Thursday, 24 February 2011
John Bull Memories
From 1973 until 1987 I lived in York and it's still dear to me. Somehow I became associated with an organisation called the Campaign for Real Ale, can't imagine why. Another CAMRA member was Neville Hobson, who worked in his family bakery and yearned to be a publican. When his father passed away, Neville sold the bakery and sought to realise his dream. At that time (1982) there was only one pub in York that was a "free house" (the Spread Eagle): all the rest were tied to breweries. It was a struggle for anyone without years of experience to break into the licensed trade as Nev wished to do. At length he found an ex-pub, built in "road house" style in the 1930s, in use as a store by the Mazda garage next door. He and, as I recall, a bunch of CAMRA members cleared out the old pub, and eventually the John Bull opened. Thanks to a succession of highly responsible bar staff (Jeff, for example, and Rowan), the Bull became recognised as a great place to meet and socialise, where you could get an excellent range of beer and stonking sandwiches. Rowan used to get supplies for the sarnies from Sainsbury's just round the corner and across the river Foss. Half a loaf, a slice of cheese an inch thick, ditto of pickles and about two inches of green salad, were combined into a sandwich you had to dislocate your jaw to eat, anaconda style. On Youtube are two videos of the pub in its last days. The Mazda dealership wanted to expanded their showroom, and the John Bull was in the way, so in 1994, some while after Nev himself had moved on, it was demolished. On the first of the videos you can see the list of sarnies! Cheese, Houmous, Beef, Ham....
There was no juke box, no piped music, and no TV. Particularly nice was that as a female I could go into the John Bull on my own, or on one occasion with the cat in her carrying box (the vet was just up the road) and find good conversation on any topic whatsoever. Many of the regulars were staff or students of the University. This week we welcomed two of those ex-regulars to our house in France - they live less than ten miles away in Charnizay! Who'd have thought it?