A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: II5A Formosa Street
The best example we still have of how London pubs around 1900 were split into numerous separate spaces, each for a particular social group. The peninsula-style servery is surrounded by five drinking areas each with its own outside door. The smallest area has a set of snob screens to provide some sense of separaton between posher patrons and the bar staff. A magnificent tall, carved fitment dominates the middle of the servery. Some of the refit work done in 2001 is unfortunate, notably the brash visibility of the kitchen.
The Prince Alfred is the best example now existing of how London pubs about 1900 were divided up into numerous separate spaces, each occupied by a particular group of individuals and social groups. The layout of many small drinking compartments is a style also seen at the
Argyll Arms, Soho, London W1,
Princess Louise, Holborn, London WC1
Salisbury, Covent Garden, London WC1.
Outside, the Prince is nothing terribly exciting – a three-storey Italianate building in keeping with its surroundings – but inside shows to perfection how late Victorian drinkers liked their pubs. The building went up in about 1865 but was given a complete refit around 1898. From outside look carefully at the exposed ceiling on the ground floor and you can see how timber and glass screen-work has been inserted, cutting across the patterned decoration. Also note the tiles and mosaic in the entrance.
The interior has the only peninsula-style servery to retain all of its original surrounding drinking areas – no fewer than five of them, each with its own external entrance. They are separated by timber and glass screens, all of them with a low service door for the use of, say, pot boys and cleaners. The smallest compartment has a set of snob screens – swivelling glazed panels, which gave posh patrons a sense of separation from the serving staff. Other Heritage Pubs with snob screens are Bartons Arms, Aston, Birmingham; Lamb, London WC1; Posada, Wolverhampton , West Midlands; Travellers Friend, Woodford Green, Greater London; Gate, London N22; Bunch of Grapes, London SW3; Crown, London N1; and Crown & Greyhound, London SE21 but these have been moved.
In the middle of the servery is a wonderfully tall, carved fitment, which is secured to the ceiling by ironwork. All this late Victorian work gives the pub a delicate Rococo feel. A refit in 2001 transformed the character into a café-restaurant establishment with over-prominent kitchen and dining room, and totally inappropriate furnishings in the historic part: counter re-fronted at this time.