Many old British pubs (and clubs) are disappearing at a worryingly fast rate, the loss not only of our architectural heritage, but also of our cultural heritage being alarmingly apparent. One particular case of a quick pub demolition that has captured the attention of the media is The Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, London. Demolished swiftly without permission by developers in April 2015, the Tel Aviv based developers CLTX were then ordered to rebuild it brick-by-brick by the Council. So far, nothing has been done and the developers are appealing against the decision. The developers wanted the land to build flats; we are simply losing our heritage due to a combination of the current housing crisis and, so it has been claimed by reports in the media such as this article in The Guardian, that we just don’t drink enough in pubs as often as we once did. We can argue however that pubs are open longer than they were once were, that they are centers for the community, and that they symbolize our history and culture. And on the housing shortage, who hasn’t driven through an urban area and seen shops and terraced houses boarded up? There are many buildings in urban areas just crying out for redevelopment and regeneration.
Another example of this utter destruction of our heritage is The Alchemist pub in Battersea, an early-mid Victorian pub that was flattened by developer Udhyam Amim in May 2015. Like the developers behind the destruction of the Carlton Tavern, Amim was ordered to rebuild the famous landmark brick-by-brick, but, he is now seeking retrospective planning consent to turn the land into a block of flats. According to a report in the Standard, Amim was quoted as saying ‘I’m not really sure what all the fuss is about’. Indeed. There are many more historical pubs on the danger list; The Winchester in Highgate is under threat to be developed into flats by the same developer that demolished the Carlton Tavern, and The Magdala pub in Hampstead is also under threat.
In the north-west of England, pubs have been closing at an alarming rate, many of them disappearing overnight. The Bear’s Paw in Edge Hill, Liverpool has recently closed and is about to be turned into flats. The Bear’s Paw is as old as the Regency built tunnels of Joseph Williamson which can be accessed opposite the pub, and there is a possible opening to one of the tunnels in the cellar of the pub. The Ship Inn (which had been a restaurant for a number of years) in Walton, to the south of Warrington, was demolished recently and is now a building site for new homes. It was deemed structurally unsafe. Locals were angry at the demolition and the only reason they had not objected to the development was because they believed the pub would be restored. Clubs have also been abandoned and demolished in Warrington, the famous Legends nightclub was demolished in October 2014; as part of the old Rugby ground it was flattened to make way for a housing development. In April 2015 Mr. Smith’s nightclub was demolished quickly and unceremoniously after a fire the night before – a beautiful art-deco building lost forever. The site is currently a car park.
More needs to be done to stop this destruction of our heritage, we need to make a noise, sign petitions, contact MPs and local government, write about it and shout about it. We need to scrutinize plans, attend hearings and get involved in any way we can. If we don’t, more of our heritage will become car parks or blocks of flats.