When Did Pubs Become Middle Class?

Dean's Walk Park End Golden Heart

Yesterday I spent the evening in some of Gloucester’s less glamorous pubs: the Dean’s Walk, the Park End and the Golden Heart in Tredworth. I visited with fellow pub enthusiast and CAMRA’s Tippler editor, Geoff Sandles.

 The Dean’s Walk is slightly different to the other two in that it is an enthusiastic rugby pub and on match days it puts on real ale and gets packed out with large men in red and white shirts. Other than that, all three pubs are very similar in that they appeal mainly to locals and regulars.

These are not pubs that CAMRA types would usually trouble themselves with as, apart from the exception with Dean’s Walk, they do not sell real beer.  They are also not pubs which attract the casual visitor or tourist: both the pubs themselves and their customers can be a bit rough around the edges and therefore intimidating to non-regulars.

But this is a shame because what all of these pubs have in abundance is character. Unlike the more glamorous or fashionable places, where trade is usually transitory, here the customers have often been coming for years. They know each other and they know the landlord or landlady. They have a real sense of community.

Another thing that these pubs all have in common is interesting history and architecture. Again the Dean’s Walk is a bit different – the origins of the pub are probably older than the other two, but it was destroyed by fire and re-built in 1980. You wouldn’t know it to look at it though; the interior is wonderfully rustic with old beams and a big brick fireplace.

The other two pubs date back to the industrial revolution, when Gloucester’s population boomed following the arrival of the canal and the railway. Both were purpose built as pubs by the brewers; the Park End by Mitchell and Butlers and the Golden Heart by Godsell & Son. Both are superb original examples of pub architecture.

As you may know from my previous blog and subsequent Citizen article, the Park End is likely to be demolished in the near future. There is currently around a year left to run on the lease, but planning permission has been granted to pull it down to build houses and flats. It was this that inspired our visit as we wanted to take photographs before it was too late. You can see these in my last blog

The former landlady, Beth, (the lease is now held by her son) was only too happy to talk to us and show us around. During our conversation we got to talking about where the regulars would go once the pub was closed. It is a bit of a walk, but there are several in the High Street in Tredworth (the Golden Heart being one), or in the other direction, perhaps Baker Street on Southgate Street.

“Or the Linden Tree,” I said, “that’s nice.”

Beth looked at me and struggled to express her response in a sufficiently politically correct way. “Well,” she said, “the Linden Tree is very nice, but it’s not really for our regulars.”

The thing is, pubs like the Park End are for working class people. They are basic, no frills sort of places where they go to relax and mix with other working class people and can get a bit boisterous if they want to without anyone looking down their nose or complaining.

And surely this is what the British pub, traditionally, is all about. Originally an all male preserve, they were places where working men could go to socialise and let off steam. The most fondly remembered pubs all tend to be of this sort: the pubs of Clapham and the lower Westgate Street for instance. It is only really since the war that women started frequenting pubs and more recently still that they started serving food in any meaningful sense of the term.

The Park End regulars don’t want to mix with ‘nice’ middle class people sipping Merlot or pontificating over the merits of a pint of Old Codger any more than those people want to mix with the loud and vulgar working class hoi polloi, and fair enough: each to their own.

I am only too pleased to see the increased diversity in pubs and, I hold my hand up, I am normally firmly in the middle-class-pub-drinker category. The trouble is, it always seems to be the working class pubs that fall victim to the bulldozer and pubs should not be allowed to become an entirely middle-class preserve.

If we get rid of all of the rough and ready working class pubs we are not only destroying some wonderful architectural pub heritage, we are also destroying a traditional part of British culture.

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About Darrel Kirby

I am what I am.
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4 Responses to When Did Pubs Become Middle Class?

  1. Jan says:

    For me the perfect combination of brewer, pub and location was the Adam and Eve in Paradise which advertised Godsells Ales.

    (Spect you’ve heard of it but if you haven’t, it was nr Painswick. Converted to a private house now, probably.)

    Boisterous working class blokes make me nervous. Maybe they don’t spend enough to keep their pubs going. They’ll make do with a pickled egg and some porkie scratchings whereas middle class people like nice food to accompany their drinks and can be readily ripped off on wine prices.

    • Darrel Kirby says:

      A pub in Paradise – how could that fail to be anything but excellent! Paradise is obviously no longer what it was…

      You are right that working class pubs don’t make the money on food and over-priced wine, but they do generally have a reliable source of regular drinkers instead and therefore, presumably a whole different business model.

      The fact that middle class people are intimidated by These pubs and just see them as ‘dodgy boozers’ is the problem as they tend to have more influence and are often happy to see them go. Even where pubs are successful it is often more lucrative and less hassle for owners to tear them down and build on them. If it is a nice foodie pub there is more uproar and attempts to preserve them are taken more seriously.

  2. Eddie says:

    I’ve never felt intimidated Darrel.

    I do remember the old Deans Walk. I lived at Serlo road which is a few yards away from it.

    One old pub that is still there that I havent set foot in in years is the Pelican

  3. Darrel Kirby says:

    The Pelican is very good since it re-opened – I wouldn’t have put money on it re-opening as a pub so I’m really glad that it did.
    It is very small and, again, tends to attract mainly locals and regulars. When I last visited it had a real ale on and the guy behind the bar was very friendly.
    It also has more history than you can shake a stick at, but suffers from being a bit tucked out of the way so people don’t know it’s there.

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