For almost half a century, CAMRA has worked to identify, support and protect the UK’s most historic pubs through its national inventory: pubs that are wholly or mostly unchanged or retain important historic rooms or features from over fifty years ago.
Since then, hundreds of pubs have been restored or created in buildings previously used for something else. There have also been new-build pubs that are worthy of admiration and recognition. The Outstanding Conversions and Restorations (OCR) Project identifies and promotes such interiors of outstanding architectural and/or design quality, pubs which are great places to enjoy a drink in splendid surroundings.
The website https://ocrpubs.camra.org.uk/ highlights almost two hundred pubs from across the UK that are magnificent conversions or glorious restorations. There are also stunning new builds and a handful of pubs in museums.
As Project Manager, Gerry Hahlo, puts it; ‘all these pubs are the work of dedicated individuals, and pub companies who know the value of excellent design and have created great spaces in which people want to drink and socialise. Some show off their architectural merit by sympathetically converting historic buildings such as banks and cinemas while others recreate painstaking replicas of the glories of yesteryear.’
One example is a former Tetley house, the ex-Firwood Cottage (Sheffield S6 2WA): the Blind Monkey opened in Spring 2018 after a period of closure and deterioration. Dating back to 1846, the building was originally a small village shop that sold bottled beer. It later became a pub. Over the years, it was opened out from smaller rooms into an open-plan design. Taken on by Speakeasy Company, the owners of the nearby Don Valley Brewery, the derelict shell was gutted, and the interior was taken back to the multi-roomed 1890s: most materials used are reclaimed items dating back to the Edwardian and Victorian periods.
Gordon Jones, Director, describes the project as, ‘a labour of love. We wanted to showcase both our architectural and design skills. We rebuilt; we divided the once-open snug area by glass partitions to display whiskies. The fireplace and chimney were opened-up and a reclaimed parquet flooring was renovated and laid down in the main areas of the pub, complemented by original tiling near the bar areas. We also used reclaimed light fittings sourced from as far as Mumbai to as near as Manchester.’
The Blind Monkey is an outstanding restoration. Our image, the Old Bank of England (EC4A 2LT) is an outstanding conservation (Thanks to Mick Slaughter for the photograph). There will be many more: hence, we welcome your suggestions: please contact email@example.com saying why the pub should be included. But also, please, enjoy these wonderful pubs!