The Building Conservation Directory 2023
172 T H E B U I L D I N G C O N S E R VAT I O N D I R E C T O R Y 2 0 2 3 | C E L E B R AT I N G 3 0 Y E A R S C AT H E D R A L C O M M U N I C AT I O N S PUB HERITAGE PAUL AINSWORTH W HEN THE Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was formed in 1971 its mission was simple – to campaign for improvements in the quality and choice of British beer by saving and promoting real ale. However, at the same time that real ale was under threat, so too was the traditional pub, and CAMRA soon recognised the importance of also campaigning to protect ‘proper’ pubs as being the best place in which to drink cask- conditioned beer. In 1979, a national Pub Preservation Group was created, focused on helping fight any closures of traditional pubs or any other proposals that might ruin them. Over the next few years, it became clear to campaigners that there existed a particular cohort of pubs with historic interiors which were especially precious and where concerted action was needed both to protect and promote them. The upshot was the compilation of a National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors (NI) and the formation of a Pub Heritage Group (PHG) to oversee both the inventory itself and historic pub campaigning generally. The make-up of the National Inventory has inevitably changed over time as some pubs have been closed or ruined on the one hand, but worthy additions discovered on the other. Recently, numbers steadied around 270–280, of which only 30 or so are not statutorily listed. In 1998, work began on identifying a next tier of historic interiors, based on regions. Pubs included on these regional inventories were less intact or had fewer outstanding features than those on the NI but were nevertheless important survivors by any standards. At the time of writing, PHG is moving to a single national inventory but with entries designated three, two or one star to denote their relative importance. From early on, the value of statutory listing as a means of protecting historic pub interiors was recognised. In the early 1990s, CAMRA was instrumental in convincing English Heritage (now Historic England) that the interiors of pubs are a key aspect of listing, and this was reflected in the 1994 guidance: ‘ Pubs – Understanding Listing’. In 1998, CAMRA and EH jointly funded a specialist caseworker on historic pubs, the late and much-missed Dr Geoff Brandwood. His main brief was to speed up the assessment of NI pubs for statutory listing and to improve the interior descriptions of those already listed. Geoff achieved great things during his tenure. PHG has continued to build on that work by regularly submitting listing applications, the vast majority of which have been approved. In 2007, the launch of PHG’s book, Scotland’s True Heritage Pubs, prompted Historic Scotland to carry out their own thematic review of pubs. This resulted in 11 new listings, eight upgrades (six to Category A) and 40 full descriptions. PHG was influential in English Heritage undertaking a study of interwar pubs that resulted in 27 new listings, followed by a post- war equivalent leading to six more listings. In 2018, PHG approached Historic England about its concern that where NI pubs were listed, the list entries often had inadequate descriptions of the interiors. As a result the PHG was invited to propose ten pubs in particular need of detailed descriptions, which HE staff went on to produce. A by-product of this exercise was The lobby bar of the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, Liverpool, which according to the list entry, is “one of the finest public houses in England and the pinnacle of the ‘gin palace’ form of pub”. Designed 1898–1900 by Walter W Thomas, the building was first listed in 1966 at Grade II*, but when the list was reviewed in 2020 as a result of the CAMRA inspired initiative, it became the first Grade I listed Victorian pub in England.
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