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The Live and Let Live Pub in North Place has been boarded up for some weeks and is scheduled for demolition. Was it an inevitable victim of economics and changes to our drinking culture or is the closure something that should be resisted and protested against? Martin Giles reflects…
The Live and Let Live pub is dead. It has died even before a final decision on the Waitrose redevelopment scheme in the area around North Place, to the North of North Street, has been made. It presents a sorry spectacle boarded up and empty but perhaps few will mourn its passing: it has never been one of the most fashionable drinking venues in the town. Lately it was said to be a place where drugs changed hands.
Perhaps though in a hundred year’s time Guildfordians will wonder why the closure and demolition occurred without any kind of protest. It might not be a remarkable building but it is typically Victorian and its style might be more attractive than anything that will replace it. Why could it not be incorporated into any new development?
I must declare an interest, although amazingly there is no plaque to commemorate the event, it was the place in which, in the 1970s, I bought my first, highly illegal, pint of beer and, sentimentally, I don’t want the site of this historic event to disappear. I was tall for my age but the barmaid must have doubted I was eighteen.
Our drinking culture was different then though. A pint was about 15p but I earned, in my weekend job, only 35p an hour. Supermarkets did not sell alcohol so ‘pre-loading’ was not even an option. There were many more pubs in Guildford. In North Street and the streets adjoining alone there were eight pubs. As well as the Live and Let Live they were: the Horse and Groom, The Surrey Arms, The Seven Stars in Swan Lane, The Bear in Friary Street, The Spread Eagle in Chertsey Street and the Carpenters Arms in Leapale Road (have I missed any? Yes, there was also the ‘Little White Lion’ as pointed outed out by Darrol Radley – see comments below). All have now gone except the Spread Eagle which has been renamed ‘The Guildford Tup’.
The pubs, which closed at 10.30pm other than on Fridays and Saturdays when they closed at 11pm, were small, some, maybe most, were still divided into different bars for different social classes, a hang over from the Victorian era when most had been built. The customers included groups from all age groups. None of us youngsters carried ID. I think that as long as we did not appear to be too young and behaved ourselves we were tolerated. Getting drunk was rare and was not the aim of the evening. The presence of older drinkers all around us must have been restraining influence.
I can’t help but conclude that despite the extra underage drinking that went on then it was a better way to introduce youngsters to socialising and handling alcohol. Of course, it was not perfect but I don’t recall the scenes we sometimes see these days on Bridge Street and other towns across the country.
Of course, it is always easy to look back through rose tinted specs. Perhaps I am wrong to be concerned? But pubs have been an important, or at least traditional, part of English cultural life for many hundreds of years, it is right to consider what the impact of so many of them closing in our town will have, what it says about us and what it means.
What do you think? Has the Live and Let Live had its day? Should it be allowed to be knocked down and pass into history or should it be fought for and incorporated into any new development scheme?
Is the drinking culture for young people worse today or were there as many or more problems in the seventies?
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