Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Thomas-a-Becket - No room at the inn?

Walking up the Old Kent Road today I noticed that another famous London pub is no more. The Thomas-a-Becket (on the corner of Albany Road near Tesco's) is now occupied by the office of a 'Property Consultant' - seemingly a landlord - with an art gallery upstairs. The site has been a place of refreshment for hundreds of years - Chaucer refers to pilgrims to Becket's shrine in Canterbury stopping off at St Thomas a Watering for a rest. This refers to the crossing of a stream near where the pub stands. In the past few years it has hosted a restaurant and bar, but no more refreshments there for the time being.

The building has a number of iconic connections. In the early 1970s, David Bowie rehearsed on the 2nd floor with the prototype 'Spiders From Mars', while James Fox trained in the first floor boxing gym for his part in Performance. Henry Cooper trained there and bizarrely Dave Prowse (the original Darth Vader) is selling photos of him meeting Muhammed Ali there. John Martyn also did a photoshoot there. Way back in 1888, a suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders was arrested after 'leaving a shiny black bag at the Thomas a Becket public house' containing 'a very sharp dagger, a clasp knife, two pairs of very long and vary curious looking scissors, and two preservers'.

We can only hope that the building itself will survive, unlike the recently demolished Gin Palace nearby.


Anonymous said...

would make a great boxing museum dont you think

Derek said...

My father Derek John Palmer trained at this gym with Henry Cooper and many others. His old friend Bobby Paget works there also if I remember.
Derek Palmer

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

passed it the other day and some work going on in there also local gossip is that is is opening again,

Thomas A Becket Leisure Investments said...

Hello all, the Thomas A Becket pub is indeed being redeveloped by us at Thomas A Becket Leisure Investments. We are very excited to bring this historic and renowned local attraction back to its former glory and will look forward to seeing you join us once it is up and running in around a months time. We are opening a restaurant-cum-bar-cum-nightclub at the venue and are sure it will prove popular with all visitors.

Thomas A Becket Leisure Investments.

Julia, Katy and Rhiannon (JoKeRs) said...

hello, I would really like to put on an exhibition/put some art work on the walls in or upstairs in the pub. I have family ties with the pub and would love to show some work in there i also have experience with exhibiting in that enviroment, please could you get in contact with in order to discuss this?

Anonymous said...

IS this the pub, that has a boxing club above it?

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that The Becket is opening again and hope that the painting of all the old fighters is still on the wall.
My husband trained there and also remember Beryl and the late great Danny Holland who ran the gym for many years.
Would be great idea to reopen the gym or have a boxing museum there.

Anonymous said...

Its good to hear that the Becket is reopening. My husband trained there and I also remember The Late Great Danny Holland who ran the gym.
I hope that the painting of all the old fighters is still in the bar. I believe that was done when Gary Davison took the pub over from Beryl gibbons.

Anonymous said...

The mural that the late and much loved Gary Davidson had painted on the wall in 1984 is now gone. When he owned the pub it was transformed into a museum downstairs the even housed the gloves Cooper wore when putting Ali on the floor. All that memerobilia was sold when Billy Aird took the pub over from Gary. I believe that now it is a wine bar and hope it does well as the Old Kent Road itself is a tough nut to crack, more so now than ever.

H said...

Hi glad to hear the pub might be reopen again .In the 60s it was my cousins pub Tommy Gibbons and his partner Beryl,i was young then and do not remember much,does any one recall my cousin whilst he ran the pub. Thanks

dinermama said...

We remember Beryl, and have very fond memories of the Thomas A’beckett we spent 6 nights a week listening and enjoying some of the best bands e.g. Scarecrow, Anvil, Blunderbuss with (Vanantine Sweetheart helping out) Blackfoot Sue and many more. We were a group of kid’s from the Bonamy Estate and surrounding areas, walk home from the Beckett we would stop at the hole in the wall chippy on Dunton Road Bridge. My boyfriend now husband of 35 years still think Scarecrow was one of the best bands of the time. Our place to stand was on the stairs going up to the Boxing club and we were forever having to move to let boxers go up to the club some of whom were famous, but the Bands were so much more important..

H said...

Anyone remember tommy gibbons who ran the beckett in the 60s info

Anonymous said...

Happy memories seeing Blunderbuss at the Becket nearly every weekend - place was always packed.
Sadly ended when guitarist Stevie Blunder (aka 'Viscount Valentine Fotheringay Asquin Smythe') died.
Vocalist/Comedian Laurie's new band 'Rough Edges' continued for a while until the pub was taken over and emptied as a result.
Scarecrow also very good - made recording of one of their gigs at the Becket and still got it somewhere.
Mebbe I'll upload to Youtube sometime :)

Anonymous said...

Talking to some old mates the other week about bands that we saw in our 'younger days'! We all agreed that some of the best nights we had were at the Becket in the mid/late 70's early 80's watching Blunderbuss. We used to make the journey up from deep south London (Mitcham!). Great band, great nights, great memories.
Also, knew Gary Davidson. Prior to running the Becket, he was Landlord of The Angel in Sutton for a few years. We used to drink in there a lot, so got to know him and his wife quite well, could not believe our luck when he got to run the Becket, never a problem with a few afters!!
Two really great guys Stevie Blunder and Gary.

Transpontine said...

This post was from a few years ago, pub has re-opened since:


Anonymous said...

Fantastic memories of the 'Becket', used to play there myself back in the early 70's in 'Stan's Blues Band'. My favourites were always 'Blunderbus'. Now living in Dorset and am always reminiscing about the 'old days' to anyone who will listen. Would love to hear them again so if anyone knows of any existing recordings of them I would love to hear from you. My email is: jorolo@virginmedia.com

frankstroud said...

Used to live in Cobourg road next to Albany Road. Watched so so many great rock bands (Information on Tuesdays were the best, but Stans Blues band were close) in the Becket and the Blunders at the weekend were always great fun. That was in the seventies but remember my dad going to Tommy Gibbons funeral much earlier.

john johnston said...

Blunderbus were my favourite great weekends in the Becket ,great musicians and singer Laurie a great front man who held the whole night together with his jokes etc..Still hear so many of the tracks on the radio and memories keep flooding back,
old girlfriends and friends from the Coopers road and Avondale estates.
Anyone know of any recordings ?
could do with more live music,in fact could do with a few more pubs!!

great memories regards John Johnston.


Hi Frank good to see your still about.

Masterofthe Goonaverse said...

Yeah nice to hear from you John, hows life been? Frank Stroud.

Anonymous said...

I have very fond memories of evenings spent at the TAB watching and listening Blunderbuss.
Until I read this blog, I hadn't heard that it all stopped because Steve Blunder sadly died. We always wondered why.

As I recall it, Laurie would introduce the band as 'Stevie Blunder on guitar, Valentine Fotheringay Aspen Smythe on Bass, Bobby Mularkis on keyboards and 'Mighty Mick the Cowshit' on drums.'

I think they called the occasional eccentric guest 'Valentine Tweazy'. He sang 'Hey Joe', including guitar solos, while Laurie mouthed 'pratt' and pointed at him. Very funny.

They were so, so good. Wonderful times.

Jay said...

I am writing a book on the film Performance, there will be contributions from Mick Jagger, James Fox, director Nic Roeg and producer Sandy Lieberson and many more.
I would love to hear of any memories of the landlord Tommy Gibbons, Beryl or James Fox training in the gym.

Anonymous said...

I remember this great pub in the late 70's with so much affection and love. Every Saturday was the fantastic Blunderbuss playing covers and with so much humour, sometimes, no at at all times,
blue and rude! Lost times never to be repeated. The Old Kent Road rocked with pub bands. Peter Christmas.

Robert said...

Loved Blunderbuss. Sad to hear that (only from reading this blog) Stevie Blunder had died. One of the last times I saw the band was New Years Eve 1980. Had a friend over from Canada and stopped off in there for a drink en route to the fireworks in London. But, never made that as we stayed in the Becket. What a fantastic night it was.
Laurie was such a character and held the night together with his rude, and very funny, wit. Whenever I hear Hall and Oats, Your kiss is on my lips or Next, Alex Harvey Band,,, my mind wanders back to all those years ago and the good times in that pub. So wish I had a time machine and could nip back to see them again.