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The Wernley, Sandwell

Description: The Wernley

Grade: II
Date Listed: 15 January 2014
Building ID: 1415310

OS Grid Reference: SP0038285809
OS Grid Coordinates: 400389, 285796
Latitude/Longitude: 52.4701, -1.9957

Locality: Sandwell
County: Sandwell
Postcode: B68 0LR

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Listing Text


A public house in the Jacobean revival style, built 1933-4, by Edwin F. Reynolds of Wood, Kendrick and Reynolds for Mitchells and Butler Ltd.

Reason for Listing

The Wernley, Sandwell, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: it is an example of a traditional inter-war roadhouse, which well illustrates the importance and consideration given to the entire, external treatment of a public house;
* Historic interest: it is one of the Mitchells and Butler brewery pubs, who were at the forefront of the reformed public house movement in this area, and their involvement can still be attributed through stone plaques with raised ‘M&B’ lettering located at various entrance points around the building;
*Decorative treatment: the decoration to the principal public bars and rooms demonstrate a good example of the attention given to these spaces and the continuation of the Jacobean-style internally;
 * Intactness: despite the inevitable alterations, this sizable building retains original features within both the front of house and service areas;
* Association: the architects Wood, Kendrick and Edwin F. Reynolds are noted Birmingham architects who were responsible for a number of listed public houses in the Black Country;
* Context: although not sufficiently intact to merit listing, the clubhouse, bowling green, boundary wall and sign-post create an unusually intact context, which is a distinguishing feature of the reformed public house movement.


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

The Wernley was opened in 1934 as a roadside public house, on Wolverhampton Road, a major transport route to the south of Birmingham. It was built for Mitchells and Butlers. In 1936 the Wernley Bowling Club was founded and a bowling green and club house set within the rear garden. During the Second World War, Holy Mass was held here. The footprint of the building has changed very little over the years. The ground-floor is understood to originally have incorporated a long bar which ran the length of the public area, this has been replaced by a smaller bar on the same alignment. Some of the ground-floor internal walls have been removed, most notably the division between the lounge area in the south-west corner and the function room to the rear. The separate bar room at the front of the building survives, with its original bar front. The first floor is used as the manager’s accommodation and the plan is largely unaltered.


A public house in the Jacobean revival style, built 1933-4, by Edwin F. Reynolds of Wood, Kendrick and Reynolds for Mitchells and Butler Ltd.

MATERIALS: a red brick building, in Flemish stretcher bond, and with a clay tile roof.

PLAN: a long H-shape building, orientated south-east to north-west, with an attached range of ancillary buildings to the north-west and a bowling green to the south-west. The original internal arrangement had a central, public bar facing north with a function room on the south front, which led to the terrace and garden. Smoking rooms were placed to the east and west.

EXTERIOR: the main building is two-storeys. The front elevation (north-east), has nine bays. In the centre is a projecting two-storey canted bay entrance with a set of double doors with mullioned over-light, a first-floor mullioned window and a carved-brick shield motif above. The entrance is flanked on either side by three bays; two transom-and-mullioned windows and a door with mullioned over-light on the ground floor and a row of four-light mullioned windows above. The left entrance would have probably been used for off-sales (it is now blocked with a disabled toiled behind). At either end of the building is a cross wing with a canted bay on the ground floor, a first-floor transom-and-mullioned window with an arched head and raised cross to the tympanum, and a glazed arrow-slit surrounded by air vents in the gable. The left return is asymmetrical, including a canted bay on the ground floor, four first-floor mullioned windows and a side entrance with a door surround with carved brick squares and a worn plaque engraved with ‘M&B’. The rear elevation also has nine bays. The middle seven bays form a single-storey flat roof section that extends across the southern half of the building with a diaper brick pattern along the parapet. The central entrance (blocked), has a projecting porch and an architrave with a carved brick plaque engraved with ‘M&B’. The entrance is flanked on either side by two bays with transom-and-mullioned windows, and a further arched entrance (the right of which is blocked). Behind this range is the first-floor of the main building, consisting of a row of mullioned windows and a large, central, brick chimney stack with a square sundial; a gold painted sun and dial on a blue background with golden Arabic numerals. At either end of this elevation are the cross wings with a three-light transom-and-mullioned window on the ground floor (blocked on the right wing), and a four-light first-floor window. All of the windows have leaded casements; some of the leading within the ground floor windows appears to have been renewed. A range of single-storey hipped roof ancillary buildings are attached to the north-west side of the building. Some were used for storage, others are former external toilets for the terrace and bowling green, which retain their original tiling and internal partitions. On this side of the building is also an L-shaped brick arcade (now partly infilled), which forms one corner of the bowling green. At its southern end is a hexagonal pavilion topped by a cone roof with a decorative, ball finial. The roofs are pitched. A squat central stack rises from the south pitch of the central range and two taller stacks on the north pitch at either end. There are two further chimneys over the cross wings.

INTERIOR: the original ground–floor plan has been reorganised. The main dining area, formed by the unification of the former rear function room, toilets and the lounge in the south-east corner, includes a bar front and back which appear to be late-C20 replacements. The former lounge has a tile fireplace with timber surround and a plaster ceiling decorated with hops and barley motifs. The separate public bar remains and retains original features including some of the wall bench seating with radiators below (reupholstered), timber wainscoting, the bar front and a decorative ceiling with carved beams. Some of the ground-floor panel doors survive. There are two sets of stairs leading to the first floor, the main set located behind the most easterly entrance door on the north side of the building and a rear stairs at the west end; both are original with painted lattice banisters and mahogany handrails. The first-floor plan is largely unaltered and most of the original three-panel doors, with their door furniture and metal number plates, have been retained. There are also two tiled fireplaces and several inbuilt cupboards. The original kitchen, which serviced the pub, is set at first-floor level and has its original tiled walls with coloured bands at dado level and an original fitted dresser. Adjacent are two larders with tile floors, and a dumb waiter with original hatch and control panel (which survives on all floors).

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