But, as a new book celebrates, what most punters miss beneath their feet is that each branch has a unique carpet design.
From the geometric pattern at Oxford’s The Four Candles - in homage to comedian Ronnie Barker - to the mustard flooring at The Raven in Liverpool, inspired by a local artist who illustrated Edgar Allen’s poem of the same name, each Wetherspoons carpet tells a story.
The Samuel Peto in Folkestone is like the Sistine Chapel of Wetherspoons. I took my mum there.
It was this realisation that prompted writer Kit Caless, who describes himself as the “shagpile Socrates” on Twitter, to document the designs of the chain’s carpets in his “wetherspoonscarpets” blog.
The website, launched in July 2015, turned from a joke into a self-styled public art project after people began sending Caless photographs of designs from their local ‘Spoon's.
Since then, he has visited 150 branches of the almost 1,000 outlets across the country. A choice selection of the most interesting have been made into a 175-page book “Spoon's Carpets: An Appreciation".
Spoon's carpets - In pictures
Spoon's carpets - In pictures
The Raven, Liverpool
James William Carling was a pavement artist who was an orphan by the age of ten. Carling travelled to America to join Henry, his artist brother, and start a career stateside. He illustrated Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem, ‘The Raven’. You can find his work at the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Richmond, Virginia. Carling returned to Liverpool in 1887 but died shortly after and is buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave near this pub in Walton, Liverpool.
The Fork Handles
The Fork Handles is named after the famous Two Ronnies sketch ‘Four Candles’. There is a framed copy of the sketch, hand-written by Barker, hidden behind the beer pumps. Ask nicely and the sta will show it to you. Ask for ‘ ’andles for forks’ along with your gourmet burger and they’ll bar you.
The Queen's Hotel, Maltby
The original Queens Hotel opened shortly after Maltby experienced a traumatic disaster at its colliery in 1923. An explosion killed twenty-seven workers, but only one body, that of a man called Renshaw, was ever recovered and given a funeral. It was a very diicult time for the town itself and for the pub to open. It serves as a powerful reminder of the lives of ordinary working men that were sacrificed in the name of economic growth.
The Denmead Queen, Waterlooville
Waterlooville town is named after a pub, the Heroes of Waterloo, sadly demolished in 1966. Famously, soldiers returning from Belgium had acquired a taste for lager on the battlefield, but the first drink they had back in Blighty at the Heroes was a pint of mild.
But who decreed that each Spoon's should have an individual carpet remains a mystery.
“The head of PR at Wetherspoons, who has worked with them for 30 years, said he didn’t know the carpets were individual. They were as surprised as me. No one knows, and I don’t think I’ll ever find out."
The book is part tounge-in-cheek homage to Wetherspoons, part potted history of Britain - with a few tall tales thrown in for good measure.
“Some of the facts are made up. I want to see it as a way of looking at Britain and telling stories in the traditional folkloric way of pubs and drinking. The pub is afterall a space for shaggy dog stories.”
As is inevitable when visiting over 100 pubs in a year, Caless has met some interesting characters. In Southampton, he was called a “big bagged c***” by a “big bloke and his big mates” after he knocked over his beer.
“He was like ‘what are you doing?’. When I told him I was taking photos of the carpet he didn’t believe me. I didn’t stick around to find out what happened. I would have bought have him a new one if he was nicer,” he laughs.
At the Benjamin Hunstman in Sheffield he was approached by “two proper lads in suits” as he was snapping his feet against the flooring.
“They were so excited. They requested to have their feet in the book. After I took the photo, one of them realised his shoes were really dirty and asked me not to mention it. The first thing I wrote in the book was ‘look at this guy’s dirty shoes’,” he teases.
Now a veritable Spoon's connoisseur, Caless says his favourites are the Imperial in Exeter, inside a domed orangery in a former luxury hotel, and The Samuel Peto in a Romanesque building in Folkestone, which has a painted ceiling.
“It’s like the Sistine Chapel of Wetherspoons. I took my mum there. She was like ‘oh my God! It’s incredible!'”
“Wetherspoons are like a blank canvas on which you can project yourself,” argues Caless, who used to run a pub in east London. “They don’t have music. The menu, it’ll do. The drinks are varied but not massively adventurous, so you won’t feel intimidated like you do in a hipster pub. You can come in alone to read the paper in a corner, or with ten people and be a bit loud on the other side.”
“At the one in Hackney near where I live, I might find my friends in there, old Jamaican guys, old Irish guys, builders coming in for their 3pm pint. Old mothers meeting up and having a natter. Students. It’s a real reflection of the local area. At each Spoon's in the country you get a feel for that town.”
But having visited more than 100 branches, Caless says he doesn’t intend to “collect them all” and pop into every one. “I’ve eaten a lot of Spoons food and drunk a lot of pints. I feel like I’ve got PTSD”, he says.
“I’m not going to be like Steve Redgrave and say 'never again'. I might," he says, half joking, "if the price is right."Reuse content