Truman’s Post-War Pubs, 1967

This set of pictures and accompanying notes come from editions of the Truman Hanbury & Buxton in-house magazine, the Black Eagle Journal, published in 1967.

As before, we’ve tried to include information on when buildings were actually opened; credits for photographers and architects where available; and updates on how the buildings look 50 years on.

1. The Elephant & Castle, London

Exterior of the Elephant & Castle, a brutalist block.

We’re starting with a bit of a superstar pub — one many of us will have heard of, if not visited, and after which this whole area of London is named. We’ve got an earlier article from the Licensed Victuallers’ Gazette boasting about the modernisation of the pub in 1900. By the mid-1960s, when the area was being comprehensively redeveloped, that Victorian pub was doomed.

The idea for this uncomprisingly brutal new design seems to have come from the Greater London Council’s planners and the developer’s architect Ernő Goldfinger who suggested that ‘the public house should appear to float on glass’. Truman’s in-house architect, Frederick G. Hall, interpreted that instruction as above, his design being implemented by A.P. Ciregna. It’s nice that in this case we not only have an architect’s credit but also a photo of Mr Hall drinking the first pint pulled at the new pub while being applauded by brewery director Sir Thomas Buxton.

F.G. Hall drinks the first pint at the Elephant in 1967.

Footnotes: pumpclips have definitely arrived by this point but that they are tiny; note also dimple mugs, which had overtaken ten-siders by this point.

Back in 1967 Truman’s were proud of this pub. The plate glass was designed to resist gusts of wind up to 117 miles-per-hour and ‘when illuminated at night, reflects its brilliance on the passing scene’. There were two bars, Public and Saloon. The walls were clad in ‘Dark Rose Wood Formica’ and the ceiling was of grey reinforced concrete with spotlights. It was carpeted and had furniture designed to contrast the green curtains — so presumably red? There was a multi-coloured glass screen and a ceramic panel depicting an elephant and castle, designed by Anthony Hollaway.

Then, over the years, the high concept design and overt modernnness became compromised. The great sheets of glass, presumably expensive to maintain and replace, were swapped for something less bold, and the exterior gained some mock-Victorian details. Here’s how it looked in 2012, via Google Street View:

According to Time Out the Elephant closed in 2015 after a customer was stabbed in the eye with a pen and, after nearly becoming an estate agent’s office, was declared an Asset of Community Value (ACV). It was finally acquired by trendy pub chain Antic who gave it a retro makeover. When we passed it in February this year it certainly looked lively and smart.

The Elephant & Castle neon sign in 2017.

2. The Old King Coel, Colchester, Essex

Saloon Bar at the Old King Coel.

This pub was built to serve the St John’s and Ipswich Road estates. It was designed by a local firm, William Key of Chelmsford, built by contractor L.W. Kemble, with interior design by Michael Purse. The Black Eagle article makes it sound great:

Gone is the frosted glass ‘don’t let them see us drinking’ atmosphere which seems to haunt so many Victorian premises. Windows are bold and uncluttered, as is the general design… Even if the whole of Colchester does not see you drinking here, you can certainly see the whole of Colchester. The view must be one of the widest in town, with the sweep down to they bypass, North Station, Hilly Fields, and a sky-line of Jumbo and the Town Hall.

The article also uses a phrase now synonymous with pubs from this era: ‘The majority of the building is of flat-roof construction, with red panels making a feature of the windows’. The saloon bar (pictured above) had bare brick walls with panels of African teak and seating in ‘holly green and brilliant Oregon red’. The carpet was tobacco brown and black. In the public bar there was a tiled floor in black and olive green, wooden stools and yellow-orange upholstery.

We’ve struggled to find an exterior shot of the pub other than the one that accompanies this article on its demolition in 2007 when the pub was just over 40 years old.

3. The Cottage Loaf, Debden, Essex

The exterior of the Cottage Loaf.

This pub was built as part of the Greater London Council (GLC) overspill estate at Debden where it was designated in official plans as Refreshment House Site No. 6.

This is especially interesting because Debden was the model for the anonymised housing estate described in Michael Young and Peter Wilmott’s famous 1957 sociological study Family and Kinship in East London which higlights the difficulty Londoners had in coping with the sterility of the pubs on the semi-rural estates they were moved to after World War II.

The interior of the Cottage Loaf with bar.

The architects, Mayell Hart & Partners, were given the challenge here of creating a pub with one large room — common in 2017 but rather leftfield in the 1960s. ‘There is a tendency for a one bar house to result in either a luxurious public bar or a watered-down saloon bar’, says the article in the Black Eagle. MH&P’s solution was a series of partial enclosures, i.e. booths and corners, and pointedly traditional decor using mostly wood, with a nicotine-coloured ceiling ‘providing a warm colour whilst not deteriorating under the influence of cigarette smoke’.

The building was put up in five weeks by contractors Charles Foster & Sons so it’s perhaps surprising to find that it’s still there and still trading, looking little changed apart from an extension and a brighter colour scheme.

4. The Ship Inn, Margate, Kent

Exterior view of the Ship Inn, Margate.

This was a rather quirky building that looked as if it could just as easily be a swimming pool or doctor’s surgery. The Dover, Kent history website has a detailed page on its history which tells us this new building replaced a concrete prefab erected c.1946.

It had a manager’s flat upstairs and both a pub and tea room on the ground floor. The construction involved all the trendy materials of the day: shiplap timber boarding, timber framing, cavity walls, and concrete. Inside was all teak, sheet flooring, knotty pine, Formica and ‘mural texturide’. It had central heating and double glazing — all mod cons, as they used to say.

It was designed with the needs of a seasonal holiday town in mind: the single large bar could be shrunk using partitions to form a cosier space around an open fire in winter.

It has now disappeared, its site given over to an art gallery.

5. The Schooner, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear

Exterior of the Schooner.

This seems an odd place for Truman’s to have a pub and we did wonder for a moment if it might be some other Sunderland in Essex or Kent. But, no, mention of the Town End Farm estate confirms the location as being up in the North East.

Mrs Nutter
Mrs Nutter

It was designed by T.A. Page, Son & Hill, built by John Cummings & Sons, and officially opened on 23 November 1966. The managers were Mr and Mrs Henry Nutter, formerly of the Albion Inn at Ryhope.

The public bar at the Schooner.
The Bar, i.e. not the lounge, was very smart

There’s a bit of information on the layout and interior, too:

The house comprises a Bar, Lounge and Shop with underfloor heating and there is also a Car Park. A feature in the Lounge is an illuminated coloured transparency of the schooner ‘Winston Churchill’.

We’re struggling to picture this ‘transparency’ — sounds like some kind of pop art print with a lightbulb behind it.

The pub is long gone, apparently.

6. The Esplanade Hotel, Southend, Essex

Exterior of the Esplanade Hotel

This doesn’t quite belong here being a remodelling of an Edwardian building rather than a new build but, still, this is a very 1960s pub to finish on:

The new Beach Girl Bar and Restaurant is ‘something different’ as far as our houses are concerned for not only is there a South Seas atmosphere in the decor but the waitresses wear most pleasing Hawaiian costumes.

Beach Girls at the Esplanade Hotel

Yes, that’s right — in balmy Southend, Truman’s jumped on the tail-end of the Tiki bar bandwagon. It’s hard to see much exotic about the Beach Bar, though.

The Beach Bar

This hotel-restaurant-pub was trading until last autumn, minus Beach Girls and looking rather tired and tatty, but is due to be demolished.

* * *

So, some good news, some bad, and lots to think about, especially the Elephant & Castle which we’re going to have to make a point of visiting next time we’re in town.

8 thoughts on “Truman’s Post-War Pubs, 1967”

  1. Have you noticed the similarity of the pubs you show to the Wilson’s pubs I published photos of not so long ago? If you can recall them that is.

    Unsurprising in many ways as they were part of the same group since 1960.

    1. Those photos you found were great especially because they were in colour. Would love to get a copy of that calendar. Grand Met didn’t grab Truman’s until 1971 but, yes, you’re right — there was a uniform look to a lot of pubs in this era. Partly trendiness, partly pragmatism — shortage of building supplies, planning restrictions etc. Suffice to say there are some thoughts on this on the new book which is due shortly…

  2. There are similar design features in the Queensway in St Annes on Sea, Lancashire. My parents lived nearby and I seem to remember the pub being built in the early 1960s. In the mid 1960s Catholic church services were held in the bar – the local parish had been divided into two and until a new church was built services were held in the pub. I used to go there on Sundays with my mother which must make it the first pub I ever visited, albeit not for a drink. What Pub says it was built by Duttons/Whitbread but it appears to now be owned by Mitchell & Butler, although it has traded as a Harvester for some ten years and is currently closed for a short time for conversion to a Miller & Carter Steakhouse, whatever one of those is. There are pictures (copyright) on the Pubs Galore website (reference 68637) which give a good idea of the pub today – I did a quick search on Google but couldn’t see any earlier views. There must be a number of these 60s pubs in or near contemporary housing developments which get overlooked because visitors to the town concerned would tend to head for the centre.

    Ian

    1. Ian — here’s a pic, albeit a drawing, from the 1974 Whitbread pub guide Inn and Around which also says:

      Several members of Blackpool football club use The Queensway as a “local” which doubtless helps to explain why the pub has a very good soccer team of its own…. There are said to be more millionaires living in the select seaside resort of St Annes than in any comparable town in the country… Steaks are the great speciality in its grill room.

      1. Thanks for that. I’m just wondering why the drawing doesn’t show a pub or brewery name? Regent Avenue, not far south, was nicknamed ‘Millionaire’s Row’ but if you walked in the other direction you would come to a run-down looking council estate and people still living in 1940s prefabs. St Annes was a place of great contrasts.

  3. The Elephant & Castle, roughhouse. I’ve walked out of that one while all hell was being unleashed and glad to make it to the exit without being bottled as I wasn’t a local.

    Another time a pal said someone lunged against him while he was using the urinal but when he turned around the lunger had a knife sticking out of him so fair do’s !!!

    I expect they got fed up with having to replace the plate glass every weekend so changed it for plywood.

    The adjoining building I believe was designed by Le Curbusier, a pioneer of that sort of thing.

  4. Truman’s had quite a few pubs in the north east, and indeed about ten in Sunderland itself (in County Durham, of course – not “Tyne and Wear”, please). These and its other northern and midlands pubs (more than 70 in all) were sold to Courage in 1971 in exchange for a smaller number of Courage pubs in the south east, plus cash. Though most of its estate was in London and the south east, Truman’s also had about 80 pubs in South Wales, as a result of the purchase of Swansea United Breweries in 1926 – many of these survived as Truman’s houses well into the Grand Metropolitan era. It was really a semi-national brewer – a bit like Marston’s in pre-Wolverhampton and Dudley days, though on a larger scale.

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