Pubs of the Leaf Ranks

Maple Leaf Forever

Enduring as a symbol of Canada is the maple leaf – on our flag (adopted 1965), sports team signage and jerseys, as a logo for countless businesses, and probably (haven’t checked lately) on beer labels.

The Government of Canada has prepared a timeline of its use, a wending history that includes British episodes.

Queen Elizabeth II wore a “Maple Leaf of Canada” dress in 1957. Canadian Army units in Britain proudly sported a leaf badge in World War II, and the Army’s Maple Leaf newspaper was widely distributed.

Perhaps these events helped to spur creation of Maple Leaf pubs in Britain. The onset of international travel had to help, too.

I know at least two such pubs, one defunct.* The first is the Maple Leaf pub in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London. A fine image appears here.

I visited twice over the years, and recall an overage glass of Canadian beer. But that was decades ago. International brewing arrangements and logistics are such, today, that the Canadian beer served is probably tip-top.

In recent years Molson Canadian, Moosehead, and Sleeman have been available. Withal the Canadian theme seems mostly of decor.

While reflecting its 1980s origins, it contrives to convey our sports bar of today. Yes, the menu is eclectic but that’s true here, too. See more details in this Greene King link.

The other Maple Leaf pub I’ve run across, this time only on digital rambles, is, or rather was, in Newark, UK, on Winthorpe Road. Alan Winfield at Pubs Galore has posted a recollection.

He visited in 1987 and posted a picture appropriately in washed-out colour. It depicts a rather plain, split-level block or brick building, with ample parking in front. It is marked Maple Leaf Brewery because in the 1980s a mini-brewery was installed onsite.

Ron Pattinson knows a thing or two about Newark, he grew up there. He posted thoughts in 2013 on the brewing and latter-day pub, here.

My checks in British Newspaper Archive (BNA) show the pub was built in 1968 by James Hole & Co. Brewery. A considerable effort was made to incorporate a Canadian theme. Selected for this purpose was a frontier Canada.

On August 3, 1968 the Newark Advertiser trumpeted the new pub in a full page of stories and photos, festooned by adverts of the suppliers and trades who built it. The interior and exterior design was carefully explained, of which this is a small sample:

Equally decorative is the bar itself, a dashing white dog team and sledge enhancing the counter level front, leading back to a restful painting of Canadian scenery. Overhanging the bar are log cabin lanterns under a pine log canopy.

A fibreglass canoe was placed in front of the bar. “Timbered” chairs were “Indian-style stitched”, with “outer leather fringes”. There is much else, redolent to be sure of its period and how Indigenous culture was viewed at the time.

Here is another part:

Beer quality not forgotten

The Maple Leaf is rich in its racoon skins and relics but in its successful search for authenticity, Hole’s Brewery has not forgotten that the most important aspect of the British pub is its beer.

And those who truly appreciate a quality British brew will appreciate a certain novelty attached to the fact that this public house is the first in Newark to have a “beer untouched by hand” system built in.

Under this system, refrigerated beer is transferred straight from the brewery to the beer cellar and not touched by anyone until it is drunk from the glass.

This was tank beer: conditioned at the brewery, filtered, transferred direct to cellar whence fed by pressure to the bar, as against naturally-conditioned beer in casks that required pegging and tapping.

In this period no thought would have been given to getting Canadian beer, anyway the theming presented a Canada of centuries earlier, idealised as commercial theming inevitably is.

(Indirectly there is an allusion to “Canadian” drinking, a dry Martini is mentioned as ideal for pondering the decor scheme!).

Canada House in London, the British Museum, and archives of Hudson’s Bay Company were all plumbed to get ideas for the place.

The pub was managed by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Porter, who had managed the Lord Nelson and other pubs, which all in Winthorpe will remember, said the writer.

An image of the pub sign may be viewed in this link at Inspire Picture Archive. A maple leaf is set at an angle on a background of contrasting brown. It does have a Canadian feel actually.

While the racoon may seem passé as a symbol of this country, I can assure you the animal is very much with us, in Ontario at least. There are probably hundreds of them in this very ravine you see, pictured this morning from my aerie on St. Clair Avenue.

 

 

It is easy to find them late in the day, their looming black and white faces nosy looking for food. Or rather they find you, insistent animals they are.

The BNA provides details of the pub’s course in the next decades. A showcase for local bands. Venue for wedding and other receptions. It had its place in the community, and some viewed its passing with regret.

Alan Winfield’s thoughts paralleled what mine would have been: even though his visit wasn’t, that day, satisfactory he was sorry to see it go. I traced commercial activity to about 1999. It closed at some point after and was replaced by public housing.**

To me, the external images suggest nothing so much as a ca. 1970 Canadian elementary school. I attended Coronation School in Montreal, built in the early 1950s, and still I thought there was a resemblance.

The name Coronation School is a neat reversal, eh? There was no racoon décor there, but I remember a teacher or two who’d have your hide if you didn’t stand smart at Assembly.

*It seems there is one in Cork, Ireland but I did not investigate further.

**See my Comment added.

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Pubs of the Leaf Ranks”

  1. There is a great bar called the Maple Leaf in New Orleans, humorously on Oak St. Not really a pub and I don’t recall much Canadiana, but it was quite popular with some Canadian expats. It’s been well over a decade since I’ve been there, but it was a fantastic place at the time and I assume still is. Excellent music. What else would you expect in New Orleans?

    Reply
    • Very good, would like to see. I recall many fleur de lys in the old quarter when I was there. Not an express allusion to Quebec but a common expression of la francophonie (more in the case of New Orleans, its past).

      Reply
  2. It seems unlikely the original theming continued to the end. Decor might have changed numerous times in the pub’s history, apart installation of a brewery kit that is. Pub theming by its nature is an evanescent business, driven by taste and times.

    Reply

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