‘A Parson Running a Pub’ (Part II)

‘A Pulpit in a Sense Novel’

Father Basil Lee Jellicoe, who died at only 36 in 1935, promoted a reformed, Christian-aligned pub: see our Part I, here. It may seem unlikely that he can speak to us in person of his plans, from behind the bar, to boot, but he can.

Courtesy the Digital Video Repository of research collection of the University of South Carolina, we may view the well-spoken padre articulate his goals in 1930, at the Anchor Inn, Somers Town, London.

In the speech he acknowledged that he advocated a “pulpit in a sense novel”, but built his case well.

The film, from Fox Movietone, runs over five minutes, and is in three parts.* First, there is the Father’s sermon (in effect). Second, a group of customers appears mostly women, in happy mood drinking a dark beer that perhaps was porter. They exchange witticisms in strong voice, some of which I can make out. Those attuned to British speech patterns can probably understand more or the whole thing. It would be interesting to read a transcription. Jellicoe does not appear in this part.

The last part shows another group of customers, male or mostly, with Jellicoe now present who leads them all in song. He plays a small accordion and smiles broadly as he leads this pub-church choir. One of the patrons is dressed in “pearly king” fashion.

Pints and halves of beer are drawn continually, and hoisted. I cannot recall seeing beer drawn and people actually speaking in the pub this early before.

Here you see the reality of what Basil Jellicoe tried to achieve, and something of the prewar pub in action. Extraordinary, we think. For the final part of our series on Basil Jellicoe see Part III.


*The film is actually a compilation of outakes. This Movietone clip appears to be the official release. It is available on YouTube with other British Movietones selections, but is much shorter and does not add significantly to it. The main difference I see is the Father’s matinée smile is better highlighted in the official release.  Note how expertly the pints were drawn in those days, combining speed with nonchalance.