Merton’s oldest pub is easy to miss. Tucked away on a side street , the blue façade blends seamlessly with the rows of single-storey houses. Part of the reason you don’t notice it is because the Princess Royal, as it was known, is no longer an actual boozer.
The story of its demise is typical of many across London. In the late 1990s the pub changed hands, new owners made a few wrong choices and it gained a bad reputation. Soon, neighbours were on the warpath, complaining about the noise. Customer numbers dwindled and the interior became tatty.
But what eventually killed the Princess Royal was not the clientele or décor. The pub was a victim of the ease at which a developer could transform it into housing. “It just boils down to the land value, simple as that,” explained James Watson, a campaigner, activist and pubs protection advisor for a number of organisations, “pubs are facing this intense commercial pressure for residential land in London.”
In the past three decades, the number of pubs across the capital has halved from more than 7,000 to around 3,500. Between 2000 and 2017, London was losing well over 100 pubs a year. Half of London’s boroughs have lost at least a quarter of their drinking establishments since the turn of the century.
READ MORE: New map shows the London boroughs with the most pubs
(Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)
In areas like Newham, Croydon, Redbridge and Haringey, the decline has been even steeper and there are around 30 per cent fewer pubs. No borough is untouched.
To understand why London’s pubs are dying out and what impact this has on the community, MyLondon was taken on a tour of the closed venues of Wimbledon by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). It was a trip that helped explain why one of the capital’s most famous attractions is facing a fight to survive.
The Marquis of Lorne and the ‘viability myth’
When the Marquis of Lorne closed over a decade ago there wasn’t too much surprise. Not long before the venue had been raided by more than 100 police in riot gear, there were longstanding problems with antisocial behaviour and underage drinking.
Residents blamed the 24-hour licensing laws, which were allowing venues to stay open, for these issues which they claimed were “degrading” the area. It wasn’t always like that, in the past, it had been a well-established local with pool and darts teams, even a pigeon racing club.</…….