HELP US: Theme Pubs

Detail from the cover of 'The Sherlock Holmes: a catalogue of the collection', Whitbread.

We’re keen to talk to or exchange emails with people who worked at, drank in, or were involved in the management, design or administration (brewery side) of the pubs listed below.

The time frame we’re inter­est­ed in is between 1945 and, say, 1980, so please pass this request on to any indus­try vet­er­ans, or vet­er­an drinkers, you might know.

No rec­ol­lec­tion is too insignif­i­cant – we need all the mate­r­i­al we can get.

It’s best to email us via or com­ment below and we’ll work some­thing out.

  • The Bul­l’s Head, Hand­forth, Cheshire (bull­fight­ing theme)
  • The Chelsea Drug­store, King’s Road, Lon­don (futur­is­tic, bou­tiques)
  • The Dol­phin, Liv­er­pool (sub­ma­rine)
  • The Gal­lop­ers, Brad­ford, West York­shire (fair­ground theme)
  • The Gold­en Arrow, Beck­en­ham, Kent (train theme)
  • UPDATE 01/12/2015: The Horse­less Car­riage, Ching­ford, Essex (vin­tage cars)
  • The Lord Pro­tec­tor, Hunt­ing­don (Cromwell themed, appar­ent­ly)
  • The Malt & Hops, Finch­ley, Lon­don (hops/farming)
  • The Nag’s Head, James St./Floral St., Covent Gar­den, Lon­don (the­atre)
  • The Print­er’s Dev­il, Fet­ter Lane, Lon­don (print­ing)
  • The Sher­lock Holmes, Northum­ber­land Street, Lon­don (er, Sher­lock Holmes)
  • The Stone­house, Sheffield, South York­shire (Eliz­a­bethan street)
  • The War­rior, Sur­rey Quays, Lon­don (space age dis­co pub – see below)
  • The York­er, Pic­cadil­ly, Lon­don (crick­et)

The Warrior, Surrey Quays.

This won’t be the last request of this sort in the com­ing months but we’ll try to space them out…

23 thoughts on “HELP US: Theme Pubs”

  1. How theme‑y does a pub need to be for you to take an inter­est? A local land­mark, demol­ished last year, was the Bass Drum in Stret­ford; it was pur­pose-built some time in the 1970s, pre­sum­ably by Bass, in the shape of… well, have a guess. I don’t think there was a per­cus­sive theme going on inter­nal­ly, though – although as I nev­er went in I can’t say for cer­tain.

    1. We’re inter­est­ed in every­thing – part of the sto­ry is that some were extreme, oth­ers half-heart­ed. At the moment, it’s a ques­tion of gath­er­ing raw infor­ma­tion.

        1. Still, how many round pubs can you name? Let alone round pubs whose name com­bined the shape with an awful pun on the name of the brew­ery.

  2. I’m sure you’ve found this already but here’s a rec­ol­lec­tion of the War­rior: Would love to know more about the place! Talk­ing of space age pubs I’m try­ing to find out more about the Satel­lite in Bletch­ley, and have been research­ing the Comet in Hat­field.

    With the regard to the Bass Drum in Stret­ford I have some snaps I took just before it closed, though as far as I know the theme only extend­ed to the shape of the build­ing. It also had a long gone sis­ter pub in Sal­ford- the Ket­tle Drum.

      1. Ah, I had­n’t seen your tweet about the Comet but am now look­ing at the Past<Rewind blog post – great stuff. I came across the Comet on a recent vis­it to Hat­field, and then spot­ted it in my copy of the Basil Oliv­er book on my return. Inci­den­tal­ly I’m also inter­est­ed in the Coun­ty Arms in Bla­by, also in the Oliv­er book, it’s right near my par­ents in law’s house and my part­ner used to drink in there in his youth, recent­ly con­vert­ed into retire­ment flats.

  3. Did you ever find out any more about that Wat­ney’s match­box pub Plu­to’s Place in Leices­ter? It cer­tain­ly does look like the Rowlatt as some­one sug­gest­ed, though the Wordsworth Dic­tio­nary of pub names makes ref­er­ence to a Plu­to’s Place in Leices­ter.

    1. If you peer close­ly at the pic­ture, the pub does appear to be named ‘Plu­ton Place’ rather than Plu­to’s, but that still has­n’t turned much up. It isn’t in any of the copies of Wat­ney’s Red Bar­rel mag­a­zine we’ve accu­mu­lat­ed either.

  4. Been in the Astro­naut too. In 1976 I believe. I remem­ber rough con­crete walls and Scot­tish Brew­ers – well New­cas­tle beers. We drank McE­wan’s Export in half pint bot­tles.

    DHSS as it was then had a Train­ing Cen­tre in the precinct.

  5. Adding to the Dol­phin. I remem­ber now. The port­hole like open­ings were on the doors, not the win­dows which were large plate glass ones.

    Think that is what was bug­ging me.

  6. Any idea when the Bul­l’s Head in Hand­forth had a bull­fight­ing theme? A friend’s sis­ter and neigh­bour worked there so he’s going to ask them but he has no rec­ol­lec­tion of it being themed.

    1. It’s record­ed in The Red Bar­rel mag­a­zine for April 1965. One of the things we’re inter­est­ed in is how durable these themes were (work­ing assump­tion: not very) so it would be use­ful to be in touch with peo­ple even if all they can tell us is that by, say, 1975, all the bull­fight­ing gub­bins had gone in a skip.

    1. Not on our beat, unfor­tu­nate­ly, but the Sher­lock Holmes in Lon­don is one of the few sur­viv­ing orig­i­nal theme pubs.

  7. We must record the late lament­ed “Sher­lock­’s” of Min­neton­ka, Min­neso­ta. It’s an Amer­i­can sto­ry but also British too…–001769.html

    This piece has all the Michael Jack­son touch­es: the bal­anced rhythm of his sen­tences, the jour­nal­is­tic detail (the var­i­ous types he met at the bar, list­ed by occu­pa­tions, or e.g., the May­or’s wife who want­ed to draw a pint), the gen­tle tone, and any cri­tique always soft­ened with British cour­tesy. It is a tone start­ing, even to my sym­pa­thet­ic ears, to have a peri­od flavour, but revis­it­ing it is like vis­it­ing an old friend.


  8. Can’t help much with the ones you list but the Red House at Red­bridge had a Tudor/Elizabethan inte­ri­or at one time in the 80s (I think I only went there once) and was Whit­bread at the time (now I think effec­tive­ly part of a Pre­mier Inn). At some point in the 80s Wat­ney had a big plan to cre­ate ‘fun pubs’ with var­i­ous themes sug­gest­ed but the one I most remem­ber is the nuclear bunker con­cept, which was applied to the Eagle in Far­ring­don for a time (at the time this was prob­a­bly the near­est local to the Grau­ni­ad offices, but no idea if there was a con­nex­ion). there might be more infor­ma­tion in back copies of Lon­don Drinker about both of these.

    Also a pub that I’m sure you know, the North Star in Ley­ton­stone has a rail­way theme with appro­pri­ate inn sign, pic­ture, &c. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the pub was actu­al­ly named after a ship on which the then land­lord’s son made a voy­age to to Asia (some­where, I have a leaflet from Waltham For­est Coun­cil on the back­ground to Brown­ing Road which goes into more detail).

    You only tend to remem­ber theme pubs if they’re a nov­el­ty.…


  9. I’m afraid that I had missed this one, and seen your piece in the autumn edi­tion of Beer that has just arrived. Research­ing as I do occa­sion­al­ly the back­ground and his­to­ry of pubs in our West Lon­don area (across far too many Lon­don bor­oughs or bits of ’em) and fur­ther afield, I recent­ly explored Scar­let­t’s – what was the Frigate – in Upper St Mar­tins Lane WC2. I have since this, back in the spring, got some low and hi res scans of pix in the His­toric Eng­land archive.

    For­mer­ly the Frigate (and before that the Cran­bourne) pub­lic house, one of Wat­ney’s Schooner Inns (that I just about remem­ber from the ear­ly ’70s from when we first moved to the old 1880s Peabody Estate in Bed­ford­bury 1969/70).

    Pix of the fan­ta­sy inte­ri­or are includ­ed in a piece on Fan­ta­sy Build­ings in Design:

    Wat­ney’s Schooner Inns – com­bin­ing pub and steak house under one roof, are Britain’s best exam­ples of fan­ta­sy styling. Exter­nal­ly they tend to play safe (the brood­ing hulk of The Pheas­ant, above is a rare excep­tion). Inter­nal­ly, how­ev­er, no holds are barred. The mix­ture of fake and gen­uine, struc­tur­al and non-struc­tur­al, is delib­er­ate­ly wil­ful, at The Frigate, top and cen­tre, or The Manor Cot­tage, left and top. Mul­ti-lev­el plan­ning, left, makes for dis­persed eat­ing and drink­ing”

    The build­ing is list­ed:

    And there’s an exte­ri­or pho­to of the fig­ure­head in His­toric Eng­land’s archive – not avail­able online tho’.

    A rear view from Thorn House is at

    A view from the oppo­site cor­ner is at and includ­ed in with Thorn House loom­ing behind.

    As added/related back­ground, some six years ago I was in touch with a Lyn­da McConnachy who was a daugh­ter of a pub­li­can’s fam­i­ly, and a local res­i­dent.

    She wrote that they lived ini­tial­ly in Maryle­bone in a pub called the Lord Tyraw­ley that was on a cor­ner of the High St behind the church. They were there until she was about 4 then moved to The Cran­bourne, 1, Upper St Mar­tins Lane. Her best friends were Mau­r­reen Bur­net and Susan Tur­ley or Tur­vey. She and Bren­da Mann were great bud­dies. Apart from Bren­da there was also Josephine who lived in Char­ing Cross Road.

    Lyn­da’s par­ents moved every five or so years, apart from the Cran­bourne (The Frigate). They stayed at the Cran­bourne for quite a few years then for some rea­son went to Ash­ford in Kent to a pub. They only stayed there for 1 year. Then they took the Famous Three Kings which was right next door to West Kens­ing­ton tube sta­tion. Lyn­da got mar­ried from there (and divorced). Whilst they were in Kent she was packed off to board­ing school in Wey­bridge as she was too unruly. From there they took over The George in Great Queen Street, oppo­site the Con­naught Rooms. She lived in Barons Court, Lam­beth Walk, Poplar, Cam­den Town, and Mun­ster Road in Ful­ham. But the place she still thought of as home is The Cran­bourne, she reck­oned because they stayed there longest.

    Lyn­da also wrote: ‘Bren­da Mann was still liv­ing in the (Peabody Estate) flats in the 70s. She was in the first block off New Row. I remem­ber the shops there. Glatts was a hab­er­dash­ery a green­gro­cer oppo­site, then a dry clean­ers and at the St Mar­tins end was a the­atri­cal props shop. Moss Bros was at the far end where it opened out into Covent Gar­den. The pub was right on the cor­ner it was Num­ber 1, Upper St Mar­tins Lane. The Sus­sex Pub was on the oth­er cor­ner and the arts the­atre was next door. I went to St Clement Danes as well but I think this was about 1949/50. If you stood out­side the Col­i­se­um fac­ing the road then turned and looked to the right the Cran­bourne would be at the top of the lane fac­ing down towards you, at one time it was turned into a ship and called The Frigate. The 52 Jazz Club was a few doors away. I recall being at the Queens coro­na­tion and also her fathers funer­al.’

  10. The Mas­ter Gun­ner, closed before the whole of the site was re-devel­oped in the 1990s, was the near­est pub to the BT head office in New­gate Street, so we were in there almost any time (some for every lunch, like our col­leagues in Cor­po­rate Affairs and PR) but more often evenings. It had been a Finch’s house since 1964 (so pre­sum­ably from, or soon after, the Pater­nos­ter Square com­plex was com­plet­ed) and tak­en over by Young’s in August 1991.

    Sad­ly I don’t have any pix to hand, exte­ri­or or inte­ri­or – at least not that I know of. It was themed with the upper lev­el (still below ground lev­el) the Can­non Bar, with var­i­ous swords on the wall. The low­er lev­el was a restau­rant with a large black and white mur­al of a mil­i­tary parade. There were plen­ty of his­tor­i­cal pho­tos and prints on the walls through­out. Unlike it’s rather desul­to­ry replace­ment. Before that there was, on approx­i­mate­ly the same site, the King’s Head.

    EC4 MASTER GUNNER: 37 Cathe­dral Place. Bass Char­ring­ton. CHARRINGTON IPA.. Real ale is served down­stairs in restarant type sur­round­ings; the pub is a mod­ern build­ing in a shop­ping arcade. Lunches/Musak.”

    From 1983

    It was in a bru­tal ’60s office devel­op­ment, almost inevitable I sup­pose after the rather com­plete effort of the Luft­waffe.

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