Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A palatial pub

click photo to enlarge
Can there be any English building that has borrowed its style so readily and so widely as the pub (public house) or tavern. The first such buildings were essentially houses, and the subsequent purpose-built pubs followed the style of the periods in which they were built. So, many were thatched, timber-framed, tile hung, brick-built, stone-built, pargetted etc. Quite a few of these pubs from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century still stand and, where they haven't been converted into dwellings, still serve beer.

However, from the nineteenth century through into the twentieth pubs vied to attract customers. Two devices commonly employed were siting the pub on a corner so that it could be seen from two or more streets, and presenting a decorative exterior that attracted the eye and thence the customer. Backwards-looking styles were often favoured, particularly brick and timber-framing. Part-tiled exteriors that were showy (and durable) were also favoured. Many were decked out with the trappings of grand buildings, featuring towers, turrets, balconies, balusters and more. The other day I cam across an example of the latter in Islington, London.

The inspiration for the style of the Marquess tavern is clearly the eighteenth century English country house, the residence of the landed rich. It has a rusticated ground floor, a piano nobile with tall windows surmounted by alternating triangular and segmental pediments, smaller windows above and a balustrade hiding the low-pitched roof. The three-bay facade is divided up by giant Corinthian pilasters. Brick and painted stucco (no stone here) are the materials of choice. All this is, of course, a historicising veneer, a means by which to attract custom. It was built in 1854 and remains a pub today, a palatial pile in miniature in the tight streets of this north London borough.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (36mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3EV
Image Stabilisation: On