The Nantwich Tavern Survey

The Nantwich Tavern Survey was carried out by graduate apprentices at Rolls Royce in Crewe around 1960.

The Nantwich Tavern Survey of the Derby Arms
Page covering the Derby Arms, Nantwich, which was part of the Tavern Survey

In the late 1950s Rolls Royce built accommodation for their graduate apprentices – their managers of the future. However the Council wouldn’t grant an alcohol license for the place, so some of them decided to do a review of all the pubs within easy reach. They produced detailed reports on the pubs they visited (see an example above).

They also did similar reports for the Sandbach pubs and a small number that are referred to as the rural pubs, covering places like Wheelock, Winterley, Haslington.

The reports are quite methodical –  for each pub the address and date visited is given, and an assessment is given of the bitter, mild, stout, light ale and brown ale on offer in each pub.

There are also comments on the rooms, decoration, atmosphere, service and clientele!    The comments are not always complimentary.

The decoration in the Falcon (also known as Brown’s Vaults) was described as “cream painted – First World War type”. The light ale had “been on the shelf too long and lacked effervescence”.  The average age of the locals (both sexes) was 60, with men wearing cloth caps.  The atmosphere in this pub was “real Dabber-Ville” and their overall verdict was “not a good place for the under 50s”.

The Red Cow in 1960 was described as having an atmosphere of Chicago in the 1920’s.

The Royal Oak was described as having “Dirty wall paper very badly put on.  Scuffed up lino”.  The bitter was “off” and the mild was “too cold, rather dark, weak and watery”.  The locals were described as “homely old dears, chatting” and the overall verdict was “Not recommended except for taking Grandma out for a drink”.

The bitter in the Wilbraham Arms in 1960 was described as “Absolutely foul. Exceptionally vinegary.  A putrid drink. NOT RECOMMENDED”.

I’m very grateful to Rob Holland, who provided me with a copy of the survey.  It’s a fascinating insight into how pubs were in 1959/1960.   The Nantwich Tavern Survey has been reproduced in full in a booklet that is available from Nantwich Museum.

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