Thursday December 14th 2017 : The Model Publican
Brrr. It was icy cold for our trip to Liverpool, a Merseyside beer sojourn that is becoming a regular event on our calendar. With a direct train from Smethwick, it is really easy and relatively cheap to visit Liverpool from the Black Country. With minimal planning, our key agenda was to visit drinking venues that we had not frequented on previous trips. So no need to ask why we didn't call into the Ship and Mitre, The Dispensary, Roscoe Head etc. We have patronised these and many other fine pubs in the past - this was a trip for opening our accounts in new venues. I use the term venue because many of the places we visited were NOT pubs. A bit of a shame in many respects but whilst there has been an explosion of new microbreweries and craft beer producers in the Merseyside region, Liverpool seems to be undergoing a cultural shift from old boozers to trendy drinking locations. Indeed, this fashion is universal within urban areas and, as a pub aficionado, I am not sure if I am happy about this development. Drinkers seem to be content to sit at wonky trestle tables and parking their arses on seats made of beer crates or old kegs rather than luxuriate in the comfort and ambience of a traditional tavern. For our two-day sojourn we joined in this movement to try new beers and reflect on this pattern swing.
And so here I am indulging in a tipple-board of craft beers at 23 Club. I am looking a little worse for wear and a bit dreary-eyed as I had been on the Plum Porter for much of the afternoon - more on that later. Incidentally, this bar called this simple apparatus a flight-board, a term I have not encountered before this trip. They are very handy for trying out a range of strong ales in smaller quantities. More real ale emporiums should offer this rather than the staff looking at you with a vacant stare when you request one! But, back to the start ....
On arrival at Lime Street Railway Station we headed over to St. George's Hall just in case the council had decided to open up the floor again before Christmas. The magnificent mosaic floor was last unveiled for a limited period in April - just use your favourite search engine to see images of this majestic sight. Sadly for us, the floor was once again covered in boards so we must check to see when these lesser-spotted Minton tiles resurface again.
Another huge disappointment was to witness the modern development along Lime Street. This has resulted in the loss of the City Picture House, a relic of the silent movie era. The building, luxuriously appointed in its hey day, was opened in 1912 and altered just after the First World War when it became The Futurist. The building next door once housed The Scala, opened by Sol Levy within a building that featured exotic Egyptian decor and furnishings. At least the new development will be flanked by the Crown Hotel and The Vines, two of Liverpool's important heritage pubs. At one time, before the cinema age, this row also featured the Grey Horse Hotel, Horseshoe Inn and The Pavilion.
We trudged along underneath the scaffolding to make our way to Mount Pleasant for the delicious Arabic breakfast served at Kimos. This is very popular with students as you can have a filling plate of scrumptious food with tea or coffee for £5. Service is friendly and the music is great.
We meandered around some of the more interesting independent shops before heading up to the Fly in the Loaf on the corner of Hardman Street and Baltimore Street. This is another part of Liverpool undergoing demolition and redevelopment. Thankfully, the Fly in the Loaf will be spared the wrecking ball. The highly attractive frontage of this pub was once the Vienna Bakery owned by John and Robert Kirkland, enormously successful Scottish-born bakers.
In 1884 the British and Foreign Confectioner, a recognised authority on food matters, stated that "The Vienna bread manufactured by Kirkland Brothers, confectioners, Liverpool, is equal to any we have ever seen, and there are few places in England where this luxury, so much enjoyed on the continent, is to be obtained. Indeed, Messrs. Kirkland's Vienna bakery is the only one we know of out of London, and we are not surprised to find their vans in the early morning delivering the bread all over the city and suburbs. It may be added that Messrs. Kirkland supply the principal hotels in the city, and many other similar establishments throughout the kingdom, with Vienna bread, which is light, wholesome, and easy of digestion. It has been used at luncheons given in London in honour of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Marquis and Marchioness of Lorne, the Duke of Albany, the Duke of Braganza and Lord Wolseley." The restored shop frontage has a royal coat of arms referencing the firm's status as bakers for Queen Victoria. These arms were probably re-painted when the premises were converted to Kirkland's Café Bar in the 1990's. They were not on the building when it was occupied by Scott's Bread and Cakes in the late 1970's.
The pub's er, 'currant' name is derived from 'No Flies in the Loaf,' a slogan rolled out by the Kirkland's to boast of the cleanliness of their new bakery. A panel on one of the walls has an item taken from a 19th century edition of the Liverpool Review which recounts "the old legend which tells the crime for which King Pharaoh's chief butler and chief baker were imprisoned, and gives the reason why the former was re-instated in his high position, while the latter expiated his offence by suffering death on the gallows. The butler, so runs the story, was standing by his King presenting his cup of wine, when a fly accidentally flew in and was drowned in the cup. Life was too sacred a thing in the eyes of the old Egyptians for such an incident to pass unnoticed, but as it was clearly accidental a short imprisonment was judged sufficient punishment for the offence. But the case of the baker was very different. In one of the royal loaves of bread, baked under his supervision, a dead fly was found, and this heinous crime, which a reasonable amount of care might have prevented, could only be expiated by his death." The firm's state-of-the-art bakery stands on the site of the Homoeopathic Dispensary which was erected by public subscription in 1860, and transferred to Hope Street when the Hahnemann Hospital was built in 1887. Kirkland's used their article to illustrate the hygienic standards set within their bakery which featured cream glazed tiles, "which present a perfectly smooth light surface on which the slightest spot of anything objectionable would at once be seen and can be washed down easily and quickly."
The bakery was held in such high esteem that Robert Kirkland was elected as President of the National Association of Master Bakers in 1890. His brother John Kirkland founded the National Bakery School, an institution in which he personally oversaw hundreds of students studying to qualify as master bakers. He also published several books that were accepted as authoritative reference works throughout the trade. The brothers were awarded Warrant Holders Medals during Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
The Fly in the Loaf may lack pub history but the building does have a great back story. When the shop closed the premises were first converted into a wine bar during the 1990's. The Fly in the Loaf was established around 2004. Today, the pub forms part of Market Town Taverns, a company acquired in 2017 by Heron and Brearley, a hospitality group based on the Isle of Man. This company bought Okell's Brewery in 1972 - hence you will find Okell's Bitter as a regular beer at the Fly in the Loaf.
Dr. William Okell, a Cheshire surgeon who once practiced in his hometown of Knutsford, started Okell's Brewery in Castle Hill, Douglas in 1850. He had moved to the Isle of Man by the late 1840's. He was later assisted by his sons William and Douglas. By 1871 he was employing 14 men at the brewery. Three years later, having already acquired a number of public houses on the island, William Okell lobbied the Parliament to create an act ensuring the purity of beer brewed on the Isle of Man. A man who was dedicated to brewing science, he subsequently built the Falcon Steam Brewery in Douglas. He also built the Falcon Hotel on the Loch Promenade. Indeed, his residence in later years was known as Mount Falcon. He became a property owner in both Douglas and Liverpool. He did not seek a public position but he did serve for many years as a director of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Following his death in 1892, he was succeeded by his son William Henry Okell. Following their acquisition by Heron & Brearley, the Falcon Brewery remained in operation for many years, even after the purchase of the Castletown Brewery. However, in 1994 production was moved to a new facility at Kewaigue.
This was our first visit to the Fly in the Loaf so we have no idea what the interior was like prior to a recent refurbishment. The overhaul was part of a business strategy to overcome the difficulties the venue was facing in the dynamic pub environment of Liverpool. It was recognised that the bar had developed a reputation as an old bloke's pub and needed to reinvent itself to attract a wider audience or, as the marketing boffins like to say, target market. The interior has been opened out and lightened. I understand their reasoning but I think there should be more references to the building's days as a bakery outlet. Still, the fortunes of the Fly in the Loaf have improved and it is a busy place these days.
One key element that was not changed during the makeover was the manager. A good pub manager is a rare breed and when a company finds one they tend to hang on them for dear life. It was after we ordered our beers that we encountered Dominic Hornsby. He was busy wiping down tables but came across and asked us where we were from. Once he had established that we were from the Black Country he brought two bottles across to our table. These were newly-stocked bottles of Peaky Blinder Whiskey and Gin, produced by Sadler's in Lye. It was the opening salvo in a friendly exchange during our visit. We told him that we were only staying for one drink but this did not deter him from affording us great customer service. Dominic has been at the Fly in the Loaf since it opened in 2004. He had previously worked at The Dispensary and landed Liverpool CAMRA's Pub of the Year award under his stewardship. Little wonder therefore that the beer we drank in his pub was of the highest order. Beer tickers would probably scoff at the range of ales on offer here but what Dominic does is offer six beers of different styles and presents them at their very best. I prefer this policy much better than running pipelines to a dozen or more handpulls with some ales overstaying their welcome. If you know anything about pubs and pub culture, you only have to watch a model publican at work for ten minutes to see what a difference they make to the house. Always busy, the gaffer here was polite, friendly and professional with regulars and new patrons. If I was opening a pub I would headhunt Dominic Hornsby to run the place.
By the way, I drank the Lancaster Snowdrop Pale Ale as I felt I hadn't done justice to this brewery during our recent visit to Lancaster. This seasonal beer was terrific. The Oracle also heaped praise on the Hunky Dory by Red Star, a local microbrewery based in Formby. As you know, we are beer drinkers but the Fly on the Wall has a mind-boggling array of wines and spirits, many of which are displayed on the widescreen back-bar. And for food, the pub, in keeping with its heritage, has teamed up with the Baltic Bakehouse, a local artisan bread producer short-listed for the BBC Food and Farming Awards in 2016. Wow! Our visit to Liverpool's pubs got off to a, er, flyer here in the old Vienna Bakery.
Thursday December 14th 2017 : The Pen is Mightier than the Bullet
During our conversation with Dominic Hornsby at the Fly in the Loaf we must have mentioned that we are veggies so he told us to check out The Pen Factory in Hope Street as they have good beer and an interesting menu with a few veggie options. This was a real test of our agenda for trying new venues rather than old favourites. How were we going to walk past the Philharmonic Hotel, a pub with one of the most extravagant interiors and toilets fit for a king, in order to sit in the basement of an old factory? It was tough but our resolve held firm and we walked towards the Metropolitan Cathedral to investigate the menu. By the way, the cathedral is a 'must-do' experience for anyone interested in modern architecture. We have visited what the locals call 'Paddy's Wigwam' before so we remained in Hope Street.
The Pen Factory is next door to the Everyman Theatre, ensuring it is a busy place before and after performances. The theatre, completely rebuilt and re-opened in March 2014, had formerly occupied the old Hope Hall. A nice touch in the £27m redevelopment was to take down the old building brick-by-brick so that they could be incorporated into the new structure. Funding for the project came from the Arts Council England and European Regional Development Fund, something to ponder over a pint when discussing the benefits of leaving the European Union!
The Hope Hall dated back to the 1830's and was originally a dissenter's chapel. However, by the mid-19th century the building had been converted into a Public Hall and Concert Hall. At the start of King George V's reign, it was converted into the Hope Hall Cinema. The Everyman Theatre occupied the building from 1964 and became an established showcase for both local and national performances. Many familiar names have appeared at The Everyman. An extension to the hall also played a key role in the Merseybeat scene of the 1960's.
One of the most popular features of the Everyman Theatre was a bistro located in the basement. This was opened in 1970 by Paddy Byrne, his brother Ed, and Dave Scott. I believe all three are involved in the Pen Factory where real ales, craft beer and good food are combined in style. The menu may look straightforward pub fodder but the standard is much higher than a stranger would expect. Not that fans of the old bistro are surprised - Tom Gill, the chef who worked his magic in the Everyman Bistro for many years, was brought back to excite the taste buds of those drinking in The Pen Factory. The added bonus is that the prices are for 'Everyman' too! I expected to see double figures on the right-hand side of the menu but was amazed to see dishes on offer for £6.50p. We didn't eat here until the following day as the venue was fully booked on a Thursday evening! However, on the following day we thoroughly enjoyed delicious plates of Mixed Wild Mushrooms on Toast with Parmesan, along with Roasted Beetroot with Feta Cheese and Hazelnut Dukkah. There was plenty of choice for veggies - for example, I was tempted by the Squash, Chestnut and Sage Risotto and the Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad. Customer service is top-notch and once you are getting stuck into your food you can order your beer and have it brought over to you. What's not to like? You can check out photographs of plates and menu on the Cocktail Saturdays blog. There's even a photograph of the legendary Spanish Chip Butty.
But back to Thursday and our first exploratory visit to the Pen Factory. We were only going to call in for a quick beer and scope the menu but all the best-laid plans can be scuppered when one clocks an awesome beer on sale. I'm talking Titanic Plum Porter here. For the uninitiated, this is one of the UK's top-rated beers. That's not just hyperbole on my part - most people seem to want to empty the cask when they encounter this liquid nirvana on the handpulls. Little wonder therefore that Plum Porter was a CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain in 2015. It is one of a long list of awards bestowed upon this remarkable ale. When we visit Liverpool we usually find a time-slot to visit The Dispensary on Renshaw Street simply because Plum Porter is generally available as a regular ale. On this occasion the award-winning pub on the corner of Oldham Street, formerly known as The Grapes, was gazumped by The Pen Factory. Nearing the end of our planned one drink, we decided we may as well have another. Well, why not, it was in top form. Ok, we'll have a third but then we'd better move on... most drinkers on a pub tour will have experienced the dilemma of sticking to the planned schedule or simply going with the flow. We opted for the flow!
We may have been revelling in the Potteries-brewed elixir but did we like the drinking environment? Well, we have sat in far worse but, like I said at the top of this page, this is no pub. With hardly any soft furnishings or wall decoration, acoustics feel a little piercing, a harsh ambience exacerbated when The Pen Factory slowly filled up with office parties or other festive piss-ups. The seating arrangement is also geared up for dining only. However, the beer is great and, based on the quality of food and excellent service, we really enjoyed our time here.
So two venues down and barely any pub history. But, like the Fly in the Loaf, this building has an interesting story to tell. Although known as The Pen Factory, the premises were earlier occupied by the watch and watch case manufacturers Henry Stuart & Co. Limited. This firm were recorded here in the 1860's and continued in business at No.13 Hope Street for much of the Victorian period.
The premises were taken over by the Lang Pen Company and, in the Edwardian period, were shared with the printing firm of Frank Joseph. The Lang Pen Company was established by the sons of Samuel Wade. Born in Chatteris in Cambridgeshire, Samuel Wade was the son of a bricklayer but went his own way at an early age. His career path was incredibly diverse. He was living in the Finsbury area of North London by 1860 where he was apprenticed to a linen draper. He married Mary Ann Macauley in 1867 and, following a short spell in Exeter, the couple headed north to Hulme near Manchester. Samuel Bates was recorded at a toy repository in the early 1870's but later took to the road as a commercial traveller. His work in the stationery trade took him to many parts of the country and this is probably when he came up with the idea of a new business venture.
In the early 1880's Samuel Wade had established a business in London with William Beecher Smith manufacturing scientific pens. This partnership was dissolved in 1885 and not long after this he moved to Liverpool. His eldest son Samuel may have played a part in the manufacturing of a new style of pen. He had married into the Currie family, took his wife's surname and, going under the name of Sigmund, travelled to the United States as an arts agent and brought back some samples for appraisal - one is thought to have been a pen. On his return to England, he went into business as a printer and traded as the Armadale Printing Company at Harlesden in Middlesex. When this enterprise went pear-shaped he too moved to Liverpool and started a career as a journalist - but not before establishing the Lang Company along with his brother Ernest.
Ernest Macauley Wade was the driving force behind the company which moved to the Hope Street premises in the early Edwardian period. In 1907 the firm was restructured and named the Lang Pen Company. Manufacturing fountain and stylographic pens, along with gold nibs, the company grew quickly and had a large workforce by 1912. Ernest Wade commuted to the factory from his home in the leafy part of Birkenhead.
The firm continued to specialise in pen-making but, following the outbreak of World War 2, the company's war work was within munitions, firstly by making small fuse components and other small parts for electrical gear. The firm later produced incendiary sleeves for Browning guns in aircraft, along with delicate electrical contact pins and sockets for aircraft connections. Following air raids on Liverpool, the firm, under directions of the Ministry of Supply, moved production to new factories in Wales. One production facility was based in Ruthin Gaol. In 1943 the Ministry of Aircraft Production asked the company to take over a partially-built factory in South Wales to make radiators for aircraft. It is not known how many bullets were made by the Lang Pen Company but it was in the millions.
In the pen trade, a sister company trading as Curzon, Lloyd & MacGregor was established and this later evolved into Summit Pens. Another company, Amalgamated Gold Pen Makers, concentrated on the manufacturing of gold nibs, supplying many of the pen makers in the UK. Inevitably, the ball point pen was the ruin of firms making traditional instruments. Production of Summit Pens ceased in the mid-1950's.
More Photographs from December 2017
Walking up Mount Pleasant we passed the lovely frontage of The Beehive. Bearing the old livery of Walker's Warrington Ales, The Beehive benefited from the use of polished granite. The pub also has a lovely illustration on its signboard. It is quite a popular name within Liverpool.
Walking up Leece Street towards the Fly in the Loaf we passed Roscoe Street where there is a lovely little pub that we have patronised several times. I'm pretty sure that the installation of a pictorial inn sign is a relatively new addition. This illustration of William Roscoe is based on a painting by Martin Archer Shee. The name of this old tavern commemorates the poet, historian and anti-slavery campaigner born in Mount Pleasant in 1753. His father was the licensee of the Bowling Green in addition to running a business as a market gardener. Studying as a lawyer, Roscoe was both a Unitarian and Presbyterian. His outspoken views on abolition was not popular with local businessmen who made their fortunes from the slave trade. However, he was brave enough to withstand criticism and made many friends in the city. He was elected as the first President of the Liverpool Royal Institution and, in 1806, served as a member of parliament for Liverpool. William Roscoe was instrumental in the creation of the Liverpool Botanic Garden, originally located near Mount Pleasant, the title of one of his early poems, but later relocated in Wavertree. He spent much of his time studying Italian literature and writing historical biographies between publishing poetry. He was also a key figure in the creation of the Athenaeum Library. William Roscoe died of influenza in 1831 and was buried near to his birthplace.
This is a pair of Warrant Holder Medals presented to John and Robert Kirkland during the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.
Other very nice beers were available during our visit to The Pen Factory but we only had eyes for one pump clip.....
According to the brewery "this beer is dark strong and well rounded; the richness of such a rotund beer is brought to an even keel by the late addition of Goldings hops and natural plum flavouring. Take the opportunity and go for the low hanging fruit, this sumptuous beer really is a plum!"
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any news, views and information on any topic on this page it would be great to hear from you. Simply send a message and I'll post it here. Alternatively, you can post a message on the website's Facebook page.
"No money in this world could convince me to play for Liverpool. That's not a lack of respect for Liverpool supporters or the football club.
It's respect for the Everton supporters. You just can't do that. It goes against everything that I stand for. No chance."
Related Newspaper Articles
"Mr. Segar applied on behalf of John Henderson for the renewal of the license of Vines Hotel, 81 to 87, Lime Street. Mr. Moss objected on
account of the fact that 132 times out of 256 visits the police had found loose woman on the premises, and further, that the bar was divided into three compartments,
each having a separate door into the street. This, he said, prevented the police from obtaining a clear view over the whole bar at once. Mr. Davies also objected to the
renewal upon these grounds. The applicant, in addition to the usual undertaking with regard to loose women, also undertook that the obstructions complained of at the bar
should be removed, and the license was granted. Mr. Segar next applied for the renewal of the licence of the Pavilion, 77 and 79, Lime Street, in the name of Mrs. Augusta
Henderson. Mr. Davies raised an objection that the licensee was the wife of the licensee in the previous case. He thought it was undesirable, especially in a neighbourhood
like Lime Street, that large premises like these - the two places between them had seven separate doors - should be licensed to husband and wife. The Chairman,
whilst not controverting Mr. Davies's doctrine, thought that in this case, where the two houses were practically one establishment, they should feel the most inclined
to allow a husband and wife to manage them. The licensee undertook to meet a further objection raised by Mr. Davies by doing what was possible to prevent the use of a door
from the singing room into a court, into which a billiard room and several shops and offices had entrances. The licence was then granted."
"Vines Hotel and The Pavilion"
Liverpool Mercury : September 7th 1892 Page 6
"John Pearce was charged with assaulting Mr. Alfred Vines, publican, Lime Street. On Thursday Pearce went into the prosecutor's house
drunk. He was refused drink, and Mr. Vines requested him to leave the premises, upon which Pearce struck Mr. Vines in the face with his fist. He was fined 40s. and costs."
"Assaulting a Publican"
Liverpool Mercury : September 10th 1877 Page 8
"Private J. L. Jones, of the Army Ordnance Corps, who is shortly proceeding to Egypt on military duty, is the only man in the British Army
with a wooden leg. He belongs to Liverpool, and so impressed were the medical men with his agility, despite his artificial limb, that they passed him as a recruit. He
is a strapping, fellow of twenty-three, over six feet high, and is proud of being able to call himself "a Liverpool lad." He has an interesting history,
which he narrated to a "Daily Post" representative yesterday. His brother is manager of the Bee Hive Hotel, Mount Pleasant. Another brother, Alfred Jones, now
corporal in the Military Police at Blackpool, is a member of the Liverpool Scottish, and was in the famous charge at Hooge on the 16th June of last year, being wounded
in the head by shrapnel, and invalided home. He was mentioned in Sir John French's despatches, and recommended for the D.C.M. Private Jones has a great tale to tell
before he goes to take up active duty with rifle, forty rounds of ammunition, and full soldier's kit. The principal fascination about him at the moment is his wooden
leg, and that notwithstanding this drawback, he presented himself on the 2nd March last at the Technical Schools, Byrom Street, in this city. Lieutenant Dean was one of
the recruiting officers present, and he knew beforehand that J. L. Jones was minus the right foot and part of the right hip. Jones himself made no concealment, and was
marched before the military medico, where his wooden leg was fully displayed. Jones gave such proof of his physical stamina, marching power, and so on that he was at once
accepted, wooden leg notwithstanding, becoming a unit of the British Army. Private Jones saw several of his old friends in Liverpool yesterday, and they marvelled and
rejoiced at his appearance."
"Soldier's Enlistment in Liverpool"
Liverpool Echo : April 19th 1916 Page 4
"At the Liverpool Court of Passage, yesterday, before Mr. W. F. R. Taylor [the judge] and a common jury, Florence Sabatina ,
brought an action, through her father, for damages for personal injuries, against the Lang Pen Company Limited. The plaintiff sustained burns and bruises to the little
finger of her right hand whilst working at a machine belonging to the defendants for the manufacture of fountain pens. Mr. S. Mayer. K. C. and Mr. Madden [instructed
by Mr. R. Barrow-Sicree] appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr. Hyslop Maxwell [instructed Mr. H. G. C. Day] for the defendants. The plaintiff's case was
that on May 5th, while she was removing the belt from one pulley to another, her hand was caught between the belt and the pulley, the contention being that the machine
should have been protected or fitted with a device for removing the belt off the pulley without the intervention of the hand. Evidence was given of a previous similar
accident at the defendants' works. The defendants denied liability, and attributed the accident to the plaintiff's own negligence in using her right hand instead
of her left. It was further urged that the machine was so simple in its manipulation that no guard was necessary. The jury found that the machine was dangerous, that the
plaintiff was careless and in part, brought about the accident by using her right hand instead of the left, and assessed the damages at £30. The judge reserved
"Girl's Little Finger"
Liverpool Daily Post : October 20th 1916 Page 2