Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Decline of the Gin and Jag Belt

An issue confronting the compilers of pub guides in the early 1980s was how to identify pubs with an “up-market” clientele, and, without seeming too dismissive, send out a signal that the corduroy-clad beer buff might not find himself entirely at home. Back then, this particular strand of customers formed a significant part of the trade of many pubs. Standing at or around the bar clutching a dimpled pint pot was their characteristic pose.

I vividly recall a couple of occasions in the 1980s when I and my drinking companion(s) found ourselves in Cheshire pubs amidst a group of the solid middle classes clad in slacks and golfing jumpers enjoying a pre-prandial snifter and volubly discussing skiing holidays, school fees and the latest German premium car models.

But one thing that has been very noticeable about the way pubs have changed over the past twenty years is how this segment of clientele, while not disappearing entirely, has greatly declined. The middle classes continue to enthusiastically dine in pubs – just try any outlet of the Brunning & Price chain, or read the Good Pub Guide – but it’s less and less common to find them engaged in social drinking in pubs. North Cheshire is famed for its “stockbroker belt” stretching from Prestbury through Alderley Edge and Wilmslow to Hale and Bowdon, but across that swathe of country you would be hard pressed now to find any upmarket drinkers’ pubs. I get the impression that they increasingly socialise in each others’ houses. The picture shows the former Bleeding Wolf in leafy Hale, long since closed and converted to flats.

9 comments:

  1. Blimey - I've been to the Bleeding Wolf, albeit not since Thatcher's time. Not hard to name the culprit here - it was one of those pubs that everyone drove to (you could say that of most things in Hale). No car-sharing for the blazer & cravat crowd.

    Still a shock to see it closed. I'll have to make more use of the Sarries and the Axe & Cleaver while I still can!

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  2. The Wheatsheaf in Raby village, Wirral is still like that. A 16th century unspoilt thatched pub the bar counter is clogged by the Tory-voting golfers drinking their pints of Bombardier. A few of them have their own beer glass; handled of course.
    I remember aged 16 or 17 ging there with friends to poke fun at one of the aristocratic types who drank there by the name of Raxter Dingwall (I jest not). Stinking rich but not the full shilling if you get my drft.

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  3. and the Wheatsheaf is one of the top sales outlets for my friend's Brimstage brewery as is the nearby Boathouse in Parkgate - a Brunning & Price pub! Hmm.

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  4. I noticed the Brimstage beers were about 50p a pint cheaper than any of the others in the Wheatsheaf.

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  5. Not sure whether to pump a fist or burst into tears. Was never partial to a cravat myself, but the sight of various German motor vehicles parked outside a pub will always appeal to me more than a 'happy hour' sign.

    The 'type' of drinker aside, The Bleeding Wolf looks like it would have been a cracking venue.

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  6. It wasn't actually. I only visited it once in its declining days when it was a kind of typical, bland, knocked-through "managed pub" that wasn't busy and didn't work in the location. It might have been good once, but I never saw it.

    In that location, an unashamedly upmarket Brunning & Price-type formula might have made it viable.

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  7. Our beers are in a few Brunning and Price pubs, though I don't think I've ever been in one of them myself. They have a 'sister company' called 'Home Counties Pub Restaurants' so I guess your description is right!

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  8. Strange how those that were once figures of derision aree now closer to the "ideal" pub customers for many who read this blog and similar. Although moving closer to extinction, the golfing denizens of north cheshire certainly appreciate good beer served in traditional pubs with good food optional and lack of kids essential. I must confess my life is closer to them now in my late fifties than my youth spent in North Manchester.

    AS for the Bleeding Wolf, it's demise probably began in the early 80's with the opening of the Hale Wine Bar and then the steady growth of bars and restaurants along Ashley Road catering to the changing Middle Class demographic, the sons and daughters of the gin and cravat legions ( with their brats in tow :) )

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  9. I used to drink regularly in several great pubs between Haslemere and Guildford in 1969/70. I returned to those lands several months ago to find them all gone. It's as if they had never existed. How sad.

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