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.



5 comments on “London Gets An Old Pub Back”

  1. Cid says:

    Oh that’s excellent news. Kings Cross needs a decent boozer with a bit of space (much as I love the Charles, it can get a little cramped). For some reason every time I’m meant to meet someone in that area and I take them to the Dolphin, they’re oddly reluctant to come back.

  2. Vivienne says:

    The Dolphin, in my experience, is somewhere you could probably always get a seat, if only they had any!

  3. Jeanette says:

    Oh lordy I think I have been to this pub in the 80’s. Whilst waiting for a friend to finish work, she worked at the NUJ on Gray Inn Road, we went for a drink in a pub to kill an hour. The landlady, must have been in her 70’s, wore a crochet mini dress. My husband, at that time being my boyfriend, was rocking an RAF moustache (he was RAF), and shaking stevens denim jacket, rolled up denim jean and pimsols. He certainly was the attraction that day.

  4. chris hughes says:

    Sounds like it’s worth a visit – we never could find a decent pub when we visit the British Library – thank you!
    I remember my dad covering everything with hardboard in the 60’s – and they were ripping out old ranges and fireplaces at the same time! We uncovered a lovely stained glass panel in a door when we took the hardboard off in one house we had and in another uncovered panelled doors and a proper staircase with spindles and polished wood handrail.

  5. Alan says:

    Ah yes. I well recall visiting this pub by accident some years ago. On ordering a refreshing pint of continental lager, I was advised that the ‘dancing’ was about to commence in the adjacent bar. In a state of genuine innocence (ignorance? stupidity?) I went across to see exactly what this entertainment comprised. I was subjected to what could surely pass as a practical course for a student of gynaecology or rectology. I turned around and left, and did not go back.

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