Trip down memory lane for a pint at the old Plough and Harrow in Aylesbury
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888uA former employee of Stoke Mandeville Hospital has taken a trip down memory lane to a time when the good old British pub served as a social hub at the centre of community life in villages, towns and cities up and down the country.
Michael Hartley was a pastry chef at the hospital in the mid 1950s and a regular at the Plough and Harrow pub, which was located on the corner of Stoke Road and Buckingham Road.
Back then ale and beer was part of the staple British diet but over years traditional pub culture has become a thing of the past with many watering holes falling into disrepair or closing.
Aylesbury was no different and has seen the demise of many old pubs.
"There were two pubs on the same site and to confuse matters even further the Old Plough and Harrow were the newest buildings - probably built between the wars while the Plough and Harrow was, I think, probably Victorian," Michael said.
"The Plough and Harrow could only be described as a 'man's' pub. No respectable lady was ever seen in there twice.
"Its Landlord JT, had more personal pint glasses on his shelves than public ones, and the seaside postcards, pinned around the fireplace, were the smuttiest you could imagine.
"There were two rooms. The first, had the main bar, and the second, windowless, room contained just chairs and a piano.
"The main bar had a large window which you had to pass, on your way in. JT could see customers coming through that window so a regulars' preferred tipple would often be waiting for them on the bar.
"The back room, with the piano, was, on a Friday and Saturday nights, full of 'singers' with somebody playing the piano Reggie was one of those people in the 'You hum it I'll play it' category. He was excellent and a great voice to boot. His rendering of 'The Donkey Seranade' was superb, sung along with many other well known tenor songs.
"JT did not have a 'spirit licence' but you just had to ask JT and your rum, whisky etc would appear.
"Behind the bar, up two or three steps, there was a sitting room with a couple of easy chairs and a table on which stood a pay telephone - on a card, under that 'phone were the 'phone numbers of the local bookies I could, as other regulars could, just drop into that bar at any time and shout up the stairs; "Only me J, I'm getting a drink". Then get my bottle of stout, put the money on the bar and go and drink it in that back room.
"I smoked in those days and for months I had bought, from JT, king size Phillip Morris cigarettes for the same price as Woodbines. No great surprise when JT was 'done' for selling those cigarettes without duty being paid. He was fined £50 - a lot of money in those days. On my next visit, to the pub, I put a ten shilling note on the bar saying; 'Keep the change'. JT laughed saying, 'No thanks, everybody that comes in does that - I could be making a nice profit by now if I wanted'."
One Friday evening Mike learned that one of the regulars had either lost, or had stolen, their wages. A quick whip-round and the regulars had collected more than his wages had been.
Mike added: "Another advantage of the pub was that a whole raft of different tradesmen could be found to do work for anyone wanting it.
"There was also a Buffs Lodge which brought in a great deal of fun and charity money to take widows and children on trips, pantomimes in London and so on. The Buff Lodges, in Aylesbury, by the way, kept two ambulances going, in London, during the Second World War.
"That pub was probably unique. You may call that pub raucous, vulgar and loud, and it was, but the camaraderie was almost palpable If anyone wanted anything - if it could be got then it was. Thank you JT and all the other friends I made in your pub and it is a pity there doesn't seem to be pubs like it any more."
Michael is keen to get in touch with anyone who remembers or was a regular at the Plough and Harrow You can contact him directly on 01539 722873.