Sunday, 30 October 2016

Pubs and the Publican part 12

Imagine hosting visitors every day and night of the week in your home and you have some idea of the average life of a publican couple. One would think that this life would be ideally suited for sociable people but remember, the hosts were always looking after the wants and needs of their clientele. It was hard work and must have been hard on the marriages of publican couples as they were always on and it was difficult to arrange holidays or even days off together. 

Much of their lives were lived in the pub so they were not directly involved in events but experienced the happenings of the day from a distance. As the representative from Anchor Magazine wrote after interviewing Ellen Cavanagh, “her most vivid recollections were those of the Police clearing the streets after a Mosely disturbance, and seamen tossing off a pint in her house, before volunteering for Dunkirk in 1940.” * These recollections of the Cable Street Riots and the evacuation of Dunkirk show participation in English history from a distance.

The time after World War II also brought change. Pubs were not the central gathering place that they once were. Jobs in the post war world changed and with more mechanization there were fewer labourers to stop into the pub. Taking on the life of a publican was no longer as attractive as when sons traditionally followed fathers into the trade. None of Ellen’s sons became publicans. After she buried her second husband in 1949, Ellen soon gave up running the Hearts of Oak and a different publican presided behind the bar. Sadly, pub business declined until the Hearts of Oak was eventually demolished in 2002.

 A holiday together, Ellen is in the middle of the back row and Charles is seated in the front row on the left


Jennings, Paul. The Local: A History of the English Pub. Tempus Publishing Limited, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2007

Monckton, H.A. A History of the English Public House. The Bodley Head Ltd., London, 1969

The Anchor Magazine, updated clipping from this publication put out by Barclay Perkins *

The Lost Pubs Project 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Pubs and the Publican part 11

There may have been some improvements made in the pub during the 1930s but running a pub during those years was not a great money making proposition. When people had little discretionary cash, not much was spent down the pub. But the Second World War was to bring change.

In contrast to the First World War, in the Second World War the government looked at pubs as a way of improving morale. Drinking beer seemed to take a bit of the edge off the thought of air raids. It didn’t make the pubs immune from bombings. Many unfortunate publican couples lost their lives during the war and many pubs were destroyed. 

But the bombing of civilian targets didn’t start at the beginning of the war. With the government’s blessing pubs must have had improved business at first as employment ramped up and people had money in their pockets. At the Hearts of Oak, Ellen and Charles Cavanagh’s oldest son was now a temporary barman. Was this because other staff had left or because custom had increased?

Things changed again at the end of 1939 as their son/temporary barman enlisted. Did this cause Ellen great worry? With six sons, one of whom had served in the last war, Ellen would have been no stranger to worry about warrior sons. But this time the war would come closer than she could imagine. The Hearts of Oak pub was located in London’s East End close to the St. Katherine Docks. Air raids on London started on September 7, 1940 and dockland areas would have been prime targets. It is not known if the pub closed during the blitz but her son’s service records give an address in Harringay for Ellen which is dated 15/2/41. It looks like she, at least, moved out for the worst part of the bombardments. 

The pub survived as did Charles and Ellen Cavanagh. All of Ellen’s sons made it through the war as well. But their experiences had altered their circumstances so that more change would follow. 


Jennings, Paul. The Local: A History of the English Pub. Tempus Publishing Limited, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2007