Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Serving Beer Better with Carbon Dioxide

"Today mine host serves better beer - and serves beer better with carbon dioxide instead of the old beer engine" is what this advertisement in the Brewers Guardian claimed near the start of the shiny-new, chromium-plated, forward-looking, to-hell-with-tradition, modernist decade that was the 1960s. How odd, then, that the bald-headed businessman sitting at the shiny-new, chromium-plated, forward-looking, to-hell-with-tradition, modernist bar that was Snow's in Piccadilly Circus doesn't exactly wear the expression of a man wholly enamoured with his half pint of Wm Youngers. And it's a disgracefully short measure.

Of course, despite this movement towards scientific efficiency that was 'improving' our methods of beer dispense, we could be assured that other traditional attitudes of that time were impervious to change. For an even less palatable flavour of post-war Britain, here's a link to an article about an incident that took place in that very same bar eight years previously http://archive.tribunemagazine.co.uk/article/15th-january-1954/1/no-drink-for-mr-murumbi

And it's not only about 'colour'. Our national consciousness is imbued with a casual Franco-phobia, no doubt as a legacy of our history of wars with that nation across the channel. But what did the French ever do to us to deserve such a fate as we dished out to them in 1962? From the same issue of the Brewers Guardian comes an article on "the continental travelling demonstration unit" that was designed to take the dreaded Watneys Red Barrel to the north of France. My copy of the 1974 Good Beer Guide advises us of this beer to "avoid like the plague". For those of you too young to remember Red Barrel, try this useful link: http://www.retrowow.co.uk/retro_britain/keg_bitter/watneys_red_barrel.html

As much an ersatz horror as the beer is the "attractive" interior of the demonstration unit. Although furnished in dark oak with hunting-scene tapestry and horse-brasses to represent a Tudor-style public house, it looks alarmingly like a bar in some Alpine ski-lodge. The single red barrel sitting on the top of the bar appears suitably  at home in this kitsch. Note the keg residing in the counter front cut-out. No wonder General de Gaulle vetoed Britain's application to join the Common Market the following year.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Anchor Springs IPA and L.A. Gold

These two gold nuggets from the Anchor Springs Brewery Co. can usually be found at the brewery-tap, the Crown, Littlehampton, West Sussex. L. A. Gold is the perfect summer-session ale, named after its golden colour and the colloquial pronunciation of Little ‘Ampton. L. A. Gold is brewed with amber and pale malt to an OG of 1039.5° and an ABV of 3.7%. Challenger is used for the bittering hop, Target for the complex middle and Cascade for the citrus end hit. A sweet initial taste leads into a clean, crisp mouthfeel and dry lingering finish.

The IPA on the bar today is not the same beer as the 4.7% Anchor Springs IPA from last summer. The 2011 Frank McCabe-brewed IPA is a much superior beer, light-gold in colour with an OG of 1042.5° OG and 4.0% ABV. This full-bodied ale is brewed with pale malt, Target hops for bittering, EKG then Cascade for aroma. An initial sweetness with light toffee flavours gives way to a distinct middle stage with a full malt mouthfeel then a dry, lingering hop finish.

Anchor Springs: a range of quality premium beers to suit different palates for the discerning drinker. http://www.thecrownlittlehampton.co.uk/

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Anchor, Ringmer, 2nd June 1838

For those of you wanting something a little different from the usual pub heritage or beer tasting notes so far found on this Blog, here is the tragic tale of Hannah Smith’s last ever evening of drinking, at the Anchor, Ringmer, East Sussex, 173 years ago. Much of what follows is taken from W. H. Johnson’s, very readable (2005) book, Sussex Murders.

In May of 1841 Superintendent Francis Fagan of the recently formed East Sussex Constabulary received an anonymous letter, cryptically hinting at the guilt of four men implicated in an incident at Ringmer nearly three years earlier. It had been early in the morning of 2nd June 1838 that itinerant peddler Hannah Devonshire, known as Hannah Smith, being the common-in-law wife of one William Smith, left her Lewes home with a pack of rags slung on her back and a basket of trinkets over her arm, ready for a day’s hawking of her wares at Ringmer. Not a great deal of selling had been done by 9am, the time she arrived at Elizabeth Stephens’ beer shop near Ringmer Green. There she gained a companion, General Washer, a 56-year old farm labourer with a quaint Christian name given after his father’s service in the militia.

Smith and Washer remained at the beer shop supping on beer and eels until around 2pm when they moved onto the Green Man. After another six hours or so of drinking they arrived at the Anchor where at some point they were joined in the taproom by three other men, all in their 20s, Charles Briggs, a labourer, Stephen Steadman, a whitesmith, and John Pockney, a blacksmith. The landlady of the Anchor, Ann Stanford, chose to close up at 11pm and enquired of Hannah Smith whether she was afraid of the road back to Lewes late at night. Smith replied that she had been on the road too many times to be afraid and, according to Stanford, appeared to depart steadily despite what had been a fourteen-hour drinking session. “No one will hurt me”, were Smith’s parting words.

Around 6am the next morning Hannah Smith was found in the pond behind the vicarage (pictured right) by John Gaston, gardener to the local curate. Gaston summoned help and a futile attempt was made to revive the retrieved body, including sending to the Anchor for brandy. This group of witnesses including Henry Weller, the parish constable, noted that a willow tree growing around the pond’s edge showed signs of damage and that the surrounding grass had been trampled, footmarks being clearly visible in the morning dew. Smith’s basket was discovered nearby but contained little of her wares – she had been too busy drinking to sell them so had most likely been robbed. After the news of the incident spread, General Washer was one of those who came to view the corpse lying by the pool. Smith’s body was then taken in a wheelbarrow and stored in the shed of the Briggs family – Charles Briggs had been one of the other men last seen with her.

Despite the obviously suspicious circumstances surrounding Smith’s death, the coroner’s inquest at the Anchor that same afternoon could only reach the open verdict of ‘found drowned’. There was in those days no such thing as a ‘crime scene investigation’ and the body had been only perfunctorily examined after it was clear there were no obvious marks of violence on the upper parts. The subsequent investigation, such as it was in the era before forensic science and professional policing, came to nothing, despite Steadman, one of the four men drinking with Smith on that fateful night, showing signs of guilt by departing the village very suddenly. Now nearly three years later, Pockney was another of the four to leave Ringmer in a hurry, no doubt panicked by Superintendent Fagan’s own enquiry, set in motion by that tip-off via the anonymous letter.

Fagan was no bumbling country amateur. After serving on the Bow Street Foot Patrol he’d been commissioned into the Metropolitan force as Inspector. During October 1841 Fagan arrested all four of Smith’s final night drinking companions. But with the accused having given their testimonies - often conflicting and contradictory, either non-committal or designed to attribute blame to others, sometimes retracted - it became clear at the trial on 3rd March 1842 that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the preferred changes of murder and larceny. The case against General Washer had already been dropped, while the judge directed the jury to exonerate Briggs on the basis that no prisoner could be convicted only on the evidence of his said accomplices, a point correct in law in those days.

Both Pockney and Steadman were found guilty of larceny and sentenced to two years and to eighteen months hard labour respectively. But they could consider themselves fortunate, for not only did they escape the more serious charge of assault, their same actions today could have seen them stand trial for rape. So what did happen on that evening of 2nd June? The testimonies are clear on the main points. After leaving the Anchor, the three young men had repeated ‘connections’ with Hannah Smith in the field above the pond. Pockney clamed he agreed this with her beforehand but Steadman suggested Smith to be so much in drink as to be unaware of the ‘assault on her person’ that was taking place. Either way, Smith remained insensible enough to be robbed of her basket of trinkets, the proceeds of which were divided up in the churchyard (pictured). The near empty basket was then returned to where she had passed out.

The inference is that Smith awoke in the field and, still deep in drink, slung her pack of rags back over her shoulder. Unbalanced by the weight, she staggered and slid down the slope into the pond, clutching desperately at the willow branches at the side before slipping below the surface of the eight-foot deep water. Or was it the case that the three men were so fearful of the consequences of their actions they pushed Smith into the pond to silence her for ever, trampling the grass and breaking the willow branches in the process?

Hannah Smith is buried in Ringmer churchyard. She was referred to by both General Washer and Stephen Steadman as ‘the old woman’. She was but 43 years old.


Johnson, W. H. (2005) Sussex Murders, Stroud: Sutton Publishing.

Welcome to Brighton visitoruk.com, http://www.brightonuk.co.uk/historydetail.php?id=29700&f=Brighton (Accessed 12th August 2011)

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Dorset, Brighton

This three-storey Georgian building had acquired its license by 1822. The ground floor bar boasts a fine raked counter, probably Edwardian, with pilasters and console brackets. There would once have been back fittings, possibly with a tall stillion but these have been stripped out and the good quality bar top is a replacement. At the rear of the servery by the access to the toilets is an office-like structure and screen with 1930s glasswork. Along the Upper Gardner Street side is a 1930s brick fireplace and what is now the opened-up restaurant room appears to have once been a separate property. There is a skylight with 1930s glasswork and an old, oddly positioned internal door. At both ends of the pub are attractive Art-Nouveau lincrusta dados.

The street-corner site was previously partitioned into a Public Bar, central Bottle & Jug Dept., and Private Bar, as can be seen from the names in the splendidly decorative set of etched glass doors and windows. A Bottle & Jug (often a Jug & Bottle or Off-Sales) was a small sectioned area of a pub with its own street entrance or hatch where beer could be purchased for consumption off the premises, the implication of the name being that customers brought their own bottles or jugs along to be filled. The Public Bar was the cheapest and most basic drinking room on any pub premises but Private Bar suggests a more exclusive area, restricted perhaps to a well-known set of regular patrons.

These old room divisions reflect markers of social status, so important in Victorian and Edwardian England, and external evidence for them can still be seen in a number of pubs once owned, like the Dorset, by the now-defunct Brighton-based brewery, Tamplin & Sons. Another clue to the past ownership of a pub by Tamplins is the sometimes appearance of a bird motif in the etched glasswork, usually of an external window. The type of bird varies, and far from all ex-Tamplins pubs bear this motif. Nonetheless, all but one of the pubs I have so far discovered to have this distinctive bird motif can be ascertained to have once been owned by Tamplins.

In the late 1920s, the Dorset was a “Vat” (a meeting place for gatherings) of the charitable organisation The Ancient Order of Froth Blowers (AOFB). The head of the Vat was often the relevant publican, and listed under the Dorset entry in a surviving AOFB membership booklet is Blower B. Edwards, ‘Blower’ being not a nickname but a rank within the order. The initial B may be a misprint because my own trawling through the Brighton voters lists from 1927-1933 turns up at this address a Herbert Henry Edwards and Katie Edwards. The AOFB was formally wound-up by the end of 1931 but not before attracting a worldwide membership of around 700,000 and raising more than £100,000 for children’s charities.

Rose Collis’s informative book Brighton Boozers  records that the Brighton Lesbian Group held socials here at the Dorset Arms on Sundays and Wednesdays in the early 1980s. Inquisitive regulars were told by the landlady Irene Shields that the group were the ‘Ladies Sports Club’! Having dropped the ‘Arms’ from its name, the Dorset is now a continental-style café bar with window blinds.

The Dorset, 28 North Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1YB http://www.thedorset.co.uk/

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Windmill, Littleworth

A History of the County of Sussex records that the Windmill existed in 1909 and possibly earlier and was the meeting of a ‘slate club’ in 1916. The Post Office Directory of 1878 lists a Felix Thomas, beer retailer of Littleworth. The only beer retailer at Littleworth in Kelly’s Directory of 1891, 1899 and 1905 is Thom. Knight, while Barton Snelling is listed as the only beer retailer in the village in the 1911 and 1915 editions. The tendency for beer houses (those without a spirits licence) to be listed in old directories under the proprietor’s name suggests that these entries are for the Windmill. The pub is almost certainly named after Jolesfield Windmill, an eight-sided tarred smock mill that stood in the village until the early 1960s. The pub exterior is in classic hung-tile Sussex style, while the present interior layout of small public bar at the front-left, small lounge to the rear-right and quarry tiled drinking passage between the two rooms has been like this for over 50 years.

The public bar has a rustic atmosphere with scrubbed tables, old agricultural relics, bar billiards table and dartboard. The comfortable lounge, in complete contrast, is tartan carpeted with upholstered seating and houses an appropriate collection of small windmills. The public bar serving hatch, lounge bar counter and brick fireplace, porch entrance, front windows and floor tiles in the passageway all date from an interwar refit. Back shelving is probably of the same period but with some post-war additions. Flagstone floors appear modern. The landlord, Hall and Woodhouse tenant Michael Lennon, has a photo from the late 1940s showing the matchwood panelling in the front bar just as it is today. The panelling exactly matches the design of the serving hatch counter front. The pub was previously in the ownership of the now-defunct King and Barnes brewery, Horsham, and their livery can be seen over the porch entrance.

The Windmill, Littleworth Lane, Littleworth, near Partridge Green, West Sussex, RH13 8EJ


‘West Grinstead’, A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2: Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) including Horsham (1986), pp. 83-89. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=18329 Date accessed: 10 August 2011.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Colonnade Bar, Brighton

By 1854 a John Edwin had turned these premises, previously occupied by a boot maker, into the Colonnade Stores Refreshment Rooms and two years later, Wine and Supper Rooms. A hotel designation first appears in directories in 1859. This has been for many years the ground-floor bar to the (Georgian) Theatre Royal and is today operated by the Golden Lion Group. The green-painted elegant Edwardian façade is recessed under a flattened archway with decorative spandrels and pilasters topped with Corinthian capitals. Looking out from a central projecting bay is ‘Willie’ an antique automated mannequin dressed for the theatre in top hat and tails, carrying a cane.

On the narrow strips of far wall are tiled panels painted and signed by Webb & Co., 294 Euston Road, London, N. W. Each carries a thistle design in turquoise and rust on cream with the centrepiece advertising THE COLONNADE HOTEL. The now defunct left-hand door and those skylights above are inset with deep etched glass. The single room interior has depth but is narrowed by the Edwardian servery down the left hand side, the decorative features of which match the exterior façade. The carved three-bay bar back has arched framed mirrors and a small glass panel at the centre painted with Britannia figure trade mark. Brass rails line both top and bottom of the carved counter. Along the wall opposite runs a row of lamp-illuminated timber framed mirrors, having the desired effect of making the room appear larger than it is.

Above is a red decorative plaster ceiling with moulded cornice at the rear and a short partition with etched-glass by the entrance door. There was probably a matching partition the other side, creating a Private Bar, when the left-door was in use. At the front and back of the room is upholstered bench seating, contemporaneous perhaps (1950s or 1960s) with the padded panels covering the counter front. It is easy to feel so cosily cocooned within these soft-lit surroundings of autographed photographs of actors, ancient playbills, sumptuous curtain swags and red plush décor at the Colonnade Bar, 10 New Road, Brighton, East Sussex.