London Gets An Old Pub Back
While the trend of emptying out fine old pubs and turning them into flats isn’t slowing, there’s been a lot of talk lately about saving some London pubs by having them listed as assets to the community. Sadly, this hasn’t helped boozers at the city’s heart much because they don’t serve ‘communities’ anymore. But every once in a while there’s a nice surprise, and here’s one.
Back in the 1960s it became the fashion to cover everything in hardboard and paint over it, for which we can blame TV’s first DIY programme, presented by a bodger called Barry Bucknell. Here he is buggering up a Victorian door.
The upside was that he accidentally encouraged people to protect their doors, ceilings and bannisters, and thirty years later people started realising what they had behind the hardboard.
In King’s Cross there was a pub you crossed onto the other side of the street to avoid, a table-dancing dump called ‘The Flying Scotsman’ which was once described as the kind of place you’d visit ‘if you’d really like to see your grandmother grinding in crotchless knickers for 50 pence pieces collected in a dimple mug’.
Finally, after years of putting up with this last grim vestige of the old King’s Cross, it closed. I expected it to turn into another Costa Coffee but no – under the protecting hardboard was found a perfectly preserved 1900 boozer, which has been lovingly restored and reopened as The Scottish Stores’.
In an area that lost several marvellous pubs including Smithy’s, The Golden Lion and The Hoop and Grapes, this is a real joy to find, with its central island of a bar and all of its original wood-panelled walls intact. The landlord told me they did the job quietly and opened without fanfare – but it’s already doing well, so this is one to add to your list.