Bull & Gate

389 Kentish Town Road
Kentish Town

The WhatPub entry is here: WhatPub/Bull & Gate

Like the Flask, this pub is both on CAMRA’s London Regional Inventory and is a grade II listed building. The Inventory description is as follows: “Now an Irish pub [not any more – it’s a Youngs gastropub now), the Bull & Gate was built in 1871 (see the helpful datestone outside). It is a showy bit of architecture. Note external details such as the projecting single-storey part at the front, the shelly heads to the first-floor windows, the ornate fascia with the pub name and, of course, the plaster depiction over the entrance of the eponymous bull and gate. There’s much to enjoy inside too. Pride of place goes to the servery with its original panelled counter and stunning array of decorated cut-glass mirrors with swirling sprays of foliage. The ‘Linskey’s’ mirrors are modern but in the traditional style. [These have now gone.] The Bass mirror towards the back, however, is antique and has painted foliage and stuck-on lettering plus a Bass red triangle (draught Bass has long been popular here). A most unusual feature is the round arch between the two parts of the front bar – it has fluted jambs and, in the head, neo-classical urns and lion heads. The Lincrusta ceiling is an ornate piece of work too. Note also the fluted cast-iron columns which support the upper floors. At the rear is a further room with an octagonal skylight: the glazing, sadly, has been replaced but the foliage swags around the drum are original. Like most of the ornament at this pub it has been picked out in various colours. This is perhaps rather garish but it means you can’t miss all the Victorian detail. [The garish colours are no kore.] At the rear is a former billiard room, now used as a music venue [not any more].

History nearby: The London Forum (9-17 Highgate Road) was designed by J Stanley Beard and W R Bennett in 1934 as the Kentish Town Forum Cinema. After closing in 1970 it became a bingo hall then a ballroom and later the Town and Country Club music venue. In 1993 it was renamed the London Forum and has played host to many famous bands including Oasis and Hawkwind.”

The listing description is as follows: “Pub. Dated 1871 with minor later alterations. Architect unknown. Red brick with rendered dressings. EXTERIOR: Advanced ground floor houses the public rooms and main entrances with a curved return to the north where second door, large windows with decorative transoms have been replaced, and a pair of wide arches over the 2 main openings, that to the left with some later infill (formerly a shop here). All of this is richly detailed, including heads and leaves in the ionic capitals over the marble pilasters, the name of the pub spelled out prominently in the frieze and an eponymous bull and gate relief above the main entrance. Behind this are 2 further storeys of the building, of red brick with rendered detailing to rusticated pilasters and frieze, of 5 window bays with a central elongated Palladian style window under a half-moon shape plaque announcing 'Bull & Gate 1871'. The first floor windows have semi-circular shells over each one, and the brick is curved at both corners. Plaque to north side with date,architect and builder names is heavily painted. Side and rear elevations much plainer and more altered, including inserted C20 windows to rear. INTERIOR: Much of the original pub interior survives, such as the bar counter with pilasters and cornelled brackets, and the back bar with decorative glass, and cast-iron fluted columns with ornate composite capitals. The original plan form is also mainly readable, with the front public rooms divided by partition with Neo-Classical dressed arch, and a former billiard room to the rear. Also of interest is a strapwork embossed paper ceiling, wide arches with fluted pilasters, and Neo-Classical detailing around the arch (that to the rear alternating small medallions of bulls' heads with the vases), pedimented doorcases and hardwood vestibule, fruity grape detailing throughout, large skylight to rear and fireplace in front bar. To rear wall of main bar, a pair of wide arches, that to north with later bar extension now projecting from it, that to south with further pedimented double door into rear now used as a music venue, which has fewer features of interest. HISTORY: The Bull and Gate was rebuilt in 1871 on the site of an C18 pub, when it was apparently known as the 'Boulogne Gate' at this important 'pick-up-and-set-down' point for travellers in and out of London via the north. A 1904 photograph shows a show in the end bay, and a slightly different window and door arrangement, as well as a openwork parapet along the front range. SOURCES: The Fields Beneath, Gillian Tindall; Kentish Town Past, John Richardson; Buildings of England London 4: North.

A fine Victorian pub in the Gin Palace tradition with exuberant internal and external detailing (including a bull and gate illustrating the historic name) and a well surviving quality pub interior, that furthermore has group value, particularly with the Assembly Rooms pub (q.v.) at the same historic junction.”

The Bull & Gate featured on the Evening Crawl of Kentish Town in April 2004, the Highways, Archways and Tramways: Daytime Crawl of Highgate, Archway and Kentish Town in June 2010, and the From Wrestling to Assembling: Evening Crawl of Highgate and Kentish Town in August 2015.