Three star - A pub interior of exceptional national historic importance
Listed Status: II*18 Argyll Street
Tel: (020) 7734 6117
Real Ale: Yes
Lunchtime Meals: Yes
Evening Meals: Yes
Nearby Station: London Charing Cross
Station Distance: 1400m
Public Transport: Near Railway Station (London Charing Cross) and Bus Stop
View on: Whatpub
An astonishing survival featuring an 1895 interior with very rare small snug areas and dazzling glazed screenwork.
The building dates from 1868 but what makes it so remarkable is the survival of the glazed screenwork. This was installed in 1895 under architect R Sawyer and divides the pub into a series of those small area that so appealed to late Victorian London drinkers. At the front there are two entrances, the right-hand one leading to a screened drinking area while that on the left leads to a corridor to the rear of the building. On the right hand side are the partition screens of the three snugs – note the figures ‘5’ and ‘6’ on buttons just under the pediment over two doorways which were a requirement of the licensing magistrates. Along the left hand wall of the corridor mirrors enhance the sumptuous atmosphere with reflections of the glazed screens opposite. At the back the 'saloon and dining room' has another glittering display of mirrors. Other features to relish are the highly decorated ceiling, an immensely deep, decorated cornice and an ornamented column in the rear area, plus a delightful little publican's glazed-in office incorporated in the ornate bar-back. At the rear a magnificent swirly iron stair-rail sweeps up to a restaurant: all modern apart from the ornate breccia fireplace and its overmantel. Two other classic London pubs with original small drinking spaces are the Prince Alfred, Maida Vale, and the Barley Mow, Marylebone. At the Princess Louise, Holborn, the original arrangements were reinstated in an impressive restoration in 2008.
The Argyll Arms is an astonishing survival and a welcome escape from frenetic Oxford Street with food and a good range of real ales available. It has one of the most important late Victorian interiors in the UK and, like the Prince Alfred, W9, shows how London pub proprietors and their clients liked small, cosy drinking spaces. However, whereas the Prince Alfred has a peninsula-style servery with radiating screens, the Argyll has a long, straight servery and a series of screened-off drinking areas sandwiched between it and the corridor. The building dates from 1868 but the fittings are from a c.1895 re-modelling undertaken for the proprietor E Bratt (the architect was Robert Sawyer).
The layout of many small drinking compartments is a style also seen at the Princess Louise, Holborn, London WC1 and Salisbury, Covent Garden, London WC1.
At the front there are two entrances, the right-hand one leading into a drinking area while the left hand double doors lead into a corridor with a terrazzo floor of mainly yellow with a green stripe down both sides that runs all the way to the rear bar. Lining the left hand wall above a panelled dado are a series of large brilliant cut mirrors in marble and mahogany surrounds separated by pilasters and a frieze at the top. The mirrors enhance the sumptuous atmosphere with reflections of the screens and glass opposite and light from the lamps. Down the right hand side are the partition walls of the three snugs – note the figures ‘5’ and ‘6’ on buttons just under the broken pediment over two doorways which were a requirement of the licensing magistrates.
The front right-hand double doors with carved brass handles lead into the first of three snugs formed by carved mahogany partition walls. This tiny room has a curved panelled bar counter of c.1895 (but the bar counter tops in all the rooms are modern replacements) and on the wall behind the counter is an enormous ‘Bass on Draught’ mirror. A doorway in the partition leads into the second snug with the c.1895 curved panelled bar counter and carved mahogany bar back fitting topped off with a deeply carved pediment. Originally the only access to the second snug would have been from the doorway in the corridor as in Victorian public houses you entered one room or snug from its own door.
The third snug is entered via the corridor and has a panelled bar counter of c.1895. There is a short baffle as you enter with glazed panel in the top section. The glazed partition between this snug and the rear bar reaches the ceiling and all of the partitions have acid etched panels. The highly decorated Lincrusta ceiling above the three snugs and corridor probably dates from 1868 and is painted a deep red colour.
At the rear of the servery is a delightful little manager’s office with etched glazed panels all around it and topped off with a (modern) clock in an original carved mahogany surround.
A partition / screen runs across the interior past the three snugs. It is of three bays with a column rising from the bar counter with a widish gap for staff within the servery. In the double doors at the end of the entrance passage note the 'Dining Room' etched and cut glass panel in the right hand door (plain panel in left door).
At the rear is a two-part room beyond a partition which has two bays of decorative etched and frosted glazed panels and two less ornate top panels. Dividing the room into two is a wide archway which meets a column with capital rising from the bar counter; the part of the partition across the servery is of three bays with narrow etched and frosted glazed panels either side of a widish arch for staff with glazed panels all across the top section. The end section of the room has good mahogany panelling to two-thirds height featuring mirrors all along three walls - part from two plain ones in the servery area the panels are ornate etched and cut ones. A deep frieze runs all the way around the room and there is an ornate plasterwork ceiling and a number of mirrored panels (were there skylights here originally?)
The bar counter in the front section of the rear area looks old / original; the bar back fitting certainly is original with carved pediment at the top, bevelled mirror panels on the whole of the top section (lower shelving totally lost to fridges). In the rear part the counter is of a lower height but still looks old / original but is not in use as this part of the servery is a glass washing area with a modern frosted glass screen on top of the counter.
At the rear is a staircase curved at the bottom with good cast iron balustrade leading to the upstairs dining room. The good bar fittings and mahogany panelled walls with lots of bevelled mirrors are all modern. The marble fireplace with splendid carved mahogany mantelpiece featuring columns and reaching the ceiling does look old.