Brockley Bites: Lewisham pubs, Ladywell Action and the beautiful people

Protecting Lewisham’s pubs

A new Lewisham-wide campaign has been created to preserve the borough’s pubs.

In recent years, Lewisham has lost dozens of pubs and more are under threat. In response, the snazzily-titled FOCAS (Forum of Conservation and Amenity Societies of Lewisham), called a meeting to identify ways in which greater protection can be offered to pubs, which play an important role in creating a sense of local identity.

The meeting included representatives from community groups in areas such as Sydenham, Telegraph Hill, Grove Park and Catford, though sadly no-one from the Brockley Society was able to attend.

The problem is most acute in the south of the borough, where a total 14 pubs have closed recently. Brockley too has lost The Maypole and The Duke of Edinburgh recently to new apartment developments. Though neither establishment was among the most dearly loved of Brockley’s drinking holes, it does underline the challenge facing traditional pubs, which are under pressure from changing drinking habits, increasing land values and the pressure to build new housing.

Given that large swathes of the Borough (like Telegraph Hill and Catford) were built by people influenced by the temperance-movement, Lewisham has precious few pubs to start with, so the issue is an urgent one.

Many Councils have much stronger policies concerning development of pubs and FOCAS’ immediate focus is to lobby Lewisham Council for an improvement to bring it in to line with authorities such as Kingston and Merton.

Ladywell Action Group

Cllr Sue Luxton is trying to get a local action group off the ground in Ladywell, to address issues in her ward. She writes:

“On Thursday I had an informal meeting in Masons with a group of local residents concerned about the state of Ladywell Road. A number of people have expressed concern over the past few months (and years) about the number of empty shops along Ladywell Road, the range of shops, the state of the pavement, the unsightly railings and various highways and safety issues. Things have got markedly worse recently since the only shop selling fruit and vegetables on the road has closed, and there is a potential threat of the Post Office being closed too.”

She envisages a group along similar lines to the Brockley Cross Action Group and BXAG member Des Kirkland joined the meeting to share the benefit of Brockley’s experience. If a group is formed, it could work in partnership with the BXAG to tackle issues of mutual concern.

Visit Sue’s blog for more details.

La Dolce Brockley

Local blogger and friend of Brockley Central, Richard Elliot, is having a midlife crisis, brought on by the glut of beautiful twenty-somethings that have suddenly appeared in Brockley. For the record, Richard, Brockley Central have reached our early thirties, but lots of people say we look younger, so you can be forgiven for making that mistake.


Monkeyboy said...

What a great pressure group! Bet you get more protests about a decent pub closing then you would a church!

Spoken by someone who LOVES pubs and feels queasy and a bit anxious when entering a church - am i the anti-christ?

spincat said...

Thanks for letting us know about this group - one of my favourist Lewisham pubs closed last year, the Rutland Arms: live music and old fashioned roast dinners on Sunday. I knew of at least 8 that had closed but this is an extraordinary number.

Richard Elliot said...

Glad to see you corrected the spelling of my name! ;-)

Amanda said...

More pub quizzes, in fact start up a Lewisham quiz league. I'm sure a Brockley based team would trounce the competition :P, so bring it Blackheath, New Cross, Catford and the rest (Actually are there any pubs in Catford, like seriously?!?)

Tamsin said...

Nah, Telegraph Hill could beat anyone hands down! ;o) We've had years of practice with Phil Nice's quiz night in each Festival.

On Catford pubs, there is, for starters, the Rising Sun Rushey Green Catford - by reputation several years ago a very low dive. But a wonderful pub-sign incorporating all elements. A sun rising over a river with rushes on the bank being forded by a black cat.

Anonymous said...

Did someone sya 'pubs'! Where can I join? Let me march for drinking freedon!

Of course there are pubs in Catford, lots of punters go in them, but very few are ever seen to leave again. Mysterious.

Ross said...

the rising sun pub in catford was shut down about a year and a half ago for effectively being a crack house

catford has a number of good local community pubs, the catford ram, the goose, the london & rye for example - places where people actually know other people in them, and are thankfully devoid of slouchy couchs, jenga games and 'ironic' 70's & 80's style furnishings

Anonymous said...

I really don't get this rosy view of traditional pubs. I vividly remember my first experience of going into a pub. It was, I seem to remember, the George on Tanners Hill. It was a community pub alright, but they were very fussy about who they wanted in there and they knew how to make people feel unwelcome.

I was given a lecture outside the pub by the landlord about the protocol for using the public telephone. But the message was clear: I don't want you in here.

The same thing happened to many people I knew, mostly young and new to the area. The pubs were the territory of a few local families. Various characters had their special seats and they certainly did not want interlopers who were unaware of the unwritten rules.

It was a desperately unfriendly introduction to London pub culture. The 'community', if you can call it that, seemed to be exclusive, inward looking, inbred and with a clientelle that skirted the fringes of alcoholism and criminality.

I have now lived for many years in this area of London and I look forward to the demise of these places. The sooner they are replaced with pubs that are open and welcoming and reach out to new customers, the better. Clean, good food, well mannered staff. Bring it on.

I do get annoyed how people are wont to co-opt the word 'community' as lending some sort of justification to their taste and opinions. This is real life, isn't an episode of East Enders.

This area is changing, hopefully for the better. The 'traditional' pubs are closing because they they have been abandoned by their customer base. Cheap booze and processed food from the supermarkets, smoking permitted, big screen TV with all the Sky sports, then all the delights of the internet. You can have all of this at home. The pubs will find a new way to attract people and adapt accordingly.

This is not something that is just happening here, it is a nationwide trend. Reading some of the posts here, you would think that pub closures were some sort of conspiracy by property developers.

This is a time of opportunity and I would like to think that Brockley might develop for the better. I have my doubts whether the local government is up to it. There should be some sort of plan.

Headhunter said...

Anonymous, the problem is that when these pubs close, they are often turned into flats or whatever and are lost to the community without the opportunity to be turned into a better pub. Eventually areas like Brockley end up as suburban deserts without any community bars, restaurants or shops at all.

Whether or not the community is welcoming or not, full of chavs/inbreds or Hackett-wearing ex public school boys, it is important that these areas have places to meet socialise to create a community spirit of some kind and traditionally pubs have provided this well

ross said...


you may have noticed that i prefixed my comment about local community pubs with the adjective 'good'. I did not include in my list of good community pubs in catford, the plough & harrow for example or the george (recently closed and about to be turned into flats, as is incidently the aforementioned rising sun), these are pubs which may be more appropriately put in the category to which you refer.

however your comments seem to suggest that it's only 'traditional' pubs that display the kind of closed group mentality that you speak off, you talk about exclusive and inward looking, however these are attributes that i have to say i have found more fitting of the new kind of bars, restrauants and cafes that follow waves of gentrification. Now not only (like some old pubs) can they differentiate themselves and exclude people using 'soft' methods to which you spoke off, but also have much more scope to engineer exlcusion through hard economics by setting pricing at a level so that only the 'right' people will feel like they can be part of said 'community' (however i suspect that kind of exclusion, soft or hard, will not receive the same kind of disdain on websites like this)

furthermore it (exclusivity, inward looking etc..) is not just present in the realm of licensed premises , it's everywhere where human beings join together in some sort of cultural collectivity (it's even displayed on websites like this from time to time), so it seems odd to pick that kind of generic social behaviour out and apply it only to the type of pub that you don't like, when in actual fact it's an all persuasive feature of most areas of society

for the record i picked out the three pubs that in mentioned because they all have the things that i think make a good community pub - largish area with lots of available seating in various different areas, wide selection of reasonably priced alcoholic & non-alcoholic drinks including teas & coffees, an environment that is not intimidating to women or the elderly, roots within the community (i.e. regularly used for meetings of residents associations or local clubs etc..and used as a social venue for people who both work and live in the area where they are situated), friendly staff, large visible welcoming frontages, no loud blaring music, a good bond between locals whilst not putting up the shutters when new faces come in, etc...

and by the way these pubs that i talk off, don't seem to be on the demise, they seem to be doing not too badly actually - the positive features that they have that i refer to above will ensure that they continue to survive for some time, by people who realise the (small, but important) part that they play in local communities

Anonymous said...

Well, that description sounds pretty good, I look forward to the day when one opens in Brockley. The choice is pretty limited at the moment and getting smaller. I appreciate that pubs and bars have to be carefully designed and managed in order to cultivate their desired customer base. This takes a considerable skill, resources and a certain amount of vision.

I have high hopes that the Talbot might be developed into a a place that recaptures some of its former glory. It was once a nice place that steadily declined.

Some of comments on here regarding traditional and 'community' pubs seemed to sentimentalist the trenchant and proprietorial character of pubs that drew their custom from the landlord and his chums who ran the place like private club.

I appreciate that the 'gastro pub' is probably not much less exclusive. When I have ventured into such places I almost wept into my wallet at the prices they charge for a decent meal.

There is room for something in between. TV is full of cooking programs and people are curious about innovative food, but they do not necessarily want to spend a fortune in a restaurant or pretentious gastro pub. Nor do they want cook from frozen meals like in Wetherspoons. Something in between.

The nearest this area got to that was when Mr Lawrence served meals.

Brockley has a long way to go, just getting a decent meal in the evening is hard enough and there are too few friendly places to socialise in a convivial atmosphere. I hope this will change.

ross said...

"I appreciate that the 'gastro pub' is probably not much less exclusive."

indeed, a notion helpfully backed up by the comment below on this very website today (on the amersham arms thread). i presume the writer was not being entirely serious in the literal sense, but it's definately illuminating of the process that's at work here

"I guess we have be pay the high prices to keep the raff out though. Well worth it!"

Anonymous said...

"I guess we have be pay the high prices to keep the raff out though. Well worth it!"

That comment was disappointing. It is sad that people who have chosen to live in South East London, express these views. They seem to have forgotten that they reason they can afford to live in Victorian houses is because there is a significant proportion of people on low incomes here.

I hope that the new developments doesn't bring an influx of self absorbed and selfish types to the area.

Anonymous said...

It is also a rather forlorn hope. Some rifraf is well minted.

spincat said...

So, it is better that a pub becomes a property development than a riffraff hangout? (We must destroy this pub in order to save it! )

Anonymous said...

Yes. The maypole was a shit pub known for it's clientele of criminals and was never in a million years going to get a gastro makeover. Now it's been knocked down the area has 'lifted' a little bit. When they turn it in to flats it will provide much needed housing and light to a once forgotten corner. This idea of traditional is a myth to me.

I had a walk around a north London estate recently with a caretaker from a housing association. He told me how the area had changed for the worse. He pointed out some pubs saying that it used to be all 'families' and how you wouldn't go in there unless you knew someone. He said this like it was a good thing. Well screw that -i want a pub i can go to with friends without fear of being glassed. If I have to pay a little more then that's fine. Places evolve and change - if they don't they become stagnant- which is where Brockley was a few years ago. Brockley needs a decent, safe, pub with squishy sofas, nice, good food, and which is 'family' friendly in the best sense.

JPM said...

Anonymous writes succinctly when s/he? talks of not getting a rosy glow when using the local pubs. I found this when I first arrived in, and even now after some years if I do stray, there are pubs that I have found very unwelcoming.

In fact, his/her post is right the money. However...

Gentrification? A term I have heard in many quarters on this site and in polite company, and one I loathe. What does it really mean? Well, it means many things really, and it depends on whether you're a gentrifier or a gentrified how you interpret them.

Physically deteriorated neighborhoods undergo physical renovation and an increase in property values follows - but this then forces out the low or no earners. Little wonder that when we enter their pubs they look at us with danger signs.

Gentrification? If we were talking ethnic displacement it would be known simply as 'cleansing'. I prefer to use that word instead of 'gemtrification' which sounds a bit patrician.

Cleansing has been linked to crime reduction. But when compared with white collar crime there is no reduction at all. It's just that a person in a pin striped-suit is less likely to introduce himself with a knife or gun in his hand, and so we want him in our tribe.

But cleansing does have its good side; increased tolerance of sexual minorities, community activism, increased property prices, not many would balk at that. (Unless they couldn't afford the houses before cleansing and know they never will after cleansing.)

But what of the cleansed, where do they go? The cleansed, a criminal bunch if ever by all accounts, can be moved to the Thames Gateway, or into the Thames itself. An economic diaspora that will bring with it a certain stigma as people are asked in job applications - What zone are you in?

THE CLEANSED: 'Err... we don't have a zone. We... err... are in the Gatweay.

Next please! [And "zone prejudice" is born.]

Bring on the nice welcoming pubs and streets, but lets be vocal in defence of the 'unclean' and not turf 'em out whilst spring cleaning.


Tom said...

The Wickham Arms in Upper Brockley Road is the closest Brockley has to a traditional but friendly pub, from my experience.

ross said...

"Cleansing has been linked to crime reduction."

or more accurately, cleansing has been linked to crime dispersal

out of sight, out of mind

Anonymous said...

Cleansing in its literal sense is something many pubs need after many years accumulated grime. The smoking ban was the cue for some serious redecoration.

As for the cleansing of the customers. Well there should be a place for everyone. For some Wetherspoons provides the answer. Others want something a bit fancier and don't mind paying for it. The problem is a shortage of any sort of pub in Brockley.

Wish there was a nice pub on Hilly Fields.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't sure where to post this bit of news until I saw this thread about Ladywell AND pubs...

I moved into the area late last year and was disappointed to find my local pub, The Ladywell Tavern, seemed permanantly closed. I was concerned for it's future so today I Googled it and found this posting on the Beer in the Evening website:

'ladies and gentlemen,
We are currently replacing the rotten floor underneath the bar and about a million other things that need doing. We should be open early April if everything goes to plan and will have a lovely traditional english pub with a modern twist selling a good selection of our favorite beers, ciders and guest ales. We have a top kitchen and are hoping to provide good old simple grub daily and a smashin sunday lunch. Our philosophy is all about good drink, good food, good music and good times.

Please bear with us, we have a lot to do and we want to get everything right. We will be open as soon as possible.


Hopefully this bodes well!

Pete said...

That sounds good!

spincat said...

News shopper reports that a really great Lewisham pub may be saved from developers after all

The Rutland Arms was not in SE4 but I used to go a few times a month and it - a nice walk over Blythe Hill.

It had sunday roasts and jazz : an old fashioned local place that was welcoming to everyone.

Though it can't be the same as it was, even if it is saved - in fact the old landlord died a few years back - its former clientele have taken direct action and am sure will try to revive the old spirit. A good story. Is currently boarded up, but here's hoping...

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