The book is part of the publisher’s Vintage Britain series, which has used archive photography to celebrate everything from picnics and holiday camps, to dog shows and the London Underground. This latest edition turns its attention to the cultural importance of the capital’s historic drinking establishments.
Spanning the last decade, the photographs reveal a rapidly changing city as war, the industrial revolution, and urban development leave their marks on London. The architecture and fashion change, yet the pubs remain largely the same; while some are noticeably antiquated, many more would not look out of place in the present day.
However, beyond just the buildings themselves, these photographs pay tribute to another equally important aspect of London’s pub culture – the people. From the publicans and the bartenders, to the pub-goers and their dogs, the people are undoubtedly the life and soul of these places. As Pete Brown writes in the book’s introduction: “A lifetime later, what’s changed about the London pub, apart from the solemnity and Brylcreem of the publican being replaced by beards and quiffs?”
Their laughter, games, and general merriment are what make the pub unique as a cultural institution, and the images show how this attitude and atmosphere has stood the test of time. They also show how the pub draws people from all walks of life into its warm embrace, with crowds including local labourers, American soldiers, young biker gangs, and world-renowned rock stars, to name but a few.
Aside from simply enjoying their tipple of choice, they engage in a wide array of games and activities, from dancing and singing to playing cards, darts and dominoes.
“At its best, it remains a unique and irreplaceable social hub that adapts to fit whatever community it serves, each one subtly different from its peers,” concludes Brown.
The London Pub is published by Hoxton Mini Press; hoxtonminipress.com