According to the Campaign for Real Ale the nation’s pubs, some of them stretching back to the late 18th century, are closing at the rate of 18 a week.
The reasons for this include the smoking ban, crippling high beer tax, recent recessions, cut-price alcohol deals in supermarkets and unworkable rents charged to landlords by pub companies.
And then there is a cultural shift from bitter, porter and stout. Britain is drinking about 23 percent less beer than a decade ago, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.
Pubs have been trying to take up the slack with other beverages and expanded food menus.
But perhaps the biggest change came after the Conservative government of the late 1980s became concerned that large breweries owned too many pubs.
After months of research and hearing arguments from both sides, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission discovered brewers were creating a ‘complex monopoly’, damaging the interests of publicans and customers.
Thus, the resulting Beer Orders stipulated that no brewery was allowed to have more than 2,000 tied houses by November 1992.
Thereafter, thousands of pubs were sold by brewers, many being less profitable than others so, for some, it became a convenient creaming-off process.
Large numbers of disposed pubs were bought by private individuals or companies which became known as ‘pubcos.’ As the pubcos did not manufacture drinks themselves, they were exempt from the terms of the Beer Orders.
Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland, who chairs an all-party Save the Pub group, accuses pubcos of overcharging for beer and rent to help pay off their large debts.
He said: “The anti-monopolies move went wrong. The pubcos are now as big as the breweries ever were.
“Politicians on all sides recognise that something needs to be done. A lot of what is going on is nothing more than a scam.
“These firms are in debt and the quickest way to get rid of it is to sell off the premises. That means a load of pubs will end up as housing or supermarkets, ripping the heart out of many communities.”
The closure of pubs for a variety of reasons is quite evident in Doncaster. Over the last 20 years significant numbers have been demolished or undergone a change of use.
This time I will recall the history of some of them to rekindle fond memories of once cherished, but certainly not forgotten, Doncaster watering holes.
The Swan Hotel dates from at least 1810. Auctions, meetings, concerts and dinners were noted as being held on the premises throughout their existence.
Thomas Henry Sargeson and his wife (who took over after his death in 1954) were the longest-serving licensees, from 1921 to 1956.
The premises were altered in 1909, 1920 and 1922 and among the past owners were A Fersman and Mappin’s Masborough Old Brewery Ltd. The Swan closed during September 2004 and was subsequently demolished.
Greyhound, Edlington Lane, Edlington
The White Greyhound was opened on Friday November 29, 1957 by the Barnsley Brewery Co. Ltd.
County Alderman R E Hughes officiated at the ceremony. The first landlord was Herbert Fewkes.
The premises were closed in 2002, demolished in 2004 and exclusive residential properties subsequently built on the site.
Hexthorpe House, Hexthorpe
The Hexthorpe House dates back to at least 1871. The reference relates to an inquest being held on the premises into a boy scalded by molten metal at the foundry Radcliffe & Nuscheler.
The premises were rebuilt in 1934 and granted a full licence in 1949.
Past landlords have included ex-Doncaster Rovers player Cecil Stirland from 1969 to 83.
The establishment closed in January 2002 and reopened Christmas Eve 2002 but was demolished several years later.
Vine Hotel, Kelham Street
An earlier Vine Inn survived in Balby until 1851. The Kelham Street Vine probably existed as a beerhouse from around 1876 as the Doncaster Gazette of September 1, 1876 notes: “Application for a spirits licence for a large building in course of erection Kelham Street/Balby Bridge.”
The pub was altered in 1922 and 1936 and demolished in March 2008.
The Queen, Market Place
The premises housing The Queen at the Sunny Bar/Market Place corner had been occupied by Joseph Smith, a wine and spirits merchant, from at least 1824.
The first located reference to The Queen is 1891. The premises were altered in 1904 and 1984.
Former owners included Arthur Joseph Smith, and Duncan Gilmour & Co Ltd. The Queen has since been converted for other uses.
A notice in the Doncaster Gazette of February 27, 1796 advertising a newly-erected inn for sale by private contract provides the earliest reference to the Star.
On the morning of Sunday, October 31, 1909 the hotel caught fire and as the flames engulfed the building all the occupants were thought to have escaped. But it was discovered that a maid, 14-year-old Margaret Evelyn Mountford, was missing.
Landlord George Elliott immediately tried to save her, although his efforts were in vain and he received severe burns in the process.
A large part of the hotel was destroyed by fire and the whole building had to be rebuilt.
From 1912 to 1928 Fred Lowe held the licence and from 1928 to 1949 it was carried on by his son who was also called Fred.
The premises have recently been converted for other commercial uses.
Dating from at least 1832, the Plough existed as a beer house until a full licence was granted in August 1846. Throughout the 19th century auctions, inquests and other social functions were held on the premises.
The Plough was sold to W Humble and Markham Main Colliery for £7,000 in 1919 and then to Messrs Darley for £12,100 in 1926.
The premises were rebuilt in 1927 and a number of social functions took place there, surviving until closure in March 2002.
Once empty, the property was gutted by fire in 2003 and subsequently demolished. The site is currently part of a store.
Fox and Hounds, Wadworth
The Fox and Hounds can be traced to at least 1831 and was altered in 1903 and 1935.
The licence was held by John Hebditch from 1869 until his death in 1896, his wife taking over for a further six years.
Past owners included Nicholson Bros Ltd; Whitworth and Son & Nephew. The premises are currently for sale and the surrounding area is being redeveloped,
Benbow, Armthorpe Road
The Benbow, built by Walter Firth, opened on February 7, 1963 according to the Doncaster Chronicle of that day, the licence being transferred from the Volunteer Inn, French Gate, Doncaster.
The premises were named after Whitbread brewery group chairman Colonel William Whitbread’s racing yacht Benbow.
The Benbow’s first landlord was Licensed Victuallers Association stalwart Ron Jones and the building was demolished during 2013.
* If any readers have fond memories or pictures of South Yorkshire pubs now gone, please get in touch.