Stained glass in Pubs

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

Art Deco Pubs in Nottingham

Art Deco in the UK

Art deco architecture had been developing since the early 1920s especially in the USA, but it only really took off in the UK in the early 1930s. The style favoured by British architects came not from the USA but from a simpler version developed in the Northern Europe. It began to appear in public buildings, cinemas and department stores and eventually found its way to pub design. Though it was never used widely for pubs, several pubs architects across the country were brave enough to embrace the style. Their pubs were distinctive and eye-catching and even today they look modern, and very different to most licensed houses.

So what does an art deco pub look like? Most recognisable exteriors are in the streamlined ‘moderne’ style, with flat roofs, curved corners, long horizontal lines and metal windows. The other main type has a less flamboyant exterior but a distinctive art deco interior with bold geometric or streamlined shapes, and aluminium or chrome details.

The Improved Pub

There was an impetus in this period, led by the government, to improve and renew public houses and this neatly coincided with the new fashion for art deco buildings. The plan was to reduce the number of pubs overall and replace them with better and bigger licensed houses offering a wider range of facilities. Most of these new pubs were in a varied range of architectural styles such as vernacular, mock tudor and neo Georgian but quite a few were built in the art deco or moderne style. And many pub refurbishments in this period fitted art deco interiors to an existing building.

Sadly many of the art deco pubs built in the 1930s have been closed or even demolished, and most art deco interiors have disappeared. There appear to be no pubs with art deco exteriors in Liverpool, Leeds or Manchester. London has one or two, Glasgow has two, Birmingham has one and there are a few more in smaller towns around the country. Nottingham though, has no fewer than seven (eight until very recently) and two of these have the best preserved art deco pub interiors in the country.


It’s hard to be sure why Nottingham had, and still has, so many art deco pubs. More were built here than most other towns and that is probably due to the tastes of the architects. The influential T. Cecil Hewitt was a member of RIBA Council and made study tours of the USA and Sweden in the late 1920s where he saw pioneering art deco buildings. As the prominent architect in Nottingham he will have influenced his peers. One was Albert Eberlin of Bailey & Eberlin and he was to design the most visually arresting art deco pub by a Nottingham architect, the Ship in Skegness (see below). But it was another practice, W.B. Starr and Hall, who were the first to build an art deco pub in Nottingham, the Crown in Wollaton.

W.B. Starr & E.B.H. Hall had established themselves as the city’s main pub architects and had built or rebuilt twenty or so in the 1920s and early 1930s. As befits the ‘improved pub’ ethos, these were high quality buildings and some appear in the Pevsner guide to the city’s architecture. None had been art deco, but in 1933 they designed the Crown Hotel for Home Brewery in a striking art deco moderne style. 

Crown Hotel

Crown, Nottingham: Pub exterior
The Crown Hotel, Wollaton, Nottingham

It has a flat roof, wide metal Crittall windows, and a central tower with carved stone ‘Home Ales’ lettering. It almost certainly had a high quality art deco interior but this been replaced entirely. It’s away from the town centre on the main A52 and close to inter-war middle class housing so it also typifies the ‘improved pub’ ideal. Todays it’s a popular estate pub with a focus on dining.

Vale Hotel

In the 1920s T. Cecil Hewitt was the city council’s senior architect and built the acclaimed new Council House at the end of the decade. Soon after he set up his own practice and built banks and civic buildings across the country plus art deco cinemas for Odeon. In the mid 1930s he was commissioned to a build the new Home Brewery in Daybrook north of Nottingham, and its brewery tap the Vale Hotel. The brewery, finished in 1936, is an imposing moderne building with a tall central tower.

The Vale is probably even more important, being one of the best preserved art deco pubs in the UK.  It was completed in 1937 in the moderne style with rounded wings at each end and with Crittall metal windows. Inside is a wood panelled lobby with stylish art deco detailing, and to the left is the unchanged smoke room with its original bar counter and more wood panelling. The panelling in this room has two circular HB carvings signifying Home Brewery. Howitt’s practice built several pubs in Nottingham right up to the 1960s but strangely the Vale seems to have been the only one in the art deco style. 

Lord Roberts

Home Brewery had built the first two art deco pubs in the city and the other major brewers in the city were keen to get in on the act. Shipstone were the first, building the Lord Roberts in the city centre in 1936-7. It was designed by W.B. Starr & Hall and, perhaps because of the smaller street corner site, was less flamboyantly art deco than the Crown. It’s another moderne pub with the distinctive flat roof and Crittall metal windows, with a modest corner tower and a glazed brick base. Unlike the Crown, there is no white-rendered exterior common in moderne buildings elsewhere and Nottingham’s art deco pubs are resolutely red brick. It started life as the High Cross but was soon renamed in honour of the military hero Lord Roberts. Not much of the original interior remains, and it’s now owned by local brewery Flipside. 

Lord Roberts, Nottingham: Full pub exterior
The Lord Roberts, in the city centre

Vat and Fiddle

Nottingham Brewery were next to go art deco, with the Grove in 1938. It’s close to the main railway station and is known today as the Vat and Fiddle. It was also built by W.B. Starr & Hall, in a similar style to the Lord Roberts, though this time on a sharper corner giving it a distinctive wedge shape.  It is the Castle Rock brewery tap and serves all of their beers. 

Vat & Fiddle, Nottingham: Pub exterior
The Vat & Fiddle, brewery tap of Castle Rock

Test Match

Hardy & Hansons are in Kimberley just outside Nottingham and had quite a few pubs in the city. They were the last of the major breweries to build an art deco pub and it was well worth waiting for. The Test Match in West Bridgford wins the prize for having the best art deco pub interior in England, and only the Portland Arms and the Steps Bar, both in Glasgow, stop it from being the UK’s best. The two storey entrance hall has a sweeping staircase and the lounge behind has wood panelled walls and a long bar counter with brass banding. The lounge leads to the imposing assembly room which has the feel of a 1930s cinema with its curved ceiling and uplighting. The public bar, hidden at the back, is almost entirely unaltered with its banded bar counter and patterned terrazzo floor.  

Hardy & Hansons waited a long time to get permission to build the Test Match. Local West Bridgford magistrates had been resisting public house licences for 40 years, but the quality of the proposed design eventually won them over. It was designed in 1938 by A.C. Wheeler with a Neo Georgian rather than Moderne exterior, possibly to appease the magistrates.

Wolds Hotel

Shipstone Brewery also had their struggles with the West Bridgford magistrates. In 1935 they submitted a detailed proposal with architects drawings by W.B. Starr & Hall for a pub to serve the new Wolds estate. Despite a persuasive argument detailed in the local papers at the time, they failed. They tried again a few years later, this time succeeding with a very different moderne design. It had the typical Nottingham red brick but with a cream painted central area and large matching, rounded cream bays on each side. It was the interior that impressed however, and when the Wolds Hotel opened in 1939 it received a glowing review in the West Bridgford Times & Echo for its high quality interior. The description clearly shows that it was lavishly art deco:

The entrance hall which gives access to the saloon bar, smoke room and lounge is panelled in Austrian oak, veneered horizontal with an inlay of sycamore. A modern and pleasing effect is created by the floor of patent non-crack terrazzo with jointing.

Sadly almost nothing of this interior is left and the pub is now one of Greene King’s “Hungry Horse” branded pubs. The latest refurbishment in 2017 as well as making more changes to the interior, painted the two bays dark grey, destroying the balance of the design and making the pub look very odd indeed.

Wolds, Nottingham: Pub exterior
The Wolds, West Bridgford


The Beechdale is a suburban community pub in Nottingham built at the end of the 1930s by Hardy & Hanson’s Brewery. Like the Wolds, it is in a more flamboyant moderne style, with imposing rounded wings at each end.


The final art deco pub to be built in Nottingham was the Dale in Sneinton, built by Shipstones in 1939-40. Sadly the pub closed, probably for good, in 2018. This is a real shame as it had managed to hang on to at least some of its original interior. It still had its art deco doors and mosaic tiled floors at both entrances and original bench seating in the lounge.

Dale, Sneinton
The Dale in 2017. Photo courtesy of What Pub

Ship, Skegness

And finally, a mention of a pub, not in Nottingham, but designed by Nottingham architects for a Nottingham brewery. The Ship in Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast was designed by Bailey and Eberlin for Home Brewery as early as 1934. The seaside seems to have encouraged architects to lose their inhibitions and the Ship is full-on steamlined moderne, designed to resemble an ocean liner. It has curved wings and Crittall metal windows throughout, and the railing on the flat roof echoes those found on the deck of a ship. It’s much modernised inside but it still has some original panelling and a few other art deco details.

Ship, Skegness: Pub exterior from the left

The Second World War put an end to most construction works and it was the mid 1950s before new pubs started to appear again. Art Deco and Moderne had gone out of fashion by then and no more pubs in the style were to be built in Nottingham, or anywhere else.

Literary Pubs

This month’s topic:

Literary Pubs: Pubs frequented by famous writers and their characters

  • Dog & Duck, Soho: Close up with 'wines and spirits' sign
    Dog & Duck, Soho

Many novelists, poets and playwrights enjoyed a pint after a day behind the typewriter and some of the pubs they went in are featured here. Some of the pubs featured in their works either as themselves or under a pseudonym. Historians, philosophers, diarists and other authors of non-fiction literature also headed for the boozer after a hard working day.

Charles Dickens is possibly the most prolific literary visitor of pubs, and many of them featured in his novels. In London, the Seven Stars in Aldwych became the Magpie & Stump in Pickwick Papers and the George in Southwark featured in Little Dorrit. He visited the the Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street more than once and it gets a mention in A Tale of Two Cities. Outside London he used the Waggon and Horses in Beckhampton as the model for the inn in the Bagman’s Tale in The Pickwick Papers.

The Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of the oldest pubs in London has had quite a collection of visiting writers. They include Samuel Johnson who lived around the corner, diarist Samuel Pepys, actor and playwright David Garrick, the poet Alexander Pope, and novelists William Makepeace Thackeray and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Other London pubs with an impressive literary clientele are the Fitzroy in Fitzrovia which hosted George Orwell, Dylan Thomas and Lawrence Durrell (plus several other celebrities) and the Museum in Bloomsbury with J.B Priestley, Arthur Conan Doyle and Karl Marx. George Orwell also enjoyed the Dog & Duck in Soho and the upstairs room is named after him.

Some writers enjoyed a bit of travelling and often described the inns they stayed in. Daniel Defoe visited the Haycock in Wansbeck and the Bell in Stilton on his way up the Great North Road. The Wordsworths were also wayfarers with William staying over at the Green Dragon in Hardraw on a visit to the famous waterfall, and Dorothy visiting the White Hart in Edinburgh. Dickens (again) and his pal Wilkie Collins went on a few research trips, including Devon where they stayed at the New Inn in Clovelly.

Crime writers are fond of pubs as locations for both boozy detectives and the villains they are chasing. Both writer Ian Rankin and his creation John Rebus are regulars at the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh. Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse was fond of his ale and several pubs in Oxford, like the Bear and the White Horse feature in his books.

Staying in Oxford, the Eagle and Child on St Giles  is famous for being the meeting place of the Inklings, a group of writers who included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

The full range of pubs visited by famous writers can be found here: Literary Pubs