The single photograph below shows “The Giraffe,” Kennington, which once stood as a fine example of a British public house from the interwar period. Built for Messrs. Watney, Combe, Reid & Co., Ltd., the building was demolished in the mid-2000’s and replaced by flats.
Standing on the corner of Penton Place and Newington Crescent, S.E.17., the new licensed premises were designed by the architect, A. W. Blomfield, F.R.I.B.A., and completed in 1937. An unusual name for a public house, “The Giraffe” was a nod to the former ‘Surrey Zoological Gardens’, which had once stood opposite the new premises.
In order to maintain their sales growth, Watney’s had embarked on a major building programme during the 1930’s, with the Pimlico-based brewer partly having to follow its metropolitan beer-drinking customers to the suburbs, constructing new purpose-built pubs in the process. As was the case with “The Giraffe,” however they were also rebuilding, whether as a result of London County Council (L.C.C.) road widening and slum clearance schemes, or simply the obsolescence of existing sites.
The ambitious expansion plans dominated the company’s Annual General Meeting in August, 1937, both in terms of the ‘large sums expended’ but also the ‘improvements to properties’ being made. As a result, in his speech to shareholders that year, the Chairman was able to boast that “your properties rival in condition those of any one of our competitors.”
The exterior of the south London building was principally faced with red and purple brown bricks, which were used to great effect across other new Watney pubs of the era. A granite dado ran along the bottom of the building, which featured a base and border of black granite, which was also used to surround both the entrance doors and ground floor windows. Above the granite border, glazed brown bricks were used up to the height of the entrance doors.
Dressed stone was used across the building’s front, principally above the first floor windows, yet the defining feature of the exterior was a sculptured relief of a giraffe, which was placed atop the building’s prominent chamfered corner, at the junction of Newington Crescent and Penton Place.
Inside, the new public house included a games room, entered from Penton Place, which led through to a large public bar. There were three further entrances on Newington Crescent, providing separate access to the public bar, a small off licence, and a single-storey saloon bar to the rear of the building. Both bars, along with the games room had fireplaces.
The first floor featured a kitchen with hoist and lift, linked to the serving space in the public bar below, along with accommodation for the pub’s tenants, something that the brewer was placing an increasing emphasis on, in order to ensure that living standards matched those of new flats being built at that time.
The public house managed to make it through the Second World War completely unscathed, yet the surrounding area suffered widespread bomb damage, which in turn led to large-scale post-war redevelopment. Newington Crescent was a notable casualty and no longer exists today, having been replaced by Southwark Council’s ‘Newington Estate’.
Sadly, “The Giraffe” has also gone, with the building having been finally demolished in the mid-2000’s, and after several planning applications, was subsequently replaced by a small nondescript block of flats, known simply as 45, Penton Place.