The Three Horseshoes, Southall

The Three Horseshoes stands at a prominent corner site at the junction of the Uxbridge and South Roads at Southall Broadway, facing its original site on the town smithy across the latter thoroughfare. Today's building, a replacement for the original public house, was begun in 1914 by the notable local architect Thomas Henry Nowell Parr but shortages of both construction workers and materials during the Great War meant that it was not actually completed until c.1922, the significance of which almost led to the pub's demolition a decade or more ago.

Acting on a commission from the Royal Brewery, Brentford, Nowell Parr had moved from his West Midlands roots to work for the Brentford Urban District Council in 1894, setting-up his own architectural practice nearby in 1900. Apart from many local civic buildings around west London, he was also responsible for the design of some Fullers' houses across the same geographical spread with his son, John Nowell Parr, also carrying on his father's inspired practice into the second half of the 20TH century.

The Three Horseshoes is perhaps one of the best examples of the earlier Nowell Parr's work comprising, as it does, a fine exterior with a brown-tiled ground floor and jettied first floor with pleasingly simplified 'Ipswich' bay windows complete with semi-circular fanlights. On the inside, it doesn't exude the barn-like feel of many of its contemporaries possibly because of the numerous part-alcoves - all complete with Nowell Parr's signature Tudor arches - along the bulk of the roadside frontage. Patrons are still served in one of three separate bars - fine brass plates still label the saloon, public and private - each of which retains its own individual character despite or, perhaps, because of sympathetic refurbishments in 1987 and 2000. The off-sales (on South Road) has gone, however, betrayed by the only immediately visible sign of any alteration whatsoever - a blocked doorway - since construction was complete. Internally, whilst the counter has also been altered, the wooden fire surrounds and bar back are both original. Overall, it is a superb early example of 'Brewers' Tudor' with mock half-timbering on the walls, beamed ceilings and the aforementioned arched alcoves in the saloon. Since the demolition of the Crown (a younger 'sister' pub with assembly rooms and a virtually identical exterior elevation - albeit not canted around a corner site - complete with three similar gabled dormers and also once part of the Royal Brewery estate) when the Gunnersbury Roundabout, Chiswick, was being constructed in 1960, the Three Horsehoes became the only one of its kind.

In recent times, the pub has had a somewhat peripatetic relationship with real ale. When the Beer Orders came into effect in 1989, it was one of the first pubs in the area to take advantage of the 'guest beer' ruling, adding Hall & Woodhouse Badger or Tanglefoot to its traditional mainstay of Courage Best. However, a lean all-keg period followed in the late-1990s only for living beer to make a brief resurgence around the Millennium when Cain's Dr. Duncan's Elixir was made available. Currently, however, no real ale is served there now and even the bank of three handpumps has been removed.

Despite this, the West Middlesex CAMRA branch enjoyed success in one of its active campaigns to prevent the pub's demolition when, in 1989, a greedy local council, having already negotiated with a developer such that a deal was nearly completed, proposed wholesale demolition of Southall town centre. This included the Three Horseshoes which was threatened with a compulsory purchase order. Needless to say, it was not difficult to galvanise support to save the pub and bodies such as The Thirties' Society (now the 20TH Century Society), local action groups and English Heritage all rallied to the cause. The last-mentioned even considered the pub important enough to have it spot-listed - it was (and still is!), after all, on Ealing Council's local listing of buildings having architectural and townscape merit - but, as the listing would have seriously compromised the deal with developers being wrought, the council sought to have the building delisted. They won this battle on a technicality, namely that, because the pub had not been completed until after the First World War, far stricter criteria for listing consideration ought to have been applied by English Heritage who had correctly cited the pub as dating from 1914.

Although the galvanising of local and national support undoubtedly helped CAMRA to claim victory in the overall campaign, in the final analysis, it was probably more the property recession of the early 1990s than anything else that saved the pub from needless demolition. That and a change in council administration unwilling to renew their agreement with the developers following elections held in 1990 although council officialdom seemingly did their utmost to sustain the destruction of The Three Horseshoes long after all other town centre redevelopment was lost. The latest affliction to beset the pub, the current West London Tramlink proposals, also no longer prove to be another threat to this fine - and unique - building since that ill-thought out scheme has thankfully been shelved.

Pelham with additional contributions by John Griffin


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