Book Reviews: The Local

London Pubology, you may have noticed, has hardly been awash with content recently, not that I’ve ever managed more than a post every few months, but particularly in recent years. This is due to nothing more than my own inability to commit fingers to the keyboard (or whatever the modern equivalent of “pen to paper” might be). Fortunately, many others continue to write eloquently, both on blogs (I particularly commend Boak and Bailey), and in books (a recent favourite has been Adrian Tierney-Jones’s CAMRA’s Great British Pubs).

I had been thinking for some time that I might want to talk about beer books on here (specifically, those with a focus on London), but was unsure what to kick off with. I clearly missed the seasonal present shopping deadline for raving about Tierney-Jones’s book, though I still intend to get round to it, and maybe if you need present ideas for Mother’s Day you could go worse than either it or the book I’m about to mention.

The Local by Maurice Gorham and Edward Ardizzone
Figure 83. The Local by Maurice Gorham and Edward Ardizzone.

So it was the other week that I found myself browsing at the excellent Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green, and came across a beautiful reissue of The Local by Maurice Gorham with illustrations by Edward Ardizzone. Both the book itself and its subject immediately appealed to me, and I am confident that they will appeal to the London Pubology reader as well.

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Craft Beer Pubs

Since this blog was created, indeed probably since the last time it was updated, the term “craft beer” has become a much-ballyhooed part of the beer scene in London. There are still only a handful of pubs that might justifiably be called “craft beer pubs” according to the recent use of this term, but I’ll need to address what exactly it is before I can address the pubs themselves.

The Euston Tap (Euston NW1)
Figure 80. The Euston Tap (Euston NW1).

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Monopoly: The Pubs of Whitechapel Road

My first post of 2010 (as many as three posts ago) was focused on the Monopoly board, so now that 2011 has come, perhaps it’s time for the second property along, which is Whitechapel Road, completing the brown set. Of course, rents along this thoroughfare of E1 are more than £60 now, but even having shed its 19th century reputation for criminality (a time when there were prominent slums in the area, and Jack the Ripper was committing his crimes), it’s still a relatively impoverished area. Moreover, where the community had originally comprised Jews from Spain and Portugal in the 17th century onwards (with a new influx of Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews in the 19th century), it has since the late-20th century given way to primarily Bangladeshi immigrants, and is now dominated by the smells of the many restaurants and the vibrant colours of the clothing shops and stalls of the street market (which can be found most days along the main part of the road near the Tube station).

The Blind Beggar (Whitechapel E1)
Figure 78. The Blind Beggar (Whitechapel E1).

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Leafy Pubs

I’ve already mentioned decorative tiling on pubs as a feature which helps to improve their appearance and draw people in. This is hardly the only strategy for enhancing the general attractiveness of the property; perhaps the simplest and most effective is the use of flowers and foliage. This can range from a few well-placed and colourful hanging baskets or flower trays above the doorway, to being so bedecked by ivy that the building underneath is barely visible. Hello, welcome back, it’s been a few months as usual!

The George IV (Kentish Town NW5)
Figure 74. The George IV (Kentish Town NW5).

There’s no real link between the amount and quality of foliage on display and the quality of the pub underneath (or its beer), but it at least betokens a certain regard for appearance that sets apart the publicans who really care about their premises. You may not be able to ascertain whether a good pint of ale will be available, but you can at least be sure that somebody cares about the pub experience enough to make it worth your while going in; there are worse methods by which to make a judgement about any particular pub.

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Pubs Named After Important Londoners

There are of course many pub names that honour real people, often heads of state, key military figures or members of the royalty. There could easily be hundreds of entries, about each and every one of these people, but I’ve chosen to focus here on pubs named after non-literary figures1 with strong connections to London (who are named in full, and without aristocratic title, just to keep the list shorter). Links to the relevant Wikipedia entries are given with the name, for those interested in learning more about them.

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Monopoly: The Pubs of Old Kent Road

Welcome back! Happy new year 2010! Apologies for the long absence. I thought I’d try starting a series of posts based on the Monopoly Board. (At my current pace, this should take me a few years at least, though some of the locations may not require particularly substantial entries.)

Of all the properties name-checked on the canonical (London) Monopoly board,1 only one of them lies south of the River Thames, and it’s the one that has seen probably the most change over the last three-quarters of a century since that game was created. Of course, the Old Kent Road has always been a major thoroughfare and has changed greatly since it is first recorded, as part of the Roman road Watling Street,2 but the twentieth century in particular has seen a vast amount of post-World War II rebuilding. Vast tracts of it are now taken up by council estates and huge branches of familiar retail chains like Tesco, Toys R Us, PC World, B&Q, Halfords and Asda.

The Lord Nelson (Walworth SE1)
Figure 68. The Lord Nelson (Walworth SE1).

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My Favourite Pubs of 2009

Hello everyone and happy new year. You may have noticed I haven’t exactly been keeping this blog running very smoothly over the last few months, so many apologies. Work got in the way, and then life, and anyway, I’ve resolved to get things going again in 2010.

This time last year I did a ‘favourite pubs of 2008’ list on my own personal journal, and I know I try to avoid value judgments about pubs over here at Pubology, but as it’s the start of a new year I’m going to be self-indulgent. Normal service will return shortly, I hope. Please note that this is an entirely subjective list compiled by me (Ewan) based solely on pubs I visited last year, so this isn’t a list of my all-time favourite pubs and you may well disagree or have your own favourites, but I can only judge on the basis of the few pubs I visited during 2009.

In 2009, according to my spreadsheet (yes), I made 393 visits to pubs and bars, a total of 295 separate establishments (54 of them I visited more than once). The majority were in London.

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