A public house of 1890 by James and Lister Lea, extended from a house of late C18 origin, with alterations in 1930 by J. P Osbourne.
Reasons for Designation
The Wellington Hotel, Bristol Street, Birmingham, a public house of 1890 by James and Lister Lea, extended from a house of late C18 origin with alterations in 1930 by J. P Osborne, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* the unusual plan form on an irregular corner plot is skilfully handled to produce a novel building with strong visual effect, demonstrating the versatility of the Birmingham architectural practice of James & Lister Lea;
* the 1930 street-front is a rare survival which integrates successfully with the Regency style of the upper floors;
* the Wellington Hotel occupies a corner plot at the north end of a block of Victorian commercial buildings, all by the same firm, and is the focal point building in a very valuable section of historic streetscape in an area which is characterised by mid and late-C20 development.
* the Wellington Hotel can trace its history as a public house back over 200 years and evidences the evolution of the social history of drinking. The current layout of separate rooms and multiple entrances speak of a time when drinking was segregated by social hierarchy or gender;
* the Gin Palace style public house is illustrative of the start of the Golden Age of pub building. The lavish style of this type of pub reflects competition for the increasing wealth and leisure options opening up to people in late-C19 Birmingham.
The Wellington Hotel is located at the junction of Bristol Street with Bromsgrove Street. Bristol Street was widened to a dual carriageway after the Second World War and is the main road into Birmingham city centre from the south-west. Bromsgrove Street leads to Hurst Street and Birmingham’s Theatreland. This junction has been a prominent location in an area with high levels of traffic and footfall since Birmingham’s early expansion from town to city and so is a natural location for a public house.
The Wellington Hotel’s earliest origins are as a house of around 1792. By 1818 it was trading as the Wellington Tavern as it is recorded in Pigot’s Commercial Directory of that year. This anticipated the trend encouraged by the 1830 Beer Act which saw many private houses became pubs. The Wellington Tavern was a two storey building adjoining numbers 99-102 Bromsgrove Street. The building in its current form dates to 1890-1891 when it was re-modelled in early C19 Classical style. A third storey was added to the old tavern and a new wing with a bow front to Bristol Street was constructed in the south-west. New billiards and smoking rooms were added to the rear.
The 1890 date for the works is significant as it marks the start of the high point of pub building which took place in the decades either side of 1900. This ‘Golden Age’ of the public house reflects the increasing wealth of the growing urban population at that time and the number of leisure options that this population had. In the face of the perennial national debate on the evils of alcohol, there was also an incentive for pubs to become smarter and more respectable. To compete in this environment, public houses had to be extravagant and lavish, leading to breweries buying up old free houses and building or renovating in the ‘Gin Palace’ style. These pubs would typically feature fixtures and fittings like ornate carved wood decoration, mirrors and etched glass. The location of the Wellington made it a good candidate for the expenditure required for this treatment.
The architects for the 1890-91 works were the Birmingham firm James and Lister Lea, who specialised in public houses. They are well represented on the National Heritage List for England, and two of their Birmingham pubs are listed at Grade II* (the Red Lion NHLE 1276278 and the Bartons Arms NHLE 1076341). James and Lister Lea’s house style in the 1890s was predominantly brick and terracotta, as evidenced by the block of buildings facing Bristol Street to the south of the Wellington. These are also by James and Lister Lea and they were built five years after the renovations to the Wellington.
Continuing the Wellington’s history of adaption to social and commercial trends, a new ground floor frontage and internal refit in Art Deco style was carried out in 1930 by J. P Osborne.
A public house of 1890 by James and Lister Lea, extended from a house of late C18 origin, with alterations in 1930 by J. P Osborne.
MATERIALS: brick with polished granite and buff ceramic tiles to ground floor, stucco render to floors above. There is a brick parapet to the roof. Doors and windows are timber.
PLAN: the Wellington Hotel occupies a corner plot at the junction of Bristol Street with Bromsgrove Street. This junction is at an obtuse angle of around 130 degrees. The building footprint comprises of a north-east / south-west aligned house with an east / west orientated wing to the south of this. The principal elevation largely faces north-west to Bromsgrove Street but also occupies a frontage of a little over two metres on Bristol Street where the bow fronted east / west wing projects to the west. The angle between the wings is filled at ground floor level by the street frontage, but is visible at first and second floor levels where the front line of the building runs north from the bay fronted wing, then curves to the north-east where it adjoins 99-102 Bromsgrove Street. The bay fronted wing is abutted by 74 Bristol Street to the south. The rear of the Wellington extends eastwards towards Henstead Street. An irregularly shaped courtyard is formed to the north and east, enclosed by the rear of 99-102 Bromsgrove Street to the north, a single storey outbuilding to Henstead Street to the east, and by 74 Bristol Street to the south.
EXTERIOR: ground floor and two upper storeys. The roof is obscured by a brick parapet.
The ground floor frontage of 1930 is clad with polished granite tiles. This frontage is punctured by the moulded door surrounds and the dado area below the windows, which are in buff ceramic tiles. The cornice and a course below the fascia are also in these buff tiles. Three single doorways, all later C20, are positioned equidistantly along the front. A hatch to the cellar is between the north-eastern and central doors. The north-east door leads to the pool room, the south-west door is to the main bar and the central door is not in use. The ground level slopes slightly from the north-east down to the south-west and there is a step up to the north-eastern door. The south-western and north-eastern doors have brackets for a lantern above them. The windows are three over three lights with an opening central light above the transom, and the central lights are slightly wider than those either side. The lights above the transom are leaded in a simple geometric style whilst the lights below the transom are frosted. The windows are divided from each other by piers clad in the granite tiles. The central door is flanked by two windows to either side. To the north-east Bromsgrove street end, there is one window past the north-east door flanked by two side lights, divided by buff tile mullions with scrolled consoles. To the south-west (Bristol Street end) there is one window south of the southern door, then around the curve of the bay to Bristol Street there two further smaller, two-pane windows.
The first and second floors are two wings which meet in an ‘L’ shape, the east / west wing faces west to Bristol Street in a bow flanked by Corinthian pilasters, whilst the north / south wing at first continues northwards at right angles from the bay wing, then turns in a gentle curve to the north east to abut 99-102 Bromsgrove Street. The articulation of the upper stories reveals part of the flat roof of the ground floor, and this is screened off with an ironwork balcony in a simple scrolled foliate design. Both first and second floors are rendered in stucco with quoins to corners. The cornice beneath the roof parapet has a moulded frieze of interlocking circles with flowers within, above this is a row of dentils. The upper windows are all four-light sashes. The first floor windows have a triangular pediment above them, except for those in the curved bay to Bristol Street which have no pediment, and the window in the curve of the north-east wing which has a curved pediment. The first floor window pediments are supported by scrolled consoles and have a circular moulding decoration to the frieze. The second storey windows are located directly over those of the first floor, they have no pediments and are not so tall as those of the first floor. There are string courses at the base of window level on the first and second floors. Pairs of scrolled brackets continue the line of the window surrounds below the first floor string course, whilst simpler corbels support the second floor string course, again in line with the window surrounds above.
The rear elevation is in red brick with scattered two and four pane windows.
INTERIOR: not inspected, but available sources indicate that the ground floor remains subdivided into a public bar, rear lounge and separate games room. This layout reflects the remodelling of 1930, and a fireplace of that date is thought to survive in the main bar. There is a function room on the first floor, along with rooms to let. The second floor has further rooms to let and private accommodation. The basement is a beer cellar.