Monday, 30 November 2009
"Almost Perfect" is the title of an interesting article which features in the Winter edition of CAMRA's Beer Magazine. Written by renowned lens man, Mick Slaughter, the article attempts to explain why a number of what most people would regard as classic, unspoilt pubs, have just failed to make it into CAMRA's National Inventory of Heritage Pubs. The article describes 17 pubs which didn't quite make the grade, for reasons that most reasonable observers would describe as "nit-picking", but which Mr Slaughter and his friends in English Heritage have decided to rule out for a number of very dubious decisions.
For some strange reason the national criterion for inclusion is that the pub must have remained largely unaltered since 1939. Why this arbitrary date was chosen is not explained, but Mr Slaughter admits that there are some pubs "where there have been minor or few changes that, had they occurred prior to 1939, would have resulted in the pub being included." What sort of perverse logic is that?
Amongst the pubs excluded from the National Inventory are such well-known gems as the Coopers Tavern in Burton-on-Trent, the Case is Altered at Fiveways in Warwickshire and,closer to where I live, the Lewes Arms, in the town of the same name, and the Bear in Shepherd Neame's home town of Faversham. I know both these pubs quite well, and would certainly include them in any inventory of unspoilt, classic pubs.
CAMRA, yet again, is in danger of taking itself far too seriously. What the compilers of the National Inventory fail to recognise is that pubs change over the years, not always for the better I grant you, but pubs are living entities and NOT museum pieces! Whilst I agree that there is something special about these inventory pubs, we must not forget that they need to be run as viable businesses, and if it is necessary to extend them, or improve their facilities in a way that is sympathetic to the original, then so be it. The alternative of the pub closing, for want of a few basic improvements, is far worse, but perhaps our friends in CAMRA and English Heritage don't quite see it the same way!