Pub News – May 2019

Congratulations to Mick and Sarah of the Alexandra in Wimbledon who won the Best Community Engagement Pub award in the recent Young’s Brewery Awards. I have previously mentioned their ‘open door’ Christmas dinners.

It is beginning to look as if we are having the same issue with hotels as we had with pubs becoming de facto restaurants. The Grade II-listed Audley in Mayfair has been closed by operators Greene King while the top three floors are turned into hotel rooms. The pub is a wonderful example of late Victorian red brick and pink terracotta with an equally splendid interior, said to be more akin to a gentleman’s club. Let us hope that this is retained.

Interesting developments at the Baring Hall Hotel, Grove Park (SE12). The pub, which is listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) and has recently been Grade II listed, has been put up for sale by the Antic group because, as I understand it, they need to repay some of the funding to their private equity backers, Downing. Plans for redevelopment were fought off before Antic acquired it, and there was some fire damage. Local campaigners have set up a company, the Baring Trust, with the aim of purchasing it and returning the pub to its former glory, including the hotel. We wish them well. The pub remains open in the meantime.

Pub names often tell a tale, so I was unhappy to learn that Marston’s intend to change the name of the Bear at Noak Hill (Romford RM3 7LL) once the current refurbishment is complete. According to the Romford Recorder, the pub has been called the Bear since 1715 but this was reinforced sometime in the 1950s when the publicans met a zoo owner who sold them a bear called Rhani. Rhani lived in a cage at the rear of the beer garden and, when Rhani died, a replacement, Honey was acquired. The landlords retired in 1974, as did Honey, in her case to a zoo in Cambridgeshire. Marston’s want to rename it the Deer’s Rest because deer often wander into the garden. Locals have set up a petition calling for the pub to remain the Bear.

This looks like another Section 25 case. The licensee who has run the Brewery Tap in Brentwood for 18 years has been refused an extension to his lease and the pub will become a managed house under Ei Group’s Craft Union offshoot. The licensee, Ian Boyd, describes the Brewery Tap as ‘tiny’ and told the Morning Advertiser that the way he ran the pub to avoid antagonising neighbours appeared to be at odds with Craft Union’s stated method of operation. The local community launched a petition calling on Ei Group to change their mind and it reached over 1,000 signatures in 24 hours. Both the local council and MP are against the take-over. An application to have the pub registered as an Asset of Community Value is being made although this may not help in this particular situation. Mr Boyd has also approached Ei Group with a proposal to buy the freehold of the pub.

The battle to save the Chelsfield in Bromley continues. In February the council unanimously rejected the planning application from Punch Partnerships (PML) Ltd, taking the view that the plan was obviously commercially driven and showed no respect for the community. Punch’s solicitors told the council that they should ‘strive to resist being unduly persuaded by the volume of objections against the application’. In other words, ‘ignore the peasants, however many of them there are’. What breath-taking arrogance! Punch have, predictably, taken the case to appeal and the council have equally unanimously agreed to continue the fight. They have been supported by the local MP, Jo Johnson, who wrote to the Planning Inspectorate in no uncertain terms asking for the appeal to be rejected.

After a £300,000 refurbishment, Shepherd Neame have reopened the Cheshire Cheese in Little Essex Street, the Temple. It was built in 1928 in the ‘Improved Public House’ style by renowned pub architect T H Nowell Parr for Style & Winch’s Brewery. It is now Grade II listed. The ground floor bar has been given a ‘contemporary feel’ while there is a wine bar in the basement and a ‘function and meeting facility’ on the upper floor. Sheps have also acquired the Compton Cross in Soho.

I was sad to learn from CAMRA’s East London and City branch that the Dispensary, in Leman Street, Aldgate, a regular Good Beer Guide entry and former branch Pub of the Year, has closed. It is understood that a recent rent increase has made it impossible for Annie and David, who ran the pub for 13 years, to continue.

A planning application has been lodged to turn the Earl Haig in Crouch End into a nursery. Although the agents selling the property are still insisting that the pub had not been viable, many local residents disagree and are concerned about the loss of what they regard as a community asset. They are trying to have the former British Legion hall listed as an Asset of Community Value. John Cryne, the chair of CAMRA’s North London branch, told the local paper, the Ham & High, that he had lodged an objection to the plans. He said, “Previous attempts to change from community use have been rejected before and I urge that they be rejected again. The value that a pub has as a community facility is now well recognised.”

To update the story of the Grosvenor in Stockwell (page 32 of the last edition), it reopened on 22 March and happily is being run by Tom Power, the licensee of the Priory Arms SW8. There are five cask beers available plus two ciders and 18 more beer taps. The full address of the Grosvenor is 17 Sidney Road SW9 0TP, halfway down Stockwell Road between Stockwell and Brixton. (

I get frequent reports of pubs catching fire or being illegally demolished but the Jester in Cockfosters has had both! Barnet council issued a Section 125 notice instructing the owners to rebuild the pub. The owners appealed but the order was upheld. They have now appealed further and this should be being heard about now.

Good news. The Magpie and Crown in Brentford, which is adjacent to but not part of a development in Brentford High Street, was to be closed for the duration of the works. Happily someone has had second thoughts and it has since reopened under a new licensee. It is understood that there is no long term threat to the pub.

According to the Ham & High again, the ground floor of the Old White Bear in Hampstead was going to reopen as a pub with the owner granting a lease to Bramley Bars. Nothing has happened however and the owner, who also runs a school which uses the upstairs floor, is reportedly in dispute with the authorities.

The Squirrel, formerly the Skiddaw, in Maida Vale is under threat. The upper floors have already been converted to flats and an application has now been submitted to Westminster Council for the conversion of the remainder. This has the potential to be a classic ‘Trojan horse’ case. The pub, which dates from 1881, is included on CAMRA’s National Inventory of Pub Interiors of Outstanding Historic Interest and there is obviously concern that these important features will be lost. The pub was formerly operated by Faucet Inn and, as usual, the agents for the developers are claiming that the pub is not viable and that they are doing the local community a favour by converting it into flats. The local community appears not to agree however, as illustrated by a recent protest meeting outside the pub, which included the local MP and a six foot tall squirrel. CAMRA’s West London branch are involved in the campaign and have lodged a comprehensive objection to the development. Previous attempts to add an extra floor and extend the building were however rejected so there may be hope.

Also gone is the Water Poet in Spitalfields. The pub, named after John Taylor, the Waterman Poet (1578 to 1653), will be demolished as part of the controversial Norton Folgate development. The pub was rebuilt in 1904 and although the new development will apparently include a pub, it will hardly be a replacement.

  For the second edition running, I’m pleased to report on a pub that was turned into a restaurant and has now reverted to being a pub. The Watermans Arms, an ex-Watney pub next to the Bulls Head in Barnes, closed in the 1980s and became a succession of chain restaurants. It has now been reopened as a proper pub.

There is also a Watermans Arms in Water Lane, Richmond. It is one of the oldest pubs in the area, dating back to at least 1660 and rebuilt in 1898. It closed in March and has reportedly been sold by the Ram Pub Company (Young’s). It is no longer listed on their website.

Here we go again. The Winchester Tavern in Highgate has already had its upper floors, once the hotel rooms, converted into flats. Now an application has been submitted to similarly convert the function room behind the pub. The pub has been an Asset of Community Value since 2015 but was closed in 2016. According to the local paper, the Ham and High, Haringey council has indicated that the application could be accepted so long as the pub remained viable. The developer’s agents have suggested that the pub could be moved to the basement. The local residents’ group have rejected this on a number of grounds, not least access, and are campaigning against the proposal. They have support from local councillors. The pub was incidentally originally the Winchester Hall Hotel, which can be seen on its exterior ironwork.

I mentioned the Worcester Park in the last edition. Clive Taylor has sent me this rather sad photo; note the ironic sign. Clive also mentioned that the first pub on this site was built in 1794 and was rebuilt in 1865 and 1936. In 2002 the Spirit Group spent £1 million on a refurbishment but ten years later the pub was closed.

Compiled by Tony Hedger