If you’ve ever read Martha Grimes or followed TV series such as Heartbeat and pre-1986 Coronation Street, you probably already know what a snug is.
Patrons of a public house who wished to enjoy their tipple away from prying eyes would appreciate the use of a traditional snug, or smoke room. This small, private room within the establishment had its own door with high, frosted glass windows so that no one could see its occupants. Drinks consumed in the snug cost more, but certain patrons, such as women or other community stalwarts whose public drinking would be frowned upon, or sweethearts meeting for a discreet tête-à-tête, seemed to consider it worth the extra cost.
These cosy, private drinking rooms are, sadly, on the endangered list. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) determined in a national survey of historic pub interiors that, of the 50,000 pubs in Britain, only a few still retain their original snugs. You can, however, maintain a snug in your own home, as that is also the term for a small room in a private house.
In Ontario, in the basement of the 1850s building that houses the Mono Cliffs Inn, is Peter Cellar’s Pub, an Irish-style subterranean bar and restaurant. When I visited for the first time a few years ago, they had a snug which my sweetie and I were able to snag (see what I did there?) for our own private rendezvous. Alas, like so many of its British cousins, Cellar’s snug has since gone the way of the dodo. The rustic pub carries on, however, and not only does it still offer great food and drink, but patrons can reserve the Wine Cellar, a private dining table for eight built right in to the grotto-like stone fabric of the old farmhouse. Not quite a traditional snug, but close enough. (No photos at the moment, but I hope to pay a visit soon — purely for artistic purposes, of course!)
We move on now to another comfy architectural feature, the inglenook. Also known as a chimney corner, an inglenook is a recessed or partially enclosed seating area next to a fireplace, usually in the main living space ̶ sometimes the home’s one and only room. Since all cooking was done over the fire, a sheltered alcove at the hearth provided a comfortable place to gather for intimate conversation and, more importantly, warmth. The word comes from the Old English ingle (‘fireplace’) and Gaelic aingeal (‘angel’, a euphemism for fire), plus nook. Inglenooks began to be phased out of house design with the advent of central heating.
Seeing as how Samhain/Hallowe’en is almost upon us, I’ll be blogging in October about archaic apothecary and alchemical terms. Stay close around the cauldron … for something witchy this way comes!