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