Thursday, March 19, 2009

The last of England

When we went to Braunston last Saturday, we ended up in a pub in the high street called, I think, the plough. It was a perfectly nice pub (Adnams Explorer and Black Sheep), but I wonder whether, if it hadn't closed last month, we might have gone to the Admiral Nelson instead. I always thought I would, one day, visit this legendary canal pub where generations of boatmen had drunk; where Leslie Morton held court in the sixties. And now perhaps I never shall. Which goes to show that you should always carpe diem, for one thing.

The loss of one pub is only the tip of the iceberg though. According to CAMRA, pubs in Britain are closing at the rate of thirty nine a week. Once closed, most won't reopen. Some of the big 'pubcos' are even selling former pubs with restrictive covenants preventing them being reopened as pubs. Some of these might represent no great loss - but others are of historic or architectural significance, or are the heart of a community which has already lost its shops and Post Office. The reasons and the chain of blame for this sorry state of affairs is long and complex, and while this is probably the direst things have ever been, the issue is not entirely new. Hillaire Belloc wrote in 1912 (in a Sussex pub)

From the towns all Inns have been driven: from the villages most... Change your hearts or you will lose your Inns and you will deserve to have lost them. But when you have lost your Inns drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England.

1 comment:

Brian and Diana on NB Harnser said...

The Nelson is due to re open in a couple of weeks time I understand.