A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: II175 Longwood Gardens / Rushden Gardens
Real Ale: Yes
Public Transport: Near Bus Stop
View on: Whatpub
One of the best examples anywhere to show how a typical, large, 1930s housing estate pub might have looked. It is in the popular, loosely neo-Georgian style combined with 1930s Art Deco streamlining – whence with broad curve which turns the corner from one elevation to the other. The Doctor Johnson opened in 1938 and was designed by the architect H. Reginald Ross for Courage, one of whose directors was an enthusiast of the great lexicographer. The latter appears high up on each elevation in bas-relief portraits by artist Arthur Betts. Architecturally the pub is not at all unusual for its time but what makes it special is the survival of the internal layout, four rooms, each with its own bar counter, ranged around the central serving area.
On the corner is the quadrant-shaped snug with Art Deco details. Left is the large public bar and right comes the saloon. Behind is a vast lounge which gives on to the garden. There are many original features to look out for such as the curvy Art Deco cornices in the snug and public bar, the fireplaces with their upright tiled decoration in the same rooms, the remnants of the revolving door to the saloon, and the incised and colour vertical lettering to loo doors. Bar-backs largely original but some shelves are lost and modern tiles fill the spaces in the public bar. Toilets refitted. Note the estate agent’s office on the left. This was originally an off-licence linked to the pub cellar by a below-ground passage.
Doctor Johnson was almost a trademark of Barclays, one of the great old-established London common brewers. He was a friend and adviser to Henry Thrale M.P. who inherited the brewery in 1758. The firm became Barclay, Perkins in 1781 and merged with Courage in 1955 to become Courage & Barclay Ltd (thanks to Bryan Lacey for this information) If you visit you may be regaled with a fine tale about the origins of the pub. How come there is such a vast pub here? Answer: you will note it is on a long straight road heading out of London: the idea was that it would be a hotel-cum-pub for travellers heading in and out of London in need of rest and/or refreshment. Unfortunately, however, the route was changed so this big pub never came to fulfill its potential. A good explanation except for one thing. The highway out of London is Eastern Avenue was opened on 25 March 1925! The pub closed on the 25th July 2010 when the leaseholders decided to discontinue trading.