Friday, 20 February 2009

Watering the workers' beer.. and an update

A blog post this morning to bring attention to the Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield, which has been named by CAMRA as its Pub of the Year. This accolade is despite the pub being at the centre of the dreadful floods of 2007, when the River Don burst its banks. However, undeterred by flooded cellar and a damaged interior, the landlord re-opened his award winning pub again after six weeks and it sounds like a pilgrimage has to soon be made (the sacrifices one makes etc etc).

Details from CAMRA:

The Kelham Island Tavern (62 Russell Street, Sheffield S3 8RW) is crowned National Pub of the Year 2008. The Kelham Island Tavern has been a CAMRA Sheffield Pub of the Year for the last four years, and was a past regional winner in both 2004 and 2007. The pub is also listed in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2009 bearing the following description: "An impressive 10 permanent handpumps include two that always dispense a mild and a stout/porter, so you are sure to find something to quench your thirst. A visit in the warmer months enables you to sample the pub's multi-award winning sub-tropical beer garden- a true gem."

Julian Hough, CAMRA's Pubs Director and one of the final judges, said: "The Kelham Island Tavern is a regular in the Good Beer Guide and has been treasured by pub-goers from Yorkshire and beyond since its opening in 2002. It truly is a pub for everyone, and its attention to detail is fantastic. To have won so many awards in such a short space of time, even enduring a disastrous flood in 2007, is a true testament to the dedication and commitment of its staff. The pub is a deserved winner, and a wonderful example of a well-run community pub."

For more from CAMRA, and pictures and details of the other regional finalists, click here:

CAMRA Press Release and the runners up:

Kelham Island website, with further history and pictures of the flood:

A real pub, a real pub sign!

Brewery website of the week (No3 in a series which happens when I remember):

Pub signs, sadly, in this day of the mega corporate pub chain, are a literally dying art. They came top in the recent Icons of England vote carried out by the CPRE, however, proving that we do as a public value them:

Pub signs came top in our recent Icons of England poll, second was red post boxes and third canal boating. We fear the traditional pub sign is dying out as independent ale houses close down and old fashioned pubs receive a makeover.

Sebastian Faulks who nominated pub signs to be included in our 'top 25 list' of icons said:
People who think of England as a practical country with little flair for the visual would never have imagined that its lanes and roads would be regularly punctuated by what look like cards from a wooden tarot pack – optical extravagances, creakily offering delight, escape and risk. But it is so; and sometimes we hardly see the strangest things by which we are surrounded

Bill Bryson, President of CPRE, said:They are as characteristic of rural England as church spires and ancient hedgerows. The diversity of English life has been reflected in these intriguing and deceptively informative artefacts for centuries.At a time when 36 pubs per week nationally are closing their doors, it is heartening to hear of the value still placed on this heralded tradition. Only around 30 independent pub chains and breweries in Britain are still ordering individually painted signs, amazingly a few of these fine artists are still working and there are some notable examples such as The St Austell Brewery in Cornwall that still employ sign writers. But it is a shrinking market and the dominance of a few chains has contributed to the disappearance of traditional British pub names, and led to a profusion of bland corporate makeovers.I’m delighted pub signs won the Icons vote, and of course there is no better place to celebrate this result than inside an equally iconic British pub.

A brief history:

There's even a society, with a fascinating website:

And the title of today's blog? Song written 1938 by Paddy Ryan, The Man That Waters The Workers Beer

All together now:


I'm the man, the very fat man,
That waters the workers' beer.
Yes, I'm the man, the very fat man,
That waters the workers' beer,
And what do I care if it makes them ill,
If it makes them terribly queer,
I've got a car and a yacht and an aeroplane,
And I waters the workers' beer.

Now when I makes the workers' beer,
I puts in strychinine,
Some methylated spirits
And a drop of paraffin;
But since a brew so terribly strong
Might make them terribly queer,
I reaches my hand for the water tap,
And I waters the workers' beer.

Now ladies fair beyond compare,
And be ye maid or wife,
O, sometimes lend a thought for one
Who leads a sorry life;
The water rates are shockingly high,
And malt is shockingly dear,
And there isn't the profit there used to be
In wat'ring the workers' beer.

Now a drop of good beer is good for a man
Who's thirsty and tired and hot,
And I sometimes has a drop for myself
From a very special lot;
But a fat and healthy working class
Is the thing that I most fear,
So I reaches my hand for the water tap,
And I waters the workers' beer.



UPDATE February 21st

Please see comments, and thanks to the author Elaine Saunders for the information and link. Anyone reading this who has anything to say, you know who to contact!

This is one of my favourites:,_7_Clerkenwell_Close&Pub=515

A fun sign and a good pub!


Elaine Saunders - Complete Text said...

Pub signs are a pictorial record of our history - from Roman times, through the Crusades and the Dissolution of the monasteries to the present day. They've been inspired by religion, royalty, lust, pride, murder, heroes and scandals and, together, they’re an often disregarded historical resource.

Their disappearance from the High Street is like someone emptying the National Gallery - what kind of an outcry would there be then?

Let’s hope that these traditional pub signs can be preserved and appreciated for a long while yet

Author: A Book About Pub Names
It’s A Book About….blog
Complete Text

Nemesis said...

Thanks for that! I have added that as a live link under my blog.

Nemesis said...

I add - I love the sign for the Three Kings, Clerkenwell, a new take on an old favourite!

Elaine Saunders - Complete Text said...

Clerkenwell's a recent find for me and I saw The Three Kings tucked away in a little corner. I have a photo of the pub sign ready to go in the second edition.

A hundred years down the line, signs like this will give a taste of the times. That's why they're so important.

Elaine Saunders

Nemesis said...

It is certainly tucked away, but it's a very good pub indeed, and I'm delighted that you liked the sign!