Going up west

On the evening of Wednesday 9 August, CAMRA’s London Pubs Group had a tour of some notable pubs in Mayfair and Soho. The evening started off in the Audley in Mount Street, Mayfair. The pub is Grade II-listed, although it now warrants no stars (limited or no national historic interest) on CAMRA’s Historic Pub Interiors register because the refurbishment earlier this year saw most of the Victorian fittings replaced by modern ones. The Audley is an opulent pub, forming part of a block with shops and houses. It was designed by Thomas Verity (also the architect of the pavilion at Lord’s) and built in 1888-89 for Watney’s Brewery. Inside there is lots of mahogany panelling, including a fine carved bar-back and a wooden fireplace surround with a row of three bevelled mirrors, plus a large plain mirror set at an angle. Of particular interest is a double-faced clock (possibly unique in a pub) suspended from a mahogany ceiling beam in the centre of the main bar. A new feature is a glorious multi-coloured ceiling designed by Phyllida Barlow installed during the recent refurbishment. The pub takes its name from the Barony of Audley, first created in 1313 and again in 1317, but currently in abeyance since the death of the last holder in 1997. Regular ales offered here are Sambrook’s Pumphouse Pale and Wandle and Thornbridge Brother Rabbit and Lord Marples. (Web editors note: pints were charged at £6.50 whilst halves were a disproportionate £4.)

The clock in the Audley

From here we moved on to the Coach & Horses in Hill Street. This one time Charrington’s pub is also Grade II listed and rates one star on CAMRA’s Historic Pub Interiors register. This is the oldest surviving pub in Mayfair, dating from around 1748, with a stucco finish added in 1850. The interior has an extraordinary bar-back fitting which protrudes forward into the centre of the room and forms a canopy over the central area of the servery. Shepherd Neame Spitfire and Whitstable Bay pale ale are normally served here. A seasonal Sheps beer was also available on the night.

The third stop was the Guinea in Bruton Place. This famous Young’s pub, rebuilt in 1741 and licensed in 1754, claims to be ‘London’s original steakhouse since 1952’. It rates three stars on CAMRA’s Historic Pub Interiors register, having rooms or features that are truly rare or exceptional. Although it operates primarily as a grill restaurant, it has a bar which is worth a visit to see the low screen, still with a door. This is a rare survival of the way Victorian pubs were sub-divided. The interior is little changed since 1952 although the bar staff say that it is unchanged since 1939. There are three small dining rooms which are well worth seeing if you plan your viewing at a quiet time. The usual real ales available are Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter, St Austell Proper Job and Young’s Original and Special. There is more about the Guinea in the Pub Heritage Update column.

Pub number four was the Masons Arms in Maddox Street. It is listed on CAMRA’s London Inventory as a pub of special local interest but is not recognised nationally. It has many similarities to the nearby Coach & Horses in Bruton Street which was designed by J S Quilter and it is very likely that the Masons Arms was also designed by him, probably in 1934. His trademarks can be seen here: the half-timbered, mock-Tudor exterior, the grape-and-vine-leaves cornices, the Tudor arch details (e.g. the fire surround and doorways) and the leaded windows. The look is typical of Younger’s Brewery London ‘Scotch houses’ style but the Masons was never part of their estate. Cask ales here are typically Greene King IPA and Sandy’s Blonde (named after the pub dog) plus Timothy Taylor Landlord. A 10% discount is offered to CAMRA members.

Inside the Masons Arms

Crossing the border into Soho, the tour concluded at the Clachan in Kingly Street. A Nicholson’s (M&B) pub, it is also Grade II-listed and rates one star on CAMRA’s Historic Pub Interiors register. This is a striking, loosely French Renaissance-style pub built in 1898. Two of the three entrances have mosaic flooring bearing the name of the pub and the one on the Kingly Street side leads to a mosaic corridor which once led to a door to the rear parts of the pub. Nowadays, all the internal divisions have gone and you can circumnavigate the very impressive servery with its mahogany fittings. Much of the timber and etched and cut glass screenwork between the front and back parts of the pub is still in situ and the ceiling is richly treated with Lincrusta panels. A notable and unusual feature is the raised snug at the rear with its iron rails and skylight. The pub was once owned by the family who run the Liberty department store. They had plans to use it as a storehouse but sold it off in 1993. Clachan is a Scottish word meaning hamlet but it is unknown what the connection here was. The pub is a good example of a late-Victorian Gin Palace and its elaborate decoration reflects its West End location and the heated competition between rival pubs at that time. Among the beers normally found here were Adnams Ghost Ship, Fuller’s London Pride, Hog’s Back TEA, Nicholson’s (St Austell) Pale Ale, Purity Mad Goose, St Austell Tribute, Sharp’s Doom Bar and Timothy Taylor Landlord.

Jane Jephcote and Kim Rennie