How George Orwell influenced the 21st Century pub


Seventy years after George Orwell published an essay on what makes the perfect pub, BBC News examines how the author’s views are influencing the micropub movement. As one of the most influential writers of the 20th Century, George Orwell’s impact is still felt decades after his death.

Big Brother, the ominous leader of Oceania in his chilling dystopian novel 1984, is mentioned frequently whenever CCTV or surveillance is on the agenda, while the concept of Room 101 has become a shorthand for people’s pet hates and biggest fears. But Orwell’s influence is not restricted to debates about the security state, as a trip to a local pub can show.

On 9 February, 1946, Orwell wrote an article for the Evening Standard warmly describing his favourite pub, the Moon Under Water, a small backstreet establishment with no music, china pots with creamy stout and that crucial ingredient: a welcoming atmosphere.

The Moon Under Water may itself have been a fiction, a composite of Orwell’s favourite London pubs, but its importance as a symbol of the friendly local lives on.

DJ Taylor, who has written an acclaimed biography of the author, said the essay shows Orwell’s love of the pub as a traditional institution.

“The whole question about Orwell and pubs is very interesting,” he said. “It was a symbol of working class life that he tended to sentimentalise.”

What constitutes the perfect pub was the topic of Orwell’s last essay for the Evening Standard, with previous articles covering other aspects of typical British life, such as how to make a good cup of tea. And, despite never existing, Moon Under Water left a sizeable legacy.

Seventy years on the essay’s criteria for the perfect pub – which includes old-fashioned Victorian decorations, a snack counter, barmaids who know their customers and a garden – are still cited by ale aficionados looking for the ideal spot for a pint. And landlords running a new breed of pub say Orwell’s rules are key to a revival in real ale drinking in the UK. Edited from bbc

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3 Responses to How George Orwell influenced the 21st Century pub

  1. alfy says:

    The idea of a “favourite” pub is a problem, because pubs change over the years, particularly with a new guv’nor. Perhaps better, is a “well-remembered pub” which may still be the same, but may have changed for the worse. It could be fun to find out by visiting it.
    Two anecdotes only. I was touring in Britain, and had been visiting a medieval castle in a Yorkshire village. Watching a man emptying the litter bins, and assuming he was local, I asked him if there was a good pub nearby, which served meals. He directed me to “The Bridge Inn” which was a couple of miles away, beside a stone bridge over a river. I had an excellent meal there and congratulated the landlord on his establishment. I particularly appreciated the waiter, a local lad of about seventeen. When he brought my meal, he didn’t say, “There you go,” or “Enjoy”, he put it down and went away. The landlord was puzzled by the compliment.
    The second well-remembered pub was on the High Street of a Shropshire market town. I was driving across England to my destination near Craven Arms in Shropshire, when I started to feel hungry. I pulled up outside the pub and went in. It was 1.55 and I asked the barmaid if they were still serving food. “Yes”, she said,”but they finish at two. Can you give me your order quickly?”
    Looking up at the extensive chalkboard menu’ I said, “I’ll have the roast pork with all the trimmings,”
    I have always been exasperated by the apparent inability of women to decide quickly on what they are going to eat. Ten or fifteen minutes is usually necessary. It took me about five seconds to decide, but what a meal it was. The roast pork was excellent, with extra crackling, and apple sauce. It was served with roast potatoes, boiled potatoes with mint, small portions of cauliflower cheese, spiced red cabbage, parsnips, peas, carrots, and French beans.
    That is eight different vegetables. It was a magnificent meal. One of the best I remember.

    • Deskarati says:

      A great couple of pub stories Alfy.
      You didn’t feel like sharing the Navigation Inn at Caslethorpe anecdote? I hear that was a good one!

  2. Phil Krause says:


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