Good Beer Guide Histories No 3: Liverpool

By (a single) popular request I bring you another in this occasional series. If of further interest, the rest of Merseyside will get its own post.

The 50 year lifespan of the Good Beer Guide means it reflects the societal changes that have taken place over half a century. Few more clearly so than Liverpool, which, allowing for the somewhat fluid geographical vagaries of the Guide, has had 228 unique entries, 93 of which have permanently closed. 41% of closures is well above that for the Guide as a whole (26%).

The city has a number of long-standing entries including, famously, the Roscoe Head, which has appeared in every Guide. Five others have appeared in more than 30 editions: White Star (Quinn’s); Willow Bank; Peter Kavanagh’s; Globe; and the Lion Tavern.

Liverpool was still in Lancashire when the debut 1974 edition was compiled. The Shakespeare sounds interesting and is a modern day survivor.

The 1975 edition determined that districts such as Everton merited a distinct geographical entry. There we could find the Crescent Vaults, one of many Higson’s brewery pubs to be listed, and the Brougham, a Taylor Walker house.

Liverpool city centre featured 18 pubs. The descriptions, though brief, create evocative pen pictures. The Hare and Hounds on Commutation Row was “mainly used by serious drinkers and Irish people” where “occasional spontaneous singing” could be heard. The Hole in Ye Wall was “positively men only” while the entire walls of the Duke’s Crown on Wapping were “covered in Wild West murals”. As it to confirm it was a different era. The Toxteth pub (known as Collins’s and listed 1983-86) had “boxing memorabilia in bar, stripper in lounge Sunday lunchtimes” while the Railway on Tithebarn Street cryptically warned us to “watch out for the groping hand”.

Many pubs were known locally by unofficial names, some after the landlord or landlady but some more obscure. Does anyone know why the Earle was known as Dead House? There were 3 different Sefton Arms in the Guide and a Sefton Hotel. Bleak House was “in an area much loved by TV producers seeking authentic Merseyside ‘character’” though the unnerving final episode of Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff was filmed in the Green Man on Vauxhall Road.

Villiers on Elliot Street had a “decorated mirror proclaiming (the) virtue of Knotty Ash Ales (deceased). Door to gents marked ‘council chamber’”, later being commended for its astonishingly varied clientele”. Knotty Ash Ales and it’s 68 pubs were acquired by Higson’s in 1927, who closed the brewery a year later before themselves falling prey to Whitbread in 1990.

Toxteth had six separate entries including the Grapes on Stanhope Street, which acted as Higson’s brewery tap and the Eureka on Beaufort Street, a Thwaites pub described as a “large, plain dockland beer house).

Kensington (Liverpool East) had 14 entries in total but almost all are lost. In the Derby, which only opened in 1978, we were advised to “beware the horses’s head”. 30 years later it was a sorry sight, having closed in 2016.

Another lost pub was the magnificent Gregson’s Well.

From that to this.

Like quite a few former Liverpool pubs, the Newsham Park (1978-1987) appears stranded by its much changed neighbourhood. It was subsequently demolished.

The title pic is from the Old Liverpool Pubs Facebook page. Phil Wieland’s is worth investigating further.

13 thoughts on “Good Beer Guide Histories No 3: Liverpool

  1. Lots of my old locals there Duncan. The Dead House was a three minute walk from my house and was most frequently used by me while my washing was in the “bagwash” next door. As I recall nobody really knew why it was called that, though maybe it was rather poorly frequented. It was very basic.

    I remember the Knotty Ash mirror mentioned in the Villiers.It as moved to Higsons Rocket. God knws where it is now, but my guess is illegally on someone’s wall. And who could forget the precipitous stairs there, which caused you to severely consider if you really needed that pee.

    The Newsham Park was a very decent rambling pub in L6

    My first ever cask Higgies was supped in Gregsons as I lived off West Derby Road.

    The Brougham was, I think Tetley Walker, not Taylor Walker and I frequented all the City Centre ones mentioned.

    Very enjoyable read for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Earle was called the Dead House because of its proximity to the Toxteth cemetery on Smithdown Road. The Earle was one of the places mourners would go after burials.

      I lived on Cranbourne Road in ‘75/76 and the Earle was my local. When I started going there a pint of Higgy’s was 18p.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I ever knew that, I have long since forgotten it.

        Surprising though as it is about a 15 minute walk and long ago there would have been quite a few pubs in between.

        Still, maybe they did a cheaper wake!


  2. Thanks very much for posting this. Of the 1974 pubs, six were regular stops on our way home from the football. Looks like six of the seven survivors are still eligible to be included in the GPG.
    This week Phil Wieland visited four of the others on our list. Only one is still serving real ale. A bit further out there were four real ale pubs in Knotty Ash twenty-five years ago. Two pubs left and no real ale, if WhatPub is to be believed. Then again further along the A57 it tells us that there is no real ale at the Farmers Arms which was demolished fifteen to twenty years ago.
    The question about the Dead House’s name came up this week on a local Facebook group. Possibly because it was the last pub before Toxteth Park cemetery (though there were others nearby) or because it was used as a mortuary in WW2. Somebody said her dad had lived next door to it for fifty years and that he had been told that a previous landlord had killed himself there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the page from the 74 GBG – we attempted to do them all one night. It was cold, so probably early in 75. Needless to say, we only got through about half.

    The symbols on the guide are interesting – almost all the city pubs closed at 10:30 even on Friday and Saturday with a couple of exceptions. I think I’ve figured out that an infilled dot means bitter and the black dot is probably a dark beer. H means a hand pump – a lot of pumps used the horizontal glass cylinder electric? pumps, although the unlisted Hole in The Wall used gravity. But what does the 4 squares symbol mean? And is that a bio-hazard marking the Poste House?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely comments. I remember looking at those cryptic symbols but haven’t got access to my Guides for a week or two. Will check when I can but yes, the measured electric pump was in widespread use then in certain areas and denoted as such, and think you are right re light/dark beers. Not sure about the biohazard! The opening hours were severe at that time.


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