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Press Release

12/08/2021

The UK’s best-looking pubs unveiled in prestigious CAMRA awards

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The Blind Bull, Little Hucklow, one of seven pubs celebrated in this year’s Pub Design Awards

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has just unveiled the winners of its prestigious Pub Design Awards, which aims to recognise the most stunning feats of architecture, design and conservation in British pubs across the country.

There were seven winners across the different categories, ranging from best refurbishment to the prestigious Historic England Conservation award, and one additional pub highly commended in this year’s competition.

This year’s winners are:

  • Blind Bull, Little Hucklow, Derbyshire, joint winner of the Refurbishment Award
  • Green Dragon, Flaunden, Hertfordshire, joint winner of the Refurbishment Award
  • Brickmaker’s Alehouse, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, joint winner of the Conversion to Pub Use Award
  • Colmore Tap, Birmingham, joint winner of the Conversion to Pub Use Award
  • Swan & Railway, Wigan, winner of the Historic England Conservation Award
  • Bridge Hotel, Horwich, near Bolton, winner of the Community Local Award

Also highly commended for the Refurbishment Award is the Air Hostess, in Tollerton near Nottingham.

This year’s Pub Design Awards, held in conjunction with Historic England, come after over a year of restrictions and uncertainty for the pub industry, and mere weeks after the full lifting of restrictions on 19 July. The awards had been delayed from their usual announcement earlier in the year, in order to factor in coronavirus restrictions on pubs and allowing the judging panel to visit the nominated establishments.

Andrew Davison, chair of CAMRA’s Pub Design Award judging panel, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating the range of high-quality architecture and design that can be found in pubs across the United Kingdom today, especially after the trials of the last few months.

“This year’s judges have selected a fantastic range of buildings, from a structure once used as a brick manufacturer’s showroom, to a beloved local that underwent a refurbishment planned to be as eco-friendly as possible. They are examples of pubs that have been lovingly curated and preserved, and in some cases that have stood the test of time for years and years. Now that restrictions have lifted, we hope to join you all in celebrating this achievement with a visit to the pub and a pint at the bar.

“We had a difficult time narrowing it down to just these seven awardees – congratulations to them all!”

Winners will be recognised at a virtual event hosted by the awards’ judges at 7pm on 26 August. To join the event and congratulate the pub owners and designers, simply visit the below link to book a place on Zoom: https://camra-org-uk.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMrdOisrDkpGtRw2-jbGb0zO7N3yUN_Ve-N

These awards are celebrated as CAMRA is underway with its Great British Beer Festival at Your Local event, taking place nationwide and helping pubs celebrate real ale and cider by getting consumers back to the pub. Learn more and find local events here: https://local.gbbf.org.uk/

Notes to editors:

Images of the pubs are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/bimh9djfv3ucqyd/AAAmwpk0sAfgyOmDeXKfeZ8Aa?dl=0

Presentation Event: To be held on Zoom on the 26 August 2021 at 7pm. To book your place, please visit: https://camra-org-uk.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMrdOisrDkpGtRw2-jbGb0zO7N3yUN_Ve-N

The winners:

The Refurbishment Award

The range of the entries made selection of the award winner particularly difficult, a fact we recognise by the selection of not one but two winners.

The Blind Bull, Little Hucklow, Derbyshire was a regular entry in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide in the 1970s and 1980s, but it fell upon hard times and closed, apparently for good, in 2005. After failed attempts to convert it to other uses, a very extensive refurbishment began in 2018, to designs provided by Studio Gedye of Hathersage for the owner, Raab Dykstra-McCarthy. Using local craftspeople, and retaining original features and materials, the refurbishment was planned to be as eco-friendly as possible. A conservatory extension provides additional space in the pub itself, while a separate accommodation block should provide additional income to support the business. It is a worthy joint winner of the Refurbishment Award.

The Green Dragon, Flaunden, Hertfordshire, was also in poor condition when the new owner, Mike Ghazarian, set about refurbishing the pub in 2019 to the designs of architect Martin Kearney of Newline Architects. A historic building with a timber-framed core, it featured in CAMRA’s Britain’s Best Real Heritage Pubs for its Tap Room, a simple rustic room retaining its quarry-tiled floor and fixed bench seating. However, the pub had suffered from unsympathetic alterations in recent years. The work that has been carried out here is well-designed without being showy, and is raised above the ordinary by the unusually high quality of the workmanship and finishes. The historic parts of the pub have been carefully restored, whilst more modern parts have thoroughly refitted in a contemporary manner. Again, a worthy joint winner.

Such was the quality of the entries for the Refurbishment Award that the judges have also awarded a ‘Highly Commended’ certificate to the Air Hostess, Tollerton near Nottingham. When this village pub was acquired by a community interest company, Tollerton Flying Club, their brief to their architects, Longworth Associates, was to increase the internal space and the useable external area, to introduce a degree of internal flexibility to allow use by different community groups, and to create a welcoming and family-friendly atmosphere. The result is much lighter and brighter, but still obviously a traditional village pub in terms of layout and decoration.

The Conversion to Pub Use Award

There was also strong competition for the Conversion to Pub Use Award, and again, we have selected joint winners. The two pubs are at opposite ends of the scale in size, but what links them is the careful way in which historic features have been conserved and modern ones integrated with them.

The Brickmaker’s Alehouse, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, occupies premises which at various times have been occupied as a shop, as a café, and, during the 1930s, as an office and showroom for a local brick manufacturer – hence the name. It retains some fireplaces built from their products, as well as an attractive mosaic threshold featuring their name. Owners Martin Payne and Robin Hill, working with MMPC Ltd, who provided the design drawings, have conserved the surviving historic features while ensuring that essential new ones, such as the beer cabinet and the servery are of high-quality design. The result is an attractive place with a definite ‘pub’ feel, something which not all micropubs manage to achieve.

The Colmore Tap, Birmingham occupies an area many times that of the Brickmaker’s Alehouse. Yet the same basic principle has been applied by Thornbridge Brewery, working with Collective Design of Newcastle upon Tyne. The premises were previously occupied by a branch of Lloyds, and retained the extensive wood panelling and high-quality fixtures and fittings of an early 20th-century bank in a major commercial centre. The conversion, involving the introduction of a 30-foot-long bar counter, and fitted seating, has made extensive use of wood, marble and glass to turn a quality interior into a very comfortable and up-market bar.

The Historic England Conservation Award

The Historic England Conservation Award recognises projects which successfully combine the retention and conservation of the features which give a building its historic and architectural significance, with the careful integration of changes which will give it a viable future. Buildings cannot be preserved unchanged whilst the demands placed upon them are changing. When properly applied, this philosophy of ‘constructive conservation’ means that it can be hard to spot the join between what is original and what is new.

The Swan & Railway, Wigan is a fine listed building of 1898, situated opposite Wigan North Western rail station at the gateway to the town. It had been closed for some time and was in poor condition when purchased by John Brearley in 2018. Working with Monument Design, and liaising closely with Wigan Council’s Conservation Officer, the building has been put into sound, weatherproof condition, with a new roof, and external fabric repaired. The interior has been completely restored, in all its tiled and wood-panelled glory. New toilets, a marble top to the bar counter, and guest accommodation upstairs enhance the visitor experience. From the rather sad building which greeted visitors arriving in Wigan a couple of years ago, it has been transformed into a smart and welcoming place.

The Community Local Award

Our final award is the Community Local Award, given in memory of Joe Goodwin, a former chair of CAMRA who was a champion of the street-corner local as a focus for the community. The winner this year is the Bridge Hotel, Horwich, near Bolton, perhaps on the large side to be described as a ‘street-corner local’, but an important community amenity nevertheless. Run-down under pubco ownership, the building was in poor condition when purchased by the current owners, Bridge Inn Horwich Limited. The building has been fully refurbished, the shades adopted for walls and woodwork allowing the very fine original tilework to be properly appreciated. The function room on the first floor, out of use for many years, is now back in commission, with guest accommodation on the second floor. It is now a comfortable hub for community activities.

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