Past Pub Crawls
London Pubs Group Daytime Crawl of North West London and Maida Vale
12 noon North London Tavern, 375 Kilburn High Road, NW6. Although its stained glass windows depicting railway engines have disappeared, this pub retains panelling; etched, cut and gilded glass; and a dado frieze in the former billiard room (now the restaurant) which has jazzy stained glass in the skylight and a fine wooden fireplace. The island bar has survived but, sadly, not the bar-back. Regular rotating beers include Adnams Broadside, Caledonian Deuchars IPA, Charles Wells Bombardier, Harveys Sussex Bitter, and Timothy Taylor Landlord. On leaving the pub, turn right down Kilburn High Road then cross over the High Road to
12.45 pm Black Lion, 274 Kilburn High Road, NW6. This pub is a grade II* listed building. It is also on CAMRA’s London Regional Inventory of Pub Interiors of Special Historic Interest and the description is as follows: “Built in 1898 (architect R. A. Lewcock), this pub has particularly spectacular interior décor – rich ceiling, very deep decorative cornice and copper relief panels by F. A. Callcott depicting 18th-century characters out enjoying themselves. Original bar counter, island bar-back and a screen partition. Some original etched and cut glass. Large, former billiard room on the right. Refurbished in 2003 when the screen was moved through 90 degrees”. Adnams Broadside is usually available. Walk to the nearest bus stop and catch a 16 bus to the stop just after the junction of Maida Vale and Carlton Hill. Alight from the bus and walk up Carlton Hill to the junction with Greville Road. Cross over Carlton Hill and walk down Greville Road to the junction with Clifton Hill. Cross over Greville Road and walk down Clifton Hill to
2.00 pm Clifton, 96 Clifton Hill, NW8. This pub is also on the London Regional Inventory and the description is as follows: “Looking like a detached house, with front and rear gardens, in a residential street. Curious passage-like bar between the frontage and the servery. Plain panelled counter base with glazed screenwork above. On the opposite side of the servery the counter supports a most fantastic screen with triple opening and extraordinarily florid High Victorian detail. It is improbably said to have come from a chapel; more likely to have been the bar-back in another public house”. Beers usually include Adnams Bitter, Fullers Discovery and London Pride, and Greene King IPA. Retrace your steps to Maida Vale, cross over Maida Vale and walk down Carlton Vale almost to the junction with Kilburn Park Road. Cross over Carlton Vale to
2.45 pm Carlton Tavern, 33a Carlton Vale, NW6. This pub has recently been entered on the London Regional Inventory and the description is as follows: “An elegant piece of building by Charringtons about 1930 with attractive advertising fascias including one (down the side) on the ‘CARLTON LUNCHEON AND TEA ROOM’. Large, plain public bar on the right, connected by a doorway to a smaller room on the right. This has an attractive plasterwork with floral friezes and emblems of oak, roses and thistles on the ceiling. The single storey luncheon room behind also has some plaster decoration in the ceiling and hefty tie-beam timbering to the roof. Original bar counters and bar-backs in all three rooms. Two nice patterned mirrors in the front pair of rooms and an original fireplace in the corner room. Sadly much of the original window glass has been replaced”. Beers usually available are Bass and Young’s Special. Turn left out of the pub and continue along Carlton Vale to the junction with Kilburn Park Road. Walk to the bus stop and catch a 6, 31 or 328 bus to just before the junction of Kilburn Park Road and Shirland Road. Cross over Kilburn Park Road and walk up Shirland Road to 3.30 pm Chippenham, 207 Shirland Road, W9. This pub is also on the London Regional Inventory and the description is as follows: “A shadow of its former, late Victorian self but retaining some superb full-height tiling and, in the larger room, some huge built-in mirrors bearing the lettering ‘J. Higgs, Builder and Fitter Upper Park Place N.W.’. The tiles have unusual motifs of pairs of birds and pomegranates: nice tiled alcove. Good ironwork with the name of the pub over the Shirland Road entrance”. Occasionally this pub serves Woodforde’s Wherry but it is a bit of a lottery and very often there is no real ale. On leaving the pub, cross over Shirland Road to the bus stop and catch a 31, 36 or 328 bus to the junction of Elgin Avenue and Chippenham Road. Cross over Elgin Avenue and Chippenham Road to 4 pm Skiddaw, 46 Chippenham Road, W9. Like the Carlton Tavern earlier on the crawl, this pub has recently been entered on the London Regional Inventory and the description is as follows: “A tall Victorian street-corner pub. The refurbishment in 2005 retained important old features such as a peninsular-style counter and some excellent work inside the Chippenham Road entrance: mosaic floor in the lobby, strips of mirror and floral tile on the walls, two doorways with glass marked ‘Saloon’ and a room behind lined with mahogany panelling. The three panels of rather crude stained glass including a girl strumming a lyre are evidently not in situ”. Young’s Bitter is usually available here. On leaving the pub, cross over Chippenham Road and walk down Elgin Avenue to the junction with Shirland Road. Cross over Shirland Road and turn right down Shirland Road to the bus stop. Catch a 6, 187 or 414 bus to the junction of Warwick Avenue and Clifton Gardens. Cross over Clifton Gardens and walk along Warwick Avenue to the junction with Warwick Place. Turn right into Warwick Place and continue along it to
5 pm Warwick Castle, 6 Warwick Place, W9. This grade II listed pub is also on the London Regional Inventory and the description is as follows: “Despite some modernisation, there are still many Victorian features – stained and etched glass, bar counter, quite a lot of the panelling, friezes in the main bar and a lovely black and white marble fire surround in the second room. Splendid iron lamp bracket outside”. Beers usually available include Charles Wells Bombardier, Fuller’s London Pride and Greene King IPA. Retrace your steps to the junction of Warwick Avenue and Clifton Gardens, cross over Warwick Avenue and Clifton Gardens and walk up Warrington Crescent to the junction with Formosa Street. Cross over Warrington Crescent and walk down Formosa Street to
5.45 pm Prince Alfred, 5a Formosa Street, W9. Statutorily listed grade II, this pub is not only on the London Regional Inventory but also on the National Inventory of Pub Interiors of Outstanding Historic Interest and the description is as follows: “Built c.1856 and refitted c.1898 in the great London pub boom. The front part is truly unique: no other pub has five separate compartments radiating off the servery and divided from one another by half-height timber and glass screens which have low service doors from one compartment to another. Snob screens in one compartment. Tall, richly decorated island bar-back and a further fitment against the back wall. Ornate ceiling from the original building. Magnificent curved windows with etched glass. All this has a wonderful, delicate, rococo feel to it. Tiled walls and mosaic floor to the right-hand entrance. A refit in 2001 transformed the character into a café-restaurant establishment with over-prominent kitchen and dining room, and totally inappropriate furnishings in the historic part: counter refronted at this time.” As Young’s have recently acquired this pub Young’s Bitter is served. Retrace your steps to Warrington Crescent and continue along Warrington Crescent to just before the roundabout. Cross over Warrington Crescent to
6.30pm Warrington Hotel, 93 Warrington Crescent, W9. Like the Prince Alfred, this pub is listed grade II and on both the London Regional Inventory and the National Inventory. The description is as follows: “One of London’s grandest pubs, built in the mid-19th century and refitted in glorious style c.1900. The main entrance with its tile-faced columns and mosaic floor gives a foretaste. Large room on right with curved marble-topped counter of high-quality, unusual design, marble fireplace and matching marble columns to a three-bay arcade which marches across the room. Rich Art Nouveau glass. Semi-circular canopy over servery and walls in the alcove with Art Nouveau paintings of 1965 of naked ladies, commemorating the over-imaginative idea that the place was a brothel. Generous staircase to an impressive upstairs landing and dining room with skylights, and very rich friezes. Round-arched, wooden wall arcading enclosing mirrors. The other room was clearly once divided into three as screens and roof markings show. The lowest status part has matchboard panelling, etched glass and a Bass mirror. Interesting high-level chequer-work glazed screens.” Caledonian Deuchars IPA, Fuller’s Discovery, London Pride and ESB, and Young’s Special are usually served here.
If you wish, you could end your crawl by looking at the forlorn Crocker’s Folly, 24 Aberdeen Place, NW8 which is on both the Regional and National Inventories. The description is as follows if only you could get inside: “Originally called the Crown this opulent pub was built in 1898-9 by C. H. Worley for Frank Crocker as a hotel-cum-pub. The main entrance leads to what was called the ‘grand saloon’, one of the most impressive pub rooms in London, complete with marble counter top and a magnificent marble fireplace. On the left the restaurant was originally a two-table billiard room. The single bar to the right used to be split up into several bars but the partitions have gone. Contrary to rumours of Crocker’s suicide on the ‘folly’ and failure of his grand venture, this popular figure on the local pub scene died a natural death in 1904”. It has been closed for several years now and appears to be rapidly deteriorating. It is a grade II* listed building and is on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk Register. To get there from the Warrington Hotel, turn right out of the pub and continue to the junction with Sutherland Avenue just beyond the roundabout. Turn right into Sutherland Avenue and continue along it, crossing both Randolph Avenue and Lanark Road until you reach Maida Vale. Cross over Maida Vale and catch a 16 or 98 bus to the junction of Edgware Road and Aberdeen Place. Walk along Aberdeen Place and Crocker’s Folly is on the left-hand side.
Finally, very nearby is a new entry on the London Regional Inventory, the Richmond Arms, 1 Orchardson Street, NW8. The description is as follows: “Rebuilt in the 1920s to serve the adjacent developments of council flats. The main façade to Lyons Place has a central doorway to the private accommodation and two bars either side. The smaller one (right) has its original fireplace and pretty decorative frames on the walls: its detailing is mirrored in the bar counter and bar-back. Very similar treatment reappears in the front left-hand room which retains its fireplace and the vestiges of a screen to a third, rear room. All three rooms have their original counter and back fittings; the rear room still has its dumb waiter. The three original rooms, now all interconnected by the original arrangements, are easily understood”. To get there, retrace your steps down Aberdeen Place to the junction with Lyons Place, turn left into Lyons Place and continue down it to the junction with Orchardson Street. Turn right into Orchardson Street and the pub is on the right-hand side. Unfortunately there is no real ale here.
First port of call was the Golden Lion in High Street, Romford, whose white-painted 19th-Century frontage conceals an interior dating back to the 16th Century. The ground floor bar has a low and beamed ceiling, whilst the upstairs is multi-roomed with a wealth of old timber set at crazy angles. The building is believed to have been a galleried coaching inn at one time and a small section of 1st floor window frame, now marooned within the expanded building’s confines, was discovered during a renovation and left uncovered as a historical feature. Also of interest is the sloping weatherboarding and jetted upper storey on the east side. This is almost certainly the oldest secular building in Romford and is deservedly Grade II-listed. In an area where many pubs do not attract a large bitter-drinking clientele, it was gladdening to see so many real ales available – those at the time of our visit being Adnams’ Broadside, Charles Well’s Bombardier, Courage Best, Greene King IPA, Theakston Old Peculier and Young’s Special. Despite us meeting up at 11:00 am on a hot day, and the likelihood that many of our pints would be “first out of the pipe” that morning, there were no complaints from any of us as to the quality of beer served.
A brisk walk through the town centre was required to reach our next destination. On the way, we paused to inspect the remains of the former Star in South Street, an inter-war ‘improved’ and streamlined pub probably of 1936 which seems to have been built in conjunction with the adjacent former Times Furnishing store. With the ground floor re-fronted, little of the original remains, but the discerning eye can still pick out a star motif on the side wall, plus what appear to be original metal railings at roof level.
Happily still in business is the Wheatsheaf in Wheatsheaf Road. Typical of thousands of English suburban pubs built to serve the expanding suburbs between the wars, as originally constructed it had the usual floor-plan of separate saloon and public bars divided by an off-sales department, and all three serviced from a single central bar. Just as typical is the way the former off-sales section has since been closed and knocked-through to enlarge one of the bars, though fortunately a ‘saloon’ and ‘public’ divide remains. The position and status of all three former rooms can be determined by the door glass lettering, including the odd use of the title “Off License” (sic), an error which has remained uncorrected for some 80-odd years! Another quirk is the way the saloon doors open into a loggia, or arcaded gallery, rather than directly into the room itself. The exterior is predominantly red brick together with some half-timbered black & white work on the 1st floor window bays. Examination of the counter in the saloon revealed that four handpumps had once been fitted, alas now a mere two clipped to the edge of the bar in modern fashion suffice, and for us it was a case of Greene King IPA or nothing. However, it was good to see this sort of pub continuing to sell the ‘real stuff’ against all the odds. The Wheatsheaf is listed on CAMRA’s London Regional Inventory of Pub Interiors of Special Historic Interest (LRI).
A ride on the 174 bus took us to the junction of Dagenham Road and Rainham Road South, where on the south-east corner stands the Eastbrook. Built in 1938 by G. A. Smith & Son, the exterior is perhaps unremarkable; the inside however is a different story, remaining almost entirely in pre-war condition. The small public bar, now called the Oak Bar (with no real ale) is decorated in a neo-Tudor effect including cased-in beams, fireplace and what appear to be the original metal lantern light fittings. One of the tables also seems to be contemporary, if so making it almost 70 years’ old and a remarkable survivor. The pub’s real glory is in the main saloon, or Walnut Bar, which offers Abbot Ale and Green King IPA. The choice of name is immediately apparent upon entry, with the entire room lined with walnut wood or veneer. Fluted wooden columns are used for decorative effect and the mirrored bar-back carries a wavy line art deco detail. To the left the room is divided by a hinged wooden screen glazed with frosted glass, which in turn leads to a larger function/music room situated at right angles. This too can be separated by yet another screen which folds concertina-style. The latter room also boasts a raised balustraded stage behind which are a delightful set of four stained-glass windows featuring musical instruments and other emblems. It is amazing that so much of this has remained untouched over the years and a tribute to the pub’s successive owners. Indeed, the only substantial change has been the necessary recent conversion of one of the entrance lobbies into a ‘disabled’ toilet. Situated on the borders of the East London & City and South West Essex CAMRA branch areas, the Eastbrook’s interior has perhaps been overlooked over the years. This state of affairs was justly rectified early in 2006 when it was recommended for immediate inclusion on CAMRA’s National Inventory of Pub Interiors of Outstanding Historic Interest. The pub once followed the fashion of having an off licence which stood separate from the main building. Though no longer owned by the same concern, this is still in use and carries a stone plaque bearing the pub’s name.
Another bus ride, this time by 103, to Dagenham East station, itself being of some interest as a 1931 example of LMS suburban station design. Served now by the District Line, it was by the latter we reached East Ham. Turning left upon leaving that station, a 10 minute walk down High Street North brought us to its junction with Barking Road and the Denmark Arms. This former Taylor Walker, and before that Ind Coope pub, is on a classic corner site, being situated diagonally opposite East Ham Town Hall. Grade II-listed and on the London Regional Inventory, the Denmark was constructed at the turn of the 19th Century and attributed to F. W. Ashton. Extended to the north in 1903 to the design of C. J. Dawson, his red brick and terracotta contrasts with the yellow brick of the original building. Dawson also remodeled the interior and added the grand pedimented entrance to the saloon bar. The pub’s name was probably inspired by Princess Alexandra of Denmark who had married the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) in 1863 and became Queen in 1901. Some excellent friezes and ceramic glazed tiling (including an art nouveau-inspired rose pattern) remain inside as do vestiges of the original cut glass. The pub remained multi-roomed well into the 1980s and it is sad to think the opening out took place so recently. Allied certainly put some money into the place during the rebuild and the 1991 edition of the East London & City Beer Guide lists it as selling Ind Coope Burton Bitter and Tetley Bitter. Unfortunately the advent of a Wetherspoon’s nearby took away much of the pub’s real ale trade and the handpumps have now been removed.
Leaving the Denmark and its cosmopolitan mix of customers, we walked west along Barking Road to the green-tiled Central Hotel. Built to serve the once affluent Central Park Estate developed to the south in the 1890s, this Victorian corner local still has three rooms, one of which can only be accessed from the long side bar and has a skylight indicating original use as a billiard hall. All three bars abut a single servery and much of the original counter and bar-back remains, albeit spoilt by the almost obligatory modern addition of gantries for glasses. The ELAC Guide showed the pub as having the same beer range as the Denmark, but once more we found that real ale was no longer available. In this case the beer engines have remained, albeit disused and with pumpclips reversed. When asked when real ale was last served, the barmaid became extremely consternated and agitated and was only able to answer “You’ll have to ask the guv’nor, I’m only new here…” as if she was being asked to give away state secrets!
Leaving the keg-only Central Hotel, we continued along the Barking Road to the Boleyn, another one of London’s finest pub interiors and built c.1899 by H. W. Rising of the architectural partnership Shoebridge & Rising in Free Renaissance style. The pair worked extensively for the Cannon Brewery and among their other London pubs are the Crown, Cricklewood (1899); Great Northern Railway Tavern, Hornsey (1897); Red Lion, Whitehall (c.1896); Rising Sun, Euston Road (1899) and William VI, Leyton High Street(1897). Although subject to the inevitable alterations over the years, much of the original dark wood and etched glass survives, albeit with some opening out and the moving of certain screens. Two coloured glass and leaded skylights remain, the larger of which once illuminated the billiard hall and still sits over a pool table. This is a truly magnificent work with a floral design incorporating elements of the Arts & Crafts Movement and has to be seen to be believed. As regards the beer situation, guess what? It was the same dismal story here as at the Central and Denmark, with beers from the old Allied stable having long disappeared and even the handpumps being ripped out.
By now in need of some real refreshment, and notwithstanding the Boleyn’s finery, it was with some relief we processed to Upton Park station, thence via the District Line to Aldgate East. At the latter station, we observed the classic London Transport ‘New Works’ biscuit-coloured tiling on the platforms, complete with the occasional single decorative tile by Harold Stabler. One design featured the Crystal Palace, which had actually burnt down two years’ before the tiles were fitted! All these are destined to be disappear however since an application for listing by English Heritage has been turned down.
Leaving by the station’s eastern exit, two successive left turns took us into Osborn Street and then Brick Lane-proper. Just before the famous church/synagogue/mosque is Heneage Street and the rightly-named Pride of Spitalfields. This tiny free house has long been a favourite amongst CAMRA members and after three ‘fizz’ pubs in a row was all the more welcome a sight to us! The pub offers a varied range of real ales; those on offer during our visit being Crouch Vale Brewers Gold, Fuller’s ESB, Fuller’s London Pride and Sharp’s Cornish Coaster. Unfortunately, we had coincided with a World Cup match and the deployment of a ‘big screen’ inside meant that the pub’s lights had been dimmed considerably. Rather than flounder about in the dark, we elected to drink outside. The Pride has a 20th Century frontage which conceals an earlier building and was once owned by the White Lion Brewery. It later came under Ind Coope control and was named the Romford Arms for a time. Even today, the sign on the gents’ door is lettered in a pure-1970s Allied Brewery typeface!
Departing with some reluctance, the Georgian townhouse-lined Fournier Street led us to the LRI and Grade II-listed Ten Bells. This pub retains some exceptional tiling, including lively 18th-Century London street scenes by W. B. Simpson & Son, a firm which supplied many of the capital’s pubs c.1900. This place courted some notoriety from 1976 to 1988 when named the ‘Jack the Ripper’, but nowadays trendies outnumber tourists. The pub does actually have a genuine connection with the 1888 Whitechapel Murders but the present owners have chosen not to cash in on this. Thus the list of victims that once ‘graced’ the wall has gone and one can no longer order a ‘Ripper’s Tipple’. Again the World Cup had intervened to thwart us here, with yet another ‘big screen’ lowered, and this time right over the tiled panels we’d come to see! Coupled with the sight of the pumpclips reversed, tour leader Jane Jephcote made an ‘executive decision’ that we decamp en masse to our intended final stop, the Golden Heart in Commercial Street.