Friday, 13 April 2012

THERE IS A PSEUDO-SCIENCE called psychogeography. It was defined as far back as 1955 as "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals." English writers of our own time,such as Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd, have explored it their books about London. In everyday language, it is looking at the streets and buildings of a town or city, and using the imagination to bring out a sense of the people that walked and worked there in the past. For psychogeography to make any sense, you have to believe that the events of the past and the things that people did and said in places over the years leave some kind of impression which can be experienced by modern visitors to those sites.

A practical and visual way of dipping into psychogeography is to construct 'then and now' photographs, where a photo of a building, or scene from, say, 100 years ago, is set alongside a modern photo taken from as close to the original viewpoint as possible. Here are some images of Wisbech pubs as they are now, and as they were many years ago. Firstly, the Duke's Head, in Church Terrace. It is a very old establishment, and was originally a coaching inn.

The Globe is another pub that was certainly in existence in the 1760s, when the first Trade and Commercial gazettes began to be published. It has undergone many name changes, even recently.

In his book 'The Inns and Taverns of Wisbech', Arthur A. Oldham lists over 140 names of pubs. Not all of them were functioning at the same moment in time, but when you read that there were nine different pubs on the Market Place alone, it gives some idea how many different places you could have gone to to get a drink. The Rose and Crown is reckoned to be one of the oldest places in town, but were it still operating, The George might be even older. It was still open when Oldham wrote his book in 1950, and the landlord was Sidney Maurice Height who took over from his father when he was demobbed from the R.A.F.
A pub which is long gone was the Ship Defiance, which stood on North Street. Younger readers will not remember the brewery Steward and Patteson. They were one of the biggest breweries in East Anglia, and had breweries in Norwich, Yarmouth and Ely. They were bought by Watney Mann in the 1960s.

A pub which still trades is The Royal Standard, and it is included here mainly because it gives me an excuse to use another splendid picture borrowed from one of Andrew Ingram's books. It shows the Elm Road canal bridge. Today's blog concludes with a not-so-sly laugh at the expense of a local newspaper and how it covered the story of a fire at The Royal Standard a few years ago. No further comment from your blogger should be necessary - it wasn't even April 1st!.