Chris Maclean: Grief at a broken window

By Chris Maclean

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Glass, Bar

Friday night's Chinese meal with the staff was violently interrupted when one of the pub's huge acid-etched glass windows was smashed. A young lad,...

Friday night's Chinese meal with the staff was violently interrupted when one of the pub's huge acid-etched glass windows was smashed. A young lad, who had been shouting and arguing with his mates and had gone down Station Road knocking over all the recycling bins and smashing all the glass bottle, included in his rampage my window. It had existed there untouched for 130 years until this idiot broke it. I am devastated.

I have always had a strong sense of the historical position pubs play in communities. In many cases these buildings have existed for hundreds of years and served their communities with distinction. Their architecture and their fixtures and fittings reflect the changes over the years and add to the historical picture.

My pub is now minus a window.

Since the Second World War there has been wholesale destruction of many pub interiors. Pub owners, landlords, brewers and managers have all altered, removed and dismantled much of the character and history of these places. Forty years ago it was the done thing to open up bars, remove screens and make the spaces bigger. Sadly much was destroyed. Many of these places now languish empty, their souls ripped out. Few places were spared. Few cared.

CAMRA has long campaigned against this and has produced some excellent publications on traditional pub interiors plus a National Inventory of some of the finest buildings in the country. I still marvel at the breathtaking Philharmonic in Liverpool, the Blackfriars in London, the Square and Compasses in Worth Matravers, the Halfway House in Somerset and the Red Lion in Kent. Many of you will know others. But despite the minority which have escaped these changes the destruction continues.

Even now I continue to see evidence of the style makeovers imposed on traditional pubs. New World colour schemes, clear glass windows, leather sofas, trendy lighting and enormous coffee machines replace bar stools, lino and fluorescent lamps. It is not all good. Usually it is very bad.

I consider myself, here, the custodian of this property. I rent it for the duration of my tenancy and, hopefully, hand it on to the next tenant in good condition with its integrity intact. I acknowledge its history and provenance; its role within the town, the railway and the community. I seek to accumulate documents, pictures and photographs that present this fine building in its historical context. I cherish it for what it was, what it is and what it might become.

Then some half-witted Neanderthal smashes the window. At a stroke one of the distinguishing features is destroyed. A feature that can never really be replaced. I will now have to pass this pub onto my successor historically poorer than when I took it on.

You might consider my grief at the loss of a window melodramatic, but if you keep taking out and losing the features of a pub it will reach a point where it is no longer a pub. And that is an institution I proudly defend.

Police response time to this, incidentally, was 20 hours.

Related topics: Legislation

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