Gosh, how terrible

English postwar estate bars are often seen as a joke: “Never drink in a flat-roofed pub,” the saying goes. But these pubs – whether they’re 1930s-style redbrick structures with pitched roofs and large beer gardens, or forbidding cubes of wood and brick that squat in the shadow of tower blocks – are now at risk. They’re being closed and converted into shops or apartments, boarded up and left to rot, or completely wiped from the map, leaving a cleared site and an empty car park.

“There’s a huge level of threat: these pubs are dropping like flies,” says Emily Cole of Historic England.

I only scanned it and didn’t see it. Anyone else manage to find where they refer to the smoking ban?

36 thoughts on “Gosh, how terrible”

  1. I don’t look too hard at the G either. But could it be because some of these flat roofed pubs are in Tower Hamlets, Girotherham, etc?

  2. Our local flat-roofed pub is on a private, totally up themselves estate. Its been converted into a mosque. Chesterton, your time is now! (Literary reference: don’t worry about it)

  3. They were the hub of the community fifty years ago, life has moved on. Their customer base is now well past retirement age but still likes to meet up occasionally, sink a pint and smoke a couple of ciggies, reminisce…review the obits. The smoking ban just about finished estate pubs, reeling from the rise in home entertainment and supermarket booze.

  4. “…councils in Greater Manchester are buying up pub sites for future redevelopment, leaving “whole deserts of publessness” in certain neighbourhoods.”

    Which won’t matter much to the neighbourhood, given the inevitable demographic changes to come.

  5. Mentioned purely because his name came up on this site yesterday … Noddy Holder had a regular Sunday lunchtime slot at my local estate pub back in the 60s when I was a teenager, his group was The Phantoms, ‘Kings of Rhythm’. Robert Plant lived upstairs in the pub accommodation with members of John Bonham’s family. The bar and lounge area could accommodate up to 200 punters and the ballroom up to 300. Needless to say the establishment died a death many years ago.

  6. Given that only 17% of adults now smoke, I doubt the smoking ban has had a huge effect on the viability of pubs, flat roofed or otherwise. Immediately after the ban, perhaps; but not in recent years.

  7. Suppressed a giggle at the thought of the upper middle class metropolitans of the Quangos venturing into the land of shaved heads and St George crosses to investigate the dark depths of The Estate Pub.

  8. Bernie G,

    Supermarket booze has been there for decades and always cheaper. It’s always been the social thing. People would go to the pub to meet their crowd. The effect of banning smoking was disastrous. Partly, you lost the regulars trade (most of whom smoked), but also, as those people left, the effect on the network was that the value reduced. Lots of other people stopped going because there weren’t as many of their mates down the pub. And as they went, even more people left.

    Most pubs aren’t pubs any more. They’re restaurants.

  9. @ Bloke in Swindon
    Mostly agree although when I was a lad there were few supermarkets and most of them didn’t have a licence, so *two or three* decades.
    As a life-long non-smoker I cannot remember ever going into the Saloon bar solely to avoid smoke (occasionally did for other reasons, such as finding some space) – I’ve gone to pubs less since the smoking ban: mostly now it’s for a meal.

  10. Theophrastus,

    “Given that only 17% of adults now smoke, I doubt the smoking ban has had a huge effect on the viability of pubs, flat roofed or otherwise.”

    I know a publican who got out with the smoking ban. He said the demise was almost immediate. He sold up in a couple of months.

    And if you want data, there’s Christopher Snowden’s report into this with the chart of trends showing the rate of pub closures and how they increased dramatically after the smoking ban.


  11. I would expect that laserlike focus by the plod on anybody taking the wheel after a double sniff of the barmaid’s apron has also contributed to country wide decline of pub attendance.

  12. john77,

    “Mostly agree although when I was a lad there were few supermarkets and most of them didn’t have a licence, so *two or three* decades.”

    OK, 2 or 3 decades. But people talking up “cheap booze in supermarkets” as if it’s a recent thing is just bullshit. Everyone has their axe to grind in why pubs are closing. Few people actually look at the data. I’d love to blame it on something other than the smoking ban, because I’d rather have smoke-free pubs. But the recent sharp decline is all about the smoking ban. It made pubs really shit for lots of customers.

  13. Bloke in Italy,

    “I would expect that laserlike focus by the plod on anybody taking the wheel after a double sniff of the barmaid’s apron has also contributed to country wide decline of pub attendance.”

    It had effects. But most of those had 20 years ago, and had almost no effect on estate pubs. No-one would drive to an estate pub.

  14. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    It was the double whammy of the smoking ban and the 2008 recession. I asked my local publican about it: his dad bought the pub in the 1950s. It was always full and the suddenly trade collapsed. People were sitting at home with chea(er) booze and Sky football. He sold up in 2013, luckily it is still going (just).

  15. BIS…Most pubs aren’t pubs any more. They’re restaurants.

    Smoking ban was a major factor in driving out many of the old crowd, but the restaurant move didn’t help. You couldn’t ask for a pint without having to stand in line behind a dozen people ordering food and drinking diet coke. My local also acquired a new landlady who took exception to the vocabulary of builders and various tradesmen and banned them. These were regular eight pints a night customers. Needless to say her takings fell dramatically and the girl was replaced. And don’t get me started on women that overdose on scent, completely destroying the aroma of your pint.

  16. Bernie G reminds us that a lot more than staggering drunks came out of estate pubs. There was a whole genre of 80s music was born in estate pubs in Essex.
    And BiS’s contention was proved to me years before the ban.
    The village I was spending a lot of time in had 4 pubs. The regulars at the skiing jumper & Burberry one convinced its landlord to institute a smoking ban.He said he’d give it a week’s try, commencing Sunday. Sunday lunch & it was heaving with ski-jumpers & Burberry’s congratulating themselves on the new smoke free atmosphere. Sunday evening, it was considerably thinner as half the SJ&B’s had migrated to one of the other pubs, in search of their smoking friends. Monday night it was like a graveyard. Tuesday smoking reappeared in the bar.
    It’s why I find the anti-smolking zealots a bunchacunts. They simply wish to inconvenience everyone else, to fall in line with their preferences. Actively attack smokers. Their revealed preferences put smoke in the air a far lower priority than their social lives.

  17. Don’t worry, there’s a bigger cause coming along – gigantic business rate increases.

    You could almost think councils were run by fanatic puritans desperate to crush the final remnants of British culture.

  18. From the comments below the article;

    “Now, for our readers in the north, it must be horrible for you”.

    The article doesn’t really look at any reason for the closures, save for the local authority wanting the land for redevelopment. All a bit odd really.

    Bernie G; that removal of early trade, nearly always the local builders, happens a *lot*. I don’t understand the thinking behind it. The landlord is turning away a couple of hours of business Monday to Friday, from 4-ish to 7-ish, in the hope of what exactly replacing it? It’s bizarre, and it doesn’t work.

  19. Mr McDuckface’s link made me think about something it’s easy to forget. If you’ve ever been a pub regular you’ll know the sort of bloke who’s a fixture in the bar as much as the furniture. The one who comes in early & stays most of the evening. Who’ll have a drink at his elbow but isn’t a scoffer. Usually middle aged. Everybody knows him. ” Hi Jack ” you say as you walk in. As do many others. maybe you’ve chatted with him when the pub’s been quiet & there’s been nobody else to talk to.
    Maybe the conversation’s been about current events or other regulars. He may have listened whilst you imparted some piece of personal news that’s been important to you. But you’ll know nothing about him because he never talks about him. Apparently he doesn’t have a life, other than perched on a stool at the bar.
    It’s not just apparently. He probably doesn’t. There maybe a wife at home. But if there is, it’s not someone he ever talks to. He’s just as lonely as if he was single. The pub is his life. The regulars & staff his family.
    What’s happened to the these blokes as the destruction of the British pub has rolled across the land? Do they now sit at home, nursing a supermarket can in front of X Factor? Or did they migrate up to half a bottle of cheap vodka or 3lt bottles of industrial cider? Going pissed to their beds before Brillo. Or just top themselves in despair.
    The politicians who fuck with our lives are unmitigated cunts who should be hung in bunches of 10 to economise on rope.

  20. What’s happened to the these blokes as the destruction of the British pub has rolled across the land?

    I go to a different pub now. Thanks for thinking about me!

  21. Bloke in Spain

    Going pissed to their beds… There was an article in the Spectator recently about a French-Canadian lad named Jean Vanier. He founded a community for men and women with learning difficulties (The Ark), having rescued them from the local ‘institute for idiots’. It appears to have been very successful. Asked why his model works he cited the UK’s care in the community, where individuals are given their own flats and encouraged to live independently. He said it was all about enjoying the company of others, and when Ark tried the UK route and the individuals were left on their own, they discovered that beer and television went really well together, and everyone ended up attending AA meetings.

  22. Fascinating evidence and anecdotes – thank you all. I have a different view.

    I worked for a huge PubCo during the smoking ban. Wrote software to manage their rebuild and refurb work to pubs, which was very good and paid for itself in no time.

    Ban publicity was on the news and all pubs had outside smoking areas under legal guidelines. We thought everyone knew.

    What we found was a large spike in cigarette sales at the pubs in weeks 1-4. Why?
    – smokers thought I cannot smoke but will go for a drink with mates
    – do not take their fags
    – when they get there find they CAN smoke
    – buy marked-up fags at pub

    Makes sense to me and ergo I dispute the smoking ban as a factor in pub decline. It’s almost certainly balanced out by non-smokers finding pubs nicer places to be.

  23. Bloke in North Dorset


    Loved that review and this bit made laugh:

    “Food: Zero

    (It’s dangerous enough without introducing knives and forks)”


    Your story reminded me of the guy who took over the tenancy of my father’s pub (The Lettered Board, Pickering) when he had to give it up for ill health in ’77. It was a nice steady earner, nothing special, with a good steady drinking crowd who’d steadily get through 4 or 5 pints a night, every night, whilst playing dominoes and darts.

    New guy was convinced that there was a G&T set to be tapped and, despite warnings, set about gentrifying the pub. Needless to say the good steady drinkers found other pubs, there was plenty to choose from, and the G&T set never appeared. It was down hill after that.

  24. Firefoxx has it. I, my friends and family have used pubs more since the smoking ban, not less. The smokers in my local over the road go to the smoking area for a fag, or in summer sit in the garden. The old clientele hasn’t changed much in the last 15 years, though new customers have arrived And the ‘restaurant’ is separate from the bar. The problem for pubs is the price of beer: £3 a pint means supermarket booze is better value for money to many. Pub closures now have sweet FA to do with the smoking ban.

  25. BiND

    Pickering, I know it well and was there last week. I was married in Kirbymoorside in 1980. Throughout the 50s and 60s, family Easter holidays were in Lastingham…Happy days!

    The Lettered Board is still there on Smiddy Hill. I recall it changed hands again a few years ago. Not one of the best pubs on the Moors, but still chugging along.

  26. Bloke in North Dorset


    Lovely area in summer but we didn’t fancy the winters hence retiring here.

    Pickering is overstocked with pubs and the last time we were there it definitely had the smell of death about it, as did The Rose Inn.

  27. About ten years ago I was a LibDem local councillor. We had a by-election in a ward that was half council estate. At the end of a day’s leafleting we’d adjurn to the local WMC open bar for snacks and drinks. It was always funny how the – ahem – more polytechnic lecturer/sandel wearing members seemed to scrunch up defensively in a corner while the rest of us – mostly locals ourselves – sank pints and nattered with the other locals.

  28. “a good steady drinking crowd who’d steadily get through 4 or 5 pints a night, every night”: to Mike Wosname who owns Newcastle United, 4 or 5 pints makes them ‘power drinkers’. What an arse.

  29. Bloke in North Dorset


    Yes, but they’d be drinking 3.8% proof or there abouts, not this 5%+ lager shite that seems to be popular nowadays. They’d also drink over 2 to 3 hours not the first 5 minuteS.

    Having said that we had one lovely customer who worked in a grain mill. He was big, and I mean in girth, and could really drink. One summers evening he got back from the evening shift about 10:20pm and by “time” (which was a bit flexible) he’d downed 6 (my memory is a bit vague as it was around ”75 but I just kept pulling pints) or so pints. He’d have put Ashley away in a drinking contest, no problem.

    Sad story though, he was told be the doc to stop drinking, didn’t and it killed it hima couple of years later, he was only late 30s. Shame because he was a lovely guy who never got angry or abusinve no matter how much he drank.

  30. The all time classic flat roof pub story must be from the Brass Handles in the Langworthy area of Salford a few years back.

    Two hitmen turned up to dispatch one of the customers. Having loosed off six shots and wounded their intended target and one other, they were disarmed and themselves dispatched as they attempted to flee.

    CCTV footage was wiped before plod arrived and omerta has ruled since.

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