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The Navigation, Sandwell

Description: The Navigation

Grade: II
Date Listed: 13 December 2013
Building ID: 1415308

OS Grid Reference: SO9885587853
OS Grid Coordinates: 398855, 287855
Latitude/Longitude: 52.4886, -2.0183

Locality: Sandwell
County: Sandwell
Postcode: B69 4XA

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Listing Text


A road and canal side public house, in the Tudor-Revival style, built in 1931 by Percy J. Clark of Scott & Clark.

Reason for Listing

The Navigation, Sandwell, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: it is a well-executed public house in a traditional Tudor-Revival style, which utilises both the front and rear elevations to create interest and to attract attention from both the road and canal side.
* Historic interest: a notable example of the 'improved' public house and the work of Percy Clark of Scott and Clark who were prolific and versatile architects of high quality public house buildings in the inter-war years.
* Decorative treatment: the internal decoration is surprisingly elaborate for an otherwise modest public house, with good stained-glass window decoration throughout, as well as varying ceiling and wall treatment to the different seating areas, denoting their various uses.
* Intactness: although there has been some degree of alteration, which is to be expected of a building in commercial use, the retention of much of the original plan, the central island bar area, fixed bench seating, wall panelling, and ceiling decoration, make this an unusually complete example of a public house of this date.


Large numbers of urban public houses had been built in Birmingham throughout the C19, especially following the Beerhouse Act of 1830. Drunkenness and bad behaviour were often claimed as the results and helped to fuel strong campaigns by temperance organisations, including the Salvation Army and many Black Country Nonconformist chapels, which had their own temperance groups.

The general perception that there were too many pubs led to the 1904 Licensing Act which established a fund to compensate landlords whose pubs were closed by the magistrates. A further incentive was the need to ensure that drunkenness did not damage the war effort and in 1916 Lloyd George went so far as to nationalise pubs near to munitions factories around Carlisle.

The reaction to all of this by the brewing industry was to develop the ‘improved’ or ‘reformed’ public house which would attract respectable customers from the growing middle class. Early examples of this type of pub had included the Tabard Inn at Bedford Park in London, but Birmingham was amongst the first areas to pursue this pattern as a matter of policy.

Arthur Chamberlain, the Chairman of the Licensing Justices adopted a practice of ‘fewer and better’, closing inner city pubs and transferring their licenses to new public houses in the suburbs, and the licensing magistrates carefully scrutinised the plans and positioning of these new buildings. Charles Gore, the Bishop of Birmingham, said that ‘the public houses … ought to be on the lines of a German beer garden, where there was no reflection on a man, or his wife and children, if they are seen going in or coming out’. To this end the image of the buildings was often that of a manor house, either medieval, Tudor or Georgian, and the planning included spacious bar rooms, with family or function rooms and restaurants. A garden, with a bowling green and club house, was often included where space allowed. At the centre of the ground floor was a service area, largely surrounded by bar counters, which allowed for efficient working and also the monitoring of customers’ behaviour.

Eventually these requirements for respectability and family spaces flowed back from the suburbs to affect the design of new pubs in town and city centres.

Originally the site of an earlier public house, also known as the Navigation, the New Navigation was rebuilt in 1931. It was designed by Percy J. Clark of Scott and Clark, whose firm has strong links to the public house building trade in and around Birmingham. The building would originally have had at least three separate public rooms with varying functions, all served from a central island bar. It is now open-plan but the earlier divisions can still be discerned through the differing ceiling decoration and remains of walls. The ground-floor windows to the principal public areas are late-C20 replacements. In 2013 the building came under new management and the name was changed to The Navigation.


A road and canal side public house, in the Tudor-Revival style, built in 1931 by Percy J. Clark of Scott & Clark.

MATERIALS: Flemish-bond brick on the ground floor and applied timber-framing on the first floor, all under a clay tile roof.

PLAN: a rectangular plan with a small extension to the south-east corner; the first floor has a U-shaped arrangement of rooms. The original internal arrangement consisted of a central island bar surrounded by separate seating areas.

EXTERIOR: the building is two storeys with the front (west) elevation facing the road and the rear (east) facing the canal. The front elevation has a symmetrical fenestration with a central porch and a jettied gable above. The entrance has two doors. Both are panelled, with decorative strap hinges, a central glazed panel (with modern glazing), and a leaded over-door light with stained glass detailing above. To the right is a lateral brick stack. The north elevation has a set of steps leading up to a side entrance and a projecting central gabled bay with two casement windows on the ground floor and one above. The rear of the building consists of a single-storey range including a small wing to the right, and a curved bay and entrance to the left. The south elevation has two bays, including a canted bay to the right. Most of the principal ground-floor windows are late-C20 replacements in the original openings, though the original glazing, with leaded casements and stained glass emblem details survives, on the rear and side elevations, and the first floor. The roof is hipped and additional stacks are located to the rear.

INTERIOR: the entrance doors open onto a small foyer with panelled partitions, containing a series of elaborate stained glass windows with various heraldic motifs, which leads through to the public bar. The bar would have originally been divided into at least three separate rooms, but has been partially opened out to create one interconnected space; however, evidence for the original arrangement is still evident in the wall stubs and ceiling beams. The original central island bar area survives, with curved panels containing diagonal tongue and groove strip, and contemporary arched bar top and gantry. To the right of the entrance is a panelled room with applied timber ceiling beams, a fireplace with timber surround and decorative moulded plaster-work on the wall with motifs depicting a lion and a floral design. Beyond is a separate entrance with a small foyer, containing mid-C20 panelling and light fitting. To the left of the main entrance is a seating area with low timber partitions (in the same style as the bar front), and inset with stained glass windows, bench seating and a fireplace with a carved timber surround and geometric plaster detailing on the ceiling. To the rear of the building is another seating area. This overlooks the canal and has a curved bay with seating and a ceiling decorated with a large oval plaster wreath, incorporating hops and barley details, as well as a fireplace with a brick arch. The fixed, original bench seating has pipe heating underneath. At either end of the pub are male and female toilets with panelled doors containing further stained-glass detailing. To the rear of the serving area is the kitchen and the stairway leading down to the cellar and up to the first floor. The staircase is original and has a painted lattice banister and mahogany handrail. The first floor has a U-shaped plan that is largely unaltered; the most notable change is the insertion of a modern fire exit leading out onto the rear balcony. A number of original panelled doors, built-in cupboards and one tiled fireplace have been retained.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.