A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: II93 Rice Lane
This is an out-of-town drinkers’ pub, probably refurbished at the start of the 20th century. The decorative glass and insignia outside reveal that this was done by Walkers of Warrington and give a hint of the tremendous exuberance within. Pride of place goes to the public bar, set on the street corner, although the closed outside doors clearly suggest this area was once subdivided. Here bright red tiles line the walls, the stubby screens and, unusually, even cover the counter front. The tiling continues round the L-shaped corridor which wraps round the public bar in a typical Merseyside arrangement, as at the Stork Hotel, Birkenhead, and Lion Tavern, Liverpool. This has highly unusual openings to the servery with lovely jewel-like glazing. At the rear is a large smoke room. Gents should not miss the hefty triple urinals, proudly inscribed by Musgraves Invicta Sanitary Ware of Liverpool.
The Prince Arthur has a lavish tiled interior and is well worth the effort of a visit to the suburbs of Liverpool. The plain, buff-brick three storey building itself dates from the middle to the late nineteenth century, possibly the 1880s*. It was given an impressive refitting, both externally and internally perhaps about 1905. All around the exterior below the window level are deep red tiles and the fascia board in maroon and gold states on Rice Lane side “The Prince Arthur” above the entrance and 'Walker’s' and 'Warrington' over the two windows and 'Ales' over the former corner entrance. On the Arthur Street side they state 'The Prince Arthur' abo'e the former corner entrance then 'Walker’s Warrington Ales', “The Prince Arthur” above the entrance; and “Mild Ales” above the smoke room windows. There are four entrances (two no longer in use) that are framed by deep red tiles and polished Larvikite pilasters with terracotta capitals above. The red tiling, etched and coloured glass and unusually detailed window tracery give some idea of what to find inside. Above the two entrances in use are wreath-like circular stained and leaded panels.
The impressive interior is remarkable well preserved despite it having a period of closure prior to the pub being sold by its Pubco owners in 2011 and it is currently attracting customers with a cheap beer policy and strictly over 21’s rule. The public bar is situated in the angle of the building and is surrounded by a corridor and compares with other excellent Heritage pubs on Merseyside - the Stork in Birkenhead; the Lion in Liverpool; and the Edinburgh in Crosby;
All around the wall dados and the servery are deep red tiles and regularly spaced all along them are tiles with one or two blue bells in descending sizes from top to bottom with a feature of a row of richly decorated tiles at the top that have blue bell, also ribbons and leaf symbols in gold. Another impressive feature is the screen around the back of the servery with hatches for service to the passageway. Each hatch has three colourful stained and leaded panels around it. Along the top of the screen are more colourful stained and leaded panels. Projecting across the servery, which takes up some 40% of the public bar trading area, is a modest gantry with both good decoratively etched and frosted panels and also colourful stained and leaded panels. Recently a laminate floor has been laid throughout the public bar and the passageway.
There are vestibule entrances from both the entrances on Arthur Street and Rice Lane - the latter has two doors with the right hand one now sealed and the right hand one leads to the passage. There is a drinking lobby in an expanded part of the corridor on the left hand side with another tiled dado on the wall and a hatch to the servery with three colourful stained and leaded panels around it and more colourful stained and leaded panels along the top of the screen. On the right hand side of the counter front in the public bar there are two stubby screens projecting from the counter to give a sense of separate spaces but the tiling on them seems to confirm that they never formed separate rooms. The existence of two of disused exterior doors adds weight to the idea of separate spaces but they have been treated differently in the c.1905 refurbishment which seems to indicate they were then taken out of use at that time. The short screens have four good decoratively etched and frosted panels above the tiled dado with a row of stained and leaded panels running along the top.
Along the Rice Lane side are a set of fine window screens – one has ‘The Prince Arthur’ and ‘Walker’s Ales’ with good decoratively etched and frosted panels with some blue stained panels on either side of the main panels – another has ‘Walker’s 167 Whisky’ and ‘Walker’s Warrington Ales’ and similar side panels. Another four window screens along the Arthur Street side have less ornate panels. There is a separate smoke room at the rear which has recently lost the double doors that had ‘Smoke Room’ etched glass panels and some stained and leaded glass but it does retain its old fixed seating (now boxed in) with bell pushes all around the room however. Another recent loss is a tiled, cast iron and wood surround fireplace with two columns holding up the mantelshelf and three mirror panels in the wood surround above, but this was a reproduction added in the 1970s.
At the rear is a grand vestibule entrance leading to the ladies toilet with good decoratively etched and frosted panels. On the rear left is the gents toilets which has three palatial Invicta urinals by Musgrave’s which are among the largest remaining in the country. Can you find the **mistake in the tiling?
*A letter in What's Brewing (August 2000 from Harry Garlick) suggests a date of the 1880s for the pub. The census of 1871 shows the site had no connection with the pub trade but the author's aunt was born in the pub in 1892. Architecturally the building is rather old-fashioned for the 1890s but ordinary street-corner pubs were never at the cutting edge of architectural fashion so the rather vibrant, coloured brick exterior, more usually associated with the 1860s or '70s, might be a hangover into the 1880s.
**It is in the rear passage on the dado close to the internal door – two tiles have been reversed so a tile with larger blue bells is situated below one with smaller blue bells.