Friday, 2 March 2012

Estate of disappointment

There’s a newish blog from the creators of Pubs of Manchester called Manchester Estate Pubs, which is basically a collection of photos of post-war pubs (not all estate pubs as such) in Greater Manchester and its environs. Probably well over half of the pubs pictured are now closed, although a few continue to thrive.

It’s also noticeable how frankly unappealing they all look. Indeed, while some licensees manage to do a good job with what they have to offer, it’s difficult to think of a single purpose-built, free-standing pub from the post-war era that you would actually want to go out of your way to visit for its ambiance. (Some modern pubs that were converted from other uses, or which form part of larger developments, do rather better) If they are “good pubs”, it is despite their architectural qualities.

In fact, these pubs were often designed with considerable care as to the decorative materials used, and how the different spaces were meant to work and related to each other, but somehow the soul seemed to be left out. Social changes over the years and insensitive refurbishments, in particular knocking them through into one massive antiseptic room, have steadily eroded both their function and character.

Most of the surviving inter-wars pubs which retain their original layout and fittings do considerably better on the atmosphere front but, as with their post-war counterparts, most of the bigger and more soulless ones have long since been demolished or gutted beyond recognition.

(The photo is of the Roundhouse in Heaton Norris, only just over a mile from me, which was demolished a couple of years ago and is still a patch of waste ground)


  1. North Bristol has (or had) its fair share of grim estate pubs, most which have either closed or are hanging on by their fingernails. These tended to be on the council estates. Blame the smoking ban, cheap supermarket booze, the recession or what you will. In contrast, in the leafier, more affluent areas, the pubs are mostly thriving.

    The only decent estate pub I can think of is the Cunliffe Arms in Wrexham. Built for the now-defunct Border Brewery, it's not the most architecturally outstanding place but it still has its two distinct bars. I like it for its decent beer (from the Marstons/Banks/Jennings stable) and its ambience, which is largely provided by the friendly management and clientele.

  2. I think this blog was to celebrate estate pubs and their demise,they may not look that good from the outside but then again these sort of pubs were not built in the Cotswolds they were built to serve thirsty people who had been rehoused in areas usually well away from the city centre or pubby inner city areas.
    As the saying goes beauty is only skin deep,i have been in lots of pubs and some very nice looking pubs are pretty crap inside and some of these estate pubs are in my opinion quite nice inside so dont judge a book by it cover.
    Had a look at your picture of the Roundhouse,this pub used to be called the Lonsdale which i visited on 28 April 1998 i though it was quite a smart and comfortable pub but i am very easily pleased.

  3. Alan, I totally agree that a pub, like a church, is a congregration, not just a building. Many estate pubs, as I said, were designed and fitted out with a lot of care, but unfortunately have subsequently fallen on hard times and been insensitively refurbished.

    The Roundhouse was the pub's original name - it was renamed the Lonsdale in the late 90s but then reverted to being the Roundhouse. The Silver Jubilee just down the road is still quite a well-cared for example of the species.

  4. The Cunliffe Arms, for those who are interested, can be seen here. Looks quite smart.


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