Public house built to the designs of John and Sylvia Reid, 1969-71.
Reasons for Designation
The Wheatsheaf, Camberley, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as an inventive and highly distinctive architectural design for a post-war pub by John and Sylvia Reid, influential and experimental pub architects of the period.
* as a sophisticated example of desegregated pub, reflecting and responding to widespread social changes in the post-war era which prompted the rejection of the traditional arrangement of pubs into distinct bars;
* as a rare, well-preserved and highly unusual example of a post-war estate pub.
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 on new estates, developments, and areas damaged by wartime bombing. Until building restrictions were lifted in late 1954, most were temporary in form or built so as to be capable of future extension; some exceptions were made, but few permanent pubs were built between 1945 and 1954. From the 1950s, pubs were frequently planned as part of the larger whole, located within neighbourhood centres, or adjacent to shopping parades, churches or community centres. They were often consciously designed to harmonise with their environment, so exteriors were comparatively plain; only occasionally were bold architectural statements made (these mainly in urban centres). Car parks were common (reflecting rising car ownership), but gardens were rarer and less elaborate than in the inter-war years. Despite this, the interplay between internal and external space was emphasised by large windows, loggias, and terraces.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, the key principles of pub planning from the inter-war period remained relevant, albeit with some refinements and advances made. The division of public areas into separate bars generally persisted (the most common rooms being the public bar, saloon bar, and off-sales compartment). Central serveries remained the norm, allowing supervision of all bars. Manager’s accommodation (almost always on an upper floor) was segregated, and emphasis was placed on the social role of pubs, which often included club or assembly rooms for wider community use and family/children’s rooms. The interiors of pubs built in the early post-war years generally retained a traditional atmosphere (for instance 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 changes in attitudes towards class, the social and decorative distinctions between the pub’s various bars became blurred and interiors became more uniform.
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 new architectural forms were experimented with. Single-bar pubs became increasingly widespread – used by both sexes and all classes, and usually broken down into smaller zones – although pubs of traditional post-war design continued to be built into the 1970s. A change came in the 1980s with the focus on conversion of existing buildings to 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.
In common with many pubs built in the period, the Wheatsheaf was planned as part of a commercial precinct to serve a new residential estate. The site of the new development, Heatherside, was formerly a small Victorian heathland estate to the south-east of Camberley. Much of the estate was acquired by Bovis New Homes Southern, who set out a new neighbourhood complete with community infrastructure and facilities designed to overcome the lack of a direct connection with Camberley’s town centre. As part of this plan for the new self-contained estate, the Wheatsheaf had a key role as a central social hub to serve the new community. Plans were submitted by the architects John and Sylvia Reid in October 1969, with a provisional licence granted in February 1970. The proposed pub was to adjoin the Heather Ridge Arcade, a shopping precinct which the Reids also had responsibility for designing. The construction of the shopping precinct and the pub were managed independently; the former overseen by Malcolm Sanderson Holdings Ltd (part of Bovis Homes), while the Wheatsheaf was built by First Eleven Ltd, a London investment company specialising in leisure activities. The Wheatsheaf opened as a free house in May 1971, completed at a cost of £55,000. The pub’s name was chosen with reference to Sir Frederick Hastings Goldney, the former owner of the land on which the development was built, whose crest prominently bore a wheatsheaf.
In contrast to other estates developed by Bovis Homes, where pubs were designed to blend in with the surrounding housing, the Wheatsheaf exemplified a bolder approach; the design contrived as a conspicuous focal-point for the new estate. At Heatherside, John and Sylvia Reid were in the unusual position of being given a free hand on the project with no restrictions on the amount of land they could allocate for the pub and no restraints on the style or form the design should take. Consequently, the commission gave rise to an experimental design characterised by a decagonal ratchet-wheel layout and segmental, stepped roof form. The impetus for the unusual form of the Wheatsheaf was what John Reid referred to as the ‘contradictory requirements’ of the public house, in which:
‘Groups of six, seven, eight, or even a dozen people want to be on their own, yet at the same time, be among a lot of other people. A group of people entering a pub will always make a bee-line for a corner from where they can look out and see what’s going on in the rest of the pub. What we have done with the Wheatsheaf is to create a series of intimate spaces with as many corners as possible’ (Interior Design, 1972).
John Robson Reid (1925-92) and Sylvia Mary Reid (born 1925) were, by the time of the Wheatsheaf commission, established and well-renowned pub designers. They married in 1948 and after studying at the Regent Street Polytechnic went on to form a professional partnership as architects and industrial designers, working on hotels, showrooms, houses and museums in addition to their designs for pubs. In 1955 the couple received acclaim as ‘pioneer Victorian revivalists in pub design’ for their remodelling of the Champion pub in Fitzrovia, London (listed grade II; National Heritage List for England 1267696), which they were commissioned to work on after winning a competition in the Architectural Review. Whilst their refitting of earlier pubs demonstrated sensitivity to traditional pub fittings and plan-forms, their designs could also introduce novel features, as with the circular revolving counter which was installed as part of their design for the Ranelagh in Pimlico. Where the context allowed, the Reids’ pubs displayed a confidently modern approach, as exemplified by their design for the Pyramid, built for Truman’s brewery in 1972-73 in the Pin Green neighbourhood centre, Stevenage, Hertfordshire. In common with the Wheatsheaf, this utilised bold, varied shapes and a palette of exposed black brick, timber and woodwool panels.
Since opening in 1971 there have been some modifications to the Wheatsheaf. The only substantial phase of secondary work was conducted in around 1989. The most notable change of this phase to the main bar area was the repositioning of the stairs up to the gallery and down to the bar servery; alterations apparently made to comply with health and safety standards. In addition to this, the staff office, cold store and part of the adjacent bottle store were converted into a separate bar or function room; an indication of the pub’s growing custom at this stage. At around the time of the 2007 smoking ban in England, a smokers’ shelter was erected on the north-west side of the pub.
Decagonal pub with attached square wing containing a function room, service areas and manager’s accommodation, built to the designs of John and Sylvia Reid, 1969-71.
MATERIALS: principally of brick clad in Welsh slate. Quarry tiles, pine beams, woodwool panels and Leicestershire-straw faced brick feature internally.
PLAN: decagonal ‘ratchet-wheel’ plan to main single-space bar area, with an adjoining stepped single and double-storey square range of service areas, a function room and upper-level manager’s accommodation to the south. The pub connects with the shopping precinct at its south-western corner.
Within the main undivided bar space the central chimney is the lynchpin of the decagonal arrangement, around which there are triangular sections, described as ‘snugs’ or ‘lounges’, which overlook the bar servery and the circular seating area in the centre of the pub. The three-part bar servery is situated on the south side and a mezzanine-level gallery level oversails this, providing three further seating areas and a minstrel gallery for musical performances (now used for storage).
EXTERIOR: the entrance façade of the Wheatsheaf to the west overlooks the plaza of the shopping precinct. The overhanging upper storey of the precinct extends to the west face of the pub and provides cover for its entrance. This west elevation is rendered and painted (the only elevation to have lost its original slate-cladding). To the north and east, above the slate-clad walls, the roof of the pub radiates out from the central chimney with a series of monopitched triangular-shaped segments. These step down gradually from west to east and rise in height again from east to west on the south side, intersecting with the roof over the manager’s flat (the southern square wing). The spaces created by the stepped roof profile are filled with glazed panels, forming a clerestory and allowing natural light into the bar. The narrow return walls of the radiating segments are also glazed, and several have part-glazed doorways with windows over (fire escape doors have been installed in other bays). The doors connect the snugs with a series of quarry-tiled terraces; these surround the pub and are formed of triangular segments with walls which double as benches, their form shadowing the star-like shape of the building. A simple timber smoking shelter covers the westernmost terraced section.
The rear elevation of the pub, to the south, is masked at ground-floor level by a high brick boundary wall enclosing the service yard. The range attached to the back of the pub (east side) is of single-storey height with monopitch roof lights. Set back behind this, a blind wall rises up to form the eastern elevation of the manager’s flat at first-floor level, this has a long range of windows and a balcony to the south elevation.
INTERIOR: the main bar room forms a single undivided space. At its centre is a decagonal chimney resembling a column which structurally supports the segmental roof. The chimney is of textured brickwork with an uneven finish, comprised of a mixture of angled stretchers and projecting headers. At its base there are a series of small hearth openings. Immediately surrounding the chimney is a rounded fireside bench, faced in quarry tiles. This was truncated slightly on the south side in around 1989 to provide additional space in front of the servery. Around the perimeter of the bar area are the six alcoves or snugs, arranged over different floor levels and demarcated by walls of plain, exposed brick which form the inner edges of the points of the pub’s star-like plan. The bays at the lower level have quarry-tiled floors; those at a higher level, to the east, are carpeted (as they were originally). Natural light for the bar area is provided by glazed doors which lead from the various bays to the terrace outside, from windows above these doors and also from clerestory lights. The ceiling has a stepped profile and is formed of woodwool slabs, with timber ribs defining the roof’s slope.
The bar’s servery is positioned to the south of the main space, divided into three sections which occupy a trio of protruding bays within the decagonal plan. The pub’s counters are in their original positions (these all remain canted in the middle between the brick bay walls), but have been refronted with traditional moulded timber panels and pilasters. Each of the original walls which divide the counter area contains an opening or squint, while there is also an opening in the west wall dividing the servery from the lobby which enabled supervision and allowed staff serving in one counter section to retain visibility of customers waiting at the other sections.
Above the servery, oversailing the bar counters, is a mezzanine level with a minstrels’ gallery for musical performances. This elevated section is reached by a set of stairs. The gallery stairs, along with the smaller set down to the bar were rebuilt in 1989 slightly to the east of their original positions (thereby blocking direct access from the centre of the pub to the sixth alcove bay which is now accessed via an inserted doorway in its return wall). The gallery is divided by brick walls into three small, intimate areas or ‘cubicles’ with fixed seating. Narrow openings in the walls connect these spaces, which overlook the pub’s main bar. The balustrade, decorative orbs and Perspex panels which screen-off the gallery are original, although the moulded balusters have been added. On the west side, immediately above the pub’s entrance, was the minstrels’ gallery proper. This is accessed via a narrow door from the adjacent cubicles and is used for storage.
Adjoining the decagonal body of the original single-bar area is the southern square block. The ground floor of this section is comprised of an entrance foyer, function room, kitchen (not inspected) a bottle store/cold cellar and male and female WCs. The function room is rectangular in plan. This space was created in 1989 through a remodelling of the storage space, WCs, and the staff office which originally occupied this area. The bar servery for the function room is positioned in the north-east corner of the room and connects with the main servery area of the adjacent bar. The function room has windows and a central door to the yard on its south side. In the rear yard (but adjoined to the south-west of the function room via a small lobby) is the former garage which was converted for use as a cold cellar extension in 1989. The manager’s flat (not inspected) occupies the first floor; this is understood to contain a kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms and a lounge with access to a balcony overlooking the rear yard. The areas on both levels of the southern square block were fitted out to standard specifications and this section does not carry through the careful internal detailing of the main decagonal bar area.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a simple brick wall and steel gates screen-off the rear yard.