Beer history london pubs

HELP US: Theme Pubs

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 replies on “HELP US: Theme Pubs”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

We saw that — thanks. Still doesn’t explain where they got the crazy name from, though.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.


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….


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.’

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.

Comments are closed.