White Swan

West Midlands - Birmingham

A historic pub interior of national importance

Listed Status: II

276 Bradford Street
Birmingham, Digbeth
B12 0QY

Tel: (0121) 622 7277

Real Ale: Yes

Real Cider: Yes

Nearby Station: Bordesley

Station Distance: 650m

Public Transport: Near Railway Station (Bordesley) and Bus Stop

Bus: Yes

View on: Whatpub

The prolific local pub architects James & Lister Lea designed this ambitious red-brick and terracotta corner pub of 1899-1900 for Ansells' brewery. The tiled corridor on the left-hand side is a joy to behold and widens into a stand-up drinking area with a serving hatch. The L-shaped public bar sits in the angle of the roads and has its original counter and bar-back, the latter with a distinctive balustrade on top. Tiling covers the walls, including a pretty, swirling cornice similar to that in the corridor, whilst the ceiling is covered in copper tiles, albeit now painted over. The main internal changes are the loss of two low partitions in the public bar and insertion of a modern counter in the smoke room. The off sales, closed in 2005, still exists but is used for storage.

An ambitious corner-site red brick and terracotta pub of 1899-1900 for Ansells Brewery by James & Lister Lea, retaining most of its floor plan and extensive tile decoration. It is similar in design to the Market Tavern, in nearby Moseley Street built for Holt Brewery at the same time. On the wall of the rear Smoke Room is the history of the pub and, importantly, a plan of the pub dated 1899. This shows only minimal changes – the loss of two low partitions in the public bar and the addition of a servery in the Smoke Room. The pub has been run by the same family since 1969.

The L-shaped public bar sits in the angle of the roads and there is a tiled corridor on the left which enlarges into a drinking/service area with a hatch to the servery. The public bar still retains its original counter with a solid wood top that is a 1989 replacement for a red Formica one from the 1960s. Along the top of the counter front are a number of brass match strikers with the wording 'Beer Engines Bar Fitters Yates Birmingham' and there are heating pipes all along the base forming a foot rail. The original bar back fitting remains with pilasters, mirrored panels and a distinctive balustrade at the top. In refurbishments by Ansells it has been sanded down and re-varnished so it does look more modern. To confirm it is the original take a look at the bar back fitting in the off sales and you will see it is identical in style. The walls above a panelled dado are covered in soft-chocolate shell-patterned relief tiles by Minton’s set lozenge-wise on a beige background topped off by a pretty Minton’s bud and flower frieze in cream, orange, green and crimson. Note the rare copper tile ceiling. The fixed seating is old, but it looks more 1930s than Victorian and has been re-leatheretted. What a pity about the obtrusive modern pot-shelf gantry plonked on the counter.

In 1989 a refurbishment saw the removal of a two-thirds height partition that split the public bar into two and the vestibule, which originally had doors to the left and right, around the now disused central entrance was cut down in size. Take a look at the bar counter and you can see where the partition was situated. The vestibule entrance on the right has a door to the left and an etched panel at right angles to it that was originally a door into a tiny snug and again you can see at the base of the counter where the partition, removed many years ago, was originally situated. The plan on the Smoke Room wall also confirms the existence of a small snug when built. Note the colourful stained glass windows – a feature of many of Birmingham’s Victorian pubs.

On the rear right hand side of the pub is the intact off sales accessed via a door on Birchall Street which, amazingly, was still in use up to 2005 to sell soup and sandwiches to workers in nearby factories – now closed. As you opened the door, still with its 'Outdoor' etched glass panel, it used to ring a bell so staff were aware of a customer. The off sales still retains its Victorian colourful tiled floor, original counter, original mirrored bar back fitting and on the right hand side wall floor to ceiling Minton's tiles. The tiles on the left hand wall were carefully removed as part of the 1989 refurbishment and most are now situated on the left hand wall of the public bar where they replaced damaged tiles.

Leaving the public bar by the left hand door, which has a letter ‘C’ on the other side leads into a wonderful tiled passageway running from the left hand exterior door to the toilets at the rear. Usually there are numbers on doors so the letters here are rare (but also found at the Villa Tavern in nearby Nechells), and are the requirements of the licensing magistrates. The inner door has a letter ‘A’ in it and a decorative ‘Smoke Room’ etched panel. The passage widens out and it is here that you can enjoy the rare activity of passageway drinking as there is a small table and a hatch with rising plain glass upper window. There is also a door to the servery for staff with a ‘Private’ decorative etched glass panel in it.

The whole of the passageway walls are covered in colourful Minton's tiles – a dado of mainly olive-green tiles both plain and patterned then various narrow ceramic strips including an attractive one of wreaths and above the dado are buff panels in brown frames surrounded by a row of olive-green tiles. Above is a frieze of flowers with fish tails in cream, green orange, crimson and turquoise. The whole of the passageway has a floor of colourful Victorian tiles and the ceiling is lined in Lincrusta paper.

On the rear left a door with the letter ‘B’ and a modern ‘Banks’s’ etched glazed panel - Banks’s (now Marstons) bought the pub in 1998 - leads to the Smoke Room. The original floor plan indicates there was no bar here and it had fixed seating so the counter and bar back were added in the 1960s – previous to that the room was served via a hatch to the back of the servery. Back in 1969 the counter front had carpet on it, now replaced by wood panels, and it has a yellow Formica top on it. The Victorian fireplace could be the original but has modern tiles and there is another tiled frieze.

The pub was built with a Club Room upstairs – accessed from a door on Birchall Street. Although no longer accessible, the interior lobby from Birchall Street has a floor of colourful Victorian tiles and floor to ceiling tiling. Through the inner door situated in a full height screen there is a passageway also with a floor of colourful Victorian tiles, more floor to ceiling tiling and a tiled arch at the entrance to the hall. If you look behind the servery in the public bar you can see the hall with walls and the staircase to the first floor covered in mainly green Minton's tiles. The Club Room, served from a hatch to the back of the servery, was used for billiards in the 1930s and had a bar added post war but is now private living accommodation.

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