Tuesday, March 8, 2016
The sun caught the facade of the Imperial Inn in Gloucester’s Northgate Street as I passed the other day, so out came the camera. At last. I’d been meaning to photograph this tiled frontage of 1904 for years, but the building passed often is least often studied closely, and I’d not got round to it.
I was surprised to find out that the architects were Knight and Chatters. I’d linked this old Gloucester firm with serious stuff – church restorations, big Gothic vicarages, Cheltenham’s monumental neo-Jacobean Public Library and the same town’s cemetery. So I’d not have guessed that Knight and Chatters designed this building – pubs were often the work of specialist pub architects, figures whose careers are described in Mark Girouard’s fine book Victorian Pubs.
However, the senior partner, W H Knight, is the one I most associate with the libraries, churches and other ‘serious’ work and he died in 1895, so could have had nothing to do with the Imperial Inn. And the design of a pub facade like this has as much to do with the people who produced the glass and the tiles as with the architect. And finally it’s likely in any case that a busy provincial practice like Knight and Chatters could turn their hand to all kinds of architecture, letting their hair down to create lively pub frontages when the demand arose.