I came across this book in a second hand bookshop. Alan Reeve-Jones visits and reviews the best London pubs of his day.
Its very much of its time. Originally written in 1962 the year before sexual intercourse began “between the end of the “Chatterley” ban and the Beatles’ first LP” as Larkin described in his poem Annus Mirabilis. The writing style is reserved, perhaps a little repressed, but also silly and skittish; self-consciously zany. Reeve-Jones wrote in a variety of media (tv, songs, books) and on many subjects but he returned to booze and boozers repeatedly during his career and this is perhaps his best known book.
I think that’s him on the front cover standing outside the Scarsdale Arms in Kensington (a lovely pub still) with his back to the camera looking at a lady covered head to toe in beige and brown and grinning like a loon. I like to think this is Betty James who helped research this book and then went on to write several London guides of her own in a similar style.
The book claims to feature 166 pubs but actually there are only 164 included as two of them are known by two names each and are included twice. Of those 164 pubs, 48 of them have closed down since 1962 (as I write now in 2016) although the good news is that two of the closed pubs are currently being refurbished; The Fitzroy Tavern and The Clifton in St Johns Wood.
I’m going to use this book as an inspiration to visit all of the remaining pubs and check their current state of health. Its hard work but somebody has got to do it! You can see the reports collected in one place here.