In those days in the early 1960s there were three tiny bars, and there were naked ladies revealing all adorning the walls of the public bar. Old Wally Parker kept a good pub in those days. Then Wells & Winches sold out to Greene King, who decided to modernise and you only have to imagine how our beloved pub was bastardised to bring it up to date. There is a painting still hanging on the wall from the days just after the modernisation that brings back the horror of what was done. Greene King were aspiring to be one of the big boys in those days - take over the opposition before it happens to you was the fear [no change there then - Ed]. It is with great credit to Greene King and a succession of landlords that the pub, whilst not being the same as it was, has been tastefully restored and is a fine example of a modern-day pub.
My point is that the changes were at best misguided and definitely not for the better, but past mistakes have been rectified. In those days it was happening everywhere and the giants like Whitbread, Grand Metropolian and Courage (to name but a few) were gobbling up our breweries and closing them down and changing our pubs without a thought to what the public wanted. Regional choice went out the window and the advance of keg beer was on its way. But just before the last flicker of the burning candle was finally snuffed out along came CAMRA and the rest is history. Goliath was humbled by David and the mighty empires began to crumble.
The biggest villain in East Anglia was the dreaded Watney Mann owned by Grand Metropolitan. They turned Norfolk into a beer desert and learned very soon the wisdom of taking their name away from the outside of pubs for fear of scaring away the unsuspecting visitor to the region. So serious was the problem in the early 1970s that the Monopolies Commission forced them to swap six pubs in Norwich with six Courage pubs in Bristol. I remember the advertising of the time encouraging you to "Join the red revolution" with reference to re-branding Watneys Red Barrel to Watneys Red. One pub that did swap put a sign up declaring "Our revolution is now over - take Courage!". If it had not been for the big boys bullying us and pushing us into a corner and using a sledge-hammer to crack this particular nut, well, they may have gently succeeded and won the day without a whimper from the thirsty punter.
Tonight I shall raise my glass of locally-brewed real ale and toast Watneys for without their misguided help all might well have been lost!