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Five Quirky Post-War Pubs Listed

  • Historic England celebrates great post-war pubs with five new listings at Grade II across the country
  • Quirky post-war pubs include two themed pubs – one designed around the nursery rhyme ‘This is the House that Jack Built’ and one themed around the Romans in Britain
  • Other new listings include a pub which commemorates a lifeboat disaster, a pub named after a blast furnace and a pub designed with multiple corners to sit in
  • The period 1945 onwards saw pubs at the heart of local communities

Exterior of The Crumpled Horn Public House with benches and tables on the forecourt
The Crumpled Horn Public House, Eldene Drive, Eldene Centre, Dorcan, Swindon, Wiltshire © Historic England

From a Roman-themed pub in Bath to a Scunthorpe pub named after a furnace, and from a pub which is a memorial to a lifeboat disaster to a pub designed around ‘This is the house that Jack built’, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has listed five post-war pubs at Grade II on the advice of Historic England.

History of Post-War Pubs

The listings follow Historic England’s research into this period of pub design. The post-war years saw the English pub become for the first time, a fully accepted social amenity. Pubs were constructed in their thousands in areas such as new housing estates and cities damaged by wartime bombing. Until building restrictions were lifted in late 1954, most of these pubs were temporary or built so as to be capable of future extension.

The exterior of Never Turn Back
The exterior of Never Turn Back, Manor Road, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth © Historic England

However, the period from 1954 until around the mid-1980s saw a huge quantity of pubs built in England, many of them located at the heart of neighbourhoods, next to shops, community halls and churches. From the 1960s onwards, with increased competition from venues such as clubs, bars and discos, themed pubs became increasingly popular.

New Listings

Among the new listings is the ‘themed’ Centurion Public House in Bath which features a large bronze figure of a Roman Centurion on its exterior and a statue of Julius Caesar in the lounge bar and in nearby Swindon, the Crumpled Horn, which is an estate pub designed by the notable architect Roy Wilson-Smith around the theme of ‘The House that Jack Built’ nursery rhyme.

Interior of The Crumpled Horn Public House
Interior of The Crumpled Horn Public House, Eldene Drive, Eldene Centre, Dorcan, Swindon, Wiltshire © Historic England DP196865

Further afield, the Never Turn Back pub near Great Yarmouth serves as a memorial to the Caister Lifeboat disaster of 1901 which claimed the lives of nine lifeboatmen and caught the attention of the nation, and in Scunthorpe, the Queen Bess pub is named after a blast furnace at the nearby Appleby-Frodingham steelworks, which by 1945 was the largest works of its kind in Britain.

In Surrey, the Wheatsheaf in Camberley was built to an experimental design featuring a decagonal ratchet-wheel layout creating a space with as many corners for drinkers to drink privately in as possible.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: "Pubs were springing up in their thousands from the mid-1950s and became the hub of communities. From the Crumpled Horn to the Never Turn Back, these five fascinating post-war pubs are among the best surviving examples of a building type which is embedded in English culture."

The exterior of the Wheatsheaf
The exterior of the Wheatsheaf, 21 Heather Ridge Arcade, Camberley, Guildford © Historic England

The Centurion Public House, Twerton, Bath, Somerset

Part of the Twerton estate, the Centurion public house was built in 1965 by H R Robinson of West Country Breweries on an exposed sloping site with extensive views towards Lansdown. It is a 'themed' pub, a form that became popular from the 1960s onwards. The pub's name is the starting point for its decoration, which includes a large bronze sculpture of a Roman Centurion at first floor level and a statue of Julius Caesar in the lobby to the former buttery bar, where food was served. A portion of Roman mosaic floor which is now framed hangs on the wall in the pub's entrance hall. The Centurion retains many of its original fittings including patterned Formica veneer on the counterfront in the lounge bar, and the aluminium doors and rubber seals which formed part of a technologically-advanced pressuring system to counteract draughts. The exterior makes a dramatic architectural statement, but it is carefully judged and blends with its surroundings. The core of the building is a rectangular block of four floors, clad in reconstituted Bath stone. Internally, the pub has two separate bar areas - the public bar and the lounge bar and buttery bar. The fully glazed angled walls of the main bar room jut forward on two sides, providing light to the interior and adding drama to the pub's external design.

See the list entry for the Centurion Public House

The Crumpled Horn, Eldene, Swindon, Wiltshire

The Crumpled Horn is an estate pub, commissioned by the brewery Watney Mann as a Wessex Taverns house and designed by Roy Wilson-Smith, which opened in December 1975. Wilson-Smith was an advocate of 'themed' pubs, designing several pubs of this type for Watney Mann. The Crumpled Horn is the only survivor of a group of Watney Mann pubs designed around the theme of the nursery rhyme 'This is the House that Jack Built'. Almost unaltered, it is a good example of Wilson-Smith's innovative and eccentric style. In common with all the pubs he designed, it illustrates his interest in multi-level plans. Built as an irregular eight-sided polygon on a sloping site, the pub contains a single bar area which takes the unusual plan form of a spiralling 'nautilus shell'. The shape creates intimate drinking spaces on different levels, as well as reflecting the 'horn' of pub's name - a quotation from 'This is the House that Jack Built'. The name and theme are evident in the interior and exterior, as the architect gave the building a conscious air of eccentric craftsmanship in its asymmetrical roof and ramshackle brickwork, all in reference to the rhyme 'the house that Jack built.' It is constructed of a brick frame, and internally has brick wall-facings and stained timber.

See the list entry for the Crumpled Horn

The Never Turn Back, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

The Never Turn Back public house opened in 1957. It is the only pub of its name in the country, chosen as a memorial to the Caister Lifeboat disaster of 1901, which claimed the lives of nine lifeboatmen and caught the attention of the nation. This gives the building a very strong and poignant historical association. It was designed by the architect A W Ecclestone, who designed a number of pubs in Norfolk and Suffolk and was Chief Surveyor of the local brewery Lacon's. He worked in a vernacular style with a focus on traditional materials, as well as the Moderne and Art Deco styles, and developed a form of architecture that was very distinctive locally.

The pub survives largely as it was built and is decorated with naturally sourced local materials such as flint and cobbles. The design is both architecturally distinctive and in tune with its setting, featuring nautical influences and references to its coastal location and association with the local lifeboat service. The tower is designed in a form reminiscent of a ship's wheelhouse and a lookout tower, and is a feature visible from the adjacent sand dunes. Among the most striking elements of the pub's interior are the half-height upholstered 'baffles' within both bars, close to the doorways, which separate the flow of customers entering the room from those waiting at the counters.

See the list entry for the Never Turn Back Public House

The Queen Bess Public House, Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire

The Queen Bess public house is named after a record-breaking blast furnace at the nearby Appleby-Frodingham steelworks, by 1945 the largest works of its kind in Britain. It is one of the best-preserved surviving examples of a pub built by a major brewery in the decades after the Second World War. Built for the brewery Samuel Smith's of Tadcaster, it opened in 1959, and quickly became an important addition to the local community's amenities. The building has a modest exterior of brick, with a plain tile roof covering, designed to be compatible with the new housing developments nearby. The pub retains a very high proportion of its original interior fixtures and fittings, including bar counters, back bars, fixed seating and door joinery and furniture, which are of an unusually high quality and almost unaltered. The layout is also largely as originally designed, with three distinct bar areas: the public bar, the lounge bar and a large third bar to the rear, the concert room. There is also an off-sales shop which survives intact. The pub remains in the ownership of Samuel Smith's Brewery today and illustrates the contribution this important company made to post-war public house design.

See the list entry for the Queen Bess Public House

The Wheatsheaf, Camberley, Surrey

The Wheatsheaf was built in 1970-71 to the designs of John and Sylvia Reid, already at that time renowned pub designers. It was planned as part of a commercial precinct to serve a new residential estate, Heatherside, much of which was developed by Bovis Homes Southern. In contrast to other Bovis estates where pubs were designed to blend in with the surrounding housing, for the Wheatsheaf the architects took a bolder approach. The Reids were given a free hand in terms of size, style and form of the building, which was to be a focal point for the estate and a central social hub. Their experimental design features a decagonal ratchet-wheel layout, around a central chimney column, and a stepped roof profile which created spaces filled with glazed panels, forming a series of windows at high level. They understood that pub users wanted simultaneously to be among a crowd but also in their own intimate area, so they created a single open bar space with as many 'alcoves' as possible. Today the pub retains its 1970s palette of materials: woodwool ceiling panels, exposed brick, and quarry tiles. On completion, the design - which resembles Jack Edmondson's pioneering Grade II listed Church of St Dunstan in Kings Heath, Birmingham (1968) - was celebrated in the national architectural press. Despite the quality of the Reids' pub designs, and the influence they had, none except for the Wheatsheaf survive intact.

See the list entry for the Wheatsheaf

The Queen Bess pub with cars parked in front
The Queen Bess, Derwent Road, Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire © Historic England DP197409
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