Delighted to share the third instalment of Bari Sparshott’s stories of his love of beer, and the pubs in which he drank it!
Down the pub… part 3
The reader will by now have realised that I love beer. It is an inseparable part of my Anglo-Saxon heritage. After two years at Croydon College of Art I was looking forward to investigating the ales of Portsmouth where I was going to do my BA in Fine Art. But before that happened, I had, as President of the Students Union, helped to organise a “Drink the Pub Dry” charity night in The Railway, a temporary prefabricated pub opposite East Croydon Station. Run by Watney’s, it was quite a pleasant place to drink, and the landlord readily agreed to the challenge, after Watney’s had given the go ahead.
The deal was that only beers were included, only students were to be involved, and, if successful, the profits for the night would be passed on to a local charity, the Mayday Hospital in North Croydon. As it turned out, some £400 was handed over, and everyone involved received some great publicity. Alas, neither the temporary pub, or indeed any pub is now on the site, the same fate that has befallen the little church which was next door. There was also another pub down the other side of the station where, one Christmas, one of our lecturers gave me a £50 note, and told me to get everyone a drink! A £50 note! This was in 1966, and I’ve only seen two of them since then! The pub was called “The Station Arms” as I recall; I see it is now known as the “Porter and Sorter”! Yeeucchh!
And so, as I said, to Portsmouth, a naval city with a variety of pubs to try, some of which were inadvisable to enter with hair of a certain length or clothes of a certain style. However there were many more hospitable establishments, but, alas, the beer itself was awful!! An old schoolmate had obtained a job at the Brewery Research Foundation, and one holiday we met up, and I asked him why Brickwoods Beer was so tasteless and thin. Seemingly it was because what other breweries took 5 days to achieve, Brickwoods were trying to do in 3! It was this penny-pinching attitude that was one of the many causes behind the “Real Ale” movement that began in the 1970s. Indeed, I can report that an excellent local brewery, Irvings, has now established itself in the city, where one of its brews, “Iron Duke”, I can thoroughly recommend.
Behind Portsmouth College of Art was a pub called The Raven, a Brickwoods establishment. It had one of the most uninviting interiors I have ever seen in a pub. Formica and plastic were everywhere. It was hideous without the beer, but there was no alternative for a year or so. There were good beers to come, though. A new pub, The Black Prince, opened next to the College of Art, and we moved in immediately. It was built in the style of a castle, but in brick, for Hall & Woodhouse, better known as Badger Beers. There were certainly two levels, and there may even have been three, but the main thing was that, over the bar, was a musicians’ gallery, where an organist would entertain us. Shortly that changed to an organist and a drummer, as I took up the position. Shirley, the organist would drive down from Southampton and together we swung , and built up a bit of a following. Alan Haven and Tony Crombie were our heroes.
From playing in the Prince I was noticed by some local jazz musicians, and invited to join a quintet, with an unusual name or names. Basically, whoever got the gig, had the band named after them. I was once standing in the toilet of a pub in Waltham listening to two people arguing over the comparable merits of the drummer in the Pete Charman Quintet (me) and the drummer in the Roland Lacey Quintet (also me)! Unlike my first band, all the engagements we did in this one were on licensed premises!!
As weekends came and went, my new mates and I would wander further afield, until, one day, we came across the Still and West, a harbourside pub on Portsmouth Point. The beer was Gales Ales from Horndean, a tad better than Brickwoods but not greatly so. Never mind, it was worth the walk across Southsea Common, just to sit and watch the ships going in and out of Portsmouth Harbour. Not just ferries either, in those days we had a Royal Navy worthy of the name.
© Bari Sparshott 2017