The Carlisle State Management Scheme was a fifty year experiment to test whether state control of pubs and breweries could reduce excess alcohol consumption and improve the quality of pubs. It started in the First World War and carried on right up until 1973. One of the key proposals of the scheme was to reconstruct existing pubs and build new pubs to an ideal agreed by the various interests behind alcohol reduction. The scheme needed an architect and the person chosen was Harry Redfern, who was to oversee the programme until the early 1940s. Redfern’s pubs were revolutionary and became a huge influence on the ‘improved pubs’ movement that was taking off across the country in the inter-war period.
The Carlisle Scheme was highly newsworthy and the district became ‘a Mecca for a constant stream of brewers and their architects, as well as for licensing magistrates, temperance reformers and other interested persons’, providing them with examples of pub buildings that were acceptable to the government and that were in their design, cutting edge.Cole, Emily. The Urban and Suburban Public House in Inter-War England, 1918-1939, Historic England, 2015, V1 p26
So what happened to Redfern’s pubs? We know a lot about the history of the scheme but I thought it would be good to take a tour of his new-build inter-war pubs in Carlisle, looking at their history and how they are doing today.
The State Management Scheme
First to put it all into context, a brief outline of the aims of the State Management Scheme. A problem facing the government in the early years of World War 1 was how to ensure the sobriety of workers in the munitions plants north of Carlisle. Drunkenness and disorder had become a big problem in the city and in other areas close to munitions factories. The solution was to nationalise the liquor trade in these areas, and to impose reforms much influenced by the powerful temperance movement. The reforms included appointing salaried managers in pubs who had no incentive to make a profit, thus encouraging the sale of food and non-alcoholic refreshments. The reformers were also keen to extend the appeal of the pub to women and a better mix of social classes. Architectural and design changes included smaller bars to discourage stand-up drinking, the removal of snugs and other sub-divisions, plenty of tables and chairs, tea rooms and toilets. Exteriors were to be much plainer, with advertising boards and unnecessary decoration and lighting removed.
What this meant in practice for Carlisle was the closure of nearly half of the city’s pubs and the closure of all breweries in the area with the exception of the Old Brewery. Work began to refurbish the remaining pubs, and to build new pubs that met the new ideal. Harry Redfern was appointed architect to the scheme in 1916 and one of his first jobs was to create the Gretna Tavern, a conversion of the old post office. This was a “food tavern” which was “designed to provide for the navvies and munitions workers a comfortable place where a substantial meal, with beer, could be obtained at a reasonable cost”.
The scheme was successful in reducing alcohol consumption during World War 1 but it was assumed that things would go back to normal once it ended. To the surprise of many, the government decided to carry on with the scheme, and to extend the contract of Harry Redfern.
The Model Pubs
The Gretna and his other wartime pubs are long gone but Redfern’s most prolific period was the inter-war years when he created his most influential pubs. His practice was responsible for a huge number of refurbishments of Carlisle pubs but I’m going to look here at only the 15 new pubs he built in this period. Of these I visited all but one of those that are still open as pubs and one that is now a restaurant. I also photographed three of the closed pubs. The pubs are listed below in the order in which they were built. Those that are closed or no longer a pub are shown in a grey box.
The Apple Tree
The Apple Tree, completed in 1927, was Redfern’s first new pub for the scheme and the first where he was able to fully implement his ideas for the ‘model pub’. It’s a large five bay building with a terracotta ground floor and red brick upper floors with gabled towers at each side. The pub was different in having bars on both the ground floor and first floor, and the layout was uncompromisingly class based. Downstairs were three main bars, the 2nd Class Mens, 2nd Class Mixed and 2nd Class Women’s. There was also a ‘Weekend Bar’ which as the name suggests was opened to accommodate the extra customers expected at the end of the week. Upstairs had the 1st Class Mens and 1st Classed Mixed, plus a large kitchen and wash-up area for the food offer that was a key concept of the model pub. Also revolutionary were the indoor toilets on both floors.
Today the ground floor divisions have gone and there is one very large room with a modern bar counter and bar back. However, the rooms on the first floor are intact and many original features remain, and this was enough for English Heritage to award a Grade II listing in 1997. Unfortunately the rooms on this floor have been closed for several years, although the manager told me she would like to get them up and running again. They apparently need a great deal of work first, so it may take some time. The downstairs bar has the feel of a Wetherspoons, with a similar layout and low-price food and drink served all day. It was as busy as a Wetherspoons, though the choice of real ale wasn’t as extensive, with two cask beers from Greene King and one from Black Sheep. I had a good pint of Golden Hen.
Malt Shovel, City Centre
Redfern’s second new pub was the Malt Shovel, built next to the cattle market in 1928. Its location meant that visiting farmers and drovers were the main custom and the the pub design reflected that. There were just two large bars, and unusually no food offer. Perhaps surprisingly for a pub built in 1928, several stables were added at the back to house the horses of the farmers.
The pub is in a vaguely neo-Georgian style with a hipped roof and tall chimneys. The Malt Shovel closed in 2003 and was converted into an Italian restaurant called Adriano’s. The restaurant lasted until May 2022 when it also closed, due, inevitably, to shortage of staff and rising energy and food costs. The location on the edge of the town centre is not ideal, but hopefully a new use can be found for it, ideally as a pub, but if not, another restaurant would be next best.
Black Lion, Durdar
The location of Redfern’s next pub, the Black Lion, in the village of Durdar four miles from the centre of Carlisle, was the first that allowed him to build a pub in his favourite Arts & Crafts style. The Arts & Crafts movement that began in the late 19th century was a reaction against what it saw as the badly designed, poorly made and overly decorated goods that resulted from the Industrial Revolution. In the UK it was inspired by the ideas of William Morris and in terms of architecture it meant reverting to medieval or romantic vernacular designs. Pub architects went for the ideal of an English country house, asymmetrical, often with a deeply sloping hipped roof with dormer windows and high chimneys, traditional construction and high quality craftsmanship.
Redfern had already built several houses in this style for the dons of Cambridge University, and nearly all of his suburban and rural pubs in the Carlisle area were influenced by Arts and Crafts. The Black Lion was refurbished in 2022 and now calls itself a gastropub. Dining is indeed the main offer and it has quickly built up a reputation for the quality of its food. I was a little early for lunch but I had a nice pint of Ghyll from Fell Brewery in Flookburgh. Theakstons Best Bitter was the other cask beer and seems to be a regular. The interior has been fully remodelled and the there is no trace of any of Redfern’s work.
Coach & Horses, Kingstown
The Coach and Horses opened shortly after the Black Lion in August 1929, and was also in the outer suburbs, this time in the north of the city. Although it’s in a country house style it’s smaller, less dramatic and more traditional than the Black Lion. The interior had three rooms, one of them a tea and club room which had its own entrance. This merged into the lounge in the 1970s but the public bar (top right) is still intact. The pub’s design and layout ticked many of the model pub boxes and was written about by architect Basil Oliver in his influential 1947 book The Renaissance of the English Public House. It is also comprehensively covered in Emily Cole’s 2015 study of inter-war pubs The Urban and Suburban Public House in Inter-War England, 1918-1939. Cole reckons that
on account of its comparative ‘ordinariness’ the Coach & Horses may have proved even more influential. Many small vernacular-style pubs around the United Kingdom must have been modelled on this building…Cole, Emily. The Urban and Suburban Public House in Inter-War England, 1918-1939, Historic England, 2015, V2 p245
When the State Management Scheme ended the Coach & Horses became a John Smiths pub, but it’s now a free house. It’s a community pub serving the surrounding housing estates and the Sunday roasts are a popular attraction. TV sport is big here and the racing was on when I visited. Sadly, despite the handpump on the counter, there was no real ale.
Horse & Farrier, Raffles
1929 was a busy year for Redfern with the Horse and Farrier opening in September, a month after the Coach & Horses. This was in the suburb of Raffles in the west of the city. It was larger than the previous two suburban pubs, and full-on Arts & Crafts with deeply sloping roof, multiple dormers and tall chimneys, as can be seen in the black and white photo on the upper right. This was also Redfern’s first pub with a bowling green, which was hugely popular while the pub was open. It was Grade II listed in 1973.
It closed in 2007 but in the past few years there has been a project to restore it and reopen it as a pub with six new apartments. Apparently the builders are working with the council to maintain its original features, which would be great if true. When I cycled past it last year it was still boarded up but work was clearly going on behind (photo below right). The project’s Facebook page promised a reopening in Spring 2022 but since then there has been silence. If anyone knows the pub’s current status and if there is any likelihood of it reopening I would love to know.
Cumberland Inn, City Centre
The Cumberland on Botchergate is the least altered of Redfern’s pubs and was Grade II listed in 2000. It was built in 1930 on a cramped site with local stone in a Tudor Gothic style. Redfern was keen to make the new pub a credit to Carlisle and the interior rooms had panelling in Japanese oak to two-thirds height with specially designed oak furniture. Like the Apple Tree the upstairs rooms were designated first class and the downstairs second class. The ground floor has had more alterations but most of the panelling survives and the front room still looks very elegant. Also like the Apple Tree the first floor is currently closed which is a shame because it has two rooms which are a step-up in quality. There is more oak panelling, some of it with gilded lettering, high quality stone fireplaces and stained glass windows celebrating those involved in creating the pub. These rooms housed a separately-run Thai restaurant with its own entrance, but it never reopened after Covid and the door is now firmly locked.
The pub downstairs is open, but on a Saturday afternoon when neighbouring pubs were packed, the Cumberland had only three or four customers. The pub lost its licence for a while a couple of years back and perhaps its reputation from that time still lingers. Camra’s What Pub oddly shows it as “long term closed”, even though it has been open for the past year. Three or four lagers are on tap along with Guinness, and the handpumps are unused.
Rose & Crown, Upperby
Redfern’s next pub, also in 1930, was the Rose and Crown, south of the centre. It had a similar layout to the Coach and Horses, and like many of the other suburban pubs, had a bowling green. It was demolished in 2013 and so far is the only one of Redfern’s new-build pubs to have been lost.
Spinners Arms, Cummersdale
Cummersdale is only two miles south of the centre but has the look and feel of a rural village. The Spinners Arms was the third Redfern pub to open in 1930 and is classic Arts & Crafts country house with low slung roof, dormer windows and projecting gable with an oriel window. Although the pub has been opened out inside, there are still lots of original features like wood panelling, leaded glass screens and a Delft-tiled fireplace, and it was one of the first three Redfern pubs to be Grade II listed, in 1973.
It’s owned by Carlisle Brewery and three of their cask beers are on tap. I visited on a Wednesday evening and as musicians started arriving I realised that I’d stumbled across the bi-monthly Irish music session. It’s a fine community pub and was my favourite of all of all the Redfern pubs. It’s currently in the national Good Beer Guide.
Crescent, City Centre
The Crescent, which opened in 1932 in Warwick Road in the City Centre was Redfern’s next pub and was his most ambitious and unusual. It’s in a Spanish-Moorish style faced in pale terracotta with a green-pantiled roof. There is a three-arched balcony above the front door with marble pillars and decorative wrought iron railings. Apparently critics at the time thought the pub was too exotic for Carlisle.
The bars on both the ground and first floors were decorated with Islamic-style floor and wall tiles. Both floors have since been opened out but much of the tiling and original fireplaces are still there (photo below right). The building was Grade II listed in 1973.
The Crescent closed as a pub in 2007 and is now a restaurant called, appropriately enough, given the architecture and decor, the Andalusian. Despite the name, the food is thoroughly English, much like a pub menu.
The Magpie Inn, Botcherby
The Magpie was built in 1933 to serve the housing estates to the east of the city. It was in Redfern’s now familiar Arts & Crafts style and featured a public bar, a smoke room and a tea room. The pub interior had been opened out but in 2010 Samuel Smith’s Brewery won Camra’s Best Refurbishment award for restoring the original rooms, and in 2011 it was Grade II listed by Historic England. The photo (top right) shows the restored smoke room with wood and glass screens, oak panelling and the original 1930s tiled fireplace. The brewery also restored the bowling green and it is now the only one of Redfern’s five bowling greens to still be in use (photo top left).
I visited on a quiet weekday afternoon and the friendly management were happy for me to eat the sandwich I’d bought locally in the pub along with a bottle of the brewery’s excellent Oatmeal Stout. At busier times it’s a popular community pub with pool table and an active bowling club. There is no food or real ale.
Earl Grey, City Centre
The Earl Grey showed Redfern’s willingness to embrace a range of architectural styles, especially in his town centre pubs. It was built in 1935 in a Moderne/Art Deco style with trademark curved corners and Crittall metal windows. Its chromium front doors were apparently a local landmark, and inside, its tubular steel chairs and tables must have seemed very modern. It changed its name for a few years to the Jester, but closed as a pub in 2010 and is now a tae-kwon-do school.
The Wheatsheaf is in a village 18 miles west of Carlisle and unfortunately I haven’t been able to get there yet. It was built in 1935 in the Arts & Crafts style with the now familiar layout of public bar, smoke room and tea room, with a bowling green at the back.
It still has two rooms and is a community pub with lunchtime and evening meals, two cask beers, pub games and sports TV. The bowling green became a car park many years ago. (photo courtesy of What Pub)
The Crown, Stanwix
The Crown in Stanwix is a twenty minute walk north of the town centre on Scotland Road (literally, as the buses to Galashiels and Edinburgh stop right outside). It’s not town centre but not quite suburban, which may have influenced Redfern’s decision to go for the more conventional Neo-Georgian style of architecture rather than Arts & Crafts. When it opened in 1937 it had a public bar, refreshment room, smoking room, billiard room and off-sales.
It has now been completely opened up, but some of the original layout can still be worked out. I’m not sure how much is original but in the far left corner there has been a nice attempt to preserve the look of the old smoking room with its oak panelling and cabinets (photo above right). It was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday lunchtime, despite two football games being shown on the multiple TVs. I had a fine pint of Ennerdale Blonde and a good quality lunch. Cask Lancaster Blonde and a small selection of craft beers were also available.
Cumberland Wrestlers, City Centre
The exterior of the Cumberland Wrestlers of 1938 was even more conventionally Neo Georgian in style than the Crown and quite plain by Redfern’s usual standards. Inside however was the expected wood panelling, this time in Elm and Australian Black Bean in the smoking rooms, and the now familiar oak in the public bar. It closed as a pub in 2004, and is now a fireplace and central heating sales room.
The Redfern, Etterby
The final Redfern pub was actually designed by his assistant, Joseph Seddon, with Redfern’s collaboration. Redfern had suffered a heart attack in 1936 and by the time work began on the pub two years later he was 77 years old. Redfern had transformed the pub scene in Carlisle and it was in recognition of this that the new pub was named after him. The Redfern opened in 1940 and was unsurprisingly in his favourite Arts & Crafts style with a deeply sloping roof, dormers, gables and tall chimneys. Seddon left his own mark with the tile hung upper floor, reminiscent of 17th and 18th century country houses in Kent and Sussex.
After the Cumberland Inn, this is the best preserved of the Redfern/Seddon pubs and was Grade II listed in 2000. Most of the wood panelling and door furniture and and many of the tiled fireplaces remain, although the tea room and the smoking room on the right have been combined. The oak panelling in the public bar has recently been painted white (photo above right). Outside the bowling green at the back is still there, but not in use, and there are plans to redevelop it.
There is no cask beer and I tried my first (and probably last) pint of Madri. I arrived late on a weekday afternoon and it was already filling up. By the time I left it was buzzing with locals and families. There’s food in the evening and Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes.
So my survey of Redfern’s influential ‘model pubs’ in Carlisle was generally positive. Of the fifteen new pubs he built in this period, nine are still open as pubs and only one has been demolished. Of the others one is a restaurant, one is a shop, one is a tae-kwon-do centre, and two are closed. One of these could potentially be reopening and the others are in good condition externally, so there’s always hope. Seven of them are Grade II listed:
- Spinners Arms
- Andalusian Restaurant (originally the Crescent)
- Horse & Farrier (closed but potentially reopening)
- Apple Tree
- Redfern Inn
- Cumberland Inn
- Magpie Inn
Of the pubs (and restaurant) that are still open, only the Black Horse has no trace of Redfern’s interior work, and most have some features, especially wood panelling and fireplaces. Two pubs, the Redfern and the Cumberland are on Camra’s Historic Pub Interiors listings. On a personal note I was disappointed that only five of the nine open pubs sell cask beer, but that’s 60%, and not far off the national average so I shouldn’t complain!
Boak, Jessica and Ray Bailey. 20th Century Pub: From Beer House to Booze Bunker, Homewood Press, 2017. Has a good survey of the Carlisle scheme in Chapter 2.
Cole, Emily. The Urban and Suburban Public House in Inter-War England, 1918-1939, Historic England, 2015. Thorough mainly architectural survey of the inter-war pub.
Hunt, John. A City Under The Influence, Lakescene 1971. Brief and entertaining account of the scheme from a local journalist. May be hard to find.
Mellows, Phil. The Carlisle Experiment, https://philmellows.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/the-carlisle-experiment/ Quick summary of the scheme.
Mellows, Phil. The extraordinary story of nationalised pubs during the First World War, https://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Article/2016/07/25/The-extraordinary-story-of-nationalised-pubs-during-the-First-World-War Account of the scheme on its 100th anniversary.
Mellows, Phil. Nationalize The Pubs, https://jacobin.com/2017/10/pubs-drinking-nationalization-state-ownership Good summary of the scheme and its influence.
Seabury, Olive. The Carlisle State Management Scheme, Bookcase, 2007. Astonishingly detailed account of the scheme and its characters, and good on the new pubs.
All photos by Dermot Kennedy except where stated.