Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Death of the Walpole?

Back in 2008 we reported here that a planning application had been submitted to demolish the Walpole Arms in New Cross Road and build a hotel to replace it. The application was subsequently approved in August 2009 by Lewisham Council but no more was heard of it, and I assumed that this plan had been abandoned (some even wondered whether it was a joke - the architects' names being KennedyTwaddle).

But, as Brockley Central reports, the pub is now closed and a press release from "leisure property" firm AG&G trumpets:

'New Cross takes its name from a coaching inn that once provided accommodation for weary travellers, so it’s entirely appropriate that the site of the Walpole pub in New Cross Road is now set to become a 60-bed hotel – the only one in the SE14 postcode. It was sold off a guide price of £2.25 million by AG&G’s Anthony Alder, to a Middle Eastern investment company.The pub is an attractive, flat-fronted Victorian building that comes with a beer garden, letting rooms and two neighbouring shops but it was sold with planning permission for a new hotel. “There’s such strong demand for large plots in central London and it’s close to the terminus of the East London line, near up-and-coming Stratford and with that precious permission, so the potential was clear,” says Anthony'.

Well they're right it  is an 'attractive, flat-fronted Victorian building' and also has some very nice original tiles inside. So it's very sad that it seems to be facing demolition. I've had some nice nights in there, but it's probably true to say that in recent years The Walpole has struggled to establish a clear niche among the New Cross pubs. But as I've argued here before what is lost when a pub closes is a social space which always has the potential to give rise to the interesting, the unexpected and the marvellous. Lots of pubs have ups and downs and then suddenly become the centre of social life for some scene or other. Not sure the same can be said for a hotel.

Of course if there was a sufficiently informed and motivated body of opinion it might still be possible to get the building listed by English Heritage, as the Ivy House was recently. After all it hasn't been demolished yet.

The planned development would also demolish two neighbouring shops, including Skin & Ink tattoo parlour.

photo by Ewan Munro at flickr

The pub was known as the South Eastern Distillery from 1895 to 1915, maybe later. Its current name was presumably derived from Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister, who presided over the 18th century South Sea Bubble financial crisis. In a roundabout way the current financial crisis could also be said to be dealing the pub its fatal blow. If the surplus capital flowing around the Middle East is being invested in speculative property deals in SE London it is because of the lack of opportunities to invest it productively in a world with stagnating growth. I wonder if they even have any intention of building a hotel - as the press release implies, it's the land with planning permission that they're after. The fact that planning  permission has been granted increases the value of land as it sets a precedent for permission to develop it, whether or not the original plan is followed through.


mp said...

this pub, for the way it looks, should be listed. there is anything we can do about it?

Transpontine said...

Anybody can make a recommendation to English Heritage for listing. Details here: