Saturday, 26 March 2016

A Compendium of Pub Games Images - Pt.26

Given that so much of the heritage of central Leicester continues to be casually brushed aside by developers and the council, and so many of its old pubs closed or modernised beyond recognition (the architecturally important Black Boy being the latest undervalued gem under threat of demolition), it's a wonder that a pub as honest and relatively unspoilt as The Salmon has managed to survive. Particularly given the pubs close proximity to the grim Highcross shopping centre, and the chronically congested roads that service it.

The Salmon is a pub I've been frequenting on and off for most of my adult life. Initially as a two-room Banks's Brewery pub, a basic tile-floored public bar to the right, a plusher carpeted lounge to the left. Around the late 1990's the partition between bar and lounge was knocked through, creating a single room wrapped around the central servery. At this point the brewery gave the pub a full, and it has to be said, very attractive 'Unspoilt By Progress' makeover. That the polished dark wood and brewery branded brass fittings remain to this day is testament to the quality of the work. The pub was eventually released from the Banks's (now Marston's) empire, and a period as a freehouse specialising in real ales followed.

Ownership of the pub has now returned to the West Midlands under the stewardship of Black Country Ales, a traditional family brewer with a strong commitment to running largely 'wet-led' pubs like The Salmon. The pub remains one of the most traditional and largely unspoilt drinkers venues in the city centre, popular with both beer enthusiasts and rugby fans (the pub can be very busy on match days).

It's also the perfect venue for an afternoon game of Dominoes, or maybe even Shove Ha'penny, though we had to take our own board for the game shown above. Following the transition to Black Country Ales ownership, the Dartboard has also returned to what was the original quarry tile floored bar area, and in common with its equally traditional sister pub the Kings Head, the licensee is keen to field teams in local leagues.

There can be few more iconic images of early 20th century pub-going than that of a group of men, settled at a table with pints at hand, playing Dominoes or Cards, and smoking roll-ups. Smoking and social activities such as game play, were until relatively recently as much a part of the pub experience as the beer, and it's for this reason that so much of the old advertising paraphernalia that once adorned pubs is for cigarette and tobacco brands. In fact the bewildering array of tobacco products available at the time, including those for the almost extinct habits of chewing and snuff-taking, feature far more frequently on advertising than any drinks brands. This is probably because most pubs were wholly tied to a brewery in those days, and whilst every pub would have had a reasonable choice of tobacco brands, there would have been little choice when it came to the beer. Little point then in advertising what people were compelled to drink anyway by virtue of the tie.

Dominoes, Cards, and Cribbage Boards, were the ideal vehicle for advertising tobacco products. The Franklyn's branded Dominoes shown above are unusual hollow tinplate examples, the spots formed by holes in the metal. Not at all nice to play with actually. The Bakelite Park Drive set (left) are much more comfortable in the hand, and far and away the most common type of advertising Dominoes I've come across. Indeed these are the kind I prefer to use myself, being slightly smaller in the hand than the 'club' sets commonly used in league play these days.

The snug front bar of the Man of Ross (above) is for me one of the most pleasant venues for a pint in the centre of Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire. Cosy and comfortable, with a good mix of locals and visitors like myself. It has the feel of a vintage hotel bar, but this is definitely a pub. There's a Dartboard, and a regular Wednesday night Quiz. There's also a number of trophies for the local Skittles League, slightly incongruous given that the pub does not, and probably never has had a skittle alley. The trophies belong to a local team who prefer to use the Man of Ross as their home base, which I suppose only goes to confirm my own feelings about the pub.

The Digbeth area of Birmingham is little more than ten minutes walk from New Street station, and has a number of truly outstanding heritage pubs that should be on every pub-goers list of 'must-visits'.

Pick of the bunch for me is the White Swan, one of several classic Victorian 'terracotta and tile' pubs in the area, built at a time when the local brewery Ansells seemed to be vying with their competitors over who could offer customers the most opulent drinking environment. Unspoilt and beautifully maintained, the White Swan is as fine an example of a Victorian urban boozer as you'll find anywhere in the country, and with a welcome to match I might add.

To the right of the servery, which stretches almost the full length of the public bar, is the pubs Dartboard (above), behind which is the original off-sales, intact though currently not in use. A table-topper with attached cribbage board is stored in the off-sales room, and available for games of Dominoes or Cards on request.

1 comment:

John Penny said...

Lovely pictures of a superb pub. Love that skittle trophy!