Several posts ago, I described how I’d inadvertently walked onto a film set, in the tiny village of West Peckham. The incident occurred on what was my first official Monday off from work, following my recent switch to part-time working.
I’d caught the No. 7 bus to nearby Mereworth, and then walked the mile and a quarter or so towards West Peckham, and its pub, the Swan-on-the-Green. Until a couple of decades or so, the Swan was an attractive, but otherwise unremarkable pub facing the village green. From memory it was a Courage house, although prior to that it would have belonged to a more local brewer. Style & Winch, of Maidstone spring to mind, as it was the acquisition of the latter by Barclay Perkins of London, that led to them becoming part of the Courage empire.
I’d last set foot inside the Swan, in January 2018, whilst on my way home from visiting Mrs PBT’s in Maidstone hospital. She was quite poorly at the time and occupying a bed in the hospital’s ICU. I won’t go into detail, apart from saying if your gut feeling, about someone close to you, is saying something isn’t right, but they’re insisting that they are perfectly fine, then listen to your instincts and act accordingly!
January 2018 visit here, and also learn more about the Swan and its long-established, micro-brewery. As I said at the time, the pub must be doing something right to still be brewing its own beer after all this time. I also find it encouraging that, unlike some outlets, they haven’t been tempted to produce loads of different “seasonal” beers or, worse still, umpteen one-off “specials”.
Returning to the present, I can now provide the answer to what was going on in West Peckham at the beginning of the month, and why was the Swan decked out in a variety of old-looking, but entirely fictitious brewery signs?
The original series was produced by Yorkshire Television, and starred David Jason, Pam Ferris, and a young Catherine Zeta-Jones. Based on the "Pop Larkins Chronicles," by the author, H.E. Bates, the series first aired in the early 90’s and proved an instant hit with viewers. It follows the adventures of the slightly roughish Larkin’s family, and their large brood of six children, who live on a dilapidated farm, in 1950’s rural Kent.Actor and presenter Bradley Walsh has been cast as “Pop” Larkin, with Joanna Scanlan as “Ma.” Former Dr Who star, Peter Davison features as the rather cantankerous village vicar.
The Larkins hasn’t been that well received, so far, by the critics, with some describing it as too “woke.” I've no intention of getting into that debate, but Mrs PBT’s and I both found it an entertaining and light-hearted piece of escapism, of the same genre as other Sunday evening productions, such as Heartbeat, Bergerac, Midsomer Murders, and Morse.
the props department tried rather too hard with the makeover of the Swan. Covering the exterior with all those fake signs was not only rather kitsch, but also historically inaccurate. A look at any pub photos from that period (late 1950’s), shows that brewery advertising was, if anything, very understated.
You might see the name of the owning brewery, alongside the pub name, but that would be it. These faux signs, that are all too common these days, were never mirrored in real life. It’s as though the directors are spoon-feeding their audience, and hoodwinking them into thinking they’ve been transported back to a bygone age.
These gripes aside, as a piece of unashamed escapism, The Larkins is well worth a look, and all the more so if you’re a fan of mid-twentieth century nostalgia.