Hilltop, “a new venture in public houses”, 1959

All pic­tures and text from Guin­ness Time, Autumn 1959.

Guin­ness have, in the past four years, been priv­i­leged to take part in a project which has now result­ed in the open­ing of a new pub­lic house which, both in its phys­i­cal lay­out and in the method of its plan­ning, exhibits sev­er­al new fea­tures.”

Modern pub windows.
The exte­ri­or of Hill­top.

The new pub is called Hill­top , and is in the South End neigh­bour­hood of Hat­field New Town. It is owned and oper­at­ed by Messrs. McMul­lens of Hert­ford, and it came into being after a most unusu­al piece of co-oper­a­tion.”

A crowd around the ale garland.
“Once the ale was pro­nounced good the Ale Gar­land was hoist­ed.”

It began when we found that the Hat­field Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion had no pub­lic funds avail­able to pro­vide the meet­ing place it had planned for the new pop­u­la­tion of this rapid­ly grow­ing neigh­bour­hood. The cen­tral site which had been reserved for this com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre would remain emp­ty and the only social build­ing would be a small pub­lic house which could not be expect­ed to meet all the needs of the local­i­ty. We thought this sit­u­a­tion offered a won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty for an exper­i­ment.”

1950s pubgoers.
“The busy scene in the Saloon Bar after the offi­cial open­ing.”

We approached the Cor­po­ra­tion and asked them if they would con­sid­er per­mit­ting a brew­er to pro­vide the ameni­ties they had planned to include in their com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre. They agreed. We asked Messrs. McMul­lens if they would con­sid­er expand­ing the plans of the pub­lic house they were to build in the neigh­bour­hood to pro­vide these ameni­ties, and they read­i­ly agreed.”

A bland looking modern cafe.
The cafe.
A group of families and children.
“The chil­dren, too, had free drinks (and buns) on open­ing night.”

Hill­top offers the usu­al facil­i­ties of a pub, three bars and an off-licence where alco­holic refresh­ment is avail­able dur­ing licens­ing hours. It also has an unli­censed cafe where soft drinks and light meals are served. Then there is a large hall for use as a the­atre or for danc­ing or din­ners, and three com­mit­tee rooms. All these rooms may be attached either to the licensed or unli­censed part of the build­ing… by lock­ing the nec­es­sary doors. In addi­tion­al the Hert­ford­shire Health Author­i­ties have two rooms allot­ted to them in which they run a local Health Clin­ic.”

Cool looking young men with guitars and cowboy hats.
“A local skif­fle group enter­tains cus­tomers on open­ing night.”

Notes: Hill­top was designed by Lionel Brett, opened on 11 August 1959, and is still trad­ing as a pub under McMullen’s, albeit renamed The Har­ri­er. Here’s how it looks today:

Watney’s Pubs of 1966–67: Failsworth, Harlington, Lambeth, Stevenage, Wythenshawe

We continue to keep our eyes peeled for old in-house magazines from British breweries and most recently acquired a copy of Watney’s Red Barrel from February 1967.

It’s par­tic­u­lar­ly rich in pic­tures of mod­ern pubs, from Man­ches­ter to Lon­don. Let’s start with a trip to Wythen­shawe, a place we stud­ied in some depth when research­ing 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub, where we find the Fly­ing Machine and the Fir­bank.

The Fly­ing Machine was designed by Fran­cis Jones & Sons and built near Man­ches­ter Air­port, with “inte­ri­or dec­o­ra­tion fea­tur­ing vin­tage air­craft with some attrac­tive prints of biplanes”. Is it still there? Yes! But now it’s called the Tudor Tav­ern.

The Fir­bank was designed by A.H. Broth­er­ton & Part­ners and that’s about all the infor­ma­tion the mag­a­zine gives. That con­crete mur­al looks inter­est­ing, at any rate. The pub is still going, and award-win­ning, but has been the cen­tre of dra­ma in recent years with drug deal­ers attempt­ing to black­mail the pub­li­can.

The Brookdale, Failsworth.

Sad­ly there’s no exte­ri­or image of the Brook­dale in Failsworth, only this image of S.H. Thread­g­ill, M.D. of Watney’s sub­sidiary Wilson’s, receiv­ing a pint pulled by foot­baller Bob­by Charl­ton. This pub has been knocked down to make way for hous­ing.


The Long Ship pub in Stevenage.

The Danish Bar at the Long Ship pub.

Phwoar! The Long Ship in Steve­nage is a pub we first noticed in the back­ground of a scene in the 1968 film Here We Go Round the Mul­ber­ry Bush. It was the first Wat­ney Mann pub in the Hert­ford­shire new town and occu­pied the base of the South­gate House office block.

It has a real­ly inter­est­ing archi­tec­tur­al pedi­gree: that great gor­geous mur­al is by William Mitchell, a sculp­tor cur­rent­ly enjoy­ing a revival. It was six­ty feet long and depict­ed Vikings return­ing to their home­land after a raid on Eng­land. Sad­ly it seems this mur­al was just torn off and chucked away when the pub was demol­ished.

Obvi­ous­ly the bars in the pub were the Viking bar and (pic­tured above) the Dan­ish lounge and grill room.

The archi­tect was Barnard Reyn­er of Coven­try.


The Gibraltar pub near Elephant & Castle in London.

The Gibral­tar in St George’s Road, Lon­don SE1, near Ele­phant and Cas­tle, also has a name design­er attached: archi­tect E.B. Mus­man, who made his name with grand Art Deco designs in the 1930s, such as the Comet at Hat­field and the Nags Head in Bish­ops Stort­ford. It replaced a Vic­to­ri­an gin palace on the same site. Mus­man actu­al­ly went to Gibral­tar to make the sketch­es on which the sign was based.

In recent years it became a Thai restau­rant before being demol­ished in 2012–13 to make way for, you guessed it, yup­pie flats.

Interior of the Jolly Marshman, Abbey Estate, London SE2.

Still in Lon­don we have the Jol­ly Marsh­man on the Abbey Estate, Lon­don SE2. There’s no exte­ri­or shot in the mag­a­zine, only this image of the bar with “bas­ket­work light shades and, cen­tre back, the colour­ful mur­al of a ‘marsh­man’”. It was designed by J. Barnard of L.D. Tom­lin­son & Part­ners.  It has gone.


The Gamekeeper, Harlington.

Out at the end of the Pic­cadil­ly Line near Heathrow Air­port some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent was afoot in the form of the Game­keep­er, the fourth of Watney’s Schooner Inns. It was a restau­rant sup­pos­ed­ly in the shape of a pheas­ant built behind an exist­ing old pub of that name. It was a steak­house with seat­ing for 82 peo­ple. The archi­tect was Roy Wil­son-Smith who also designed the more famous Wind­sock at Dun­sta­ble. Aston­ish­ing­ly, this one still seems to exist – worth a pil­grim­age, we reck­on.


The pic­ture at the very top of this post offers a bare glimpse of anoth­er Schooner Inn, the Leather Bot­tle in Edg­ware, which appar­ent­ly closed in 2002.

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.

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.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Chang­ing Scene: Watney’s Pubs of 1964”

Us on Estate Pubs

Detail from an unused book cover: a pub in black-and-white.

When we started work on 20th Century Pub a few years ago the intention was to write a 20,000 word e-book about post-war pubs in particular. We even got as far as mocking up a cover, above.

The book we even­tu­al­ly wrote takes a much wider view but has a sub­stan­tial chap­ter on ‘mod pubs’ and by way of a sup­ple­ment, we’ve writ­ten two orig­i­nal pieces on the same top­ic.

The first is in the lat­est edi­tion of The Mod­ernist sub­ti­tled ‘Gone’ which launched late last week and is avail­able can be ordered from their web­site or picked up in spe­cial­ist design book­shops such as Mag­ma in Manchester’s North­ern Quar­ter. We gath­er it’s a very small print-run, though, so if you want a copy, get a bend on. (We’ll also make this arti­cle avail­able to Patre­on sub­scribers at some point soon.)

The sec­ond was pub­lished today at Munic­i­pal Dreams, one of our favourite blogs, and includes some quo­ta­tions we didn’t get to use in the book, such as this by Geof­frey Moor­house from 1964:

At the moment, where­as Shot­ton has five pubs, five work­ing men’s clubs, and a cin­e­ma, Peter­lee hasn’t even got a cin­e­ma. The ones who do come, so they say in Peter­lee, very often stay for only a year or two, until a cot­tage becomes avail­able in their old vil­lage, and then they’re back off to it with with­out any appar­ent regrets of the exchange of a mod­ern semi for a peri­od piece straight out of the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion.

We can’t say any of this – all the research, thou­sands of words – has got the obses­sion with this type of pub out of our sys­tem. If any­thing, it’s inten­si­fied it. No doubt there’ll be more on the sub­ject here from time to time.