Raise a Glass

Jack Jakeman

Evergreen - - Contents -

When most peo­ple think of a tra­di­tional English pub, they prob­a­bly pic­ture an es­tab­lish­ment with a his­tory go­ing back many cen­turies, with an­cient beams, stone- flagged floors, lots of old oak fur­ni­ture and an at­mos­phere from all those years of use that seems to have seeped into the fab­ric of the build­ing and which can still be felt to­day. They might also bring to mind one or two of the inns that have ac­tu­ally wit­nessed his­toric events or played host to fa­mous in­di­vid­u­als: there are many such Red Li­ons, Royal Oaks, King’s Arms etc. across the United King­dom.

The best and most in­ter­est­ing inns that pop­u­late our cities, towns and vil­lages do not, how­ever, have to date back to the reign of Queen El­iz­a­beth I or be­yond. Be­tween the two world wars, as brew­eries sought to im­prove the im­age of pub­lic houses and at­tract fam­i­lies and a wider clien­tele, an en­er­getic pro­gramme of pub- build­ing, of­ten in the English sub­urbs, led to some ar­chi­tec­tural gems. Th­ese new pubs, of­ten more spa­cious than their older coun­ter­parts and with restau­rants, gar­dens and spa­cious car park­ing be­came im­por­tant cen­tres for many lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. Sadly, al­though at least 5,000 pubs were built dur­ing

this pe­riod, few sur­vive to­day and or­gan­i­sa­tions such as CAMRA and Her­itage Eng­land are at the fore­front of cam­paigns to en­sure that those that do re­main are pro­tected for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

One of the finest sur­viv­ing ex­am­ples, built in 1929 for John Daven­port & Sons ( later fa­mous for their “Beer at Home” de­liv­er­ies) in a style that be­came known as “Brewer’s Tu­dor”, is the mag­nif­i­cent Black Horse in North­field, a sub­urb of Birmingham. The pub un­der­went a £ 2.5 mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment sev­eral years ago and has been given spe­cial Grade II* listed sta­tus by the Depart­ment for Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport who praised its com­bi­na­tion of “care­ful plan­ning, au­then­tic con­struc­tion, imag­i­na­tive de­sign and in­spired crafts­man­ship”.

Of course the re­views of cus­tomers about its food, drink and ser­vice are as im­por­tant as any cri­tiques of its ar­chi­tec­tural qual­ity, and the Black Horse, which is now owned by brew­ing gi­ant J. D. Wether­spoon, re­cently re­ceived th­ese com­ments:

“Loads of va­ri­ety, good vege­tar­ian food op­tions, good value drinks, great for a night out in the week or for lunch.”

“Vis­ited to­day for a cheap and cheer­ful lunch. Four meals, change from £ 35, quick pleas­ant ser­vice and de­cent food and por­tions... no quib­bles.”

“Had a tea time meal with friends. It had been many years since I last vis­ited the Black Horse and I was im­pressed with the im­prove­ments and decor. Very busy but the meal and ser­vice was good.”

Draught beers in the bar in­clude Ab­bot Ale, Rud­dles, John Smith’s, Sharp’s Doom Bar and Ship­yard Amer­i­can Pale Ale.

There were two vis­i­tors to the Black Horse a cou­ple of years ago who didn’t leave an ac­count of their ex­pe­ri­ences but who clearly found the beer gar­den to their lik­ing: dur­ing their stay, Jemimah and Doris, a pair of mal­lards, gave birth to 20 duck­lings! I hope they quacked open a bot­tle of cham­pagne!


The Black Horse, Bristol Road South, North­field, Birmingham B31 2QT. Tel: 0121 4771800

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