by Martin Aldred
interviewed by Louise Brodie
Pubs were much used in St John’s Wood, and there were many of them. In just a small part of NW8, there were fourteen, ten of which have now closed. Several date from the development of the area in the first half of the nineteenth century. Pubs were the meeting places for the community, particularly for the men. Darts, shove ha’penny, pool, and bar billiards could be played there, together with cribbage and dominoes. Slot machines, juke boxes and television sets were fitted later. Smoke filled rooms meant that paintwork was usually dark in colour to disguise the staining.
In the 1970s it became more usual for food to be offered, as this was a way for the publican to make money, as the profits from the bar sales were often regulated by the breweries supplying the drink. In the 1980s pubs began to be upgraded, turned into wine bars for instance, or closed down. Closures have become even more noticeable in recent years following measures such as the drink driving laws, the banning of smoking in public places and the culture of drinking at home.
Martin went round many of these pubs in the early 1980s, to ask them to donate bottles for the tombola, in order to raise money for church funds. And he may have stopped off for a pint as well!
Pubs no longer operating:
Prince George of Cumberland, McKennal Street. A small undistinguished pub, not very good, serving locals.
The Redhouse, Park Road, where Clive Sutton the car salesman is now. An interesting place, quite rough, it was never upgraded before being closed and retains the same architecture above the saleroom.
Portland Arms in the High Street, corner of Barrow Hill Road. It was a hotel where the cricket teams used to stay when playing at Lords. It had a big downstairs room. For the Coronation they had a new TV upstairs. You could play bar billiards and later on watch colour TV downstairs at the back. They changed the eating area. It became All Bar One before Carluccio’s. The date 1891 appears over the side door.
Sir Isaac Newton – in the High Street, corner of Allitsen Road. The name and the date 1892 can still be seen on the building. You would go here for a quiet drink. It has become Café Rouge.
Princess Royal – Circus Road, on the corner where Fora now is (previously Sofra). The St John’s Wood church choir in the time of John Streeting used this as their meeting place. And the curates did too. It had a nice small bar, relaxed, with a slot machine. It was a Bass house and sold Worthington White Shield. This meant it had to be kept properly in the cellar. Pauline, the very nice landlady, was a relation of Charlie Chaplin. She retired to the country in the 1990s.
The Bar in St John’s Wood Tube – As you walked in to the Underground foyer, it was situated on the left, where the offices are now. You could play billiards there. Not many people seemed to drink there.
The Crown – Allitsen Road, where Rotisserie is now (previously Zizzi). It had two bars, a big public bar and a smaller one. They had lots of TVs and it became a sports bar with big screens. You could play darts and pool. They served reasonable food. It was full of locals.
The British Flag – Newcourt Street. Now a health centre at the back of Oslo Court, near the police station. It was very rough, you might expect a punch up.
The Rose and Crown – Queens Grove on the corner of Ordnance Hill. It was very Victorian with high ceilings and all brown. In the 1970s it had a makeover and became the Rossetti, a bright trattoria. There was a continental restaurant on the first floor, tiled in the Italian manner. Very popular, always busy with nice food. The manager was Spanish and a wonderful hard-working person. It was tied to Fullers brewery. When the manager left, it was taken over and only lasted for about two years before the property was turned into flats. It is much missed.
The Knights of St John – An interesting pub. It was run by an ex boxer and there were signed boxing photographs and prints all round the walls. They provided finger food, sometimes served in baskets, and it was used by the Crypt Club of St John’s Church for socials. It was bought by Brakespears and used by people living in the barracks flats next door. More recently it became the Queens Terrace café.
The Crown Aberdeen Terrace
PUBS STILL OPERATING
Duke of York – On the corner of St John’s Wood High Street and St Ann’s Terrace. This was opened by developer and publican John White in 1826. It is now a popular, noisy pub. The local estate agents tend to drink there on a Friday night, and it is much used during cricket matches at Lords. The pavement becomes crowded.
The Star – This is on Charlbert Street, built by Fry and Watkins in 1826, though it opened later. This pub has changed very little over the years and remains a typical old fashioned pub just for drinking. They have a darts board.
The New Inn – The previous landlady built this place up and made it into a hotel with six good rooms which are usually occupied. The lay out round the bar is much the same as it always was. They have a music night and a quiz night with the money going to St John’s hospice. The new manager has concentrated on providing good food and people now come to eat there from further afield.
The Ordnance Arms – In Ordnance Hill, corner of Acacia Road. A Sam Smiths pub, so they have no music and no TV. They sell their own beer which is generally cheaper than elsewhere, and a substantial menu. The church choir often choose to go there. There used to be an iron arch over the side alley going round to the stables at the back.
To read about other pubs no longer operating see: