Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Horn and Trumpet

Horn and Trumpet
Horn and Trumpet

Location: 12 Angel Street, Worcester, England

Opened: Pub itself dates to 1800. Rumors of this being a woman-only bar date to 1959.

Closed: Still open 200 plus years later, but when this place lost its womyn's space status is not known. Or even if it had it to begin with.

I'm not sure I'd 'fess up to being an Anglophile, but I am certainly awed by musty old pubs whose lifetimes are measured not in years but in centuries. Places built of stone and mortar that reek of coal dust and spilled lager, places that would never be confused with the plastic palaces hunkered down in strip malls. Oh, be still my heart!

The Horn and Trumpet  (also affectionately known as the "Blower") is certainly one of those ancient and hoary public houses (it was listed as an English Heritage Building in 1974). The original structure, a private residence, dates from 1646-1647. It became a pub around 1800, with additions and alterations from the mid-19th century to the present.

All very nice you say, with a polite yawn. What's all that to do with this being a lost womyn's space?

The short answer: not much. Not only that, but the evidence that this was ever a former womyn's space hangs by the thinnest of threads.

But I'm feeling charitable enough to give this place the benefit of the doubt. Had this been an ugly cinderblock monstrosity somewhere in Texas, I likely would have ignored the whole affair.

Anyway, you're probably drumming your fingers on the table right now, wondering if we'll ever get to the point. Was this a lesbian bar? Yes or no?

Okay, I'll admit the truth.  I sincerely doubt it ever was, though it's been rated as "gay/friendly" in recent years.  

So, as to that evidence I eluded to. The Horn and Trumpet's status as a former womyn's space rests on one short article from the late 1950s--which was probably an elaborate gag. But here goes.

From the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, October 31, 1959:

WORCESTER, England (Reuters)--The landlord down at the Horn and Trumpet has raised local eyebrows with a plan to convert part of his ancient tavern into a women-only bar.

The idea is that only women will be served in the bar. Men can enter but only as a woman's guest and then will not be able to buy a drink himself.

"A thoroughly alarming proposal," said Mrs. A. L. Salt, vice-president of the local Conference of Women's Organizations. "Women should meet over a cup of tea."

But landlord John Bentley-Walls was undismayed. He advertised in The Times for a barmaid for his new bar, specifying that she should be titled or at least an ex-debutante in order to give the place some tone.

Another advertisement sought a man for bar duty. He should be "an uncouth, unshaven individual, possibly with an eye-patch or a wooden leg." His job would be to listen sympathetically to women who want to pour out their troubles.

In reality, this does seem to be nothing but a hoax. In 1960, the same place advertised for a "jet age barmaid" who could converse on such topics as "poodles, rockets, and politics, despite decided femininity."

But it is revealing that when womyn's space isn't treated with active hostility, it's often the butt of humorous derision. A pub that is men-only, where women are only admitted when escorted by a man--if they are admitted at all--is not a "joke." In fact, that was the status quo for many, many years. And there are still many bars--gay and straight--that are essentially hostile to the presence of women.

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