Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Guiting Power, Gloucestershire


Brewery plaques (1): The best in the west

People like to know what they’re getting. Most of us read the menus posted near the doors of restaurants. And a lot of us want to know what kind of beer a pub serves, especially if it’s a tied house. One way of making this clear is with a plaque showing the company’s symbol and name, a simple and appealing graphic device that can be just as effective as writing the brewery’s name in big letters across the front of the pub. Several breweries adopted ceramic plaques that could be mounted on the outside walls of pubs, somewhere near eye-level, and which became instantly recognisable.

One particularly effective design is the stylised castle used by the Cheltenham Original Brewery, later Cheltenham and Hereford Breweries, later still West Country Breweries. The name changes came after mergers, and all the companies used these plaques with the castle and the slogan ‘The best in the west’. Plaques from the last incarnation, West Country Ales (see the image below), are still quite common. They were used between 1958 and about 1967, by which time the company had been taken over by Whitbread. But I’ve seen one ‘Cheltenham and Hereford Ales’ plaque, on the former Foxhill Inn in the Cotswolds, on the B4068 near Guiting Power. This plaque, shown in my photograph above, must date to some time between 1947 and 1958, when this name was current. The building no longer functions as a pub, but the plaque is a bit of its history that has been preserved.

These attractive plaques were produced by Royal Doulton of Lambeth in London, whose architectural ceramics I’ve featured several times on this blog. Barley and hops trail around the border of the plaque and the castle or tower design is instantly recognisable. It’s a clear design, easy to spot, and, although the colours vary a bit, the tower usually stands out from a deep blue sky. In Gloucestershire there are still so many of the of the West Country Ales plaques around that we take them rather for granted. But more than a passing glance reveals that the design is a class act.
West Country Ales plaque, Gloucester

12 comments:

Peter Ashley said...

I think this is without doubt my favourite brewery plaque. The first one I photographed was in Stow on the Wold (where the wind blows cold) in 1977.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: Thank you. I think it's my favourite too - partly for the design (I could have gone on, by the way, about how it has changed slightly in the details of the tower, as shown in my two pictures) and partly because for me it is very much associated with my home patch. I plan to post some more brewery plaques in the future, so readers can compare...although there's also an interesting plaque website, which, as I've mislaid its address, I will look for and link to, when I have a moment.

bazza said...

I have never seen one of these but I would like to! Pardon me going off on a tangent (as is my habit) but there is a lovely pub in Charterhouse Street, Clerkenwell called Fox and Anchor that has a lovely Art Nouveau exterior designed by a chap from Doultons (before it was 'Royal') whose name escapes me. I daresay you know it!
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Philip Wilkinson said...

Hello Bazza and thanks for your comment. The Fox and Anchor is great. I did a post about it years ago - you should be able to find it using the search box at the top. It's not a total tangent, as the tiles on the outside are by Doulton, like these plaques.

If you come over this way – to the Cotswolds or the surrounding areas – you should see quite a few of these 'Best in the West' plaques, mostly the ones saying 'West Country Ales'. There is one about a hundred yards from where I am sitting now.

theginfiend said...

There is one opposite a lovely toll house in Overbury that nicely tie this post and your last one together:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@52.0332949,-2.059802,3a,90y,7.86h,78.38t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sP6d8S27wx94PBlXZGbKepg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

There is also one in my parent's village in South Littleton on the former King Edward pub, those signs are such a familiar sight from my childhood!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Ginfiend: Thank you for your comment and link. The Overbury one (and the tollhouse) I know: it's beautifully set off by the red-brick wall on which it's mounted. I've not seen the South Littleton one.

It's interesting, and typical, that many of these examples are on the walls of former pubs, In so many cases, the old plaque is all that remains to tell us that the building was once a pub.

The Vintage Knitter said...

I've always hankered after one of these! These signs are such beauties and I enjoy coming across them still attached to former pubs.

Philip Wilkinson said...

VK: You want one of these plaques: does that mean everyone gets beer when they visit you?!

Joe Treasure said...

Well this one tugged me right back to the past. It was such a familiar sight in childhood. Not that I spent my early years abandoned outside pubs!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Joe: Yes. Anyone growing up around Cheltenham would remember them - and I suppose they are usually positioned at a level that makes them easy for a child to spot.

Dickie Straker said...

Marvellous Philip, my favourite brewery plaque of all time - you are dead right, childhood, head height, nice feel, colours etc - nice one at the old Ye Old Swan Inn, Coaley, Gloucestershire (now private house) I used to run my hands over as a child!!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you, Dickie. Nice to have another Gloucestershire reminiscence. They're tactile, aren't they - you do really want to run your hands over them.