A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: II13-17 Marlborough Place
Close to the Royal Pavilion, this is a truly stunning pub, nostalgically evoking the good old days of the Tudors. It was rebuilt in 1931 under local architects Clayton & Black for Edlins, a firm of drink retailers whose name is carved over the entrance. The building tender was a hefty £25,428. The slightly asymmetrical façade bristles with half-timbering and has figures of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The gatehouse block on the right was added in 1935–6. Inside you will find a mighty Tudor hall which until about 1967 had a screen dividing it into two halves. The counter is partly original but the back-fittings are probably from the 1960s and above the servery is the unsightly addition of the ‘Royal Box’. Despite these changes, the character is still very much as Edlins intended for the delight and astonishment of their customers. On the first floor at the front is a minstrels’ gallery, open to the hall, and also an enclosed bar with glazed windows to the main space. Overlooking the courtyard is the ‘Tudor Room’ with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. Rear left there is a small panelled pool room with a red tiled floor, originally a reading room. The interior is full of joyous detail, too rich and extensive to describe in detail here – stained glass, carved foliage and beasts, painted emblems on chimney breasts, grand fireplaces and much more. In the attractive courtyard is a collection of Dutch tiles (also in the former reading room) plus a large tiled painting by an artist from Delft showing a steam launch passing Windsor Castle. TVs showing sport are something of a distraction.
Rebuilt in 1931 this stunning brewers’ Tudor pub has sadly lost its main room division so on entry you see an open-plan interior with a vast high ceiling at the rear like a medieval baron’s hall on a Hollywood stage set! Currently operating as a sports bar you will see large TV screens and TV's everywhere so we recommend a visit at a quiet time to fully appreciate the amazing interior.
Brighton based Edlins Ltd. - their name is carved above the door - acquired the former hotel on this site in 1909 and in 1931 employed local architects Clayton & Black to build what was described at the time as ‘a gorgeous flight of architectural imagination’. This is immortalised in the exterior, which is worth a thorough inspection prior to entering the pub. The spectacular frontage statues of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn welcoming you over the entrance. The royal pair also feature on plasterwork on the left bay and on a painted panel on the right. In the high-pitched red tile roof are three smaller half-timbered gables, while the right bay of the main building has a double gable, the lower with shield decoration projecting from the battlemented wall of the upper. To the right the gatehouse was added in 1935-6.
Interior design was the responsibility of Ashley Tabb, of Heaton, Tabb & Co. Ltd, who created a large left-side saloon that replicated a Tudor dining hall, and a public bar on the right that was intended to represent a soldiers and retainers dining hall and kitchens. The most important change is the loss of a screen dividing the ground floor into two – it ran at the foot of the central staircase but was removed c.1967. The bar counter is original but the bar back fittings looks like one from the late 1960s with what looks like a letter box at the top - it was added by Watneys for an extension from the till so customers could clearly see the cost of rounds. Also gone is the Ladies’ Parlour with its corner fireplace and chimney funnel carving of Henry and his wives. An old photograph suggests its position to have been at the front-left of the pub where the window glass looks modern.
Remaining little altered at the rear left is a small panelled room (originally a billiard room) with a red tiled floor and flat-arched fireplace with decorative Dutch tiles under a carved mantelshelf and some window-panes decorated with designs in yellow stain remains at the rear left. Three stairways lead to Prinny's bar, an upper-level minstrel's gallery (open to the hall) and a second enclosed bar, which is now used as a pool room. Stained-glass panels to staircase window depict a Spenserian knight and a damsel with a hawk in a more pictorial style than the rest. Stained glass helps foster the Tudor illusion and the staircase to gallery has ornate square newels. The Gallery has a Tudor-arched fireplace with painted shields over; some window-panes decorated with emblems in yellow stain, and quasi-heraldic and emblematic designs to toplights.
So we still have a vast high-ceilinged Tudor hall evoking romantic images of a mythical Merrie England. The stout oak doorways, castellated brick supporting column, flat-arched open fireplaces and decoration of royal portraits, armoury, tapestry, heraldic shields and flags of St George the Tudor fantasy lives on virtually undiminished over seven decades after it creation. There is a modern addition over the servery of an ugly balcony called 'The Royal Box', incorporating a seating area above the bar which can be booked for groups, and the pub kitchen beneath which has a big impact on the room. Recently the impressive toilets have been modernised and their original white and blue very 1930s tiling replaced. They are accessed downstairs through Tudor arches at each end of the bar marked 'cloakrooms' and both ladies’ and gents’ run nearly the full length of the great hall.
On the right hand side of the building a former garage and shops were demolished in 1935-6 and erected in their place was a lengthy gatehouse supported on brick pillars, with a lower roof line than the main pub. Half-timbered with herringbone brickwork and portcullis, this provided a stagey entrance into an open air galleried courtyard with fountain and pond. The latter have since been paved over but other very striking original architectural detailing survives. The white tiling on the walls under the covered seating depicts a delightful range of medieval characters while a delightful large tile panel, signed by an artist from Delft, shows asteam launch passing Windsor Castle. The courtyard is a delightful place to sit with a grape and vine motif in bold purple, orange and green running along the frieze on the right.
Overlooking the courtyard is the first floor Tudor Room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling apart from one bay to south; a flat-arched hearth with bracketed mantelshelf, the brackets in the form of carved heads and the shelf carved with interlaced foliage and beasts; painted emblems on chimney breast; panelled doors with grilles to south. The ladies toilet overhangs the courtyard and has a colourful scorpion window - exterior-wise there are a number of carved figures. Originally planned as a family room in this 'improved' public house it is now used for functions.
Edlins were typical of a now largely vanished type of firm which was active in beer bottling (not just Guinness, Bass and Worthington – the beers which were bottled by small concerns all over the country – but a range of ‘own label’ beers which were contract-brewed for them), wine and spirit retailing and pub ownership. They owned a number of pubs around Brighton; the firm must have been pretty well off judging by the King and Queen.