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Live and Let Live is Dead – What Does It Mean?

Published on: 7 May, 2012
Updated on: 28 May, 2012

The Live and Let Live Pub in North Place has been boarded up for some weeks and is scheduled for demolition. Was it an inevitable victim of economics and changes to our drinking culture or is the closure something that should be resisted and protested against? Martin Giles reflects…

The Live and Let Live - Prepared for Demolition

The Live and Let Live pub is dead. It has died even before a final decision on the Waitrose redevelopment scheme in the area around North Place, to the North of North Street, has been made. It presents a sorry spectacle boarded up and empty but perhaps few will mourn its passing: it has never been one of the most fashionable drinking venues in the town.  Lately it was said to be a place where drugs changed hands.

Perhaps though in a hundred year’s time Guildfordians will wonder why the closure and demolition occurred without any kind of protest. It might not be a remarkable building but it is typically Victorian and its style might be more attractive than anything that will replace it. Why could it not be incorporated into any new development?

I must declare an interest, although amazingly there is no plaque to commemorate the event, it was the place in which, in the 1970s, I bought my first, highly illegal, pint of beer and, sentimentally, I don’t want the site of this historic event to disappear. I was tall for my age but the barmaid must have doubted I was eighteen.

Our drinking culture was different then though. A pint was about 15p but I earned, in my weekend job, only 35p an hour. Supermarkets did not sell alcohol so ‘pre-loading’ was not even an option. There were many more pubs in Guildford. In North Street and the streets adjoining alone there were eight pubs. As well as the Live and Let Live they were: the Horse and Groom, The Surrey Arms,  The Seven Stars in Swan Lane, The Bear in Friary Street, The Spread Eagle in Chertsey Street and the Carpenters Arms in Leapale Road (have I missed any? Yes, there was also the ‘Little White Lion’ as pointed outed out by Darrol Radley – see comments below). All have now gone except the Spread Eagle which has been renamed ‘The Guildford Tup’.

The pubs, which closed at 10.30pm other than on Fridays and Saturdays when they closed at 11pm, were small, some, maybe most, were still divided into different bars for different social classes, a hang over from the Victorian era when most had been built. The customers included groups from all age groups. None of us youngsters carried ID. I think that as long as we did not appear to be too young and behaved ourselves we were tolerated. Getting drunk was rare and was not the aim of the evening. The presence of older drinkers all around us must have been restraining influence.

I can’t help but conclude that despite the extra underage drinking that went on then it was a better way to introduce youngsters to socialising and handling alcohol. Of course, it was not perfect but I don’t recall the scenes we sometimes see these days on Bridge Street and other towns across the country.

The live and Let Live still open in February

Of course, it is always easy to look back through rose tinted specs. Perhaps I am wrong to be concerned? But pubs have been an important, or at least traditional, part of English cultural life for many hundreds of years, it is right to consider what the impact of so many of them closing in our town will have, what it says about us and what it means.

What do you think? Has the Live and Let Live had its day? Should it be allowed to be knocked down and pass into history or should it be fought for and incorporated into any new development scheme?

Is the drinking culture for young people worse today or were there as many or more problems in the seventies?

Please send your comments on or write a letter using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below.

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Responses to Live and Let Live is Dead – What Does It Mean?

  1. Lester Woodger

    May 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Just found this post I ran “The Live” in 2008 and loved the place. It’s such a shame it’s being demolished!

  2. Darrol Radley

    May 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    If I remember correctly, the one pub you missed is The Little White Lion, next door to the old Woolworths store, again a small but busy pub. A regular of employees from Woolworths on their way home…sometimes meaning supper was a bit late!

    • Martin Giles

      May 28, 2012 at 10:19 am

      Thank you Darrol. I had forgotten that one. It was another one owned, at one time in the mid 19th century, by ‘Billy the Whip’ Elkins, a prominent brewer and pub owner in Guildford who also was a Town Mayor. Article updated.

  3. Keith Chesterton

    May 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I’m sorry the Live and Let Live has gone. I used to go there reasonably often after meetings. When I was Chair of the Labour Party I always made sure we finished in time to get there. It was small so always seemed crowded even when it wasn’t. I became known, so was allowed to stay in after the official closing time, though I only wanted to stay in that late – after 10 or was it 10.30?! – occasionally.

    But it did get too noisy for me, so I stopped going.

  4. Chris Pegman

    May 29, 2012 at 7:18 am

    What a shame the Live’s gone. I used to be a regular in the early 90’s when Mel and Lynne were running it. I remember they put on a coach to Wembley for the regulars when Woking played Runcorn in the FA Trophy Final in 1994 (back in the dark days before Guildford City FC were reformed). It was a really friendly and fun pub in those days.

  5. Tim Langhorn

    May 31, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    There is a trade off between pubs that are small, traditional and accessible to all types – in the sense of providing very simple fare in unimproved circumstances – and the size, decor and offering of pubs that will draw in sufficient people to make a living. It is possible, but not easy, to make a living out of a small “drinker’s pub”. The Live and Let Live occasionally had a pleasant atmosphere in the manner of certain small pubs in London but not being in London, mostly when I visited it seemed to have very few people. I am sad to see it go but not surprised: the pubs that survive are larger and cater for a higher living standard. By all means, if it is architecturally worth it, incorporate it into a larger development. Developers must learn that as shopping habits change, the centres of towns need architectural interest and entertainment and certainly not large bland retail units to succeed. But it is not fair (to the pub operators) to try to revive its use unimproved and unenlarged. If the Clavadel and the Green Man (amongst many others over the years) also couldn’t survive better to concentrate investment and clientele in fewer places where there’s a chance of making a profit.