Post-War Estate Pubs 1951-1954

Public bar customers at The Crane, Basildon, on opening day.

As promised, we’re scanning and sharing pictures from the various magazines and books we’ve picked up over the years. This particular set tells a bit of a story.

During and after World War II, until 1954, there were strict building regulations — you couldn’t just build a pub when there was a desperate need for houses, schools, shops and so on. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any pubs built at all. Rather, each case had to be debated with local authorities and central government ministries to prove there was a real need.

What you’ll notice about these pubs built immediately post-war is that they look very like those being built a decade earlier during the hey-day of the Improved Public House. (One reason why guessing the date of a pub isn’t always as easy as it should be.) That’s partly because ‘bigger but better’ remained the prevailing philosophy of pub design (Basil Oliver’s book was mostly written pre-war but only published afterwards) but also in some cases because plans had been drawn up and then put on ice.

The Balloon Hotel, Wollaton, Nottinghamshire

1930s style pub with straight lines.

This is The Balloon Hotel was designed by W.B. Starr of local firm Hall & Clifford and built in 1951 for Tennant Brothers of Sheffield. It looks, to us, very 1930s, not least in terms of its scale. We haven’t been able to find much specific information other than that its name was eventually changed to The Wollaton Arms and it is now gone.

The Pilgrim, Hayward’s Heath, Sussex

The Pilgrim (front view).

The Pilgrim on America Lane was designed for Tamplin’s by local architect Harold G. Turner FRIBA and built in 1952 to serve the Wilmington Estate. Again, we’d have bet any money it was built in the 1930s, or even the 1920s, if we didn’t have evidence to the contrary. That symmetrical frontage and the high roof are very characteristic of inter-war architecture. And the rear view is barmy — a full-on loggia and conservatory extending back as far again as the main part of the pub.

The Pilgrim's loggia and garden room.

It later became The Mayflower and was, according to reminiscences on Facebook, famous for its basement disco, ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’. It is now a Morrison’s Local supermarket:

The Fellmonger, Norwich, Norfolk

Next, we scoot out east to Oak Street in Norwich and a pub designed by Cecil A. Golding (FRICS, LRIBA), for Youngs, Crawshay & Youngs, and built in 1953. Well, kind of.

The Fellmongers (exterior).

Does anything about that design suggest the New Elizabethan Age to you? The faux-medievalism, the chimney stacks, and the scale again suggest a 20-year-old design dug out of mothballs. This local history website suggests that, in fact, the pub was built in 1937, then bombed flat, then rebuilt. It also point us to the wonderful archive of George Plunkett’s photographs of Norfolk run by his son which includes this shot of the pub in 1939:

The Fellmongers with two cyclists passing.
George Plunkett Website

Which settles that: it was built in 1953, but not really. Tricksy, they is, these pubses.

The Crane, Basildon, Essex

The Crane, Basildon -- exterior shot.

Now, here’s what we would really start to recognise as a post-war pub, designed by P.H. Banks, and the first permanent pub built exclusively by Whitbread since the war. (The Hind’s Head at Chadwell Heath, 1952, was a conversion of a social club.) The Crane isn’t flat-roofed but it does look pretty much just like a house, or a doctor’s surgery, or a nursery. The anonymous commentator in A Monthly Bulletin says:

The architect… deserves credit for a notable achievement. The gay clarity of his design is admirably suited to a place of refreshment and relaxation; and that is what a public house is meant to be, rather than a vehicle for commercial pretension… The Crane… is likely to start a fashion. It is the first thorough-going application of the ‘South Bank’ style to public house design. Mr Banks has made a clean break with the often soggy elevations of the past and come to terms with the modern movement.

By South Bank we think the author means Festival of Britain style which highlights that he has overlooked The Festival Inn at Poplar which arguably got there first, back in 1951. Anyway, here’s the saloon bar in ‘Australian walnut’:

The bar at The Crane.

The main image, right at the top of this post, is of three unnamed customers of the public bar at The Crane snapped by Whitbread’s in-house photographers on the day the ribbon was cut.

Excitingly (mildly so) The Crane is still there and still trading, under Greene King, who it turns out are quietly acting as custodians for quite a few post-war pubs in the new towns.

Bonus: The Newall Green Hotel, Wythenshawe, Manchester

The public bar with hard seating.

There’s no exterior shot of The Newall Green provided and the notes suggest it was a prefab. If so, it looks like a pretty permanent prefab, not a poky shed like most of the others we’ve researched. It was designed, decorated and built by the architecture department at Wilson & Walker. Above is the public bar or vault (hard chairs, what looks like lino) and here’s the lounge (carpet, cushioned seating):

The lounge at the Newall Green.

Further info on any of the pubs above gratefully received. Thanks to Martyn Cornell who donated his spare copies of A Monthly Bulletin a few years ago. Tracking copyright holders — or, rather, anyone who will take responsibility for granting permission to reproduce images — has so far proven impossible, so we’ve just going for it. Get in touch if that’s you and you want any of these pictures removing, or to discuss terms.

11 thoughts on “Post-War Estate Pubs 1951-1954”

  1. Great article, thanks.

    Don’t forget the Festive Briton in the Chrisp St Market/Lansbury Estate area of Poplar too (now Callaghans), also built in 1951 as part of the ‘Live Architecture’ exhibition of the Festival of Britain.

    The Newall Green is still standing (now a Joey Holts house). It’s not a prefab. Whatpub seems to think it was built in the late 60s but I’m sure it actually dates from when the estate was built in the early 50s which would tally with your pics. Manchester Archives+ have a good snap of it from the 70s when it was owned by Wilsons https://flic.kr/p/buXfuM.

    1. We were trying to puzzle this out last night. Our gut instinct is that the current building *is* later, but perhaps not by much, and that maybe the prefab was incorporated somehow. If it was built in the sixties it’s possible mention will turn up in one of the Watney’s magazines we recently acquired but have yet to fully digest.

      If not, though, that would make it among the earliest surviving post-war pub buildings — pretty cool.

      Daresay the Historic England project will provide a definitive answer.

    2. I’d have forgotten that one. I used to live not far from the Festive Briton. Was it a Whitbread pub? I’m sure that’s one of the last places I drank their Best Mild.

    1. Its not the present building, its Wooden huts left over from the direct works
      after they had built Newall Geen Estate

  2. Thanks for an interesting article,the archive photos in the sequence which includes the Newall Green show a parade of shops under construction in 1949 and 1950 this may suggest that the pub was built at the same time,has it been altered much?

    1. Thanks — interesting, and a lovely thing to look at in its own right.

      Natalie (Manchester-based estate pub expert) found this which isn’t the best source — a slideshow made from unsourced pics found on Facebook — but it does show two incarnations of the NGH, the first of which does indeed look like some sort of high-end prefab. She’s still looking for more info.

  3. You wondered if the prefab was incorporated into the “new” Newall Green – I think it was. It appears to me that it is the left-hand part of the current structure (if you are looking at the pub front on). The original was at 90 degrees to the later structure. I looked at the video (Newall Green Hotel(s) from 4:16) and then looked at the streetview and zoomed out and saw the 3D view – voila, flat roof.

    I’d noticed that the original must have been centre door, with a small entrance hall and doors into vault (with dartboard) and lounge, and a “through bar” enabling staff to serve both sides. There appears to now be a passage with discrete roof from the new to old part, going in through that centre door. Also, alterations to the windows and a door knocked into the original lounge.

    Looking at the original picture, the name is on the side, not the front: this would have been the side facing the road. You can see the car parking area and the verge between it and the pavement (still extant). In fact, I think that the concrete post in the foreground of the original picture may be the fourth post from the left in the current streetview.

    I could be wrong of course, it would need someone to pop in for a pint and a nosey round to check. I’d go myself, but I’m 200 miles too far away.

    1. Great work — thanks! Took us a while to see it, with multiple tabs open, but we got there. Hopefully someone local will go and have a look.

      On the one hand, this is all very nitpicking. On the other, if this is the first pub built in Manchester after World War II, and it’s still standing, that might be sort of important.

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