Notable Pubs: The White Knight, Crawley

"Some New Houses"

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 thoughts on “Notable Pubs: The White Knight, Crawley”

  1. 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.–80-east-street-brighton-east-sussex/

    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 .….

  2. 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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