Last Orders at Mrs Roberts’

The Daily Mail reports that a Waugh landmark in North Wales is about to disappear. This is the Fair View Inn in Llanddulas which was the model for the pub in Llanabba run by Mrs Roberts (but never otherwise identified or named). This was the preferred local for the staff of Llanabba School. According to the Mail:

A pub once frequented by novelist Evelyn Waugh which featured in his masterpiece ‘Decline and Fall’ will be developed for housing after a High Court ruling. Waugh taught at a prep school near the Fair View Inn in Llanddulas, North Wales, and it became the model for ‘Mrs Roberts’ Pub’ in his much-loved 1928 comic novel. Paul Pennyfeather […] drank there with fellow teachers when escaping from their duties at fictional school, Llanabba.

There are at least four visits to the pub recorded in Waugh’s novel and one of the illustrations drawn by Waugh himself depicts Pennyfeather and Grimes chatting over their pints next to the fireplace. The pub, which is down the hill from the school, is introduced by Grimes to the reader with this:

“Here’s the pub. Not such a bad little place in its way. Clutterbuck’s father makes all the beer round here. Not bad stuff, either. Two pints please, Mrs Roberts.” (Penguin Classics, 2011, pp. 30, 32)

In the Mail, photos of the pub’s most recent iteration show the signage of Marstons Brewery. The reasons for its demise are explained in the Mail’s story. After it fell on hard times and closed in 2017, it was acquired by a social housing developer to be turned into residential units (a 4BR house and 24 1&2BR flats). The locals complained, inter alia, that the loss of an important community amenity was inconsistent with applicable planning policy and argued against planning permission for the new build;  but this argument was rejected because there was another pub in the village called the Valentine. As reported by the Mail:

[…] council lawyers pointed out that the village still has one surviving pub and is also equipped with a community hall and a Royal British Legion Club. The purpose of the policy was to guard against the village being left with no pub at all, he said. And councillors were not obliged to compare the facilities on offer at the Valentine against those lost when the Fair View Inn closed.

In the novel, when the schoolmasters visit the pub after the sports day the members of the Llanabba Silver Band are arguing about the division of their earnings from performing at that event. Grimes declines to intervene and advises Paul: “Take my tip, old boy: never get involved in a Welsh wrangle. It doesn’t end in blows, like an Irish one, but goes on forever. They’ll still be discussing that three pounds at the end of term; just you see.” Several days (and pages of text) later, after Grimes’ ill-fated marriage, he and Pennyfeather retire to the pub for the last time: “‘Drinks are on me tonight,’ said Grimes. The Silver Band were still sitting with their heads together discussing the division of their earnings.” (Penguin Classics, pp. 112, 138)





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