Public Houses

by Martin Aldred

Duke of York
Louise Brodie
The Ordnance
Louise Brodie
The Star
Louise Brodie
Symbol at The Star
Louise Brodie
The New Inn
Louise Brodie
Portland Arms, 1970s
Westminster Archives
Princess Royal in the 1970s
Roger Hinsley
The Crown Aberdeen Terrace
Roger Hinsley

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:

This page was added on 15/05/2012.

Comments about this page

  • I lived in O’Neill House, Cochrane Street from the early sixties until the eighties. My mum and dad continue to live there until their deaths in 2000 and 2001. In the 70’s, my mum, Shirley, was a barmaid at the Princess Royal and her sister, Rene, used to make the sandwiches and food upstairs. They worked with Pauline, the proprietor, and I remember a barman called Leo too. My dad was a cab driver and they met on the cab rank by the burial before they married (my mum worked there). When I became legal age to drink, we used to pub crawl starting at the Princess Royal and then working our way down the high street via the Sir Isaac Newton to the Portland Arms (the big one). I was proud to live in St. Johns Wood 🙂

    By Deb Sutton (04/08/2017)
  • During 1975 I was the barcellarman at the Portland Arms. The manager then was a chap called Nigel Little with his wife Gaynor. Both of them on the short side. I lived in a room at the rear with a Spanish lady called Maria Carmen Altube, studying English and working as a cleaner during the day. The two floors above the bar where used by Charringtons Brewery as accomodation for their directors when in town. They were quite snooty and declined to use the bar preferring private clubs. It was all redesigned in 1975 as a food led business and the light and bitter locals disliked the alterations. Still had a dart board however and Dennis Waterman of “Minder” fame was a regular on Saturday lunchtimes. Some real characters around the bar in the days when we shut at 3.00pm and reopened at 5.30pm including an old Irish chap who would be waiting outside in time to down his first pint of Worthington E in a couple of seconds. Now a identikit chain restaurant selling over priced fashion food. I never realised what a great life I had until it was too late.

    By Raymond Malik (31/05/2017)
  • I worked in the revamped Portland renamed The 3rd Mrs Gioconda in the summer of 88 – it was one of the first gastropubs in the UK.
    The locals did not really take to it and did not want to eat Nouvelle cuisine with their light n bitter although the cricketers came in often and kept the place afloat.
    The upstairs was hired out to various groups including the local Masonic group but the Manager kicked them out and stopped them from using the space – he never explained why.
    It did not last long and then turn to into an All bar One.
    I recall a lot of the Arsenal terrace faces used this pub now and again.

    By Chef (09/05/2017)
  • I grew up in St John’s wood in the 50s and early 60s as a slightly underage drinker. I frequented the Princess Royal for my pints of Bitter. The Landlord’s name was Greville, a stout gent with a moustache and loads of attitude, but lots of fun when in a good humour, because of his voice my mates and I referred to him as Gravel!

    By Michael Taylor (30/08/2016)
  • That pub you mention could be the Heroes of Alma, was about as big as someone’s front room, great place.

    In answer to Amy Thompson, I’ve lived in Cornwall for twenty five years, and just by coincidence one of our friends was born and grew up in Cochrane St. I’ll ask her about it she would be in her 70’s. I know the name Cecily Davies/Davis is connected to that street, she set up some sort of homeless charity. It was mostly council flats when I was a kid in the sixties and seventies.

    By Jim Watson (28/05/2016)
  • In 1979 I went in the footsteps of The Beatles and as I remember it there was a small pub on Hill Rd. – very close to where The Corner Shop is now. I was told that The Fab Four now and then had a pint in that pub after a long day in the studio. Does anyone have facts about that? Or just the name of the pub?

    By Lucas V. Engell (11/04/2016)
  • I was wondering if anyone on this site remembers much about Cochrane Street or The Flag during the 40s/50s or earlier? My grandmother lived at no.24. Her name was Jean Wager, and she met my grandfather in The Flag on Christmas Eve 1950. Does anyone have any memories of the Wager family, this street, or pub? She passed away on Christmas Day, and used to talk of ‘the good old days’ often. I would love to know more about this area around this time period if anyone can help?

     

    By Amy Thompson (07/04/2016)
  • Loved the pubs around the Wood. My nan was a fixture in the Star, the New Inn was the place in the late 70s. The Crown had a piano, us kids would get some cockles and whelks, and listen to the “singing”! The Flag was a bit edgy, fine if you knew everyone. RIP the British pub!

    By jim watson (06/12/2015)
  • The Belgrave still exists and is now known as the Salt House.

    Other pubs in the immediate St. John’s Wood vicinity to have gone to the wall in the last twenty-odd years are:

    Abbey Tavern, 8 Violet Hill (now residential).

    Blenheim, 21 Loudoun Road (now Café Med).

    Drum & Monkey (formerly Durham Arms), 24-26 Blenheim Terrace (now residential).

    Heroes of Alma, 11 Alma Square (now residential).

    Marlborough Tavern, 39 Abbey Road (now Pizza Express).

    Pitt’s Head, 74 Allitsen Road (now a private members’ club).

    Victoria, 83 Abbey Road (demolished in 2005).

     

    By Tris (27/04/2014)
  • is the Belgrave still there on the corner of Belgrave Gardens and Abbey Road ?

    By Patrick Sargeant (08/03/2014)
  • I remember when Peter White had a cockle & winkle stall outside the Crown on a Saturday night and Sunday morning, sea food was quite cheap then and for a pound you could get a Sunday night’s tea.

    By Terry Farmer (03/02/2014)
  • My father and grandfather (postie) grew up in St Johns Wood. I remember going to the Isaac Newton which seemed to be the place the soldiers went to. Remember the video juke box. My father was quite cantankerous! I recall him having a massive argument in the Princess Royal with the locum manager after a day at Lords. It was very busy! He wasn’t happy with his chicken in the basket! We used to go to the Star a lot and I always recall overhearing some American students talking about their flight home which would have coincided with Lockerbie. I often wonder if they were on that flight. So easy to forget the pub in the tube station which I used to occasionally go to. Amazing you could have a cigarette in there. Anyway, such a shame to see pubs closing. My father died last April – he was very attached to St Johns Wood.

    By Dominic Fox (21/01/2014)
  • Our unique and historic The Clifton Hotel has also had its doors closed, probably to a foreign developer; out of 14 pubs that the area had, HAVE WE ONLY TWO PUBS left? It’s disgusting that permission is being given to developers for change of usage and it’s a matter of time before we lose our last two pubs !!!!

    By Grazyna Green (07/01/2014)
  • It is very sad but true that the Star Pub may well be closing very shortly if Westminster Council grant planning permission which will be known very shortly,there is a petition going on to try to stop the Pub from being demolished for a luxury Townhouse.If that happens it will be the last PROPER PUB in St Johns Wood to close.That will be a disaster for the Community and regular customers,it should not be allowed to happen.

    By Chris Martin (22/12/2013)
  • The Crown, later Crockers, is reopening soon. The upstairs was converted to flats. Yes some of the period features disappeared. I know one of the old landladies who had the pub during WW2. She says Frank Crocker jumped off the back and there was also another suicide in the pub. That is what she insists. Frank Crocker also built the magnificent Warrington in Maida Vale. The Rose and Crown was a Victorian building which was demolished to build The Rossetti. The Rossetti failed when it converted the restaurant to Thai from Italian and was demolished in the mid 90s to build Victorian looking flats. There are moves to close The Star pub, which does good business, to convert into a residential house – which will no doubt remain empty for most of the year. Locals are trying to stop it. The pub had its elegant exterior Victorian trimming removed about 15 years ago when Charringtons sold the pub. The glazed tiles were painted over giving rather drab unappealing look. The side windows were blown out in World War Two. The bar beams were split by the explosion and temporary metal clamps were fitted. They still remain. The Lords Tavern did close a for few months at one time. It is now doing good business. The Portland Arms had a makeover in the mid 1980s and became The Third Mrs Giacondas. It was sold to Bass Charrington who converted it to an All Bar One, which did good business then closed. down.

    By John (05/12/2013)
  • I too well remember the Rossetti as I worked for the Architects (Shearer Flaconer & Associates) who did the almost total rebuild. The Spanish Managers name was Franco and as the other contributor has said – he was a very good hardworking and very convivial guy. Whatever happened to Franco. Does anyone at Fuller Smith & Turner know please?

    By Phil Greenslade (03/11/2013)
  • Does anyone know if the Star has a cricket connection any more? Or indeed whether Bill Jones is still around?

    By John Stern (08/08/2013)
  • My mother Joyce Coomber worked in the New Inn around about 1967-1970.

    By Andrea (coomber) Hegarty (16/05/2013)
  • Memories of ‘The Star’. Wonderful Pub with, at one time, three bars. Public, Saloon and Private. In the 50’s a woman on her own could only drink in the Private Bar. Bill Jones was the landlord, wonderful man. On a Sunday lunchtime cars were parked double, up all local roads, it was so busy. I can remember the England and Aussies drank there after a hard day at Lords, Freddie Truman among them.

    By Robert John Brown (08/02/2013)
  • Lovely memories of the Princess Royal in the 1980″s. I worked just down the road in Barclays Bank and spent every lunch hour for 5 years in there. Pauline was a smashing landlady and I fondly recall the barmaid Rene. I often asked her if my sandwich had been made by her own fair hand. Her reply is unprintable!! Small and intimate and no better place to spend an hour than this pub.

    By Colin Butler (31/01/2013)
  • Jeanne Strang is mistaken in believing the myth about Frank Crocker. It is as false as its continuation that he became depressed and committed suicide by throwing himself from a 2nd floor window of The Crown. Sadly she is also mistaken in the belief that it has ‘a wonderful Victorian interior’. It used to have, but since closure it has been badly vandalized and the marble fireplace and over-mantel have been spirited away by the ubiquitius ‘Midnight Building Company’. She is perfectly correct in thinking it to be listed; it is, Grade II, which affords no protection from neglect and vandalism.

    By Roger Hinsley (15/10/2012)
  • It is a great shame that Crocker’s Folly in Aberdeen Place is closed and boarded up. It has a wonderful Victorian interior and I think is probably a listed building. Apparently, a Mr Crocker mistakenly thought Marylebone station would be sited close by so had this grandiose pub built.

    By Jeanne Strang (25/09/2012)
  • Regarding the comments about the British Flag, I quite agree with Terry Farmer when I can say that as a regular user between the early 50’s and mid 60’s, never once did I see any trouble here. In fact in the early 50s, the Tottenham Hotspur F.C played the local darts team and Joe Hitchcock (News of the World darts champion) played an exhibition match here.

    By Arthur Simons (13/09/2012)
  • The Flag to my knowledge was never a rough pub, in fact it was the best pub in the Wood in my opinion, my family used it for many years so did others and I never saw one punch up.

    By Terry Farmer (25/08/2012)
  • I lived in the Sir Isaac Newton in about 1979 for a year. I was 5 at the time.I have great memories of listening to loud music, running down the stairs to the cellar, playing with the dumb waiter lift and walking in Regent’s Park.

    By Michaela Eggleston (11/06/2012)

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