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The Changing Scene: Watney’s Pubs of 1964

In 1964-64 Watney Mann and its subsidiaries were on a spree of pub building in towns, New Towns and on housing estates up and down the country.

Here are photographs of and notes on those new pubs from editions of the brewery’s in-house magazine, The Red Barrel, published in 1964. Where possible we’ve credited architects and builders. Unfortunately no photography credits are provided in the magazines.

The Kingfisher, Corby, Northamptonshire
Exterior view of a modern pub; interior view of the same.
The exterior of the Kingfisher and a view of its lounge bar.

This pub on the Lodge Park estate was opened in December 1963 by E.C.M. Palmer, the chairman of Phipps, the Northampton brewer Watney’s took over in 1960. It was designed by Phipps’s in-house architects and built by Simcock and Usher Limited of Northampton. The managers were Norman Houghton and his apparently nameless wife.

A feature of the spacious public bar is the woodwork. The seating, the counter front and the ceiling are of fine quality pinewood, and a Granwood floor blend with the general appearance of the room… [It] has that essential amenity, a car park, with space for about fifty cars.

Still there? It seems so.

The Old Swan, Battersea, London

Exterior of the Old Swan from the riverside.

This riverside pub was designed by architects Stewart, Hendry & Smith and built by Siggs & Chapman of Croydon. It replaced an older riverside pub.

A full length continuous window in the ‘Riverside Bar’ overlooks the Thames, and the nautical atmosphere is accentuated by the curved boarded ceiling reminiscent of a ship’s deckhead, and by a ship’s rail for a footrail, while ship’s lanterns and porthole-style windows provide light.

Still there? No, sadly not — it was apparently demolished before 1987 (didn’t even make 25 years) and was replaced with a block of flats that cheekily borrowed the pub name.

The Buckle, Seaford, East Sussex

Exterior view of the Buckle

This pub was opened in 1963 and designed by E.A. Whittaker, surveyor for local Watney’s avatar Tamplin’s, and built by Brighton firm Saunders Watts Ltd. The Martello-style tower was, as you can see, a striking feature of this design — there was more leeway for creativity at the seaside than on housing estates, it seems.

The house, which replaces The Old Inn, had a first floor bar giving a magnificent panoramic view of Newhaven harbour and the English Channel, and there is a terrace for open-air refreshment. The name… [refers to] the Pelham family coat of arms.

Still there? Yes, but now a rather wacky looking private home.

The Bear, Wellsway (Bath), Somerset
Four men underneath a polar bear.
N.H. Villiers, L.C. Dodd, A. Seaward and F.S.W. Hancock, all directors at Usher’s, about to be attacked by a bear.

We Tweeted about this one a couple of months ago, tipped off by our copy of a 1965 guide to Usher’s pubs. The Red Barrel informs us that it opened in December 1963 and that the life-size polar bear over the door was moulded from fibreglass. It was designed by the Usher’s in-house architects and built by a local firm called Long. Inside there were apparently three more polar bears in relief and lit by spotlights inside. It was run by Mr and Mrs Ken Dawes. (Weird that he married a woman with the same first name as him — ho ho!)

There are no exterior shots in the magazine but you’ll see from Street View that it’s quite classy as post-war pubs go, presumably because of the strict rules around building standards in heritage hungry Bath.

Still there? Yes!

The Stirrup Cup, Barton Seagrave (Kettering), Northamptonshire

Exterior of the Stirrup Cup.

This pub was opened in January 1964. It was designed by Phipps’s own architects and built by W.R. Burgess & Sons of Kettering. The managers were Don Smith and his wife.

The decor of The Stirrup Cup has a distinct hunting flavour and the public bar and saloon bar are called respectively The Harness Room and The Paddock.

We don’t normally pass judgement but this is quite a handsome building -and that diddy loggia/patio thing on the left looks a bit church-like, and rather nice.

Still there? Yes!

The Sir John Franklin, Poplar, London

Interior of the Sir John Franklin.

The Sir John Franklin, a new Mann’s house, takes its name from a Mann’s house damaged by bombing during the war. It replaces not only this house, but a Watney’s house, The East India Dock Tavern, which was compulsorily purchased in connection with the London County Council Tunnel and Improvements Act of 1938.

This pub was designed by Stewart, Hendry & Smith and built by C.S. Foster Ltd of Loughton, Essex. The walls were decorated with pictures of ships and maps connected to the explorer after whom the pub was named.

Still there? No, it was demolished in 2011.

The Moonraker, Cwmbran, Monmouthshire
Interior of the Moonraker.
The lounge bar with polished copper chimney breast and bar surfaced in slate.

Cwmbran was a New Town built more or less from scratch after 1949 and, taking advantage of this new frontier to push forward with its national expansion, this was the first Watney Mann pub in Wales. It was designed by J.H. Thraves & Son of Newport in co-operation with the New Town Corporation’s in-house architect.

Its name derives from a popular folk tale from… the West of England. There must have been some logic behind them applying it here but the magazine article does not explain it if so.

Still there? Oh yes, and in style — it’s now a branch of Wetherspoon under the name The John Fielding.

The Plough & Tractor, Basildon, Essex
Interior of the Plough & Tractor.
The lounge bar.

Basildon is another post-war New Town; the Plough & Tractor served the Lee Chapel district. It was a very large pub with four bars and an off-licence. The Hayloft Bar upstairs even had a dance floor. Altogether this sounds more like the grand inter-war style than what might have been expected in the 1960s. It was designed by Barnard Reyner, built by J.M. Hill & Sons, with an interior scheme (in dark brick and fancy woodwork) by Druce & Co of Baker Street, London.

Still there? Yes!

The Red Anchor, Chelsea, London

Exterior of the Red Anchor

This pub replaced an older building, The Odell Arms, and had a single bar. Its name was a reference to the mark used on Chelsea pottery. It was designed by Chesterton & Son and built by Harry Neal Ltd. It was managed by B.R.A. Wells for the Westminster Wine Company.

Still there? Yes! But renamed The Sporting Page and cleverly made over to look like a much older building with bay windows and other fiddly Georgian bits. We don’t know if we’d have guessed it dates from c.1964 if we’d passed on the street.

The Carpenter’s Arms, Stepney, London

The Carpenter's Arms (exterior)
This pub replaced an older pub with the same name nearby that was demolished by the LLC to make way for the Ocean Estate. It was designed by L.D. Tomlinson & Partners of Romford, Essex, and built by J. Stokes & Son Ltd of East Ham. It had two bars and was a basically a local boozer.

Still there? No.

The Cardinal’s Hat, Middleton, Lancashire

Exterior of the Cardinal's Hat.

This pub was built by Wilson’s (a Watney’s brand) to serve the Langley Estate and opened in June 1964. The name is a reference to Cardinal Langley who was born in Middleton. It had an off-licence, public bar, smoke room, lounge and assembly room.

Still there? Of course not.

The Cranberry, Oldham, Lancashire

Exterior view of the Cranberry.

This was the 25th new pub built by Wilson’s in the period after World War II and opened in July 1964. The original Cranberry was destroyed by bombing in 1940. It had a lounge, smoke room and public bar.

Interior of the Cranberry.
The lounge bar at The Cranberry.

Is the Cranberry still there? No, closed, and converted into houses. There’s no way you’d ever guess it was once a pub — sadly, a defining feature of the generally rather plain pubs of this period.

* * *

And that’s your lot, for now. Next time it’ll be a gallery of pictures of Watney Mann pub refurbishments — that is, not new builds but often quite wacky themed interiors for existing pubs.

Chapter header.

And, obviously, if you found this interesting you’ll love 20th Century Pub (“the best book about beer I have ever read” — Alan McLeod) which has an entire chapter on post-war pub building.


5 replies on “The Changing Scene: Watney’s Pubs of 1964”

It was an era when Watney was still regarded as a good name and therefore “Watney pub” sounded like a good move. A few years later that was all destroyed, especially when the phrase “Norfolk is grossly overpubbed” entered the lexicon.

So when was the Moonraker actually built? The James Bond novel was published in 1955, which was probably a more direct inspiration perhaps, and sort of ties it in with the space/rockets craze of the 1950s.

The article doesn’t specify but it was new in 1964 so probably 63-64. The article cites the folk tale, specifying its connection to Bristol and Devizes, but doesn’t mention James Bond.

I’d guess it’s a couple of things coming together, you can imagine how pleased the marketing department was to0 find a name that they could pretend was pandering to the Olde Englande heritage crowd whilst having some of the coolness of the space race and Bond (first Bond film was 1962, Moonraker had been serialised in a newspaper cartoon strip in 1959). And of course it had been dramatised by South African radio, not that Bob Holness’ performance as Bond would have influenced British pub names but it gives an idea of the pervasive influence of the book.

The ‘Moonraker’ of the novel was a missile, though, which I think would have evoked unpleasant memories of the V-weapons rather than the glamour of the Space Race. I suspect the pub was named before the Bond films really took off in popular consciousness, and it was just the folk tale they were thinking of.

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