This months topic:

Stained Glass in Pubs

  • Anchor, Birmingham
    Anchor, Birmingham

Stained glass is almost as common in pubs as it is in churches. Examples from medieval churches are well known but stained glass had a revival in the early 19th century. Artists like Thomas Willement began creating windows for churches in the medieval style with sections of glass joined together with lead. In the 1860s, the founder of the Arts & Crafts movement William Morris was using the same technique but beginning to create stained glass for domestic buildings. Before too long designers began to realise its potential for pubs. At this time, and indeed until fairly recently, it was traditional for pub windows to be translucent to prevent people from peering through the glass. Most were frosted glass, often with designs created by etching, but stained glass did the job just as well and was a good deal more colourful.

Stained glass began to appear in pubs from the 1880s but it became especially popular during the great pub building boom of 1895 – 1905. Some of it was quite modest, and many pubs in Birmingham, like the Anchor, have leaded windows with Art Nouveau upper panes and small areas of colour in the lower panes. Similarly modest Art Nouveau patterns can be found in the interior windows of the Peveril of the Peak in Manchester.

Grander designs can be found in the prestige pubs of this period. The Bartons Arms in Birmingham has a huge Art Nouveau window on the staircase showing the date it was built. The Philharmonic in Liverpool has a window almost as big topped by a stained glass image of St Cecilia, goddess of music. Probably the most impressive examples are in the the Oyster Bar at the Cafe Royal in Edinburgh, which has eight stained glass windows of sportsmen by Ballantine and Gardiner.

Arts & Crafts had a revival in the early 1900s as a reaction against Art Nouveau and the pomposity of late Victorian design. The Black Friar in London was built in this style in 1905 and has a fine pictorial window showing a monk at dawn, already at work.

By the 1920s and 1930s design had moved on again, with more geometric patterns, often influenced by art deco. An early example is the large window at the Rose Villa in Birmingham in 1919 with its image of a sailing ship surrounded by arched patterns. In Liverpool in 1929 Peter Kavanagh commissioned stained glass artist William English to create nautical themed windows for his pub. Examples of art deco styling can be found advertising breweries. Melbourne in Leeds did an abstract art deco version of their bowing courtier logo in some of their inter-war pubs, like the Templar in the city centre. Wards of Sheffield had a simple but effective diamond shape which can still be seen at the Riverside in Kelham Island and the Hallamshire in Crookes.

Pubs until modern times had multiple rooms and stained door glass was was often used to indicate the room. Another Sheffield brewery, Tennants used an art deco design to to indicate the Smoke Room at the Blue Ball in Worrall. And  the lovely art nouveau lettering at the the Three Horseshoes in Doncaster leads the way to the Gents.

Stained glass continues to be added to pubs to this day. Spectacular examples are the windows at the Champion in Fitzrovia in London. They were commissioned in 1989 by Samuel Smiths Brewery from stained glass artist Ann Sotheran and depict sporting champions and other notables of the Victorian era. It is interesting to compare the stained glass sportsmen at the Champion to those at the Victorian Cafe Royal in Edinburgh. Sam Smiths are adept at recreating vintage features and the traditional looking windows at the Old Red Lion in Leeds were probably only added in the 1990s. A less traditional modern addition is the interior panel at the Rutland Arms in Sheffield, added in 1988.

The full range of pubs with stained glass can be found here: Stained Glass in Pubs