The Pub Years: 1983 When it all Began

I took a solemn vow on January 1st, 1983, a vow honoured to the present day. It was that I would list every pub visited. Reader, I married the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.

We were both young and foolish. Well the Guide was ten years old but in human years that made it twenty so it was all perfectly legal. Ill-advised but legal. Of course I admit to casual relationships with the 1981 and 1982 Guides. And yes I even marked them up, opening the 1983 Guide with a modest 173 ticks in the bag. But this time it was the real thing, perhaps inspired by Renee and Renato, whose Save all Your Love for me was the Christmas number one before that rough Phil Collins boy rushed them off top spot, even though he still maintains to this day that you can’t hurry love.

Renee on the right

Renee was an Italian tenor resident in the West Midlands. An Aston Villa fan, he was once reputedly asked by manager Ron Atkinson to sing Nessun Dorma at half time after a dismal first half display, telling his players “Now that is passion! Go out and show me some of that in the second half.” The final score is not recorded.

Big Ron before or possibly after he blotted his copybook

I had moved to work in Carlisle a few months earlier but started 1983 in West Yorkshire. In fact my first recorded tick under the new regime was the Calder and Hebble in Halifax, one of ten listed in that marvellous pubby town. The address of the Calder and Hebble was Huddersfield Road, Salterhebble (A629). Unbeknown to CAMRA, postcodes had been fully rolled out in the UK nine years before. With brevity typical of that era’s Guides it was described as a ‘busy, single-room pub’. It was demolished a few years later.

From Halifax Pubs Past and Present

The second pub that day, the Fiddlers Three, an estate style pub in the Clayton area of Bradford, is now a nursery. After that Aidan, John and I went to Burnley 4 Sheffield Wednesday 1 (attendance 9,644). The next day we went to two Tetley pubs in Gomersal, West Yorkshire. I wish I could remember The Old Saw as the description is ‘pub with unique handpump clips and barmaids’. Surely I would have remembered the barmaids if they were so unique? It was the subject of a planning submission for housing as recently as last year while the Shoulder of Mutton (describes only as ‘village local’) became a funeral director’s in 2017.

It was tough in those days. Pubs in England and Wales were allowed to open for a maximum of 9.5 hours a day. In Scotland they opened from 11-2.30; and 5-11. The Guide, edited by Roger Protz, said “seven districts of Wales are dry or partially dry on Sundays (wish the weather was that good in Paisley). Those areas were subsequently relieved by a referendum on the matter.

There were 6,000 pubs listed in that year’s Guide including a handful in Ireland and the Netherlands. Young completists today have it easy.

Not a bad effort in Avon

The brewery section had expanded to 11 pages as Camra’s influence deepened. Alongside long established regional brewers like Home, Higson’s and Ward’s were a new breed of independents, some of which flourish to this day like Butcombe, Chiltern and Crouch Vale. Many more are a largely forgotten footnote in history (Brown Edge, Coney Hall, Kelly’s, Swimbridge, Strathalbyn, Devanha).

This is the first ever page of my pub records. Despite time on my hands and a leased Ford Fiesta, progress was relatively glacial by modern standards.

Uncharacteristically neat but only 1 in February

Don’t worry I won’t go through them all but I have surprisingly clear recollections of many of these though sadly not of the Elizabethan in Airdrie, visited prior to Airdrie 0 Queen’s Park 1 (attendance 1,447) at the wonderful old Broomfield.

1907 Pavilion (Wiki)

The Mitre Bar, though, is etched into my memory as I went there many times. A tiny Belhaven pub dating from 1927 just off Argyle Street, adjoining another pub, the Fox and Hound. In 1959 the pub was expanded to include the floor above. It was demolished in the 1990s but the bar has been recreated with original fittings in the excellent Riverside Museum in Glasgow.

An oddity was a train trip to see Carlisle United play Charlton Athletic at the Valley. I had been there before so it wasn’t even a new tick – that was before non-league fever kicked in. It was 0-0 and only one pub (one pub!) was visited, the Marquess of Anglesey, a Young’s pub in Covent Garden.

From Covent Garden to the Hillhead Tavern, Kilmarnock is a long stretch. It closed about ten years ago and later became a mosque. Though described as a ‘suburban local’ it was an estate pub with the interior lighting of an undiscovered cave, and sold Maclay 80/- on air pressure via tall founts. This was a very common method of dispense at the time.

Ayrshire’s finest Pic:

The last entry on that first page (which will surely fetch a small fortune at auction long after I have hung up my highlighters) was five pubs in Glasgow with two more overleaf, Cameron’s and the Bon Accord. That day’s game was an unusual Scottish Cup tie at Hampden that ended Queen’s Park 1 Rangers 2 (13,716).

The Horseshoe (“magnificent example of Victorian gin palace decor’) and the Bon (‘a pioneer of real ale in Glasgow’) are still going strong, both very popular and still shifting cask, lots of it in the case of the Bon. The Horseshoe’s 104 feet 3 inch island bar remains a masterpiece. Licensed since 1846, it was one of the last places in Britain where a sedan chair could be hired.

Horseshoe Bar Glasgow

Of the others, the Outside Inn is still trading as the Islay Inn with an emphasis on whisky. The Manhattan, which was mis-spelt in the Guide, later became Stumps as it is near the West of Scotland Cricket ground. Windjammer’s sold Lorimer & Clark 80/-, still brewed in Edinburgh but by then owned by Vaux. This pub has had various names and is currently Firebird.

The Bay Horse in Bath Street (‘city centre bar with no pretensions’) was later demolished. Finally Cameron’s (‘hot peas and vinegar available’) still trades as the Carnavon Bar. Overall, a surprising number of survivors.

I hope you have enjoyed this rather self-indulgent canter down memory lane. Only another 800 pages of listed pubs to get through during this lockdown…..

32 thoughts on “The Pub Years: 1983 When it all Began

  1. Keep publishing more of these! Be interesting to hear about transitions you have noticed in the beer and pub industries over the last forty or so years. Loved the pub pics here.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A great read, also when it all began for me, albeit a bit more literally. I spent a very lively Grand National afternoon in the Fiddlers Three a few years back, it’s effectively been replaced by a new build Marston’s place round the corner.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An excellent post Pubmeister, and a nostalgic look back to simpler times, when bitter, best bitter and possibly mild were all one could expect to find in a pub, and where it was necessary to travel the country in order to sample the local ales.

    I’m showing my age now, but my first GBG was the 1974 edition, which retailed at just 75p. It only covered England and Wales, although I seem to remember Scotland featured the following year.

    I’m not sure what the purpose of those entries for Ireland and the Netherlands was, unless they were aimed at expat drinkers bored of a diet of Guinness or Heineken!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brilliant – the 1974 Guide is the only one I haven’t got! It went for over £200 on eBay last time I looked. Do you have the full set? The Netherlands section was odd and never repeated. In 1977 Northern Ireland first appeared just with 3 pubs selling Thwaites. It went from 1,500 pubs in 1974 to 6,000 in 1983.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wouldn’t be surprised if what passes for the 2021 edition is app only and a sort of holding position. Branches won’t be able to verify accuracy of contents assuming this goes on for ages.


    1. One of Glasgow’s must visit architectural pub gems (cask quality can be a bit inconsistent) along with the Old Toll Bar and the Laurieston – guided tours provided whenever this all ends.


      1. You are right. The ‘death’ section of Wiki says he died in Sutton Coldfield of a brain tumour, aged 69. Also says he sang at his son’s restaurant in Tamworth. Well remembered!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. The Mitre must have lasted longer than 1990 because I remember drinking there in 1993. It closed fairly soon after that but was only actually demolished last year.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Only just noticed this but if offered a 1974 GBG you should note that there was a replica produced, I think 25 years on. It does have a note inside saying that it is a copy but not on the cover. I have both but they are inaccessible at the moment so I can’t check. The very first GBG was 1972 – I have never seen a copy but believe it may have been duplicated and only sold to members. The only person I knew who had one has unfortunately died and I never found out what happened to his collection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting- how many pubs were listed? At some point I muse about listing every pub ever included but it’s the one year I am missing and the task is probably way too ambitious. I do actually have a copy of the 1972 guide, it’s 18 typed A4 pages.


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