The Bedford Hotel
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Statutory Address:
- 77 Bedford Hill, London, SW12 9HD
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- Statutory Address:
- 77 Bedford Hill, London, SW12 9HD
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Greater London Authority
- Wandsworth (London Borough)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
Public house, c1931, an ‘improved’ public house by A W Blomfield for the brewery Watney Combe Reid & Co Ltd.
Reasons for Designation
The Bedford Hotel, 77 Bedford Hill, Balham, built c1931 as an ‘improved’ public house by A W Blomfield for the brewery Watney Combe Reid & Co Ltd, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a handsome neo-Georgian building, designed to occupy a tight corner site, the pub exemplifies the character of the inter-war ‘improved’ public house; * Planning interest: an ambitious design, it has an ensemble of first floor function rooms, an impressive double-height circular lounge and ground floor bars of varying function and status, typical of an improved pub; * Level of survival: the building is little altered externally, while internally the public bar, main stairs and first floor function rooms and lounge retain many of their definitive fixtures and fittings; * Architect and client: the building was designed for Watney Combe Reid & Co Ltd, the leading pub improver of the time, by their in-house architect A W Blomfield, and was much admired and publicised on completion.
Public house, c1931 by A W Blomfield for the brewery Watney Combe Reid & Co Ltd.
Inter-war ‘improved’ or ‘reformed’ pubs stemmed from a desire to cut back on the amount of drunkenness associated with conventional Victorian and Edwardian public houses. Licensing magistrates and breweries combined to improve the facilities and reputation of the building type. Improved pubs were generally more spacious than their predecessors, often with restaurant facilities, function rooms and gardens, and consciously appealed to families and to a mix of incomes and classes. Central, island serveries with counters opening onto several bar areas allowed the monitoring of customers and also the efficient distribution of staff to whichever area needed service. Many, although not all, of the new pubs were built as an accompaniment to new suburban development around cities, and a policy of ‘fewer and better’ was followed by magistrates both in town and on the outskirts. A licence might be granted for a new establishment on surrender of one or more licences for smaller urban premises. Approximately 1,000 new pubs were built in the 1920s – the vast majority of them on ‘improved’ lines - and almost 2,000 in the period 1935-39. Neo-Tudor and Neo-Georgian were the favoured styles, although others began to appear at the end of the period.
The present Bedford Hotel dates from c1931 and is a rebuilding of a previous public house, constructed around the early 1870s when the neighbouring residential area was developed. Although named a ‘hotel’ since the Victorian period, the building, at least in its C20 guise, did not include guest accommodation; it is an example of the term being used to give status to a public house and to broaden the class of its clientele. The rebuilt Bedford Hotel was an ambitious project: the tender for the building came to £30,000, a substantial amount, almost four times the average cost of an inter-war pub, reflecting the wealth of facilities it offered.
The public rooms were on both ground and first-floor levels, and included a circular lounge, with a domed roof, rising through two storeys. It had a public bar with the entrance on Fernlea Road, also a second public bar, described as a private bar, on the corner, with an entrance on Bedford Hill, and a separate saloon bar to the south, all served by a central service area with a small office behind. The separate off sales shop on the left of the Fernlea Road elevation, adjacent to the garage, was also linked to the service/private area of the pub. The grander of the two entrances on Bedford Hill gave access via a lobby to the saloon bar and to the lounge and to the main stairs which rose to an unusually commodious series of first floor function rooms. Above the former saloon and private bars was a club room or ballroom, while on the pub’s north, above the public bar, were an anteroom and buffet, the three rooms all inter-linked and forming an entertainment suite. Each had a door opening onto a triangular crush hall at the head of the stairs. Above the off-sales and garage were gentlemen’s lavatories and cloakrooms, with ladies' lavatories, kitchens and tenants' accommodation on the floor above. However as the Bedford Hotel runs up to the railway line and adjoins Victorian terracing on its east, it has no garden, and no car park or ‘draw in’.
During rebuilding a temporary bar was built on Fernlea Road, in the area of the site which came to include the off sales shop and garage. A detailed plan of it, also drawn by Blomfield, shows that it comprised a public bar and saloon bar, divided by service counters and with a store and lavatories to the rear. The building was of a single storey, and survived until the main part of the new pub was complete, thus allowing business to continue without interruption.
The Bedford Hotel was built for a prominent London brewery that was highly active in pub improvement during the inter-war years. Watney’s was the leading pub improver of the time, undertaking 285 building/rebuilding projects between 1918 and 1939. Alfred W Blomfield (1879-1949) was an assistant architect at Watney’s from 1919 and took over as chief architect from G G Macfarlane in 1929, holding the post until his retirement just before the Second World War; the Bedford was one of his earliest pub designs in this new position. A versatile architect, whose designs were admired by contemporaries, Blomfleld’s work for the brewery received attention in the architectural press. The Horns, Shoreditch (now a private club), the Mitre, Holland Park, the Mail Coach, Uxbridge Road (demolished), the Angel, Edmonton (demolished), and the World Turned Upside Down, Old Kent Road (now flats), and all in London where Blomfield worked, all featured in Architectural Design and Construction (1934), while the classic study of the period, Basil Oliver’s Renaissance of the English Public House (1947), devoted a page to Blomfield’s work.
Full sets of drawings of the Bedford Hotel, signed by Blomfield and dated October 1929, are held by Wandsworth Heritage Service and the London Metropolitan Archive (LMA). Plans of the ground and first floors were also published in Architectural Design and Construction in 1934, after the Bedford had been completed, together with a photograph of the interior of the saloon lounge.
Public house, an 'improved pub' c1931 by A W Blomfield for the brewery Watney Combe Reid & Co Ltd, in neo-Georgian manner, with Arts and Crafts and Art Deco influences.
MATERIALS: red brick in Flemish bond with stone dressings and polished grey granite facing to the ground floor, with darker granite dressings. Slate roofs.
PLAN: the Bedford Hotel occupies a corner site, with façades onto Bedford Hill (west) and Fernlea Road (north). The main part of the building is of three storeys, plus cellar and attic. The public rooms are on both ground and first-floor levels, the circular lounge (Shakespearean Globe Theatre) rising through two storeys. The rooms comprise (using their original names) a public bar with an entrance on Fernlea Road, and a main bar formed from the second public bar/private bar on the corner, with the entrance on Bedford Hill, and the saloon bar to the south. Partitions between the former private bar and saloon bar have been removed to create a single bar space. Part of the former private bar has been redesigned as kitchens and the original bar counter in this area of the pub has been replaced.
A separate entrance lobby and main stair hall accessed from Bedford Hill leads to the circular lounge which was also entered from the saloon bar. The original ground floor circulation and access to the circular lounge has been altered, creating a passage to the rear of the lounge but reusing some doors and doorcases. The two-storey range to the east of the public bar and private entrance hall on Fernlea Road contains an off sales shop (now closed) and separate garage.
Main stairs rise within the Bedford Hill entrance to an unusually commodious suite of interlinked first floor function rooms, served by a triangular on plan crush hall. Here the original plan is clearly evident. On the north side of the pub, above the former public bar are the anteroom and buffet, which in turn lead to the club room or ballroom on the Bedford Hill frontage. One of the upper level internal windows of the circular lounge has been converted to a doorway, providing access to the inserted later C20 gallery*. Gents lavatories are now private accommodation; the second floor kitchen is now a public function room. Upper floors remain in use as living accommodation. Secondary, private, stairs rise between the public bar and off sales.
EXTERIOR: the Bedford Hill elevation is in three storeys and attics, and in six first floor bays. The corner of the building is a gabled bay distinguished by a pedimented first floor window, bracketed cornice and a swept gable. The Fernlea Road elevation is symmetrical in five first floor bays with a further two-and-a-half storey, three-bay range to the east. The ground floor is clad in polished granite, stylised pilasters flanking the entrances have fluted capitals; windows are timber casements, most with their original glazing bars, with upper leaded lights. On the Fernlea Road elevation smaller windows denoting the lavatories flank the larger windows and entrance to the former public bar. A continuous moulded fascia runs round the building, terminating in a shaped canopy on brackets over the southern Bedford Hill entrance, which has granite linings and a terrazzo threshold. The outer doors are replaced. First floor windows have moulded architraves and cornices apart from the gabled bay where the central pedimented window is flanked by plain brick window openings with stone keystones. Upper floor windows are set closely below the eaves which have moulded box cornices. Tall hipped roofs have full dormer windows, three to Bedford Hill and four on Fernlea Road. Windows throughout are timber cross casements, most with rectangular leaded lights; in the gable is a small Venetian window. The two-storey range is more simply detailed. The former off-sales is framed by stylised pilasters, has a central doorway flanked by display windows (now boarded over) with leaded glazed overlights. First floor windows have plain openings with stone keystones; above are flat-roofed dormer windows. All signage is later C20 or early C21.
INTERIOR: the interior plan has been modified, mainly on the ground floor, but throughout there are moulded ceilings beams and cornices with foliate or Art Deco inspired zigzag motifs which on the ground floor denote the former room divisions. Timber fixtures and fittings include doors and doorcases, windows, fitted seating, panelling and some of the counters and bar backs. Internal windows have moulded timber frames and leaded lights; doors are panelled, and where part-glazed, the upper panels have leaded lights.
The former public bar (facing Fernlea Road and now separately managed) has a simple Art Deco influenced fireplace within an inglenook with fixed seating to either side; angular headed Art Deco inspired doors to the lavatories, and a dumb waiter. The bar has been reduced in length; the original bar back is formed of three arches, the central arch leading to the service passage; mirrors are replaced.
The main bar (formerly the private bar and saloon bar) has foliate plaster cornices, an inglenook fireplace in the former saloon (the mantelpiece replaced), with flanking arched alcoves and the soffit enriched with decorative plasterwork friezes. The later C20 and C21 bar*, servery*, raised floor* and fixtures and fittings* are not of special interest and are excluded from the listing.
The entrance lobby on Bedford Hill has an inner screen with two pairs of doors of which the left hand pair has the original panelled and glazed doors, beneath a single segmental glazed overlight, and has terrazzo flooring. The hall has a bolection moulded fireplace surround, present by 1934. Separated by a partition (probably also an early alteration) a curved masonry stair with an Art Deco inspired wrought iron balustrade and a terrazzo floor with chequerwork edging provides the main access to the first floor function rooms; the decorative scheme, in buff and green, continues to the stair landing, which also has moulded doorcases and window architraves.
The lounge (Shakespearean Globe Theatre) is in the form of a double-height drum rotunda beneath a central lantern above a radial, coloured glass top-light. It is lit by an arcade of windows on two levels - round-headed at upper level; on the first floor these back onto the former crush bar and landing; the external windows have been blocked or boarded in; internal windows and the upper level door have leaded glazing and margin lights. Between the tiers of windows are richly decorated plaster panels depicting flowers and plants; the floor has terrazzo margins. The later C20 and C21 staging*, balcony*, balustrade* and steps * are not of special interest and are excluded from the listing.
The ballroom, anteroom and the buffet have similar enriched foliate and zigzag plaster cornices whereas the crush hall has the simpler Art Deco inspired zigzag and wave moulded cornice seen on the ground floor lobby. The ballroom has three-quarter height oak panelling, a fireplace with a timber surround and mirrored overmantel. The anteroom also has three-quarter height panelling and richly moulded panelled doors and doorcases; the crush hall has dado panelling; the servery in the buffet is in the position of the original counter; the ballroom, buffet, anteroom and crush bar have maple flooring. Some first floor doors have vertical moulded panels, some have small, glazed lozenge lights. The main interest resides on the ground and first floors. Above the first floor, the upper floors are functionally equipped with standardised panelled doors and fittings. The secondary, service staircase (from Fernlea Road) also has a terrazzo floor.
* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features - later C20 and early C20 bar fixtures and fittings in the bar area and the staging, balcony, balustrades and steps in the lounge (Shakespearean Globe Theatre) are not of special architectural or historic interest.
Books and journals
‘The Contemporary Public House’, Architectural Design and Construction, vol. 4, May 1934, pp. 227-8
Cole, Emily, The Urban and Suburban Public House in Inter-War England, 1918-1939’, Historic England Research Report Series, no. 4/2015, (2015)
Oliver, Basil, The Renaissance of the English Public House , (1947), 94
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
End of official listing