Three star - A pub interior of exceptional national historic importance
Listed Status: II8 Lower Richmond Road
Tel: (020) 8788 2552
Real Ale: Yes
Lunchtime Meals: Yes
Evening Meals: Yes
Nearby Station: Putney
Station Distance: 600m
Public Transport: Near Railway Station (Putney)
View on: Whatpub
Magnificent stuccoed riverside pub with elaborate cut and etched glass screens and a decorative servery.
A popular venue, the Duke's Head's impressive stucco exterior stands proudly over the bank of the Thames. It was built in 1864 but extended and refurbished in 1894 at the height of the London pub-building boom. Inside are three areas (originally public, saloon and lounge bars) which boast elaborate cut and etched glass screens, mostly depicting birds, and a fine servery with swagged coving. Like many a London pub of this date, the bar counter includes opening doors, in this case, drop-down ones. Sadly, the separation of the public and saloon bar areas has been compromised by the cutting-down of a screen to make a wider space.
Separated from the saloon bar by a wonderful wooden screen with cut and etched glass, the rear lounge bar (now a restaurant area without a servery) is a large, single space with a magnificent view of the river and two fireplaces with high-quality marble surrounds.
The door leading to the stairs to the upper floor has the words 'CLUB ROOM' etched in the glass thus inviting further exploration.
Built in 1864 and altered in 1894 (architect unknown), the latter date accounting, no doubt, for a pretty spectacular assemblage of glass and woodwork. A three-storey building of stucco with moulded key stones. Single storey extension to left. There are etched windows at ground floor level, one reading 'BRANDIES', the other reading 'WINES AND SPIRITS'. Listed description states the projecting porch has mosaic floor reading' THE DUKES HEAD'; the floor of the porch now has modern brown tiling thus the mosaic may have been lost.
The impressive entrance on Thames Place has a recessed two-bay arcade entrance with a coloured mosaic floor, a dado of blue and brown glazed wall tiles and a short staircase to the saloon bar. The door has the wording ‘saloon lounge’ in etched glass panel and oddly, also has the word ‘billiards’ incised into the woodwork at the bottom.
Entering the pub via the impressive entrance there is a full height screen on the inside where the wood has been painted a green-grey colour. There is also another entrance with a vestibule having more of the decorative etched glass panels and the woodwork painted a green-grey colour. The front parts of the Duke’s Head have a large central servery with an island bar-back.
There are still three distinct spaces created by full height glazed screens of panelled and carved timber. The public bar is at the front (on the disused corner doors are the wording ‘public’ and ‘bar’); the saloon bar in the middle; and overlooking the River Thames the lounge. Originally there were two further screens in the public bar now removed, but joinery on bar counter shows where these would have been attached. Also, a blocked-up corner door, a large entrance on the left on the Lower Richmond Road, and a door to the single storey extension confirms there were three rooms originally.
The most impressive surviving full-height screen slices through the back part of the servery and has a reduced height service door between the public and saloon bars. On the other side there is a wide arch from the servery to the screen around the impressive entrance. The screens are filled with etched and cut glass with flowers and swirling decoration which are to be found in other glasswork here. The full height screen between the lounge and the public bar was subject to the cutting of an unnecessarily wide opening in 2006.
The third splendid full-height glazed screen at the rear separates the front parts of the pub from a large room with impressive views over the Thames, formerly the lounge. Now called the Coxswain Restaurant, it has a widish archway on the right hand side and two large fireplaces with marble surrounds. The room has lost a small quarter circle bar counter to be replaced by a larger modern servery unit.
The bar counter has broad panels, each with the characteristic London feature of opening (in this case drop-down) lockable doors which allowed servicing of the beer engines. In the lounge there is a small mirrored dumb-waiter rising from bar counter. The central stillion has a modern base with Victorian upper parts with pretty coving ornamented by floral swags. In the middle is the glazed-in head to the cellar steps.
Etched and cut glazing carried through in internal and external doors and passageways. The lounge and some areas in public and saloon bars retain their cornice and decorated frieze. In the public bar there is a short part glazed screen by the left hand door. There is a small fireplace with wooden surround in the saloon bar.
At the rear of the saloon bar there is a staircase and around it more glazed screenwork with high up two etched ‘Club Room’ panels indicating the previous use of first floor rooms. One has riverside views and is called the Wolsey Room with a large marble fireplace, the other is called the Meeting Room.
In the basement with an entrance facing the River Thames with tidal flood gates there was for many years a disused skittles alley, and used by the Putney Rowing Club to store its boats between 1929 and 1986 – there is a plaque on the exterior. The pub sits at the start of the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race. The former skittles alley is now called The Rowing Club and used for live music events etc. with very modern fittings.