Carlton Tavern: The Pub That Was Reborn From Rubble

Jul 2, 2022 0 comments

Carlton Tavern in Kilburn, London, was the heart of the community for nearly a hundred years until it ceased to exist one spring morning in 2015. It’s owners had it demolished to make way for a block of flats. The demolition had taken place without permit. The developers thought they could get away with the infraction with a slap on the wrist and a fine, but not this time. The city council ordered the developers to rebuild the pub “brick by brick”. Six years later, when the Carlton Tavern reopened, it became simultaneously brand-new and a hundred years old.

The Carlton Tavern before it was demolished

The Carlton Tavern before it was demolished. Photo: Ewan Munro/Flickr

The Carlton Tavern was built in 1921 for Charrington Brewery to a design by the reputed architect Frank J. Potter. It was the only building in the street to survive the German bombing during World War II. The building was noted for its unaltered 1920s interiors and faience tiled exterior, and was on the verge of being awarded the protected Grade II status from Historic England.

A spokesman for Historic England said: “The site was remarkably well-preserved externally and internally. It displayed the hierarchy of rooms in their fixtures, fittings and decorative treatment and retained all its external signage. Few pubs were built at this date and fewer survive unaltered.”

The overzealous property developer, however, wanted to turn Carlton Tavern into luxury apartments. This application was rightfully turned down by the city council. During Easter, the owners asked Patsy Lord, the then-manager of the Carlton Tavern, to vacate the pub for a few days because they needed to take an inventory. But when she returned two days later, she found a pile of bricks and broken glass where the building used to be.

The demolished Carlton Tavern

The demolished Carlton Tavern. Photo: MyLondonNews

"It was a shock. I have never seen anything like it in my entire life," said Westminster City Councillor Rita Begum. "I went past just the other day and there were people drinking inside the pub—there was no warning whatsoever. They were going to confirm it as a listed building on Wednesday. I think the developers found out it was going to be a listed building and that's why they destroyed it. The whole community is in shock. How can they do this without approval?"

The very next month, the Westminster City Council ordered the Tel Aviv-based developer CLTX Ltd, to "recreate in facsimile the building as it stood immediately prior to its demolition."

Thankfully, the preservation society English Heritage had surveyed the pub, making records of the layout, tiles and other original details so that full architectural information was available.

Many people were skeptical that the pub could be rebuilt exactly as it was before demolition.

Dozens of local residents and regulars gather outside the much loved, partially demolished Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale to protest against its sudden, illegal demolition by property developers, April 26th 2015

Dozens of local residents and regulars gather outside the much loved, partially demolished Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale to protest against its sudden, illegal demolition by property developers, April 26th 2015. Photo: Paul Davey/Alamy Stock Photo

“People said it was impossible,” said Polly Robertson, a leading member of the Rebuild the Carlton Tavern campaign. “Many people said, ‘Polly, it’s not worth it, nothing’s going to happen’. And I just thought, no – I’m not going to let it lie.”

And six years later, the pub reopened to celebrate its 100 years anniversary, and it is identical to the one that was razed to the ground.

“From the ocher red letters spelling out “Charrington Sparkling Ales and Famous Stout” on its brick and tile facade to the swooping brass door handles to the elaborate plasterwork inside, the pub’s original charm and character has been recreated,” wrote The New York Times.

The Carlton Tavern after it was rebuilt

The Carlton Tavern after it was rebuilt. Photo: Frank Langfitt/NPR

"They've done an amazing job at rebuilding it as it was. A lot of people have come in and said what a beautiful old building and they don't believe us when we say it's brand new,” said Tom Rees, the new owners of Carlton Tavern. “We feel we're getting the best of both worlds. We're getting a brand new pub with brand new electrics and wiring; and plumbing, but we're getting the charm and beauty of this heritage pub.”

Maida Vale councillor Geoff Barraclough said: “It’s great to see the Carlton Tavern reborn and it’s remarkable what can be achieved through strong community action when a council is prepared to use all its powers. I’ll certainly be along for a pint on opening day.”

# Their London Pub Was Reduced to Rubble. They Fought to Bring It Back, The New York Times
# Rising from the rubble: London pub rebuilt brick by brick after illegal bulldozing, The Guardian
# Six years ago today, it was knocked down - next week the Carlton reopens, Kilburn Times
# This Historic London Pub Was Illegally Demolished—6 Years Later It's About to Reopen, Food and Wine


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