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The Britannia, Copenhagen, 1955

The Britannia Inn, Copenhagen. SOURCE: The House of Whitbread, Winter 1955-56.
The Britannia Inn, Copenhagen. SOURCE: The House of Whitbread, Winter 1955-56.

Three years before Whitbread presented their state-of-the-art modern pub at the Expo in Brussels in 1958, they tested the water with a more traditional inn of the same name in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The British Exhibition in Copenhagen ran from 29 September to 16 October 1955 (exactly 59 years ago, by the way) and included representations from some 600 British concerns, including Whitbread.

The Britannia Inn was converted from an existing box-like modern restaurant on the exhibition ground site at the Tivoli Gardens and was intended to resemble a traditional Victorian pub:

Rustic seats stood by the doors leading to the saloon and public bars. Over the front door was the usual inscription in small letters: Frits Guldbrandsen. Licensed to sell beer, wines, spirits and tobacco.

Fixtures and fittings were borrowed from working Whitbread pubs back home. The sign — apparently the same as later used in Brussels — was taken from the Britannia Inn on High Road, Leytonstone, London E11, while several china barrels from the Nag’s Head, Covent Garden, were displayed behind the bar.

The Duke of Edinburgh drinks at the Britannia Inn, Copenhagen, 1955.
The Duke of Edinburgh. SOURCE: The House of Whitbread, Winter 1955-56.

Only bottled beer was sold but ‘beer-engine handles had been fixed to the bar to give the right atmosphere’. When the Duke of Edinburgh arrived on the royal yacht Britannia on 12 October, however, draught beer was sent over specially, and he drank it from a presentation tankard which he promised to keep on the yacht as a souvenir. (The Queen of Denmark visited on 4 October and made do with a glass of sherry in the public bar.)

Pathe Newsreel: Britannia Inn at 1:30.

Britain was rather proud of its pubs and breweries back then, wasn’t it?

We recently acquired, through a response to our wanted page, several vintage issues of the Whitbread magazine, The House of Whitbread. This draws on the issue for winter 1955-56, cross-referenced against articles in The Times.

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