these categories, and then highlight particularly interesting pubs, etc.
Recently, I had beery evenings over three successive nights that took in three very different kinds of pub, almost a tour of London’s pub history in a way. It got me thinking about the internal layout of pubs and how this too has changed over time. I mean, mainly it got me thinking about how nice beer (and socialising with friends over beer) can be, but this isn’t a beer blog, so back to pub interiors.
Figure 95. The bar in the back room at The King William the Fourth (Leyton E10).
*shuffles quietly in* Hello, it’s been a while.
So back in the day, when I was actually writing posts (though I never really got above one every month at best), I did round-ups of postcode areas. London has a lot of them, especially when you consider the outer London boroughs, but it’s the way I’m organising my London Pubology website, which is these days where I’m putting most of my attention. Perhaps I will write more of these posts to highlight new areas I’ve added, and writing them may spur me to write more in general. In the meantime, think of this as a little pub-related walking tour of an area. This after all is how I experience bits of London sometimes, and it’s certainly how I experienced UB7, having ventured out to that part of the world for the first time ever yesterday, to take photos.
Figure 91. The White Horse (Longford UB7).
So your first burning question is likely to be “Where is UB7?” if you haven’t already exclaimed “But that’s not London!” Continue reading
I wanted to do a quick update with some happy pub news, for two reasons. The first is that I very rarely get around to updating this blog, what with spending my spare time updating my London Pubology database website, not to mention the occasional time spent in an actual pub (such as last night, when I was with friends enjoying a Thornbridge Brewery tap takeover at The Craft Beer Co. Pentonville N1). The second reason is that we are often fed news stories about how many pubs are closing every year/month/week/minute; it always makes for doleful reading (though I’d question where some of those statistics are coming from in some of the stories).
So I thought it might be nice to feature a former pub building that has been rescued from its alternative latter-day use and returned to us as a pub. Here it is five years ago, which as far as I’m aware is what it’s looked like since it closed around the start of the 1990s (when it was called The Stick of Rock) and until it reopened earlier this year.
Figure 89. The Stick of Rock (Shoreditch E2), closed.
And here it is earlier this month, with the original name (presumably) revealed and those ugly roller shutters removed, but otherwise much the same.
So this post isn’t about my usual topics, it’s more of an announcement that my London Pubology website is now up and live, so do feel free to visit it. It’s a fairly straightforward (and rather dry) list-based site which started as a way to present my pub photos. That was of course, also the genesis of this blog, but pubology.co.uk is less concerned with context than with information, really. It’s my pub database essentially.
I should clarify that it is not intended in any way to compete with or replace Kevan’s excellent Pubs History (Dead Pubs) website. I have used that site for research purposes and linked to it wherever possible; it is still the best source for historical census and directory information about pubs across the South-East of England (the notes and sources for my information are a rather late addition to my own work which I’m still adding). Instead, what I’m trying to build up is a list of all drinking establishments past and present, plotted carefully on a map of London, with links to sources and resources, and of course a photo if I have one. In this sense, it’s very much a work in progress, and so far I have only put up a smallish number of postcode areas (for that is how it is organised), and even those still require much work.
What I am keen to try to figure out, though — and this is where my readers can help — is what kind of use it can be. I want it to be useful to people, so I’d really appreciate suggestions for improvements or changes. I have my own ideas of course, and I am working with Kake from Randomness Guide to London (who has been invaluable in getting this site actually made) to improve it all the time. But it would still be really helpful to be able to get some ideas about things that could be changed to make it more accessible, to give it wider value.
In the meantime, there it is. Do have a look
Moving swiftly along as ever, let’s return to the Monopoly board (UK edition). This is the only property on the board named for a single building, and that building is, thankfully for our purposes, a pub. Or perhaps rather an “inn”. Though there’s nothing especially precise about any of the terms used for drinking places, it is one of the oldest and represents an establishment that serviced travellers with food and lodgings,1 which the Angel once did.
Figure 88. The Angel Inn (Islington N1), now closed.
Of course, nowadays it’s neither pub nor inn and offers none of those functions: it’s a bank. There’s a plaque commemorating its inclusion on the canonical Monopoly board, but there’s nothing to indicate its former use (aside from the existence next door of a Wetherspoon’s pub, opened in 1998 and opportunistically named The Angel after its predecessor). Before it was a bank, it was a restaurant. It hasn’t been a pub since around 1921, when it was sold by the brewers Truman Hanbury Buxton to Lyons, who promptly reopened it as the Angel Cafe Restaurant.2 Which means it wasn’t even a pub when the Monopoly board was set.
So what’s the reason for its prominence, giving its name as it does not only to a tube station, and by extension an area of London, but also to a (fairly cheap) property on Monopoly?
Figure 87. The Search for the Perfect Pub by Paul Moody and Robin Turner.
If there’s one point upon which I can immediately ease the potential reader’s mind about The Search for the Perfect Pub: Looking for The Moon Under Water, it’s that the authors Robin Turner and Paul Moody are not in search of a Wetherspoon’s. They do of course find some; whether or not you happen to believe that JD Wetherspoon’s deserve a place in any search for the ‘perfect pub’, Tim Martin’s ubiquitous chain (about whom I do still mean to do a post at some point) has at least tossed its hat in the ring for this particular competition. And while it may not in the end be their ideal, they do give Wetherspoon’s a fairly even-handed treatment. No, it’s the faceless corporatised chains that most draw their ire as, taking Orwell’s 1946 panegyric to his favourite pub The Moon Under Water as their starting point, they survey the state of the British pub at the start of the 21st century.
There are many posts to be written here about the former pubs of London, and in the fullness of time (which has already been very accommodating) I hope to write about the many uses to which they have been put, including posts about former breweries and their tied pubs, and maybe a few more about notable districts (I’ve already done a post touching on Soho). First though, I want to talk about how one may spot former public houses, and some reasons they came to be closed.
Figure 84. The Victoria (Charlton SE7), now closed.
In London, as in most large conurbations, we are constantly surrounded by reminders of the past. But perhaps more than many world cities, London has been built and rebuilt countless times with (until recently) a fairly cavalier regard to the physical presence of the past. Ancient buildings and grand monuments alike have been demolished in the name of progress, and against this pubs have never really stood a chance. As a small example casting a particularly nostalgic shadow when we see old photos of them, coaching inns stretching back centuries and mentioned (or used) by the greatest of authors and historical figures, were swept away by past rebuilding (the last around the turn of the 20th century).1 Even now, few pubs are listed historical buildings, and they continue to disappear as it suits developers (The Wenlock Arms [Hoxton N1] being only the most recent of such battles).
The Reasons for Pub Closures
The closure and repurposing of pubs is an outcome of many different social trends over time: changes in population distribution; changes to work/living practices; the decline in social drinking (aspects of which are linked to law changes); the erosion of neighbourhood cohesion (changes to work practices, increase in public transport options); the explosion of property prices; the stranglehold exercised by PubCos; and others. I shall write below about just three such areas, before moving on to spotting former pubs.