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
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.
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.
2. The Old King Coel, Colchester, Essex
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
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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
This hotel-restaurant-pub was trading until last autumn, minus Beach Girls and looking rather tired and tatty, but is due to be demolished.
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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.