PICTURES of Bradford’s wonderful old pubs that occasionally appear in the T&A must be taking many people on a nostalgic journey down memory lane, remembering their own favourites.

Clearly not all pubs are created equal and many reasons are behind our preferences. Actually, my own favourite watering-hole at the time I worked in the city was a bar not a pub. There is a difference.

A bar wasn’t beset with the class and gender distinctions that fifty years ago still lingered in pubs - where ‘ladies’ were informally directed to a snug, ‘gentlemen’ occupied the saloon and working men knew their place to be the taproom.

Spinks Bar was not much more than a long narrow corridor beneath the Wool Exchange, linking Market Street and Hustlergate.

It had a truly democratic spirit and people from all walks of life happily rubbed shoulders and socialised. Other than much swankier affairs in hotels like the Victoria, the Midland and the Alexandra, it was the only actual bar in town.

It was a no frills place, stronger in what it didn’t offer than what it did. There was no music, no fancy decoration, no horse brasses on beams, nothing dangling from the ceiling, no snooker or darts.

In some ways it was devoid of atmosphere, yet it was the compelling lunchtime destination for members of the legal profession, league footballers, journalists, businessmen and, of course, office workers from all over the city.

I remember quaking in my hush puppies, escorted by my boss, a stick-thin man called Peacock, to see the grand panjandrum of the City Treasury, the well-upholstered Deputy Treasurer, Mr Crowe. I had been seen entering Spinks during working hours. What had I to say for myself?

I explained that Spinks was a well-known short cut to Piece Hall Yard for anyone wanting to get up to the top of town. I had been cutting through, the quicker to deliver some loan bonds. Peacock and Crowe looked each other for a stretched second before nodding, not entirely convinced, feathers slightly ruffled.

I related this to Alf, retired high court judge, always dapper in a three-piece suit and brown trilby. ‘It’s an English man’s right to have a pint of good ale with his dinner,’ he thundered, glancing up from his Sporting Life, then winked, ‘but perhaps not at 2.50 in the afternoon. Use the back entrance next time.’

At this time there was nothing untoward about moderate lunchtime drinking. All the pubs in town were packed from about twelve till two.

Spinks was respectable, favoured by decent folk who would not be seen dead in, say, the Old Crown, up Ivegate, wonderfully merry with old Mary on the piano, or The Boy and Barrel, in Westgate, offering the cheapest ale in town, to say nothing of such ornately rough houses as Yeats’s or the notorious Empress whose drab Victorian fittings must once have been very grand.

The Talbot at the bottom of Kirkgate probably possessed the most genteel reputation but the fewest customers.

So what was Spinks’s attraction beyond well-kept Webster’s ales and excellent beef sandwiches augmented by pickled onions freely available from a large bowl on the bar? Well, because it had a through draught it had none of the sweet and sour aroma of beer - to return with you to the office.

Being actually part of the Wool Exchange building seemed to lend it a certain air of city slickness, and its reputation for attracting interesting people presumably drew in others in search of intelligent conversation.

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

There were so many quirky eccentrics. One morose man always alone at the bar answered to Crease. The more he drank, and he certainly could drink, the more sober he became and the greater his knowledge of the ills of the world. He had a face ablaze with carbuncles and I was surprised one day to see it come through the door of the Vehicle Excise office.

I discovered his name was Creaser Binns and he was a rag and bone man licensing his pony and trap. Because I’d helped with his forms, he always later acknowledged me as his true friend which from no lover of mankind was a great honour.

The ‘Colonel’, very well-known around town, bore a distinct resemblance to General Montgomery, sporting the trademark moustache and beret, talking in the clipped tones. He always carried a bulging attaché case. Called away on ‘important business’, he commanded me to guard the documents. ‘With my life!’ I said. The first white vellum sheet I sneaked a look at was headed Clarence House and read: ‘Her Majesty, Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, has asked me to thank you for your kind wishes on the occasion of her birthday.’

Spinks Bar was an education and I probably learned more about the real world from Alf, the judge, than from anybody else.

He once said with a sad shake of the head that no one ever confessed to a crime without incontrovertible evidence against them. He might have been inclined to believe some but for the fact that all managed to summon the same passion in their denials.

Alf was a great man of the turf, betting slips spilling from his fob pocket whenever he pulled out his watch, but he had nothing to do with the betting ring. The public telephone was generally guarded by a craggy ex-boxer. When it rang, five nondescript men, sitting well apart, stiffened, stubbed their fags, drained their drink. After brief whispered words they were hotfoot to the local bookies.

I had a mate, Colin, whose great idea was to follow one of these runners, ‘pile on whatever he’s on’. I suggested a refinement that it would be less suspicious to be at the bookies already when one came in. The plan worked a couple of times and after winning more than a week’s wages, on a horse ironically called Sense of Purpose, we were both contemplating early retirement.

Unfortunately, Colin worked nearby in a famous jeweller’s and one of the staff coming into money made the boss suspicious. The police paid Spinks a visit to check the story and the syndicate moved elsewhere.

When I last put in an appearance after living away for several years, I found Spinks a totally different place, much quieter, the old characters conspicuously absent.

It struck me they might have moved on to the Empress but sadly all that remained of that, now relocated to a modern building in Aldermanbury, were some tokens of the original Victorian mahogany. Its Spider’s Bar had nothing to draw me in and it was deserted.

The world had moved on and the culture of lunchtime drinking was no more. This was the brash 1980s, everything now about the hard work ethic, lunch being for wimps. Perish the thought it might be liquid.

Who these days would even think of it and it’s not surprising so many pubs have disappeared.

Spinks Bar later became a pizza parlour before having its brick-arched ceiling exposed and being revived as The Exchange Craft Beer House.

l What memories do you have of Bradford bars and pubs? Email