Monday, 27 September 2010


Hi Mum and Dad, sorry I haven't called home for a while! It's been a bit hectic. You know I said Sian and I have been running a campaign to save that pub?  Well, er, it's going quite well. 

This is just some of what we've been up to:

We've had words of support from Carole Williams and Philip Glanville, councillors for the Hoxton ward. Philip said "I am keen to publicise the campaign as I know many local residents and councillors from across Hackney love the Wenlock and will do what we can to save this unique institution."

Thanks too to our lovely band of male models (Wenlock Arms FC) and Sue who helped us out with the photos for the papers on Saturday. We are so happy we've got the support of regulars and staff! 

Anyway, I think it's been a good week. We were very encouraged by this quote from owner Steve Barnes in the Islington Gazette piece:
"The pub will probably go on the market this week and of course we would much prefer whoever buys it to keep it as a pub.

"We can't really control that but I can say that some recent events have made it more likely it will stay as a pub than it was looking at one stage."
The fight to keep it a pub is far from over, but the difference is that now there are people all over London shouting about how important the Wenlock is. Please do keep spreading the word!

Sunday, 26 September 2010


Hello everyone. I've been meaning to share these for a while - some of the amazing messages people have sent us. Thank you so much for taking time to email us, we really appreciate it! 

Here's 10 to kick off with - I'll be posting more through this week. 

"I will lose all faith in human nature if this place closes"  - George Stratton

"I write from Toronto, and have just heard the news. obviously, I am devastated. the Wenlock Arms is surely the finest pub in the Commonwealth. I have always considered it my local when I'm local (i.e., when I'm in london). your work is much appreciated, as far away as the new world!" - Lisa Amin

"I just got this horrible news!! We must all see to it this does not happen and that this great traditional real pub with its real ale is saved! I have spent many enjoyable nights there and like it for its timeless qualities as well as the good beer" - Sheila Freeman

"I'm with you. long live the Wenlock" - Daniel Smallwood

"It is the best and most special pub in the whole of London. Don't let it be demolished, please!" - Mary Morrison

"Good luck in your campaign.  The Wenlock is one of my favourite pubs in London and it would be criminal for it to be demolished." - Steve Thompson

"I used to work round the corner from the Wenlock Arms, which in my view was the best pub in the area for the consistent quality of the beer to the friendly welcome behind the bar and the colourful local characters who frequented it. A few years back I would spend most lunchtimes in there enjoying a nice quiet pint and a huge sandwich (usually black pudding!) and they were happy days. I'm so sad to hear it's not just closing down but being bulldozed, leaving no room whatsoever to save it / resurrect it. I will definitely visit one last time (I live a long way away now), before they close down, for my usual. What is going on when community pubs with such proud histories are allowed to disappear like this? It is happening all too often now." - Andrew Levicki

"I heartily support your campaing to save this magnificent and unique London pub. The very idea of it being demolished is intolerable." - Charles Edwards

"I support you! I'm crying!" - Jonathan Lister

"I recently heard the sad news that the Wenlock Arms is to meet its demise this Autumn. I'm absolutely dismayed and completely shattered to hear that another great pub is probably going to end up being developed into another block of crap flats or some other unjustified profit scheme. I've spent many many cracking nights (and birthdays etc) in that pub and coming from the North, I couldn't believe my luck when I moved down here and stumbled on it. I felt I'd discovered one of the many beating hearts of London.  It has never let me down and has given me and my friends the community solace that this city so desperately needs at times." - Christian Statham

Friday, 24 September 2010


Thanks to Ross Lydall at the Evening Standard for picking this up.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


We attended the CAMRA meeting at the Wenlock last night and had a really good evening. 

CAMRA were really supportive - thanks to John, Gerard, Catherine & co for having us along and for lots of useful advice and information.

We felt that we were united on our aims, and we thought it might be helpful to state our intentions and clarify something here. Basically, we're not against Steve and Will's decision to sell at all.  We don't want to underestimate how big a job it must have been to run the Wenlock for sixteen years, and if they deserve anything it's hearty congratulations for having done such a great job. So if they want to retire, they should be allowed to do that. 

What we want is for the Wenlock to stay a pub. 

If it stops being a pub, if it's knocked down, or if offices are built, it can never go back. That site that's been a pub since 1835, survived the Blitz, survived 80s dereliction - that will never exist again. All that history, that community... it just ends.

Now, you might be thinking "but I don't want it to change - I love the Wenlock!"- and you'd be right. It's great. But a change of hands need not be a disaster. Pubs like the Southampton Arms show that it's perfectly possible to do real ale well and still feel contemporary.  Besides, whoever took it on would be well aware that they're taking on an iconic brand that is synonymous with amazing real ale and atmosphere. But regardless, this time next year, I'd be far happier trying to convince new owners of the pub to keep the spirit of the Wenlock alive than I would be pointing at a pile of bricks and dust, and trying to explain to anyone who would listen that it used to be the best pub in London.

P.S. One request I feel obliged to pass on: I think the bar staff understand our concern but would appreciate it if we stopped all asking them what's going on. CAMRA and this blog will bring you any news as soon as we have it. So visit the Wenlock as much as you can, but do try to enjoy yourself once you're there. It is, after all, pretty fun.

Monday, 20 September 2010


The level of support since we started this blog has been absolutely amazing. Sorry if we've taken a while to get back to you, but thank you so much from the bottom of my broken heart for taking the time to email us your touching and often hilarious Wenlock stories. You're all smashers. 

As with any internet kerfuffle, you get your fair share of rumours in addition to the facts. These are all very juicy and interesting and stuff, but I thought it would be helpful to just state what what we do actually know. Which is this: the owners of the Wenlock Arms intend to sell, and they have received a "very good" offer. We're working on confirming those details that are flying around, and we hope to have some more hard facts after the CAMRA meeting on Tuesday. But for now, that's what we know. And I don't know about you, but I think that's a solid enough basis to campaign.

So what do we want? Well, we're not here to tell the owners not to sell. That's totally their decision and we respect that. What we want is for the Wenlock Arms to stay a pub. There's currently no guarantee that it will, and plenty of suggestion that it won't. And that's not good enough; we want the spirit of the Wenlock we all know and love to live on, because it is AMAZING. 

This is an iconic, fiercely loved, award-winning, peerless, crazy, brilliant, inspired pub. It is also a far better use of 26 Wenlock Road than a pile of rubble or a block of steel-clad live/work spaces or whatever.

So this is what we do next, under three convenient headings:

1. NOISE. Tell your friends. Word of mouth, blogs, Twitter, whatever. Just spread the word that the Wenlock is a) amazing and b) in danger.
2. WORDS. Do you live or work in the area? Great! Write to Hackney Council (Hoxton Ward councillors here, planning department here) and Meg Hillier MP expressing your dismay. If you don't live or work in the area I am not supposed to advise you to write to someone else's MP but you're all grown ups so it's up to you.
3. PICTURES. Reader Cakehole (Mr Cakehole?) has marvellously created a Save The Wenlock Flickr group. There is some really good stuff in there already. So please join in - upload your pictures. This will be fun, but please don't think of it as trivial. It's really not - I want to get as much documentary evidence as possible of the Wenlock, and show London what it stands to lose. That means capturing every aspect of the Wenlock, from the original bar and the light fittings to its character and sense of fun and community.

Coming up on the blog later this week
  • More news on the planning/sale if we have it - or as much clarity as we can manage about the current situation if not.
  • Some highlights of our impressively international messages of support.
  • An update on our press coverage and so forth.
  • More campaign ideas.
  • Some sort of competition with a prize but I haven't decided what it will be about yet.
Don't forget - we're on Twitter at @savewenlockarms.

Saturday, 18 September 2010


I've received an encouraging email from a reader, Russ Garrett, last night. 

Last night Russ spoke to one of the owners, Steve, who confirmed that they are trying to sell the pub. There is indeed an offer and dates on the table, but they haven't completed on a sale yet. 

The Wenlock will be open for business until the sale goes through. I think anyone who has ever bought a house knows that it's hard to put dates on these things. Steve said it might not even be until the new year. From what I've heard, the bar staff are gloomier about it than the owners (no surprises there - they don't get the cash!), which I'd wager is why they told us October/November - which is now looking like the worst case scenario. 

(Can we just take ten seconds to reflect on the week we had, and how odd it is that the Wenlock "about to be sold to developers at some point between now and the new year" now looks like good news).

But anyway, I think this is a definite chink of light and hopefully buys us a bit of time to convince people of the value of the Wenlock as a pub. 

So. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is about making as much noise as possible. It's about letting the world know how important the Wenlock is as a pub. As I said on Londonist yesterday, it may be that the developers haven't realised that it's not just any old scruffy boozer. It's about letting them know how important the Wenlock is as a pub, and how valuable it could be as a going concern (it is, after all, an amazing "brand")... and also letting anyone who might be interested in taking over the running of it have the chance of getting their act together.

This is a reason to step up the fight, though - not to rest on our laurels. I've received hundreds of amazing messages of support and will be posting them onto the blog over this weekend. I've had emails from from Hackney to Italy to Indonesia. How many other pubs could inspire such dedication? You're really something, the Wenlock Arms. 

So keep up the fight. This is the best pub in London and it deserves to stay a pub. Russ said the owners want it to stay a pub too, for what it's worth.

 Should we do a petition too? What do you think?

Friday, 17 September 2010


The lovely people at Londonist are supporting our campaign, and invited me to contribute an article. 

Thursday, 16 September 2010


First off, thank you all for your messages of support. Sian and I started this blog and Twitter campaign yesterday afternoon in a gloomy haze. We've had some amazing nights at the Wenlock and we were devastated to hear of its impending demolition. 24 hours down the line and we're feeling more positive already, which is down to our Twitter followers and everyone who's emailed messages of support. Camra have been brilliant, as have Fancy a Pint, the Drapers Arms and many many more of you. 

This afternoon I spoke to Iain Loe, Camra's Research and Information Manager. He was really helpful and gave me a bit of background - they have indeed been watching this closely, although they hadn't been provided with any dates or confirmation of "demolition". Iain then put me in touch with John Cryne of Camra North London who said: "We have just ended a long battle to Save The Duke of Hamilton in Hampstead, which is looking as if it has been successful. I am getting our forces into order. We have been awaiting this bad news for a few months." Couldn't ask for a better response, really, could you?

I hope you're as heartened by this as we are. 

I'd also like to address the obvious question. "If it's been sold, why even bother doing anything?" I work for a community development charity, and I know that there's never any guarantee that anything will happen as a result of your campaign; but if you don't speak up at all it definitely won't. I think this one's worth protesting about. Think about how bad we'd feel if scaffolding just goes up in the dead of night one weekend in October. No fanfare. The Wenlock is just not there anymore. Don't you at least want to say you tried to stop it?

So what can you do?

1. Spread the word
  • First off, make sure all your friends know that it's closing - someone (I guess the property developers) are keeping this very quiet. People who loved the Wenlock deserve to know what's happening and have a chance to say goodbye. 
  • Next, let the world know that you loved it. The Wenlock is, as the Drapers Arms said this morning, an iconic pub. It's possible that whoever's bought it just doesn't realise it's not just any old random scruffy boozer (not that there's anything wrong with that). It's the Wenlock! You never know, we might be able to convince the developers that a pub with this degree of heritage will be an asset to the block of flats that's going up next door.  
  • Do you blog or Twitter yourself? Please do tell your readers about this campaign.
  • Do you know any people or organisations who you think might be concerned? This could be community groups, local papers, national organisations, journalists. Do you know anyone that works locally? Maybe it's their office pub. Tell them! What about other local businesses? And so on - make sure everyone who loves the Wenlock knows what's happening. The more of us that do this the better. 
  • Add this (or something similar) to your email signature: 
Save the Wenlock Arms! One of the best pubs in London is facing demolition.Follow the campaign at and on Twitter @savewenlockarms

2. Help us get to the bottom of the planning issue
The planning issue is, frankly, a bit murky. A couple of people on Twitter have asked if this is even legal. The honest answer is - despite a law degree in my distant past - I don't know. This is what I do know:

  • The Wenlock Arms is on the border of Islington and Hackney, so I searched both borough's websites. A search on Islington Council's planning applications returns no results for the keyword "wenlock", but you do get a few on Hackney's website  - click here for details. Basically, there are quite a few documents relating to the development of the adjacent site on Wenlock Road - but they specifically exclude the pub.  
  • The developers for the adjacent site are these people - LondonNewcastle. (Fans of indie dance from 2002 will enjoy the website, because it amusingly plays "Girls" by Death In Vegas at you whether you like it or not). I called them this afternoon and asked if someone from the Wenlock Road project could call me back to confirm or deny whether their development included the pub. I haven't heard back from them. If anyone else is feeling a bit Nancy Drew and wants to try and find out, then please do!

3. Get involved with Camra
  • If you aren't already a member, join. It's cheap and they are brilliant. You can find your local branch here:
  • John Cryne, Chairman of North London Camra, has posted a comment on one of the blog posts - he said "By chance we have a meeting in the pub next Tuesday night the 21st - all welcome! Hopefully a chance to find out more." So that's good, innit.
  • See also this thread on the Camra forum - there's some really interesting comments about planning issues. Thanks to The Beer Nut for getting that started!

4. Go to the Wenlock.
Just go. That's it. Go. At every available opportunity, go. Try an ale you've never had before, and treat it like it's your last night there.

Thanks for everything so far - let's keep the good fight going.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


This just in from the lovely @shoozographer on Twitter:

Just spoken to someone at Wenlock Arms. They will be open til Oct, and until the bulldozers come. That's two weeks.


This is bad. This is really bad. The Wenlock is actually closing.

So last week, my friend told me about this - design house Established & Sons are "redecorating" the Wenlock for the duration of the London Design Festival:

Alarmed by the prospect, I went in today, an hour ago, and said "I've heard a rumour you're being redecorated - what's that about?". The lady behind the bar said "it's not being redecorated. It's being demolished". She didn't know about this Established and Sons redecoration. She just said "it's been sold to developers, and they're knocking it down". WHAT? When? "I don't know".

There were rumours flying around at the start of the summer that the Wenlock was for sale. It can't, we thought. It just can't. It's the best pub in London. We listened for announcements, and there weren't any. July and August passed and it remained open. Someone asked on the Wenlock Yahoo group, and was reassured - it's not closing down, they've dissolved the company, they're changing the way they run the business, don't panic.

I burst into tears when I found out today. I'm sorry to the barmaid: I was the girl in the pink lipstick who walked out in shock.

The redecoration project appears to start on Monday. Today is Wednesday. At the time of writing, the pub is still there.

What can you do? Well, you can go. Go today. Ask them about it. Drink as much as you can. Stay as late as you can. Cry. Start an occupation. Tell people about this blog.

I know it hurts, and I know it's easier to think "well, there's nothing I can do now, it's been sold". But this isn't just another sad story of a beloved local closing down. This is the Wenlock. It's the frickin' Wenlock! This is the best pub in the best city in the world, and it deserves better than to go without a fight. 

At least let it know that someone loved it.

Who's with me?