Photo by Ewan-M
Although I have written on the importance of pubs to the English way of life before (here, for example) I have never written on their particular significance in terms of the wider changes taking place in England.
The mournful echoes of thousands of streets in which the pub used to stand has reverberated across mediums, from Paul Kingsnorth’s invaluable book ‘Real England’ to Paul Talling’s devoted pubs section of his magnificent website ‘Derelict London‘ to the Telegraph’s fairly frequent articles on the matter (such as this one from earlier this week). The image of the abandoned, forlorn former pub is possibly the most powerful and potent icon of the devastation of English communities in the past century, from the First World War to mass immigration.
The end is, however, quite often not the end at all, but the beginning of an eerie afterlife. Indeed, the reuse of many of these former community spaces is almost as unsettling as the sight of the derelict building. See the example of the former Duke of Kent in Bermondsey, for example. Some old pubs frequently take on a postmodern, corporate lease of life. Some corporations seek to capitalise on the former identity, making a sop to the former unique character of the newly homogenised building; the Intrepid Fox in Soho, with its’ new mouthful name of ‘Byron at the Intrepid Fox’ being both a sad loss and a microcosm of the wider gentrification of the area.
It is the power of the pub to act as a microcosm for these wider ills in England that most stirs the heart. The case of The Winston Churchill in Bradford is a testament to this. The plain facts are thus, detailed in local paper The Telegraph and Argus:
A thriving Bradford pub will be knocked down to be replaced by a car park, after a decision by councillors at City Hall.
The Winston Churchill Inn, in Wakefield Road, will be demolished after the Bradford Area Planning Panel found it had no grounds for ruling against an application by neighbouring firm, Pitt Wilson Electrical.
Yesterday’s meeting heard how the pub’s licensee, Pat Robinson, had been in hospital because she was so distressed about losing her livelihood and her home.
It also heard that receivers, KPMG Ltd, which took control of the Winston Churchill when its owners went into administration, had not entertained bids to buy the pub.
This case, as so many others do that are featured herein, merits a thorough analysis. Firstly, in an age in which it has been reported that five pubs per day are/were closing in England, it is incredibly dispiriting to hear that a pub which is ‘thriving’ must be closed. Worse still; a car park? In cities which have acres of parking already? Secondly, it does no credit to the local council, who here appear to have acted directly in opposition to the will of the people who they purport to act in lieu of.
Furthermore, the deplorable actions of KPMG, presumably acting on behalf of a receiver that took over from a lazy PubCo only focused on wider profits rather than individual pubs, needs little further comment.
Here, it very much appears that the twin tyrannies of multi-national corporations and future technologies have combined to exert the pressure of their combined will to reshape the lives of ordinary people. Ordinary people who are not welcome at their table of excessive greed and destruction, not allowed to have their communities uninterfered with by monied self-interest.
The facts of the case make this plain to see.
Albert Cleghorn, a regular at the pub, told the meeting he had made an offer to buy the pub some months ago, but no negotiations had been entered into.
Sound familiar? It is the very narrative of the English that had its context set under Thatcher and was written under Blair.
It continues apace across the country.
In Oxford, the PubCo Greene King, owner of countless thousands of pubs across the nation, sold the lease of a pub which had barely two weeks notice before it would be remade in the image of totalitarian loons Tesco. Further corporate-political collusion? Of course!
Greene King spokesman Matt Ware said: “The Fitzharris no longer fits within our pub estate.
A most draconian and frightening choice of words to describe the unceremonious removal of a community facility, is it not?
“We are sorry that the customers are disappointed, and we would like to assure them that we are very much committed to the local community, which shows in our recent major investment at the Boundary House nearby.”
Customers. Not ‘regulars’. Not ‘townspeople’. Not even ‘community’. Customers. Telling indeed. Why was the development able to go ahead?
The changeover did not need planning permission from Vale of White Horse District Council because it is not making changes to the outside of the building.
Well, that’s alright then!
However, dear reader, hope lies at hand in the way it always has done for the English: the people subverting tyrannical pseudo-authority.
Also in Oxfordshire, local people have won a reprieve for their pub by forming a community group called ‘Save The Fox Community Campaign’, which has fended off the advance of developers, presumably bent on homogenising their area without their interests being even vaguely considered. While two houses will indeed be built on the site, the fabric of their area will remain intact.
Paul Kingsnorth in ‘Real England’ (which I shall once again declare an invaluable resource for any English nationalist or patriot) wrote about a similar scheme in which residents of a small town formed a co-op scheme to purchase and run the pub to retain its local character and save it from developers. They succeeded, and were so successful they were able to brew their own local beverages for sale in the pub and others in the area.
I say with a good deal of certainty that all my readers must know of, or indeed be intimately acquainted with a local pub that has closed down. Many more might know the reasons behind its demise: corporate interests or a draconian supermarket chain occupying the site or demolishing it for their own gain, the greed of developers, the slow departure of the original English community and its replacement with migrants, an asinine ‘community centre’ taking its place, locals that prefer to drink cheap, mass-produced fizzy beer from abroad or gather in the vast drinking warehouses in the uniformly faceless town centres.
It comes down to this. If we are to save our communities and their unique features, and our very souls as English people, local unity and an overwhelming sense of shared purpose must prevail. While we may suffer losses, we must fight to preserve our culture as a going concern and as a vibrant entity.
Or we shall all feel guilt for the demise of the pub. For we know we are partly responsible for the demise of our England.