Monday, April 19, 2010

Deptford Arms: historical notes

With continuing uncertainty about the future of the Deptford Arms, I've been looking into its history. Searching at Google Books, there are a couple of references to 19th century travellers stopping off at the Deptford Arms. But this is misleading, as the present pub at 52 Deptford High Street has only been called by that name since 1965 (I am guessing that the older Deptford Arms must have been on the Broadway).

There's some more information at the useful Dead Pubs site, which has a historical list of local pubs, inns and taverns. Here it clarifies that the current Deptford Arms was previously known as the Duke of Cambridge. It includes census information from 1881 which shows that most staff in the pub were living on site at that time - in addition to the landlord Richard T Stringer and his wife Matilda, three barmen, a potman and a servant were living there, as well as a wet nurse (presumably for the Stringers' baby son).

The pub was something of a radical meeting place. In the Deptford Infidels, Terry Liddle's short account of SE London secularists, we are told that in July 1871 'at a meeting in the Duke of Cambridge, Deptford High Street, a Mr Bishop lectured the Advanced Liberal Association on taxation and expenditure' and that in '1874 the National Reformer was advertising meetings of Deptford Radical Association in the Duke of Cambridge'.

According to Liddle, the Greenwich Advanced Liberal Association 'formed in 1869 at a public meeting of 500, wanted independent working class representation in Parliament, and so found itself in conflict with mainstream liberalism. A leading member the secularist William McCurly stated: "It was now time for the working classes to think for themselves and manage their own affairs"... Following a local agitation in support of farm labourers, members of GALA formed the Deptford Radical Association'. Jim Connell, who famously wrote the socialist anthem The Red Flag, was a member of the DRA.

As well as a meeting place, the pub has also been a music venue at various times. As mentioned before Squeeze had an early residency there in the 1970s.

The latest news on the pub, incidentally, is that Lewisham Council has given planning permission for a change of use from a pub to a bookies, but has refused planning permission for Paddy Power to make changes to the front of the building, including putting up a sign. This doesn't mean that the bookies won't go ahead though - Paddy Power may appeal, or come up with other plans. The pub will be staying open for a while longer at least, and will definitely still be open for the Kit and Cutter event on May 1st with Martin Carthy. Meanwhile, there is a similar issue in Peckham where Paddy Power are also planning to convert the last pub in the road, The Hope, into a betting shop.

1 comment:

Bill Ellson said...

Just to be a little pedantic, 'change of use' planning permission is sadly not needed. Lewisham granted the gaming license (almost impossible to refuse) but refused planning permission for signage and shutters.