20th Century Pub pubs

Notable Pubs: The White Knight, Crawley

We recently acquired a copy of The House of Whitbread for Spring 1958 — a magazine we had previously only seen bits of, in the form of photocopies, at the London Metropolitan Archive — with a short feature on a famous post-war pub.

The White Knight in Crawley, West Sussex, wasn’t by any means the first new pub built after World War II but nonetheless seems to have been considered something of a landmark when it was opened in October 1957. Indeed, the HoW article cites a BBC Home Service feature called Town and Country which apparently described it as ‘revolutionary in character and embodying many new ideas’. Architectural critic Ian Nairn loved it, too.

Exterior of the White Knight

There’s are photos of the exterior of the pub in almost every article about modern pubs from the 1950s and 60s but interior photos are less common so it’s good to see these:

Pub interior in mid-century modern style.
The Knight’s Taproom.
Pub with carpets and flowers.
The Knight’s Saloon

The inset fireplace! The atomic-age wall clock! Those striped curtains! The flying saucer light-fittings! We’ve never seen colour photographs and no indication of the colour scheme is recorded anywhere we can find but we have to assume there are some pastel shades in there.

Here’s the HoW account of what made the pub special:

There are two bars, the Knight’s Saloon and the Knight’s Taproom, and walls made almost entirely of glass divide them from the terrace which has wooden benches and tables screened by pergolas. The Knight’s Saloon also leads, again through glass walls, to a small paved garden at the side of the house. On weekdays from ten in the morning till half past ten at night a coffee room serves light refreshments, lunches, teas and soft drinks. It is linked by an open terrace where beer drinkers and coffee drinkers can freely mix. The design completely disregards the idea that drinking is a secret occupation to be screened from view by solid walls and obscured glass.

That all sounds, it must be said, thoroughly modern — very Hungry Horse or Flaming Grill.

Thought we didn’t make it to Crawley during research for 20th Century Pub we were pleased to find that it is still trading under the name The Knight. It has lost most of its mid-century charm, made over with cod-Victorian details, but that’s so often the way.

3 replies on “Notable Pubs: The White Knight, Crawley”

Going back to the summer 1950 edition, the House of Whitbread Trade Notes featured The Buff Orpington, a Whitbread prefabricated public house recently opened at Ashley Gardens, Orpington, on May 11th, within a mile of the farm on which the Buff Orpington was first bred. Illustrated with photos of the service area ‘well designed and surprisingly large’ and the Saloon Bar. It was the second single-hut prefab to be opened by the company (which was the first?) ‘attractively decorated in cream and green.’ Mr Dennis Higgs was the manager.

Trade Notes also reported on the addition of a new Saloon Bar (with photo) to The Whitbread Tavern East Street Brighton that had proved very popular. ‘It is built with three different floor levels and attractive arches which create an unusual and pleasing effect. The old saloon has been absorbed into the public bar, while the original lounge with its fine panelling is left untouched.’

This appears to have latterly been a Barracuda Group bar of some description at 80 East Street, and more recently the Bison Arms.

There’s still a Buff in Orpington, but not I fancy the original. and see for the replacement.

I’ve yet to scan any of the photos …..

Ta! I did buy a copy of 20th Century Pub but gave it to an old friend (who has a long-standing interest in beer, pubs, and brewing ……….) for Christmas.

I’ve further found The Whitbread Tavern East Street Brighton referenced in several planning applications: BH2011/02549 by Barracuda Pubs and Bars as the Varsity / Mariner; BH2003/02075/AD as the Prodigal PH
…….. and before that as the Clarendon.

In a planning statement in support of an application for listed building consent BH2011/01432 it was said to have been listed Grade II March 1987 principally for the architectural design of the exterior. The building was originally constructed as a small boutique hotel in 1869 for the Brighton Hotel Company. The ground floor and basement (plus attic) had evolved into a stand alone public House separate from the upper floors that had been converted from hotel to flats.

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