New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

Britain’s Victorian Pub Heritage

Posted March 18th, 2014 by Birmingham Conservation Trust with 2 Comments

Last week I attended an event hosted by the Victorian Society (Birmingham & West Midlands): an illustrated talk by Geoff Brandwood on Britain’s Victorian Pub Heritage: The Inside Story.

It is without saying the British pub is going through hard times, during 2012 the closure rate of pubs varied between twelve and eighteen a week. Pub heritage is an important issue for the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). The interior of the English pub has changed enormously in the last few decades. The pivotal time was during the 1960’s because before that the ‘traditional pub’ was  seen as a multi-room establishment but now the pub is very much an opened up single space establishment.

In the 1980’s CAMRA developed a National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors as a result of the threat upon historic pubs in terms of inappropriate alteration or even complete closure. The focus of the National Inventory is on pub interiors which have not been significantly altered since the Second World War.  The latest list has identified 270 pubs with interiors of outstanding historic interest out of the nations stock of 50, 000 pubs.

Eight pubs from Birmingham make it onto the list:

The Bartons Arms                The Anchor                        The White Swan                             The Red Lion  

Rose Villa Tavern                Villa Tavern                        Black Horse                                     British Oak 

For me Birmingham’s ’tile and terracotta’ public houses are my favourite, so-called from the red terracotta facing on the frontage and extensive use of tiles for decoration inside. The use of architectural ceramics in public houses were used as they were attractive, colourful, easily cleaned, hygienic and faïence could be used on the façade to catch the eye of the passer-by. Whilst the popularity of the use of red terracotta in Birmingham was quite simply because it formed a useful substitute for local stone which the city lacked.

The Bartons Arms

The intactness of the interior of the Grade II* listed Bartons Arms is truly remarkable, the pub which dates from 1900- 1901 was designed by James & Lister Lea of Birmingham for Mitchells & Butlers. The pub retains a complete suite of Public Bar, Saloon-Smoke Rooms, Club Room, Committee Room and Billiard Hall, lavishly decorated in Minton Hollins tiling, cut and silvered mirrored glass, panelled woodwork and contains a very ornate cast iron staircase.

The Bartons Arms Collage

The White Swan

A Grade II listed red-brick and terracotta corner site pub of 1899 – 1900 for Ansells Brewery was designed by James and Lister Lea. This pub retains most of its original floor pan and extensive tile decoration.

The White Swan

Rose Villa Tavern

Rose Villa Tavern of 1919 – 1920 built for Mitchells & Butlers by the architects Wood & Kendrick lies within the heart of the Jewellery Quarter. The interior of this Grade II listed building contains an extensive display of tile work by Carters of Poole. The most impressive part is the rear snug called the ‘Smugglers Den’ with floor to ceiling tiled walls and an inglenook style tiled fireplace. Through out the pub but more specifically within the ‘Bullion Bar’  a number of pictorial panels of young girls in rustic settings can be seen.

Rose Villa Tavern


The ‘pub’ is one of Britain’s great institutions and the most effective way to save them is for them to be well used. So go and have a pint while marvelling at the fine historic interiors that Birmingham’s pubs have to offer!


Britain's Best Heritage Pubs

You can buy Geoff Brandwood’s book ‘Britain’s Best Real Heritage Pubs’ from Amazon, links on the top right corner…and Birmingham Conservation Trust  will get a small % of your purchases! 


2 Responses to “Britain’s Victorian Pub Heritage”

  1. Suzanne March 28, 2014

    Hi Emma. Only just seen your blog post. Confirms to me… I need to go out more!! Nice work. Suze


  2. Keith Bracey March 20, 2014

    Brill Brummie pubs all of ’em…….may fave is The Lord Clifden in Constitution Hill not that far from the ‘Two Towers Brewery’ and their Brummie-inspired brews… the ‘Bhacker Ackham’s Premium Ale’ which will mean more to you older Brummagems who will recall that the ‘back of Rackham’s was famous for pecunious trysts with the Ladies of the Night……nowadays you are more likely to be scared by the inhabitants of ‘Pigeon Park’ nearby……….Fantastic Birmingham Pub Heritage…..’Beer at Home….means Davenports’…..Never! Get out and enjoy all of these marvellous hostelries while you can….and a plea for another couple…..The Woodman opposite Millennium Point in Curzon Street, opposite the Grade One listed (well this IS the Birmingham Conservation Trust website!) original terminus for the London-Birmingham Railway…….Curzon Street Station and ‘The Spotted Dog’ in Digbeth…..a quintessential Birmingham Irish pub……both Brummie Belters IMHO!!!!!!!


Leave a comment