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Arts and Crafts Style Pubs: The Norwich Four

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Gothic was just one influence on the eclectic Arts and Crafts Movement that followed Morris and it comes as a surprise to see its romantic view of Victorian architecture still being used for designing Norwich pubs in the 1930s. Four can be considered as a group, their conical roofs reminiscent of French castles of the Middle Ages.

William Morris’s crusade to revive disappearing manual skills offered a romanticised vision of a pre-industrialised world (writes COLONEL UNTHANK). His own house – The Red House in Bexleyheath, designed by his friend Philip Webb – was full of medieval references in tune with the Gothic Revivalism that dominated C19th architecture. Gothic was just one influence on the eclectic Arts and Crafts Movement that followed Morris and it comes as a surprise to see its romantic view of Victorian architecture still being used for designing Norwich pubs in the 1930s. Four can be considered as a group, their conical roofs reminiscent of French castles of the Middle Ages.

The Artichoke, at Magdalen Gates, was built in 1932 with a two-storeyed circular bay capped with a conical roof. The Gatehouse on Dereham Road, built two years later, shares the same turretlike bay and roof (both photographed below ©️both georgeplunkett.co.uk).

The late-medieval Barbican Gatehouse (1539) that guarded the entrance to Sandwich, Kent, does appear to have been the model for The Gatehouse, even down to the chequered walls (photo below left copyright rollingharbourlife.wordpress.com).

The third pub, granted planning permission in 1932, is The Constitutional Tavern on Constitution Hill, which displays the same projecting bay with conical roof. The fourth 1930s pub is The Barn at Magdalen Gates. While it doesn’t share the same circle-sectioned turret as the others there is a family resemblance, which is perhaps not surprising since all four were designed by local architects Buckingham and Berry of Prince of Wales Road and all four were built by the same local builder, RG Carter.

Apart from the punning connection between the Sandwich Barbican Gatehouse and the location of three out of four of the Norwich pubs standing at gateways to the city, could there be another reason for their medieval appearance? The Improved Pub Movement emerged out of the government’s attempts to control the drunkenness of munitions workers during the First World War; they tried to convert the image of the Victorian ‘boozer’ into something more appealing to a respectable clientele, particularly women.

The predominant style adopted by these interwar pubs was loosely Arts and Crafts – once again channelling the romantic escapism of the Victorians. This was the background against which 3000 new public houses were built across the country in the period 1920-1939. In 2015 the historic importance of the Improved Pub Movement was recognised by Historic England who awarded some, like The Gatehouse, Grade II listing.