Sunday, 31 July 2011

The taproom and the lounge

Time for the remaining two classes of pub room: taproom and lounge.


"The taproom is the same price as the vault. The same simplicity—it is often like the kitchen of any small farmhouse in the villages outside Worktown. But unlike the vault it is entirely a sitting-room, wooden benches round the wall and wooden stools; unpolished wood tables, spittoons, dominoes. This is more of a club room than the vault. The same people, same clothes, same percentage caps and scarves, but few casuals dropping in. Casuals are somewhat resented if they do drop into the taproom. It would be bad form for a stranger to go in there for a drink. And he would probably notice that the regulars in there were not very pleased to see him."
"The Pub and the People" by Mass Observation, 1943 (reprinted 1987), pages 105 - 106.
This fascinates me. The idea of  a second public bar type of room. Pretty much exactly like the vault, except with seats. And reserved for locals. The public bars my youthful boozing days in Leeds were more like the taprooms described here. Though there was no restriction on who went in. Quiet hostility to strangers isn't uncommon in pubs. Who hasn't walked through the door of a pub only for all conversations to stop and for everyone to turn and stare? It's happened to me on numerous occasions.
"In the lounge there are padded seats and chairs; a piano with a stool for the pianist; no standing. Aspidistras or other plants in 75 per cent; pictures on the wall, or modern wall decor; never stone floored, but lino, rubbercloth, etc. Generally a hearthrug. No games. Seldom a bookmaker's runner. Often adverts for non-alcoholic drinks. And always someone to bring you your drinks on a tray. You cannot see the bar from the lounge. In brief, the lounge is a large comfortable room with decorations such as may be found in any Worktown home, but on a large scale, on a middle-class level of comfort, with servant and service, everyone in smart clothes. You do not come to the lounge alone. If you do you are conspicuous. You come to the lounge with your social group, ready made, and sit at a table, having no especial intercourse with people at other tables. There is no sex division within the lounge. Each table tends to be a hetero-sexual group—though often these groups are exclusively of men or of women. Sixteen per cent of all pub-goers are women. About a third of all pub clients are in the lounges in pubs outside the town centre. The rest in the tap and vault. Average close on 45 per cent of the people in the lounge are women; in pubs where there are several lounges one may have 90 or more per cent women, it will have become a snug or bar parlour type, reserved for regular women in the same implicit way as the taproom is reserved for certain male regulars.

The saying "A woman's place is in the home" is still current in Worktown where 44 per cent of the adult women earn their own or their families' livings directly (over half these work in cotton mills). And the woman's place in the pub is that part of it which is a home from home, a better home from ordinary worker's home, where  — the only time in worker life in Worktown — you don't have to do any more than order someone else to serve your physiological need or wish. And, as usual, the woman's part is the one of cleanness, ashtrays, no random saliva, few or no spittoons. The vault is the place where men are men. In the lounge they are women's men, with collar studs. For that, as usual, they must pay another penny."
"The Pub and the People" by Mass Observation, 1943 (reprinted 1987), pages 106 - 107.

Carpet. That was on the floor of the lounges I remember. Lino was just too Spartan by the 1970's.

Waiter service was the biggest difference between the lounge and the rest of the pub. Waiters, as far as I can tell, disappeared in the 1960's. A few pubs have retained them, but very few. I've only ever been in two myself. (One was in Grimsby, the other Wigan, which isn't far from Bolton.) It was an odd experience. I didn't really understand how it worked, ordering from the waiter and having my beer brought to my seat. If it had been more common, I might have been more comfortable with it.

I've read this sentence a dozen times and still don't understand what it means: "Each table tends to be a hetero-sexual group—though often these groups are exclusively of men or of women." The groups are mixed but exclusively either of men or women? That makes no sense.

"women's men, with collar studs": what does that mean? Silver-tongued seducers, I think. As we'll learn later, there was plenty of shagging going on in 1930's Bolton.

4 comments:

marquis said...

The Manvers Arms at Radcliffe on Trent had little alcoves in the lounge each with a bell push.On ringing the bell the landlady would come through, take your order and bring it to you.In those days it was,I think, sixpence a pint extra in the lounge.The Shipstone's was excellent there.

Matt said...

My dad worked as a pub waiter in the lounge of a Sam Smith's pub in Manchester in the early 60's.

If people were regulars, the waiter just brought them their usual rather than going over to the table to take an order. They also had bowls of crisps on the tables in the lounge.

I've only been in one pub in Manchester with a waiter, Mr Thomas' Chop House, and it does feel a bit strange. You also feel more obliged to tip a waiter than a barman/maid.

Martyn Cornell said...

"Who hasn't walked through the door of a pub only for all conversations to stop and for everyone to turn and stare? It's happened to me on numerous occasions."

Have you ever though that might just be you :)

The Kensington in Liverpool in the mid-1970s still had bell-push waiter service in the lounge bar.

I think the "collar studs" remark simply means the men are dressed smartly, wearing collars (and ties) with their shirts, which, of course, in the 1930s would still (largely?) have been detachable collars, kept in place by collar studs front and back. In the vault or the tap, the men would have been wearing their shirts collarless, which, since the collars would have been starched, was considerably more comfortable …

Barbarrick said...

The Circus in Manchester (on Portland St) still has waitress service, partly as the bar is little more than a tiny 'shelf/counter' in the corridor and there isn't room for everyone to queue there. So the service at your seat is as necessary as it's welcome. Belting pub, groaning with atmosphere.