Roots & Heritage

The UKBG’s Founders

“Look back on the Guild’s beginnings” by Charles Frey, one of the seven founders of the Guild.

How was the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild started? As one of the seven original founders I can give you a brief history which, no doubt, will interest many of the present members.

Nearly forty years ago Bernard Paul, with either Billy Whitfield or Billy Tarling, walked into the American Bar at the Piccadilly Hotel. During our conversation Bernard Paul said:” I would like to start a Bartenders Guild, and I know the right man, a Mr. Edwards, who would become our Secretary.” He asked me what I thought about the idea and whether I would be willing to join him, Tarling and Whitfield in forming a Guild.

Among other things we discussed was a possible and suitable President, and I told him that if he could get Harry Craddock of the Savoy as our first President, and if he, Paul, was willing to be vice-president, I would be quite willing to go on the Council. Fortunately, Harry Craddock readily agreed, and we also got Jack Powell and another fellow called Fred Benniman, to join us.

Our first object was to publish a magazine, which we did and called it The Bartender. It was hard and tough work and we invited John Perosino and Tony O’Connor to join the Council. It was during Harry Craddock’s term of presidency that The Bartender was born, and by this time also our membership had greatly increased.

Our next step was to get the backing of some of the trade, and we were really very fortunate in getting Captain Bull of Booth’s Gin, Major Rollo of Graham’s Lager to become our first trustees.

A little while after that Mr. Edwards went abroad and a Mr. Bysshe took over, with the aid of his wonderful secretary, Miss Norris, and I think everybody knows how hard she worked for the Guild.

In those early days we had many arguments amongst ourselves, especially as we did not get the support from the trade then compared with today, as the UKBG had not become important enough and was still in its infancy; it was an uphill struggle the whole time. Even Mr. Bysshe, at one time, was not keen to carry on as we could not obtain enough advertisements, but the Council went all out and somehow or other managed to get the trade interested in it to the extent of putting advertisements in The Bartender, and the magazine started its upward trend.

The man who really and truly did this for us more than anyone else was Captain Bull.

Incidentally, he was the man who presented a cup (Booth’s Challenge Cup) to the winner of our first cocktail competition. This took place at the Dorland Hall, Regent Street, by John Perosino – what marvellous win. I well remember the competition – what hard work, but what fun, and all who took part thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
At that time Billy Whitfield was President, having succeeded Harry Craddock, and Billy Tarling moved up to Vice-President in place of Bernard Paul.

Harry Lawson Craddock
Harry Lawson Craddock was born in 1876 at Stroud, Gloucestershire, England, and migrated to the US in 1897.
He spent 23 years working mainly in Chicago, particularly at Palmer House, in Ohio and New York. Here he worked at Hoffman House, a prestigious hotel that closed its doors in 1915, and then at Holland House, where he stayed until the beginning of Prohibition.
When he moved back to England in 1920 due to Prohibition, after a few years he started working at Savoy hotel in London, gaining the role of head bartender of American Bar, which he kept until 1939 when he moved to the Dorchester hotel.
Beside his remarkable career and reputation in the Bar industry, Craddock’s role in the history of the Guild was crucial: he was appointed as very first President of UKBG in 1934, Vice President Bernard Paul. However in 1935, he decided to step down from his role, as his work commitment didn’t give him enough time to take part into Guild’s activities as he wanted.
The following is an extract of his first message as president, published in “The Bartender” in August 1934: “It’s never too late to learn. One of the things we bartenders are beginning to learn is that “Union is Strength”. That is why U.K.B.G. has come into being. To bring bartenders into line with other professions and trades, by forming our own association for mutual benefit”

Bernard Paul
Meet Bernard ‘Bob’ Paul, the first ever Vice President of UKBG, who worked alongside Harry Craddock as President. He served on the committee of one of the largest cocktail competition in the world, which took place in Madrid in 1933, organised by the Geneva Institute and Martini Rossi, and then went on to instigate and organise the first International Cocktail Competition held in England.
Beginning his bar life in the Bristol Hotel, Vienna, he shook and stirred his way across the hotel bars of Europe and North Africa, eventually landing an assistant manager role at The Tricity Restaurant American Bar in London. The Tricity was famed for state-of-the-art lighting, cooking and refrigeration facilities. While at Tricity, he won the only prize for a British entry at his first international competition in Vienna. Bolstered, he entered ‘Paul’s Own’ at the Juan-les-Pins Cocktail Competition in 1928 and came home with the trophy. ⁣
Paul’s Own first appeared in print inside the 1937 Approved Cocktails, a recipe book printed by the UKBG and listing Bob here as UKBG VP.
Paul’s Own 1/6th Curacao. 1/6th Cointreau. 1/3rd French Vermouth. 1/3rd Booths’ Gin. 3 dashes Fernet Branca.⁣

Jack Powell
While on holiday in Margate, a lad named Jack Powell was due to start life in a draughtsman’s office as an apprentice, in accordance with parental wishes. Office work did not appeal to him, so after perusing the local newspapers, he had the good fortune to see a job which had, on the face of it, infinitely more charm, namely, an assistant for the American Bar at the Cliftonville Hotel, Margate.
After adding a few years to his age, he was chosen from a number of applicants to fill the position. Following his chief’s regime, and emulating his work, Jack soon became proficient in the detailed work of an American barman.
When he had proved himself capable, he was transferred to London for the reopening of Hotel Metropole in 1921 as second bartender, under the supervision of Cliff Harrison, who was superintendent of all the bars in Great Britain and France belonging to the Gordon Hotel Company. Jack enjoyed the work very much and remained with this company for many years, working as chief bartender at most of the company’s hotels. In 1934, while working at Wonder Bar of the well known London restaurateur Joseph Odone, an article appeared in the Hotel and Catering Weekly dated 19th January, the headlines being “UK Bartenders Guild to be formed”. This led Jack to join a group of professionals, who formed the original and first council of the Guild in 1934, with Harry Craddock as President.
Two years later Jack was elected Vice President, but before he completed his yearly term of office he left bartending to enter another business and reluctantly he was compelled to resign from the Guild. Jack lost touch with the Guild for a few years, and during WWII he was in different countries serving the Royal Artillery.
After the war, he decided to return to his old love of bartending, but this time at the Queens Hotel in Harrogate, and he rejoined the Guild. He was then elected adviser and Committee member of the North East Area of the Guild with Ted Player, another member. Since then, he had been closely connected with the North East Area in many capacities, such as Chairman, Representative and Committee member. A long loyalty towards the Guild.

Charles Frey
Charles Frey began his career in hospitality at the age of 18 under the mentorship of Walter Posser, manager of the American Bar of Piccadilly Hotel.
At the age of 18 his parents wished to see their son learn the hotel business and fit himself to become a manager.
Consequently he went to the Hotel Meurice in Paris, starting in the kitchen. He was promoted to waiter in the Stewards room, then the restaurant, but he was not happy until he was in the famous Meurice American Bar, where he served until the war broke out in 1914.
During his time in Paris, he also had the opportunity to work in such celebrated bars as Fouquet’s, The Carlton and Rigolelli’s.
Back in England he returned to the Piccadilly Hotel, where he was made head bartender with a staff of three which in a short space of time grew to twelve. Charles was always thinking of various drinks which would tickle the palates of his clients, and this won him and his team diplomas in various cocktail competitions, including the 1935 British Empire Cocktail Competition, where he won the 2nd prize with the recipe “Verona”.
Charles was one of the founding members of the Guild and Councillor in 1934 Board of the Council.

William Whitfield
Born in 1893, William “Billy” Whitfield learnt the first movements in the gentle art of shaking cocktails when he was a teenager and on board of a ship: if any of the concoctions made by him disagreed with the passengers, they must have thought that it was the sea and not the drinks that upset them.
From the sea he migrated to the Holborn Restaurant in London where he put in altogether 14 years, with intervals at the Regent Hotel, Leamington Spa and the British Empire Exhibition, Colchester, followed by 10 years at The Florence and Romano’s, which were important restaurant establishments in London during 1930s.
He was also on the Executive Council of the first Cocktail Competitions run by the U.K.B.G., and he was involved as well in the committee of same competitions organised before the foundation of the Guild.
Billy Whitfield was one of the four original founders of the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild. He was our second President, after Harry Craddock, in 1935 and he served as Acting President during WWII, as the President Read was absent due to military service.

William James Tarling
William James “Billy” Tarling was born in 1904 in London, he started his career in hospitality at a young age in London. One of his earliest work experiences was at Ciro’s club, where he could learn from very skilled bartenders, including Harry MacElhone. Then he travelled around Europe, working in prestigious locations like Paris, Monaco, Biarritz, Pourville, Ostend, until he came back to London. In 1930 he was appointed head bartender at Cafe’ Royal, where he worked until 1951, and during these 21 years he played an important role for the foundation and growth of the Guild. In 1934 he was part of the founding committee, and he actively contributed in recruiting more members all over the country. Being a member of the Council for many years and Past President, it was during his presidency in 1951 that the International Bartenders Association (I.B.A.) was founded, and Tarling was nominated first President of the Association, which included a total of 7 countries.

Fred Benniman

Started hotel career as a page at Hotel Cecil, then during the WWI he went to serve in the army, then came back to work as barman at Hotel Cecil, where he worked for four years. Later, he went to:

  • Hotel Victoria (London)
  • Coleman Club for four years (London)
  • Royal at Bournemouth for two years
  • Warnes Hotel (Worthing)
  • Grosvenor House (London)
  • Head Barman at Princes Restaurant.

He served in the Council in 1934.

This article was researched by UKBG curator Luca Rapetti.

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