Chequers, Cock and Bell: Walthamstow pubs re-born?

Drink
August 27, 2012 11:26 am

In the nearly two years that I’ve been running this site, I’m not sure any topic has generated as much discussion as that of pubs in Walthamstow. Which one is the best? Isn’t it just a creche on Sundays? What’s the deal with the guy who lives in the corner? And, whisper it…but didn’t they have a cat wedding once? Over the past few weeks, the renovation of three Walthamstow pubs has renewed chatter about the local drinking establishments.

Chequers, The Cock Tavern and The Bell

At the time of writing, Chequers and The Cock Tavern, both on Walthamstow Market, and The Bell at the Bell Junction are all closed for refurbishment. The Cock Tavern looks to be the furthest forward, with a smart lick of paint on the outside, and, peering through the window yesterday, what looks to be a fairly comprehensive gutting of the inside. There is no indication of when it might open again, but with such a comprehensive overhaul, I do wonder if the owners are looking to attract a new crowd to the historic pub.

Chequers has been closed since the end of July, when the owners voluntarily (with some encouragement from the local Police) shut the place down. The sign on the door states that it will be closed “for 3-4 weeks”, although there isn’t much evidence that the refurbishment is underway. There is a rumour that the Antic pub chain have taken it over, which would be interesting. It doesn’t appear on their list of pubs yet, but they do have a good track record, running the White Hart in Stoke Newington, the Red Lion in Leytonstone, and most recently Leyton Technical, the pop-up pub in Leyton library, which was excellent.

Looking at Chequers yesterday, I noticed that the name of the pub has been deliberately obscured on both sides of the sign. Perhaps an indication of a new name to go with the new look and possible new owners? Whatever one thought of the old Chequers and The Cock Tavern, given their proximity to one another, they are major contributors to the night-time economy of the Walthamstow Market and High Street area. There are some lovely cafés and restaurants near the pubs, but I suspect that some E17 residents shy away from that area at night, preferring perhaps the environs of the Village area.

The Bell is arguably the most intriguing redevelopment. It has been taken on by a chap named Andy, who used to be involved with the aforementioned White Hart in Stoke Newington. The Twitter feed at @Bell_E17 gives updates of the redevelopment. On Saturday 25 August they tweeted the picture below of the top of one of the columns inside the pub, which is obscured by a false low ceiling. Unfortunately, the redevelopment has also revealed other problems, which will delay the opening. The latest news from The Bell’s blog is that the opening is likely to be at least four weeks away, and that they will potentially have to open in stages. Walthamstow waits with interest.

Picture of column inside The Bell, tweeted by @Bell_E17

What does this mean for other Walthamstow pubs?

Everyone who lives here probably has their own favourite pub in Walthamstow. A contributor for Londonist recently proclaimed The Nag’s Head as the best pub in Waltham Forest. I’m not sure about that, but it’s fair to say that there are three main pub hubs in Walthamstow – the Nag’s Head/Village/Castle/Queen’s Arms quartet in Walthamstow Village; The Duke’s Head/Flowerpot duo in Wood Street; and the Rose & Crown.

The obvious point about the three refurbishments is that none of them are in Walthamstow Village. I think a lot of people (myself included) wander up to the Village area for a pint mainly because it’s quite nice. However, if Chequers and The Cock Tavern start to draw people in, the pubs in the Village area might have to work a bit harder to attract people in. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

The Rose & Crown is consistent pub and has got a good crowd. The theatre, the comedy and the music nights bring people in, and they seem to be constantly experimenting with different food offerings. I applaud a pub that tries new things.

The Bell, like the Rose & Crown, is a big pub, with ample space for live music and comedy, and with a kitchen area as well. The curiosity factor will probably help to attract some people from the Rose & Crown to The Bell upon opening, but it’s also quite likely that The Bell will attract people from Lloyd Park and Higham Hill, both being areas with a distinct lack of boozers.

The lost pubs of Walthamstow

Are there enough people in Walthamstow to sustain all these new drinking establishments? Who knows, really, but I hope so. There is already a long list of pubs now sadly long gone in Walthamstow, and I don’t want to see any added to that list. It can only be a good thing for the local area if the Market and the, ahem, Bell end of Hoe Street have good quality pubs, hopefully with some entertainment that will encourage people from further afield to travel into E17.

A note on lost pubs – it’s not in Walthamstow, but the Birkbeck Tavern in Leyton is under threat of being turned into flats. There is a petition for Waltham Forest Council to save the pub.

E17 Pub Trail

Lastly, if you’re on Twitter, you might want to follow @E17PubTrail. This is an idea that has sprung up over the past week, of visiting 17 pubs in E17 over a weekend and comparing notes. It is likely to happen when the three refurbishments have been completed, perhaps in November. Follow them for the latest news.

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28 Comments

  • There also appears to be signs of work at the Coach & Horses at St James St.

    Since moving here 7 years ago I’ve been constantly changing my mind on which is my favourite pub. The conclusion is that several pubs all have good things about them, but not necessarily the same things! For me, the Nags has a great location, The Flowerpot the best of an old school atmosphere(OAPS & youth mixing together), the Rose & Crown the best variety of customers and community events and the Castle a good place for drinking in a more ‘bar-like’ setting.

    As to whether there are enough customers to keep all the pubs going with the Chequers and Cock back in business, well I reckon there are if as I expect a lot of people travel outside E17 for a drink. The Bell should attract a mass of Lloyd Pk residents and might even prompt owners of the R&C to put serious money into a more thorough refurb. Antic have a brilliant track record so should do well at the Chequers (got a feeling they WILL change the name to break links with past trouble but hope they don’t). Not sure about the Cock Tavern refurb – they’ve got downlighters on a plasterboard looking ceiling, not exactly a look that’s sympathetic with an 1880′s built boozer.

    Still, exciting times. I’ll be hotfooting all over E17 now for my pub experiences!

    • Hey Richard

      Thanks for the comment. Funny, I was talking to some friends about the Cock this afternoon, at the beer festival in The Village. Obviously the Cock and Chequers had an existing clientele, I wonder if they might gravitate towards the Cock if Chequers gets a bit posher. Wouldn’t be a bad thing – different crowds need somewhere to drink, I don’t want all the pubs the same!

      • Quite agree.Have you read this blog? http://boakandbailey.com/2012/08/the-poshing-up-of-the-chequers/
        Hadn’t really considered Antic pubs as particularly ‘posh’ but maybe I’m more middle class than I thought!
        As long as pubs aren’t a major magnet for trouble (back to the Chequers again) it’s good having different types for different tastes.
        Wonder where the regulars go when a pub attracts a different crowd. Remember on my last visits to the doomed dog track feeling really sorry especially for the old guys and gals that frequented it.

      • Well, when I say ‘posh’…you know…dare I say, Highbury posh but with an East London twist.

  • You say of the High Street area in Walthamstow: “There are some lovely cafés and restaurants near the pubs”.

    Really?! Certainly not at night, as far as I’m aware, when the only half decent place on the High Street seems to be Windmill – the rest of the High Street is a ghost town at night – in fact I don’t think I know of a High Street quite like it which is so dead at night and devoid of anywhere to go!

    I have been in the two pubs you mention in the past and both were pretty grim so I do hope the new owners manage to improve things – and maybe this will have a positive knock-on effect. I think the success of the Village area doesn’t help the rest of the ‘Stow, as most people with money to spend in the evenings either head straight there, or into town.

    • Hi Mrs D

      Thanks for the comment.

      I think Ricco’s and a couple of the other cafes are ok. I like the feel of the al fresco cafe culture, but I agree, it dies a death at night. Hopefully the refurbished pubs can attract more people to that part of Walthamstow.

  • Come along to the Duke’s Head on Wood St. Having had a dodgy reputation in the 80′s & 90′s, John and Eileen have COMPLETLY turned the pub around. Thursday nights have trad jazz playing in the pub with some proper players from the british scene. A great night for the older crew who might like to have a dance.
    Friday is always good for the Rock fans with trib bands and the like. I know John is keen to host an open mic night (which I’ve played drums at before now). I really think this could be the successor to the Standard. Loads of parking and food shops are on offer.

    • Hi Lenny

      Thanks for the comment.

      I love that the Dukes has regular live music, it’s virtually the only pub in Walthamstow to do so. We are really glad that they are hosting a gig as part of Stow Festival. I think that there’s a real opportunity for a pub to become the place to go in Wood Street, particularly since the demise of The Plough.

      And I really hope somewhere is a successor to The Standard. We need regular good live music in Walthamstow! We are always happy to publicise gigs at The Dukes if we can get details.

      • Hi Nick we are John and Eileen from the Dukes Head nice to hear some positive feedback, we have worked very hard to change the reputation of the Pub, and are now working to turn this into a venue for regular live music but need help to ensure past customers and future customers are actually aware that this is not a ‘dodgy’ pub anymore !!!!! If you would be kind enough to publicise gigs for us I can send a list of forthcoming events by email to you cheers John and Eileen

      • Hi John and Eileen

        Thanks for the comment! Funnily enough I was talking about the Dukes with some mates the other night. I need to get down there more often.

        Yes, if you’d like to send me the listings I’d be happy to help publicise them.

        Best wishes
        Nick

  • New in the area and popped on to the Dukes Head and on friday and witnessed a good Jimmy Hendricks tribute night and enjoyed! Nice crowd and friendly staff, Good to see an older crowd everyone seemed to be over 30 for a change! Defo going back next fri for a  70s glam rock band Cupid stunts! Looking forward to it!! Night night

  • I suspect Antic plans to keep Chequers’ name the same:

    http://thechequerspub.com/

  • yes but look at the prices in the Red Lion , leytonstone, last time I was in it was 13.00 for sunday lunch , sitting on second hand furniture, they think they have gordon Ramsey in the kitchen.

  • Having moved to the area last year from SW London, I missehaving a selection of pubs on my doorstep as its always nice to have a bit of variety and a pub crawl. The Rose and Crown has become my regular (live in Lloyd Park) and 1 enjoy wondering down to the Village on occasion but to have something closer than the village (I know its not that far!) will be great.

    Very pleased to see the Bell is reopenning and being run by former management of the White Lion (Stoke Newington)as its lovely building and shame not to be used. Having been to the White Lion it will be great if they can replicate that!

    Have been to several Antic pubs over the year and seen them turn around run down boozers so really looking forward to them opening a pub here! They have recently reopened the Clapton Hart, nice pub if full of hipsters but nothing like it in E17 so a welcome addition and will bring some activity to the High Street of a night.

  • Interesting stuff. I’m a bit skeptical that the Cock and the Chequers can escape their grotty roots, simply because of their location. And to be honest if the people who used to drink in the Chequers don’t feel comfortable there any more and all turn up at the Rose and Crown, that will make my life worse not better.

    Still, the Bell refurbishment looks promising. Its a great building, and the state its been in for the last couple of years is shocking.

    On a broadly related note, there used to be a pub on the corner of Erskine and Gainsford Road. A fine old building, its now flats. Does anyone know anything about this place?

    • Hi Ted

      Thanks for the comment. I’m afraid that I don’t know anything about the old pub at Erskine and Gainsford Road. But I did just look it up on Google Streetview, it is a lovely old building isn’t it!

      Best wishes
      Nick

    • The pub on Erskine Rd was The Councillors Arms, built sometime between 1887-1897 and apparantly now a Mosque. May have had the same builder as The Rose & Crown (similar style and age).

  • http://mspweb.walthamforest.gov.uk/Planning/lg/GFPlanningDocuments.page?org.apache.shale.dialog.DIALOG_NAME=gfplanningsearch&Param=lg.Planning&viewdocs=true&SText2=146217

    Looks like the Coach and Horses has a new owner who want to turn it into a restaurant / bar with flats above. Refused planning permission though.

  • The Antic Ltd have definitely taken over the Chequers and are re-opening beginning of Nov. There are rumours that they might look into the Royal Standard pub too…if the TFC don’t go ahead demolish it!

  • The bell is a very large public house which serve a selection of beers and hot food. When I came in everyone seemed very friendly. Though I only bought a few drinks, it was very comfortable to stay in and I would come here again.

  • when i lived in walthamstow i used to like it ut it is a total s*** whole because all these pubs have close down

  • What about the now closed college arms ? Another pub in need of some love ? COuld it be a nice addition to the already booming pub scene in the stow ?

  • Hello – do any of you boozers (!) know if there are any pubs in Walthamstow that have parking and that are not too far off a main road with bus routes?

    Would be really helpful to know, thanks!

    Ginette

    • The Ferryboat Inn has a large car park. It is on a main road with a bus stop out the front and walking distance from both Blackhorse Road and Tottenham Hale tube stations. It’s a good pub on a sunny day as it has a llarge beer garden.

  • Does any of you know what The Warrant Officer pub on Higham Hill Rd is like (previously known as The Tavern on the Hill)?

    They have a decent website (http://www.http://thewarrantofficerpub.com/) and seem to have lots of events planned, but what is the clientele like and does it have a bad reputation?

    Moving to the area soon, and would be great to have a decent pub not too far away.

  • In response to Nick. I own one of the flats in the old pub on the corner of Erskine rd and gainsford. The story is it was built without seeking the appropriate licence which was subsequently rejected and the councillors arms ran as a very grand off licence. The pub licence was never granted and the building has now been split in half, 67 is a mosque and 67a was converted into 5 flats in the late 80s. It’s a beautiful building.

  • Hello, I’ve seen that the COLLEGE ARMS is closed for refurb and that it will now be known as THE WILLIAM MORRIS. It is already looking really nice from the outside, does anyone know any more about the plans for it? I work around the corner so am hoping for a great after work hang out.

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