ALE January/February 2006 No. 321 : Next section

[Campaign for Real Ale logo © CAMRA]

Unique Pubs of East Anglia

Number 8 : The Nags Head, Bishops Stortford

The Art Deco movement flourished between the two world wars. It was essentially a modernisation of artistic themes and styles from the past, notably egyptian, Greek and Roman. Geometric, symmetrical shapes abounded, along with rounded corners, zigzags and stepped forms.

Many pubs were built in the style but few have survived and reasonably intact interiors are rarer still. The Test Match, West Bridgford, Nottingham is probably the best example nationally but The Nags Head in Dunmow Road, Bishops Stortford isn't far behind.

When I first visited the pub about 5 years ago it was in a sorry state and plans were announced shortly after for a major refurb which would have destroyed the interior. Fortunately, it was bought by Oak Inns before these plans could be implemented and they carried out a sensitive restoration.

The Nags Head dates from 1934 and was designed by E.S. Musman, also responsible for the now internally-trashed Comet in Hatfield. The design is vaguely ship-shaped hence, no doubt, the porthole windows in the funny little corridor between the bars. The left-hand (public) bar is virtually unchanged with the original bar counter, white marble-slab fireplace and curious window ledge which bulges out in places to form tables. The lounge also retains its bar counter and fireplace but has been more altered and the wall between it and a back "private" bar has been taken out. The off sales in the middle is unused and boarded up. Above the central entrance is a carved stone panel depicting the history of Bishops Stortford.

The original plans for the building show some interesting features. For instance, the toilets in the lounge had washbasins but those in the public didn't! Also the car park was on the public bar side, presumably so that the denizens of the lounge could enjoy a view of the garden.

On a recent visit the pub was offering three real ales (Fullers London Pride, Adnams Broadside and Wells Bombardier) and was doing a roaring trade in food - the lounge area is family-oriented.

The pub is easy to find. From the M11, follow the signs for the town centre and you find yourself on Dunmow Road; the pub is on the left just before a sharp bend.