Have a gaze at pubs of the past

We may have lost a lot of pubs in London over the years but many of them can still be recalled, thanks to photographic archives. This is the story of one in particular, which exists thanks only to the heroic efforts of Robert Humphreys MBE. Mr Humphreys worked for Charrington’s Brewery for twenty years and is a former secretary of the Parliamentary Beer Group. Thirty years ago, during an office move, he saw that Charrington’s entire collection of photos and drawings had been thrown into a skip and, happily, he was able to rescue them. A grateful home for them was found at the National Brewery Centre Archive, based in Burton-on-Trent.

Readers are now able to view the photos and also order copies thanks to an arrangement made with the Mary Evans Picture Library in Blackheath. There are currently 333 photos available, with more to come. They cover pubs that Charrington’s owned from all over the south of England, from Kent to Somerset, as well as London’s Victorian and Edwardian gin palaces and East End boozers. Sadly, many, but not all, of the pubs pictured have fallen victim to the wrecking ball. These photos offer a glimpse of a time long past and are worthy of closer examination. Robert said, “History sometimes seems remote, detached and hard to hold in one’s hand. This collection brings history into our own lives. Pubs lie at the heart of their communities, and the people in them are the heart of the pub. Following our emotions and instincts in the pursuit of personal understanding through this collection can bring great rewards.”
Viewing the online photos is free (www.maryevans.com) and the Mary Evans Picture Library also offer prints (from £6.99) or even a jigsaw puzzle (from £27.99) and thus a chance to personally own one of these amazing photos. I know what I want for my birthday! See the advert below for more details.
Christine Cryne


Mary Evans, born 1936, was a lifelong collector of pictures and images of all sorts, an enthusiasm shared with her husband, Hilary. In 1964, their personal collection formed the basis of the Mary Evans Picture Library which was eventually housed in the former All Saints’ parish hall in Blackheath. By the time she passed away in 2010, the library had a website holding around one million images and employed fourteen people.


I thought that a short history of the brewery might be of interest. I have fond memories of Charrington IPA because it was the beer that, half a century ago, converted me to real ale.
With the retirement in 1783 of their original partner, Mr Moss, brothers John and Harry Charrington became owners of the Anchor Brewery in the Mile End Road, E1. In 1833 the company changed its name to Charrington & Head, following the takeover of Steward & Head of Stratford, but the Charrington family remained in control and it reverted to Charrington & Co in 1880. It was registered as a limited company in 1897.

The company also brewed in Burton on Trent for a time, buying and rebuilding the Abbey Brewery in 1871 and selling it in 1926.

Strangely, they did not register the name ‘Charrington’ as a trademark until December 1932. A year later they took over Hoare & Co Ltd of East Smithfield and adopted Hoare’s ‘Toby Ales’ trademark. ‘Toby’ became an important part of their branding. Many of their pubs were distinguished by their green glaze tiling, a few examples of which still exist.

The second half of the 20th century saw the consolidation of the UK brewing industry. Firstly, in 1962, Charrington & Co merged with United Breweries Ltd to become Charrington United Breweries Ltd. Five years later came the merger with Bass, Mitchells & Butlers Ltd to create Bass Charrington Ltd and thus they became one of the infamous ‘Big Six’. ‘Synergies’, as they would be called these days, led to brewing at Mile End ending in 1975 and the Anchor Brewery was mostly demolished within the year, leaving only the now Grade II-listed office block. The brewery site is now a retail park.

In 1997, Bass Charrington sold most of its 11,000 pubs to the company that became Punch Taverns and then in 2000, sold off its brewing operation to what was then Interbrew. Their remaining pubs and other properties were transferred to a new company called Six Continents which split in 2003, with the pubs going to a pub company which revived the name Mitchells & Butlers.

The story of Frederick Nicholas Charrington, whose life took a very different direction from that of the rest of his family, is interesting. I won’t go into detail here but enter his name in your preferred search engine for the full story.

The Mary Evans Picture Library have very kindly allowed us to reproduce three of the Charrington’s archive photographs and these are the ones chosen by Christine Cryne.

The Bath Tavern, 195 Asylum Road,
The Barnsbury Arms, 24 Lofting Road, Barnsbury, N1 (previously John Street). Believed to have been taken around 1930. The pub was part of a terrace of houses that was demolished in 1971.
The Alfred’s Head in Stepney, believed to have been taken around 1920. There is some confusion as to whether the address was 49/51 Gold Street or 67 Shandy Street. The pub has since been demolished.