Historic England is the country’s official list keeper of the most historically and architecturally significant places in England — places such as monuments, shipwrecks and battlefields.
Earlier this month, the heritage organization updated 11 English pub listings to reflect their cultural heritage and national importance, with one receiving a coveted Grade I designation.
The Philharmonic Dining Rooms — a 19th-century boozer built between 1898 and 1900 — is the first purpose-built Victorian pub to be given a Grade I designation by Historic England. The designation, which is the highest given, is awarded to buildings of “exceptional interest” — only 2.5% of all listed buildings earn that status. For context, Buckingham Palace is another Grade I building.
The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, a Grade I historic building.
Historic England Archive
Known simply as “The Phil” to regulars who once included John Lennon, the pub is not short on accolades. Historic England called it a “cathedral among pubs” and “one of the most spectacular pubs to be completed in the golden age of pub building.”
Its decorative entrance gates are considered to be England’s finest metalwork from the art nouveau period.
The gates of The Philharmonic Dining Rooms.
Michael Slaughter LRPS
In his book “Notes from A Small Island,” American author Bill Bryson described the pub’s bathrooms by writing: “There is no place in the world finer for a pee than the ornate gents.”
And, more recently Sir Paul McCartney played a surprise gig there as part of a Carpool Karaoke episode with English television host James Corden.
Like Buckingham Palace, The Philharmonic Dining Rooms is now a Grade I listed building,
Peter Byrne – PA Images
Liverpool boasts two other pubs on the list, underlining the importance and rarity of their original interiors. The Vines was built in 1907 and features opulent Edwardian decor, beautiful fireplaces, intricately-carved mahogany paneling and a stained-glass dome.
The other Liverpool pub is called Peter Kavanagh’s, one that Historic England calls “eccentric and much-loved,” thanks to the quirky touches added by the namesake landlord who designed it. These include tables with in-built ash trays and grooved channels to capture spilled drinks. Mostly though it’s the human faces on the corbels — a type of wall bracket — thought to be caricatures of the pub’s regular drinkers.
In London, two very different pubs were recognized. An etching of The Hand & Shears in the city’s meatpacking district of Smithfield was first recorded in 1811, though the name dates to the 15th century.
As legend goes, the tradition of cutting a ribbon to open an event started here, when the Lord Mayor of London inaugurated the local Cloth Fair. It retains three separate bars — public, saloon and private — as well as a range of original and very rare fittings.
Veteran actor Peter O’Toole, outside The Coach & Horses pub in Soho, London.
John Stillwell – PA Images
Smack in the heart of Soho, another throwback to a bygone era comes at The Coach & Horses on Greek Street that dates from the 1840s. The simple, elegant 1930s interiors were beloved by famous drinkers, such as Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud, as well as actors Peter O’Toole and John Hurt, all of whom contributed to its reputation for serious drinking and debauchery.
South of London, the county of West Sussex is home to Blue Ship, a former 16th-century cottage that turned into a pub in 1850. It is one of only eight pubs in the country not to have a bar counter, an attribute related to the mid-1800s trend where modest buildings were converted into pubs. To order a beer, guests would approach a small tap room called a “servery” where the drinks were poured.
The barless Blue Ship.
Michael Slaughter LRPS
The UK’s most common pub name is The Red Lion and one of its oldest, located in the county of Staffordshire, was built as a house in the early 1600s. It became a pub some 2 1/2 centuries later, but to this day retains substantial original design elements alongside striking paneling and fireplaces added at later dates.
The city of Salisbury, one of the most picturesque in the country, boasts a drinking den with remarkable history. The Haunch of Venison dates from the 15th century — well before Columbus “discovered” the New World — but there’s evidence of a pub of the same name on the site since the 1300s. The last refurbishment was comparatively recent. In 1909, separate drinking spaces for men and women and a rare and elaborate bank of pumps for serving liquors were added to the interior.
Dating from the 18th century, the Square & Compass in Dorset is singled out by its serving hatches and lack of bar. The pub is believed to have originated from a pair of cottages, which were converted into an alehouse when the site was purchased by a brewer in 1793. Connected to smuggling in the early 1800s, the pub became a fashionable place to drink with creative types and later, Nobel laureates in World War II.
Through the years, the Square & Compass has been popular with criminals, creatives and intellectuals.
Michael Slaughter LRPS
The distinctive Rose and Crown in Somerset was built around 1800. It too boasts a servery area, but sadly these days you can’t serve yourself. For fans of pub games, it doesn’t get better than its attached 19th century skittle alley, a precursor to bowling which is relatively common in Somerset, but not the rest of England.
The servery area at the Rose and Crown is no longer self-serve.
The second Somerset pub, Tucker’s Grave Inn, is thought to have been named after the burial place of a local farm worker who committed suicide. Barrels of beer and alcoholic cider — the latter a very popular drink in Somerset — are stacked under the window in the public bar, while hand-painted signage from 180 years ago completes the remarkable snapshot of a pub almost wholly untouched since it poured its first pint in the early 1800s.