The Village Inn

by John Betjeman

"The village inn, the dear old inn,
So ancient, clean and free from sin,
True centre of our rural life
Where Hodge sits down beside his wife
And talks of Marx and nuclear fission
With all a rustic's intuition.
Ah, more than church or school or hall,
The village inn's the heart of all."
So spake the brewer's P. R. O.,
A man who really ought to know,
For he is paid for saying so.
And then he kindly gave to me
A lovely coloured booklet free.
'Twas full of prose that sang the praise
Of coaching inns in Georgian days,
Showing how public-houses are
More modern than the motor-car,
More English than the weald or wold
And almost equally as old,
And run for love and not for gold
Until I felt a filthy swine
For loathing beer and liking wine,
And rotten to the very core
For thinking village inns a bore,
And village bores more sure to roam
To village inns than stay at home.
And then I thought I must be wrong,
So up I rose and went along
To that old village alehouse where
In neon lights is written "Bear".
Ah, where's the inn that once I knew
With brick and chalky wall
Up which the knobbly pear-tree grew
For fear the place would fall?
Oh, that old pot-house isn't there,
It wasn't worth our while;
You'll find we have rebuilt "The Bear"
In Early Georgian style.
But winter jasmine used to cling
With golden stars a-shine
Where rain and wind would wash and swing
The crudely painted sign.
And where's the roof of golden thatch?
The chimney-stack of stone?
The crown-glass panes that used to match
Each sunset with their own?
Oh now the walls are red and smart,
The roof has emerald tiles.
The neon sign's a work of art
And visible for miles.
The bar inside was papered green,
The settles grained like oak,
The only light was paraffin,
The woodfire used to smoke.
And photographs from far and wide
Were hung around the room:
The hunt, the church, the football side,
And Kitchener of Khartoum.
Our air-conditioned bars are lined
With washable material,
The stools are steel, the taste refined,
Hygienic and ethereal.
Hurrah, hurrah, for hearts of oak!
Away with inhibitions!
For here's a place to sit and soak
In sanit'ry conditions.

Return to post – The pub – not as we know it.

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By John Barber

John Barber was born in London at the height of the UK Post War baby boom. He had careers in Advertising, International Banking and the Wine Industry before becoming Town Centre Manager in his home town of Hertford. He has been writing professionally since 1996 when he began to contribute articles to magazines on social and local history. His first published book in 2002 was a non-fiction work entitled The Camden Town Murder, a hitherto unsolved murder case from 1907.