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 *