Friday 27 July 2012

Bibendum, formerly the New Inn, Eastbourne

The Bibendum occupies a corner site with South Street at 1 Grange Road, directly opposite the ornate Town Hall (dating from 1886) in the Little Chelsea district of this East Sussex seaside resort. It was listed in the 1995 CAMRA Good Beer Guide under its original name of the New Inn and appeared in the 1987 guide as a Chef and Brewer outlet. Real ale is still available but as the present name suggests, Bibendum is more bistro than public house. I’m not in any case Blogging about the beer. This was formerly a house of the Brighton-based Tamplin & Sons brewery (see my Blog post of 18th September 2011) and it retains some interesting architectural features.

The New Inn was rebuilt in 1880 - as the datestone high up on the corner elevation helpfully informs us - in three and a half storeys of sturdy redbrick. Two projecting gabled bays on the Grange Road side flank a Gothic-arched doorway, once the lobby entrance to the hotel side of the business. Very English in design is this building, almost Norman Shaw modest garden suburb - except, that is, for the ground floor frontage on the blue and brown banded glazed tiled plinth that wraps itself about the corner site extending into South Street.

With their pilasters and scrolled pediments, the four ex-entrances in this frontage and the door to the still-in-use corner vestibule are framed by classical motifs; but the inscriptions on the entablatures naming the rooms they once gave access to are decidedly art-nouveau in style as is the coloured glass design of delicate tracery in the arched windows. I would guess that this frontage was fitted in the fin de si├Ęcle of pub building, c. 1898-1900.

In my Blog post of 12th August 2011, I used the example of the Dorset, Brighton, to show how late-Victorian pubs were once divided into rooms that reflected class and status divisions of the time. The interior of Bibendum is now completely opened up with scant surviving fittings, but moving from the hotel lobby clockwise into South Street, we can tell from the entrances and extant etched window glass that it was once compartmentalised by screens into Saloon Bar, Public Bar, Jug Department and a Private Bar.

As is also the case with the Dorset, another ex-Tamplins pub, a bird is etched in the glass of one of the surviving old windows of what was once the New Inn. Birds of various kinds in the glasswork appear to have been a common motif for the brewery at the time.

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