The Mayflower Welwyn Garden City
The Mayflower Welwyn Garden City
(now The Sheldan Inn)
Sloansway, Haldens, Welwyn Garden City AL7 1NB
+44 1707 328093
The Mayflower: Our pubs change with the times because they are a part of our culture. Culture itself can be defined as ‘the interface of the human psyche with the environment’, consequently, in more simple words, as the world changes so does our culture. Therefore as the world changes so do our pubs change. Sometimes the change is great and obvious but sometimes it is subtle. The Mayflower at Sloansway, Haldens, is an example of subtle changes.
This was a modern estate pub built in December 1964 to serve Haldanes. Why name this landlocked pub after a ship taking pilgrims to America in 1620? A hint to how The Mayflower gained its name comes from the April 1965 Whitbread Magazine:
“Mr Dick Brennan, who acted as chef on the voyage of the replica of the Mayflower, which crossed the Atlantic in 1956, opened a new Flowers house, The Mayflower, Welwyn Garden City, last December.”
In this naming process, we can see how easy it is to let details of our history slip through our fingers. Who was Dick Brennan? Was he local or was he on the board of Whitbread? [all info gratefully received details below] Unless we have kept a copy of this 54-year-old magazine such ephemera of history just melts away as our world changes.
We can see the changes in the photographs, the changing culture produces different furniture designs for example. One of the most telling examples of how our culture has changed is in the dedicated purpose of the rooms. As the magazine informs us:
“It has a committee room (below) and a stage which has been built in conjunction with the Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation.”
1965 really was a different world, just 20 years after the war, a strong majority Labour government in power and a vision that our communities would be served by committees. So much so that a pub, a commercial operation, could yield a substantial part of its floor space to a committee room! Such management of commercial architecture just would not happen today
The Mayflower and cultural change.
Today The Mayflower has been re-branded and is The Sheldan Inn. Promoting itself as a family-friendly venue with a sit-down restaurant menu of popular food, this is a great change from the world where entering the pub on your 18th birthday was a rite of passage.
Calling a pub opened in 1965 an ‘old pub’ really tests our definitions in pub history but the old pub, The Mayflower, has to be seen as an old pub. An old pub from different times, serving different needs in what was then a changing world as it is today.
Notes: If you have any information to add to the history of The Mayflower you can contact Jack on his website. Anecdotal stories are most welcome; let’s keep history human! Thanks to Mick Fit of North Mymms Social Club for donating his collection of Whitbread Magazines for pub history research.
The Mayflower’s Committee Room circa 1965
The Whitbread Magazine was very typical of trade publications of the post-war years. As a graphic design artefact, it illustrates how the stuffy world of corporate identity was starting to move towards more dynamic branding ideas.
This particular cover, from May 1965, complete with a circular stain from a glass bottom, starts to reflect the move towards ‘design’ as a commercial concept. After the Second World War, the continuance of rationing and the need to recover basic infrastructure created an ethos of utility in all things.
As the UK recovered and emerged to try and reclaim its economic strength, a new vibrancy began to enter the culture. In this new evolution came fresh designs and the blossoming of an environment where creativity replaced conservatism as a national value.
This movement towards design as a driving concept behind cultural renewal permeated British society. On the first page of the magazine there is an article on the very subject:
At a time when buttercup meadows tremble in the path of the developer, when ‘housing’ and ‘over-spill’ are on many lips, and when taller and taller buildings in our cities leave only their enormous feet anywhere near the ground, it is encouraging to remember the patient work of the Civic Trust.
It was founded in 1956 to improve design in town and country, or, in its own words, ‘to provide higher standards of architecture and town planning and to encourage a wider interest in the appearance of our towns, villages and countryside’.
This was a time when things were changing not just in the wider culture but also in the pub industry. Expansion and conglomeration started to create the grounds for consumer discontent.
Today we can set the images of the new design of The Mayflower in the 1960s against the contemporary renovation of the Sheldan Inn.
We have to allow for the esthetic effect which black and white images have on our perception. This is all part of our method in assessing historical images as discussed in my book “The Old Scrapbook”.