Back to Spinks Bar in Bradford

PHOTOS of Bradford’s wonderful old pubs that appear occasionally in the T&A must take many on a nostalgic trip down memory lane, remembering their own favorites.

Obviously, not all ads are created equal and there are many reasons for our preferences. In fact, my own favorite watering hole while working in town was a bar, not a pub. There is a difference.

A bar was not beset by the class and gender distinctions that still existed fifty years ago in pubs – where the “ladies” were unofficially directed to a cozy place, the “gentlemen” occupied the saloon and the men. who worked knew their place was the reception hall.

Spinks Bar was little more than a long, narrow corridor under the Wool Exchange, connecting Market Street and Hustlergate.

There was a real democratic spirit and people from all walks of life happily mingled and socialized there. Aside from the much fancier business at hotels like the Victoria, Midland, and Alexandra, this was the only bar in town.

It was a no-frills place, stronger in what it didn’t offer than what it offered. There was no music, no fancy decor, no horse brass on beams, nothing hanging from the ceiling, no pool table or darts.

In some ways it lacked atmosphere, yet it was the go-to lunch destination for members of the legal profession, league footballers, journalists, businessmen and, of course, employees. office throughout the city.

I remember trembling in my silent puppies, escorted by my boss, a stick thin man called Peacock, to see the great panjandrum of the City Treasury, the well-stocked deputy treasurer, Mr. Crowe. I had been seen walking into Spinks during working hours. What did I have to say for myself?

I explained that Spinks was a well-known shortcut to Piece Hall Yard for anyone who wanted to climb to the top of the city. I had cut through, the fastest to deliver loan bonds. Peacock and Crowe stared at each other for a long second before nodding, not entirely convinced, feathers slightly ruffled.

I told this to Alf, a retired High Court judge, still dapper in a three-piece suit and a brown trilby. “It’s an Englishman’s right to have a pint of good ale with his dinner,” he thundered, looking up from his Sporting Life, then winking at him, “but can – not be at 2:50 in the afternoon. Use the back entrance next time.

At that time, there was nothing wrong with drinking moderately at lunchtime. All the pubs in town were packed from about noon to two.

Spinks was respectable, favored by decent people who wouldn’t have died in, say, the Old Crown, in Ivegate, wonderfully merry with old Mary at the piano, or The Boy and Barrel, in Westgate, offering the cheapest beer in the town, to say nothing of those richly adorned homes like those of Yeats or the infamous Empress whose drab Victorian facilities must have once been very grandiose.

The Talbot at the bottom of Kirkgate had probably the most distinguished reputation, but the fewest customers.

So what was the attraction of Spinks beyond the well-groomed Webster’s beers and the excellent beef sandwiches augmented with pickled onions available for free in a large bowl on the bar? Well, because it was drafty it didn’t have the bittersweet aroma of beer – to come back with you to the office.

Being part of the Wool Exchange building seemed to give him a certain urban air, and his reputation for attracting interesting people likely attracted others looking for intelligent conversation.

I vividly remember two bearded wonders in jeans and sandals but no socks, the standard science student uniform at the time, animatedly discussing Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. I listened intently in the hope of learning something but, alas, I remain in doubt to this day.

There were so many quirky oddballs. A moody man still alone at the bar answered Crease. The more he drank, and he could certainly drink, the more sober he became and the greater his knowledge of the evils of the world. His face was on fire with carbuncles and I was surprised one day to see him walk through the door of the excise office on the vehicles.

I found out his name was Creaser Binns and he was a man of rag and bone who laid off his pony and his trap. Because I had helped with his forms, he always recognized me later as his true friend, which for no lover of humanity was a great honor.

The well-known “colonel” in the town clearly resembled General Montgomery, sporting the brand’s mustache and beret, speaking in muted tones. He always carried a bulging briefcase. Called on “important matters”, he ordered me to keep the documents. ‘With my life!’ I said. The first sheet of white vellum I glanced at was titled Clarence House and read: “Her Majesty, Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, asked me to thank you for your good wishes on the occasion of his birthday.”

Spinks Bar was an education and I probably learned more about the real world of Alf the Judge than anyone else.

He once said with a sad nod that no one has ever confessed to a crime without clear evidence against them. He might have been inclined to believe some if it weren’t for the fact that everyone succeeded in invoking the same passion in their denials.

Alf was a big man of the turf, bet coupons slipping out of his pocket pocket every time he pulled out his watch, but it had nothing to do with the betting ring. The public telephone was generally guarded by a former craggy boxer. When it rang, any five men, seated well apart, stiffened, crushed their cigarettes, emptied their drink. After short whispered words, they were warm with the local bookies.

I had a buddy, Colin, whose good idea was to follow one of those runners, “pile on whatever he’s on.” I suggested a refinement that it would be less suspect to be already at the bookmakers when we arrived. The plan has worked a few times and after earning over a week’s salary, on a horse ironically called Sense of Purpose, we are both considering pre-retirement.

Unfortunately, Colin was working nearby at a famous jewelry store and one of the employees making money made the boss suspicious. Police visited Spinks to verify the story and the union moved elsewhere.

The last time I made an appearance after living outside for several years, I found Spinks a totally different place, much quieter, the old characters conspicuously absent.

It looked to me like they might have moved to the Empress, but unfortunately all that was left of it, now moved to a modern building in Aldermanbury, was just a few tokens of the original Victorian mahogany . His Spider’s Bar had nothing to attract me and it was deserted.

The world had changed and the culture of drinking alcohol at lunchtime no longer existed. It was the hot ’80s, all now about a hard work ethic, lunch being for wimps. Perish the thought that he might be liquid.

Who these days would even think about it and it’s no surprise that so many ads have disappeared.

Spinks Bar later became a pizzeria before having its brick vaulted ceiling exposed and relaunched as The Exchange Craft Beer House.

l What memories do you have of the bars and pubs in Bradford? Email [email protected]


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