The triumph of old Brockley

Put your shaved Parmesan away, the wave of gentrification sweeping Brockley has hit a snag - Old Brockley has drawn a line in the sand.

In the heady days of summer, when it seemed Brockley was somewhere between steps two and three in the 'five stages of up-and-comingness', we covered the landlord's decision to update the Wickham Arms. Admittedly, the 16-point manifesto for change stopped short of the full gastropub treatment, but it did at least include radical new thinking, such as the promise to ventilate the men's toilets.

However, like the 300 Spartans, facing the Persian empire, the regulars have decided that, if the thousand city-workers descending on their pub blot out the sun, then they shall drink in the shade.

Having tolerated the decision to replace the front patio with decking, it seems that the proposal to replace the frosted windows with glass you can see through was a step too far.

A regular reports that our local Andy Capps protested that see-through windows would make it easier for their wives / children / employers to spot them at the bar and make it harder for them to prop it up. After a lobbying campaign, the landlord's been convinced by the argument that it's better to turn out your base than to chase the floating voter. Karl Rove would approve.

And so do we.

Sure, see-through windows might have been nice. And we don't see what's inherently twee about floorboards, rather than sticky carpet, but despite our original clamour for a Wickham upgrade, we've come around to the view that the evolution of the Wickham should mirror the regeneration of Brockley - gradual, subtle and without sacrificing the character of the place.

Decking aside, the pub has changed for the better. There's more of a welcome for non-regulars and the smoking ban means that any light that makes it through the frosted windows is no longer strangled by a the fog of fag smoke.

So long-live Brockley's velvet revolution. But maybe a better selection of wine (for the ladies, naturally) wouldn't hurt?

38 comments:

Hugh said...

Will check it out this weekend if sunny. Perhaps I should admit to never having been into a pub in Brockley.

Brockley Nick said...

In my view, it's a much better "night" pub than it is a "day" pub.

Kate said...

You're not joining us there on Thursday evening then Hugh?

I have to confess to never having been to the Wickham Arms before. It will be a voyage of adventure. The only Brockley pub I've been to is the Barge (and I'm in no rush to go back) - I suppose Lawrence's doesn't count as a pub? That's my favoured local drinking spot.

Hugh said...

I may be able to make Thursday. Look out for the tall gentleman with a white beard and pince-nez.

Ratbag said...

Haven't been in the Wickham for about five years. Does it still have pub quizzes?

Brockley Jon said...

Yes indeed, the pub quiz still happens every Tuesday night, and the quiz master changes pretty much every week from what I've seen.

So, depending on your luck, you may either have to answer questions on the life and times of Shakespeare, the battles of the American Civil War, or the collected works of Wham...

leenewham said...

Hugh, was that you with the top hat and cane in HIlly Fields having a pimms oclock??

spincat said...

Same as when the Chandos got clear glass windows - lots of objections then, as some Faces go in there who don't want their faces seen.

Anonymous said...

i for one am gutted. i was so looking forward to an updated space and a more congenial atmosphere. The landlord would have done well to consult a bit more widely than the dozen regulars he's so worried about. The rest of us have oodles of cash and are desperate to find a cozy and convivial place to spend it, locally (and this doesn't necessitate making it some soulless All Bar One clone). To give an example -- as a young(ish) professional woman I wouldn't feel comfortable nipping in there of a weekday evening by myself -- even if I were just waiting for someone. And I wouldn't take my parents there, when they visit. Its just too grotty and smelly and dark. If the rumors posted re: the Talbot are true, it'll be clear soon enough that the Wickham's landlord has missed a trick. More fool him, & what a shame.

Hugh said...

It's academic now but I also would have preferred clear windows. Pubs are much less threatening when you can see in before entering.

Anonymous said...

Its a shame the issue of clear or frosted glass is going to prevent someone from going in there. The locals, by which I think you imply the Bermondsey, Millwall supporting blokes, and/or the old boys who stare into their pint, are harmless. There are of course other locals who don't fit this criteria, and as men are just as likely or not to approach you. Believe me, you are far less likely to be approached in the Wickham than just about any other pub or venue in London.
As a 'professional' woman, I've been going in there for many years, and I've only been approached a couple of times by any of the locals whom I didn't know (though some of my friends have avoided me!) Both occasions were very non threatening and they seemed to me pretty scared of a woman with a quick, witty riposte. (Surely, living in London you've got a couple of these up your sleeve?) If you haven't, usually a "thanks but I'm having a quiet drink on my own, like you." works fine.
Rather than let fear prevent you from going where you wish, give a try, you might find your prejudices unfounded.

Hugh said...

That still requires overcoming instinctive hesitation before entering. How many customers think twice before deciding to shop at Sainsbury's or WH Smith?

Brockley Jon said...

Yes, anonymous 1, I can completely understand your point of view, but give the Wickham a chance. Most of the time there's enough people in there that the locals really aren't interested, and if they ever do talk to you in my experience it's always friendly banter! It has come a long way since the ban (no more dreaded smoker's corner!) and is much less scary than The Royal George up the road (which can be a bit like someone's living room) or erm... Albertines! :-O

At the moment the Wickham has got all sorts of wooden unfinished bits and bare walls around the place, so they're clearly not abandoning all plans to renovate.

Headhunter said...

So the Wickham is stopping short of updating things properly. I agree with "anonymous" there seem to be so many people in Brockley who want a decent place to go for a drink. Changing the carpets and making the windows clear would surely have attracted some of these new Brockley-ites. It does seem a shame that the landlord is intent on preserving custom from the old guard - (Millwall supporters and cowboy builders/painters). Ah well I will continue to live in hope that someone else will create a decent place for a drink in Brockers at some point and until then although I may occasionally pop along to the Wickham's pub quiz, my visits will remain infrequent

ElijahBailey said...

I'll be sticking with the Marquis Of Granby/Kelly's Bar. Best pub round here.

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with Skeehan's on Kitto Road. Decent friendly pub and good thai food.
P

Moira said...

Skehan's is great during the week - full of ole Irish fellas, and the Thai food is pretty good, but at the weekend gets overtaken with loudmouthed Millwall supporters who seem to need to converse by shouting at eachother and with every other word a swear word.
I go there to watch my footie team play and after a couple of years they've finally got the hint that I'm not interested in them, their thoughts on football, or any other subject they care to expouse on.
Going to the Wickham as a lone female is a pushover compared to Skehans at the weekend.

Hugh said...

Didn't realise there were so many single females round here. Must behave.

Moira said...

Have you seen the talent in Brockley Hugh? One look inside the Wickham and I rest my case. However, if you're a Man City fan you're welcome to join me at Skehans. (Nick - have you thought about expanding BC into a dating site?...)

Hugh said...

Skehans looks nice since it was painted yellow. I'm the bloke you seeing cycling past up Telegraph Hill refusing on principle to get out of his saddle, most week nights.

Brockley Nick said...

Moira, you're not the first person to have suggested that!

spincat said...

Why shouldn't the regulars have the pub the way they like it? There is plenty of room in Brockley for new premises to open / apply for licences without having to trendify all the older establishments.

I don't have a fixed view about what makes a good bar - it is a chemical blend and hard to get the ingredients rights. It is often the staff that can make a place: there is one place in Crystal Palace where they are so nice, helpful and knowledgeable about drink that I love despite the newly black-painted exterior, faux 70s styling, brown plastic cubes and McGastro meals. Am not against modernising some places if it doesn't produce clones. But there are older-style places like Blythe Hill Tavern it would be crime to change.

Monkeyboy said...

McGastro... I like that phrase and shall use it from now on.

Headhunter said...

Is the photo of the Queen and Prince Philip circa Silver Jubilee still on the wall at the Wickham Arms? I hope it goes back up once they've finished updating. I always thought that was a nice touch! Also I hope they never become to trendy to hand round small white nread triangle sandwiches garnished with bits of salad and cress on quiz night, however I wonder where they rank on "scores on the doors"...

Hugh said...

We also need a boffins' beer shop like Microbar in Battersea. I wonder where a suitable premises could be found...

Moira said...

You're such a flirt, Hugh! complimenting the colour scheme of my drinking establishment.
However, I need a bit more of an incentive to take the hint that by loitering for hours on Gelatley Road I could catch a glimpse of you.

Moira said...

A bit outside of Brockley, but Colin is a local:
Just heard that the fantastic Jazz Jam run by Colin is starting up again every week from Nov 6 in the newly refurbished Amersham Arms.
The Jam is moving from Thursdays to Tuesdays and starting a bit earlier from 8.30 - 12.00.
BTW, has anybody been to the reopened Amersham yet?

Brockley Jon said...

Hi Moira, it only opens tonight :) And even that is posh 'invites only' night. However, if you are the influential Brockley Max Moira who I think you are, then I'm sure you could get a ticket! ;)

Proper public opening night is tomorrow (Friday), and costs £7 (!), but I'd get in the queue early, as it was featured in the Metro today!

Kate said...

Lawrence's is good for specialist beers, isn't it? (the shop rather than the bar) Or so I'm told by my real ale enthusiast housemate ...

Moira said...

I'm way too far down the pecking order Jon!
First the Rivoli and now the Amersham getting a mention in our London papers? We might even get a north Londoner visiting one day.

Just had a look at your pics of Brockley link sent by BXAG Jill (I have too much time on my hands at work at the moment). I see that one of the photos is trained on my bedroom window - and I thought all those men lurking about were perverts.

Headhunter said...

Yes the Amersham seems to be going through a bit of a re birth, this may look interesting to some (this weekend):
http://www.sundaybest.net/site/news/index.php?articleId=477

Apparently "The Amersham Arms in London's up and coming New Cross"

Moira said...

Check out www.myspace.com/amershamarms for a full list of events til mid-December. The ska burlesque looks fun - now where's my feather boa?

GEMMA W said...

Dear anonymous 10 October 2007 11:17
As a local and a young professional lady I find your comments rather offensive.


1:
'Its just too grotty and smelly and dark' I find this to be totally untrue. Smelly? smoke? Well the smoking ban is in place so what’s so smelly?

grotty? It has been freshly decorated with new carpet along with installed air-conditioning and ventilation!

Dark? The dimmed lights along with candles are to add to a more relaxed theme!

2:
'The landlord would have done well to consult a bit more widely than the dozen regulars he's so worried about'

Notice of the works were displayed along with a comment box for around 6 weeks, regarding the locals, the locals included everybody who attends the quiz on a Tuesday night, Jazz on a Thursday; some 150 people within the LOCAL area and finally it is a local pub set off the main high street!!!

From feedback and discussions and the general feeling from everybody was that they would like to keep the traditional feel of the pub.

3: I wouldn't feel comfortable nipping in there of a weekday evening by myself -- even if I were just waiting for someone.

Tuesday nights Quiz nights, Thursdays Jazz night, Friday Disco, Saturday live performances, so you won’t be alone!

No tricks have been missed; there is obviously a reason why the plans haven’t been carried out, maybe the landlord hadn’t missed a trick rather? Every effort has been made to accommodate everyone. And finally if you like the All bar one, chain gastro pub then I suggest you try out Dulwich or Clapham!

Sorry to rant on… but I find these comments totally uncalled for, until you are a local instead of a passer by or an occasional customer you should not pass judgment like the way you have on the other hand you are entitled to your opinion as I am!

spincat said...

Well said! Wickham Arms sounds like my sort of place. I'd missed it, being down at Crofton Park and it not being on one of my routes - I shall certainly try it

Brockley Nick said...

Gemma, while I broadly agree with you about the Wickham, it's nonetheless true that a number of people using this site have admitted to being put off even going in to the pub on account of its appearance, which some don't find welcoming.

Given that readers of BC are probably among Brockley's most adventurous citizens, it seems that the management should take some of these comments in to account.

Anyway, time for a proper review of the Wickham soon...

Gemma W said...

Is it still the frosty window issue??? (ha ha..)if so... I hope it will feel more accommodating for those few in the summer as new double doors have been fitted to the front beer garden and they will be able to peer right in!

I understand people have different views but accommodating everyone’s taste is impossible. Not everyone will be happy!

My friends and I go to the Wickham on a regular basis we always have an enjoyable evening there and we would welcome some more new faces venturing in.
I cant speak for everyone but I am sure they will feel welcomed if they did stay for a few!

Its a shame the ‘Millwall’ persona is still very much in place as this is not the case, the customers are a mixture from all walks of life – from builders to professionals and students! so don’t be scared!

Anyway, hope to see you there maybe you could join our quiz team!

Brockley Nick said...

Jon and I put in a creditable performance the last time we played together, so maybe see you next time.

Brockley Jon said...

I think that might have been more you than me, Nick!

Since then, we were in the week before last, and despite blitzing the first round, we woz robbed on the picture round by some fiendish 70s TV stars that we couldn't quite put names to. We drowned are sorrows in ale and free sandwiches.

There is one particular team (probably readers of the blog) who are there every week, and look like a crack squad of pub quiz commandos. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the Wickham Arms' very own A-Team...

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