History in Structure

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

The Crumpled Horn

A Grade II Listed Building in Liden, Eldene and Park South, Swindon

We don't have any photos of this building yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 51.5541 / 51°33'14"N

Longitude: -1.7356 / 1°44'8"W

OS Eastings: 418429

OS Northings: 183949

OS Grid: SU184839

Mapcode National: GBR YZ6.6S

Mapcode Global: VHB3M.V6TF

Plus Code: 9C3WH737+MQ

Entry Name: The Crumpled Horn

Listing Date: 30 April 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1453670

Location: Nythe, Eldene and Liden, Swindon, SN3

County: Swindon

Electoral Ward/Division: Liden, Eldene and Park South

Built-Up Area: Swindon

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire


Themed, single-bar public house, to designs by Roy Wilson-Smith FRIBA of Wilson-Smith & Partners for Watney Mann. Opened as a Wessex Taverns house in December 1975 as part of the Eldene estate.


Themed, single-bar public house, to designs by Roy Wilson-Smith FRIBA of Wilson-Smith & Partners for Watney Mann. Opened as a Wessex Taverns house in December 1975 as part of the Eldene estate.

Constructed of a brick frame with brick wall-facings internally, timber roof laid with felt and with a brick chimney stack. Timber casement windows, and an extensive use of stained timber internally.

Built on a sloping site, the pub’s plan comprises an irregular eight-sided polygon, with wedge-shaped bays of increasing size radiating outwards around a central three-storey brick chimney stack to create the shape of a nautilus shell spiralling in an anti-clockwise direction. The single bar (seating) area reflects the spiral plan and is arranged around a single off-centre servery and set over four levels of varying size, each creating distinct spaces for customers. Stairs descend from the principal entrance to the north to the cellar, toilets, hexagonal boiler room and landlord’s accommodation on the lower ground floor. The majority of the curving bar area is at ground level, arranged around the servery which has six canted sides. A short flight of steps leads to an upper ground-floor level, which occupies the south-western and southern bays of the pub. At the eastern end of this level a flight of steps, turning north through 60 degrees, gives access to a small gallery set around the exposed central chimney, mirroring the shape of the ground-floor servery. The plan is reflected externally through two levels of terraces on the east elevation accessed from different levels within the pub and via flights of steps adjacent to the principal entrance and from the garden to the south.

The pub’s entrance and principal elevation are to the north, where the change in ground level is most evident. On all elevations the pub appears to be no more than one and a half storeys, defying its internal form. Each bay is defined by a brick buttress; the lower sections of the walls between the buttresses are battered, and the intersection between the battered and vertical sections is marked by a single horizontal course of vertically-laid bricks. The asymmetrical roof is made up of segments with the pitch and size varying from bay to bay, steepening as they rise to the central bottle-shaped chimney, and the eaves steepening as the building wraps around, giving the visual impression of a hat with the brim pulled down low. From the upper terrace entrance, to the east, the roof line is broken by a low and shallow roof segment framing the chimney stack on three sides with vertical sections clad in white weatherboarding.

The interior is lit by pairs of pointed bay windows set either side of the projecting brick buttresses which define the bays of the building. Each bay window comprises two single-pane timber casements with awning windows above, but vary in size as the building spirals around. The upper levels of the bar area are lit by a quadrilateral, five-pane, fixed picture window overlooking the upper terrace.

The principal entrance on the north elevation leads to a small lobby, which steps up to the main bar area. To the east of the lobby, stairs lead to the lower ground floor, with a rustic handrail and doors off to the toilets, flat and boiler room.

The Crumpled Horn’s single bar has a ceiling of exposed stained timber rafters, with horizontal tongue-and-groove boarding between. The walling mainly comprises unpainted reddish-brown brickwork laid in a deliberate ‘ramshackle’ manner, including pieces of broken brick, bricks laid back-to-front with the frog facing outwards and a wide variety of different bond types. To the stair wall east of the servery burnt bricks are laid in a saw-tooth arrangement to form a cill and frame for the picture window above. The north-east and west bays are partially lined with painted timber vertical boarding. The main bar features intentionally rustic, pegged handrails including to the steps up to gallery level to the south west; the timberwork around these steps is all part of the original scheme. Balustrades to the raised areas are timber, of traditional spindle type, with later square-section insertions, and are painted except to the gallery. In the western bay of the ground-floor bar area, above the entrance lobby and to the east of the servery are substantial but non-structural painted timber joists, designed to give the appearance of being hand-hewn and punctuated with mortice holes as though they once carried the studs of a partition wall. The gallery overlooks the servery through brick arches, now partially blocked by television screens. The random brickwork facing is particularly evident in the gallery on the cylindrical chimney stack.

The bar counter in the Crumpled Horn survives, and is relatively plain. A deep timber countertop sits above a counterfront of timber panels set diagonally to create a chevron effect. Much of the counterfront is now painted off-white – originally it would have had a natural wood finish, an appearance retained at the southern end of the counter. The shelving, storage space and work surface comprising the bar backs are all comparatively plain later insertions. Adjacent to the gallery-level steps is an inclined timber panel, of a corresponding chevron design to the counterfront panelling; this now carries a mirror and retains a number of hand-painted motifs. These motifs resemble the quatrefoil decorations on a panel which was once a feature within the pub and onto which was painted illustrated lines from the rhyme ‘The House that Jack Built’.


The post-war period saw the English public house become a fully accepted social amenity for the first time, and pubs were constructed in their thousands on new estates and developments and in areas damaged by wartime bombing. Until building restrictions were lifted in late 1954, most of these pubs were temporary in form or built so as to be capable of future extension; exceptions were occasionally made, but the number of permanent pubs built between 1945 and 1954 was low. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the principles of pub design remained largely the same as in the inter-war period, although further refined and advanced. Buildings were still broken down into separate bars (the most common being public bar and saloon bar, with off-sales shop or off-licence). Central serveries remained the norm, ensuring ready supervision of all bar areas. Manager’s accommodation (almost always on an upper floor) was clearly segregated, and emphasis was placed on the social role of pubs, which often included club or assembly rooms for wider community use and children’s/family rooms. A conscious effort was made to ensure post-war pubs harmonised with their environment, so their exteriors were often comparatively plain and/or of a form imitating nearby buildings; only occasionally were post-war pubs designed as bold architectural statements, this being especially the case in town and city centres. Almost all pubs were given large car parks (reflecting the rising popularity of the motor car), but gardens became far less common and were less elaborate than in the inter-war years. Despite this, the interplay between interior and exterior space was often emphasised by large windows, loggias, and outdoor terraces. Internally, pubs often retained a sense of traditional atmosphere (e.g. fireplaces were often included in bars, despite the installation of full central heating), but buildings were usually brightly decorated and given modern facilities, ensuring they matched or bettered the quality of contemporary housing. Reflecting the breakdown of the class system, the social and decorative distinctions between the pub’s various bars became blurred and interiors became more uniform.  Post-war pubs were frequently planned as part of the larger whole, and located within neighbourhood centres, or adjacent to shopping parades, churches or community centres.

From the mid-1960s, pubs were increasingly rivalled by other forms of entertainment, such as discos, wine bars, restaurants and working men’s clubs. In order to survive, breweries approached design in a less traditional manner. Themed interiors became common, dance floors and function suites were introduced, and pub catering took on a new importance, while interesting risks were taken with pub architecture, both internally and externally. Single-bar pubs became increasingly widespread – capable of being used by both sexes and people of all classes, and usually broken down into smaller zones – although pubs of traditional post-war design continued to be built right into the 1970s. A change came in the 1980s when attention shifted to the conversion of existing buildings as pubs and the creation of pub chains, with near identical design.

In more recent times, pubs of the post-war years have become the most threatened and under-appreciated of their building type. The majority have been either greatly altered or demolished, with far fewer intact examples surviving than for the inter-war period.

The Crumpled Horn was constructed in 1975, to designs by Roy Wilson-Smith FRIBA of Wilson-Smith & Partners, initially for the Watney Mann brewery. Wilson-Smith (1918-93) trained under his architect-uncle, Harry Duncan Hendry (1890-1976) between 1934 and 1937. His uncle’s practice - Stewart & Hendry - specialised in pub design, including The Artichoke in Stepney, London, of 1951 (dem.), the first post-war pub by Mann’s Brewery, and built as part of the Sidney Street Estate. The practice became Stewart, Hendry & Smith when Wilson-Smith re-joined in 1960 following military service and a period working in private practice and for the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works. It was from the early 1960s that Wilson-Smith established himself as an eminent pub architect and became Watney Mann’s architect of choice for their flagship Schooner Inns chain. In 1965 he formed Smith & Wilson-Smith with SWJ Smith (1907-84), who retired four years later, leading to a new practice of Wilson-Smith & Partners. By this time Wilson-Smith had been elected a Fellow of the RIBA.

The tender for a public house to complete the neighbourhood centre at the Eldene estate on Swindon's eastern suburbs was won by Usher's Wiltshire Brewery at a price of £5,255 in February 1970. The adjacent primary school, shopping centre and community centre were constructed and opened from 1969, and the pub was to be built on a constrained and sloping site, at the south-east corner of a pedestrianised precinct. By June 1971 Usher’s had relinquished responsibility for the pub’s construction to Watney Mann, who had acquired Ushers in 1960. Watney Mann commissioned Roy Wilson-Smith in June 1972, as he had designed many of their pubs and Schooner Inn-chain restaurants. The plans were finally approved in 1974, and work began the following year, with completion and opening as a Wessex Taverns house in December 1975 at a cost of £200,000. The pub’s design represented the antithesis of the improved post-war public house plan, with a single bar and intimate spaces for drinking, reflecting on Victorian ‘snugs’ with a modern twist.

The Crumpled Horn takes its name from a line in the nursery rhyme ‘The House that Jack Built’, first published in 1755: ‘This is the man all tattered and torn/That kissed the maiden all forlorn/That milked the cow with the crumpled horn’. Wilson-Smith’s design for the pub not only reflects the rhyme through its spiral plan replicating a ‘crumpled horn’, but builds on it through a purposeful theme which gives the air of bad craftsmanship, referring to the derisory colloquial expression ‘the house that Jack built’. Wilson-Smith was an advocate of the themed pub, refitting or designing several comparable examples for Watney Mann, and often around the theme of ‘The House that Jack Built’.

The Crumpled Horn has been subject to few alterations, these mainly due to its ‘topsy-turvy’ plan for health and safety requirements. The neighbouring shopping centre (1973, J. Loring-Morgan) was demolished in 2015.

Reasons for Listing

The Crumpled Horn, Eldene, of 1975 by Roy Wilson-Smith is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* the only survivor of a group of Watney Mann pubs designed by Roy Wilson-Smith themed around ‘The House that Jack Built’ nursery rhyme;
* the most complete example of Wilson-Smith’s public-house designs from the period 1965-1975;
* intact, innovative and unusual plan form and use of materials, reflecting the theme of the pub;
* almost unaltered both internally and externally with Wilson-Smith’s characteristic design features, including plan form, brickwork finishes, servery frontages, rustic handrails and non-structural beams, and timber casement windows.

Historic interest:

* a complete example of a neighbourhood centre or estate pub built during the post-war rebuilding of Britain;
* an almost unaltered survivor of a 1970s theme pub;
* an expressive representation of the post-war changes in pub design.

Selected Sources

Book cover links are generated automatically from the sources. They are not necessarily always correct, as book names at Amazon may not be quite the same as those used referenced in the text.

Source title links go to a search for the specified title at Amazon. Availability of the title is dependent on current publication status. You may also want to check AbeBooks, particularly for older titles.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.