The Centurion Public House
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Location Description:
- Poolemead Road, Twerton, Bath, BA2 1QR
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Location Description:
- Poolemead Road, Twerton, Bath, BA2 1QR
- Bath and North East Somerset (Unitary Authority)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
A public house built in 1965-1966 to the designs of HR Robinson of West Country Breweries and JF Lachlan of Whitbread's on a sloping site in a housing estate, with extensive views.
Reasons for Designation
The Centurion Public House, Poolemead Road, Bath is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* the building is a powerful composition which takes advantage of its site and the possibilities of a steel frame and plate glass to form a dramatic design;
* the building also uses careful detailing in the materials and finishes used throughout and retains evidence of a technologically advanced form of pressurised internal atmosphere.
* this is a good example of post-war pub which has retained several of the features which were typical of that period, such as a themed interior and an informal restaurant space. It has a high rate of survival of original fittings.
The post-war period saw the English public house become a fully accepted social amenity, for the first time, and pubs were constructed in their thousands in new estates and developments and areas damaged by wartime bombing. Until building restrictions were lifted in late 1954, most of these pubs were temporary in form or built so as to be capable of future extension; exceptions were occasionally made, but the number of permanent pubs built between 1945 and 1954 was low. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the principles of pub design remained largely the same as in the inter-war period, although further refined and advanced. Buildings were still broken down into separate bars (the most common being public bar and saloon bar, with off-sales shop or off-licence). Central serveries remained the norm, ensuring ready supervision of all bar areas. Manager’s accommodation (almost always on an upper floor) was clearly segregated, and emphasis was placed on the social role of pubs, which often included club or assembly rooms for wider community use and children’s/family rooms. A conscious effort was made to ensure post-war pubs harmonised with their environment, so their exteriors were often comparatively plain and/or of a form imitating nearby buildings; only occasionally were post-war pubs designed as bold architectural statements, this being especially the case in town and city centres. Almost all pubs were given large car parks (reflecting the rising popularity of the motor car), but gardens became far less common and were less elaborate than in the inter-war years. Despite this, the interplay between interior and exterior space was often emphasised by large windows, loggias, and outdoor terraces. Internally, pubs often retained a sense of traditional atmosphere (e.g. fireplaces were often included in bars, despite the installation of full central heating), but buildings were usually brightly decorated and given modern facilities, ensuring they matched or bettered the quality of contemporary housing. Reflecting the breakdown of the class system, the social and decorative distinctions between the pub’s various bars became blurred and interiors became more uniform. Post-war pubs were frequently planned as part of the larger whole, and located within neighbourhood centres, or adjacent to shopping parades, churches or community centres.
From the mid-1960s, pubs were increasingly rivalled by other forms of entertainment, such as discos, wine bars, restaurants and working men’s clubs. In order to survive, breweries approached design in a less traditional manner. Themed interiors became common, dance floors and function suites were introduced, and pub catering took on a new importance, while interesting risks were taken with pub architecture, both internally and externally. Single-bar pubs became increasingly widespread – capable of being used by both sexes and people of all classes, and usually broken down into smaller zones – although pubs of traditional post-war design continued to be built right into the 1970s. A change came in the 1980s when attention shifted to the conversion of existing buildings as pubs and the creation of pub chains, with near identical design.
In more recent times, pubs of the post-war years have become the most threatened and under-appreciated of their building type. The majority have been either greatly altered or demolished, with far fewer intact examples surviving than for the inter-war period.
The Centurion was built by Whitbread, who had recently taken over West Country Breweries, who had bought the site in 1961. This explained the fact that HR Robinson was initially the architect. His plans, approved by Bath City Council in June 1964 included an off-sales shop on the north side at ground floor level. By October 1965, however, this was superseded by a 'buttery' in place of the off-sales and with a revised footprint which extended the ground floor towards the north across what had previously been intended as a balcony with large plate glass windows to take advantage of the views. The ceremonial first pint was pulled by Admiral Sir Peter Dawnay, a director of Whitbread and former commander of the royal yacht Britannia, whose first ship had been named Centurion.
The pub forms part of the Twerton Estate, built by Bath City Council from 1947. Initially houses were steel pre-fabricated or concrete 'Cornish Unit' houses, but with the lifting of building material restrictions in 1954 these were replaced with more permanent dwellings.
In 2002 Enterprise Inns acquired many of the former Whitbread pubs, including The Centurion. The garages in the semi basement have been converted to a skittle alley and bar and a section of the bar in the ground floor buttery has now been replaced by a trophy cabinet, but other than this little has been changed from the original appearance and layout.
A public house built in 1965-1966 to the designs of HR Robinson of West Country Breweries and JF Lachlan of Whitbread's on a sloping site in a housing estate with extensive views.
MATERIALS: the building has a steel frame with pre-stressed concrete floors and walls of reconstituted Bath and Portland stone. Flat roofs are covered with asphalt with green slate fascias to the edges and windows are double glazed with aluminium frames.
PLAN: the pub is built on a sloping site which takes advantage of views to the north across a valley and towards Lansdowne. It has three storeys and a semi-basement. The basement is exposed on the northern side where there is an entrance lobby. A skittle alley and bar at this level were originally two garages. The ground floor has the public and lounge bars and the former buttery (now combined with the Lounge bar), lavatories and office with an entrance hall on the south side which leads to these rooms and is approached by a staircase which leads up from the basement entrance on the north side. The upper two floors form a rectangular block and house the publican's flat.
EXTERIOR: the building makes a feature of the ground floor bar rooms which have large picture windows and project at oblique angles to form a trapezoidal shape which contrast with the rectangular core of the building which appears at basement and first and second floor levels and has solid walling. Different textures of reconstituted stone are used across the building, with rusticated blocks at basement level and smooth, ashlar blocks to the upper floors. The tops of the walls at both ground floor and second floor levels are marked by green slate fascias on all sides.
The north face has a projecting ground floor bar, supported on three evenly spaced square pillars. Recessed at basement level and continuing at first and second floor levels is the rectangular core of the plan. At basement level are double doors to the centre, leading to a lobby and stairs. To left of this the converted garage building has a window in its side wall, and above this is the terrace with hard wood balustrade. At first floor level and angled are four large, plate glass windows which extend for the full height and width of the bar space. The window surrounds are aluminium and there are horizontal grilles beneath each window. Projecting above this is a canopy with angled underside and slate fascia. The first and second floors, recessed behind this, have square windows to the left. At right and rising across both floors is an attached bronze relief panel showing a Centurion wearing armour, with a plumed helmet and shield.
The western face shows the fall in the land, with the basement exposed at left, but not to the right. As on the north side the ground floor is angled and projects in front of the main body of the building. It has two large windows at left, similar to those on the north face. To right of this is an entrance doorway with glazed door, approached by a dogleg staircase with hardwood balustrade which rises from the pavement level. Walling to the right of this is smooth and blind. The first and second floors are recessed with horizontal slit windows at right.
The south front has the rectangular block projecting slightly at near-centre. At ground floor level it has an entrance with glazed double doors and a canopy porch with metal pole supports to the corners. The first and second floors above this have a continuous staircase window at left with aluminium frame which rises to the green slate fascia at the top of the building. At either side of this central, tall block are single-storey blocks. That to the left of this has a triple window with aluminium surround and casement lights with wooden frames. At right and projecting is a screen wall to a service yard, which is rusticated and has blocks of various sizes. Beyond this the single-storey block has windows to the upper wall.
The east side has horizontal slit windows to the top of the walling at left of the ground floor and a four-light, full-height window to right, including a door to the terrace. The recessed first and second floors each have four evenly-spaced square windows.
INTERIOR: the entrance lobbies at basement and ground floor levels have terrazzo tiles to the floor and the treads and risers of the stairs that lead up from the basement are also covered in terrazzo. The ground floor lobby includes a former telephone booth, set into the wall, with sound proof tiles and there is a portion of Roman mosaic in a hardwood frame which is fixed to the wall.
The public bar on the east side is entered at an upper level which is for darts. A couple of steps lead down to the main floor. This upper platform has its original balustrade with iron supports and wooden handrail. The bar has its original, shelved bar back. The bar counter is also original with a black slate front and the slate flooring around the bar is cut in patterns to match its angled corner.
The present saloon bar was originally two separate bars - the Lounge bar at the southern end and the Buttery at the north, divided by a lobby entrance with glass doors which has now been removed. The room has a raised platform at the southern end, with its original balustrade. The bar in the original Lounge area has its original patterned Formica front, shelf and bar top and the bar back is also original with hardwood shelves and mirrored back which extends across the wall to the right of the counter. The buttery area has its original ceiling with suspended metal troughs making a furrowed pattern with gaps for neon tubes. Walls are panelled with vertical boards. The original L-shaped bar for serving food has been altered and the portion facing west has been replaced by a trophy cabinet. Close to the former lobby entrance there is an alcove in the panelling which contains a fixed, bronze statue of Julius Caesar which may have been moved form the southern lobby.
The publican's flat has a staircase which retains its original slatted wooden screen above the solid balustrade. The living room at the north end of the first floor has a fireplace with reconstituted stone wall to its rear and a vent where a gas or electric fire was formerly fitted. The pub kitchen was originally at first floor level with a service lift which connected to the buttery. This is now the kitchen for the flat.
The interior originally had an artificially pressurised atmosphere which helped to eliminate drafts in this building which was placed on an exposed site facing north. This mechanism no longer works and the seals around many of the doors, which were necessary features, have been lost. Original internal and external aluminium doors across the ground floor have channels around their edges to accommodate the seals. Other internal wooden doors, principally in the lobbies, are flush, with original signage and hardwood surrounds.
Books and journals
'Centurion' in Bath and Wiltshire Evening Chronicle, (21 December 1965), -
'The Centurion' in Bath and Wiltshire Evening Chronicle, (29 December 1965), 10-11
'The Centurion' in House of Whitbread, , Vol. 26, (May 1966), 30-31
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