Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Closure of Lambeth Walk pub

I received an email a few days ago from Janus Polenceus (English Dem. candidate for Stockwell Ward), alerting me to the fact that The Lambeth Walk pub (17 Lambeth Walk) was closing.  It appears that it finally closed yesterday.  You might remember that the English Democrats had a particularly innovative idea about a memorial museum for Lambeth Walk and support of the pearly Kings and Queens in the by-election last year (as well as some other rather dubious views), so it doesn't surprise me that they're still focusing on this rather sad looking street.  Indeed, I think it's about time more of us focused on Lambeth Walk, and how dilapidated it has become (considering how lively and vibrant it once was), and there are various other people making a noise about it, as I remarked in Doing the Lambeth Walk 2010 style.  I'd be interested to hear from other local Princes Ward candidates (particularly Cllr Harrison, as he's very local) about whether they have any ideas for re-invigorating this area (that don't just involve "obtain Section 106 money by building new housing").  How difficult would it be to organise a weekend market?  Would it be popular?  Well attended?  It might be a way of encouraging further business down there, and since it's a no-through road, it might suit a market and a market in turn might stimulate some small local businesses to take advantage of the cheap local commercial units.  I've seen units recently advertised for only £6,000pa, so it's not beyond the reach of very small businesses, but it would need passing trade.  Why has this famous street been so neglected?

I was about to launch into, "end of an era", "shame about yet another pub closure" rhetoric (it doesn't take much to set me off), when I noted that Holding An Apple (a local blogger) went on a second local pub-crawl that focused on Lambeth Walk pubs (and very interesting it is too).  He had this to say, "These days it looks moribund, with broken windows in the upstairs rooms adding to the air of neglect. The last time I saw anyone drinking outside the pub they looked like geezers who ate pitbulls for breakfast, so I am not too surprised at its decline."  So I shall not be launching into any ill-advised rhetoric :)

But seriously... scary looking locals hanging around dilapidated pubs is just another way of saying, "this area has been abandoned and could do with investment".  Back in February, local councillors advertised a an anti-social behaviour meeting, but I never saw any follow-up.  Were any blog readers present, and can they advise on the outcome of that meeting?  Is it unrealistic to consider that the Council should do anything at all to reduce anti-social behaviour, and promote investment?  If it is, then how might locals help re-inject some life into the area?  Has anybody thought about organising a Big Lunch there, for example?


Sid Boggle said...

But that's the dichotomy of Kennington. It isn't unique in London, but it is a place where large concentrations of working-class people live in still sub-standard social housing, cheek-by-jowl with much more well-to-do zones containing houses which, I imagine, aren't far off £1m.

Until 2000, we didn't have a proper supermarket in the area for some 25 years, and long-term residents knew something was up when we got a Pizza Express and some more up-market eateries. This was part of the change that started when most of the Duchy Estate was refurbished and put on the market in the late 80's.

People don't necessarily lack for amenities, but there are some parts where there's no incentive to invest in regeneration. I believe there might have been some plans for Lambeth Walk if Ethelred tenants and residents had voted for redevelopment some years back, but the cost would have been to reduce the amount of social housing in Kennington still further.

And don't get me started on the proposal in 2001/2 to 'do a Fitzrovia' and secede from Lambeth in an attempt to defeat the congestion zone. I don't imagine the people of Vauxhall Gardens, Penwith Manor or the Ethelred were uppermost in the minds of those people...

Anonymous said...

Your earlier post on the princes ward candidates indicates that Janus Polencus is not a candidate in princes ward

SE11 Lurker said...

Thanks for noticing Anon! I've amended to the correct ward.

Michael said...

Is it just me or am I missing something. There is a whole set of new property and investment along Lambeth Walk.
Their is a nursery, doctor's surgery, community centre, small business units and new social housing.
And with regard to that Social Housing, I don't think it's fair to describe this as sub-standard (Under what basis can you making such a comment).
Kennington as you quite rightly say is a unique set of housing types and to my mind it's the perfect mix - extactly what we should be doing to ensure mix tenure.
Kennington is a wonderful place to live and one that is constantly evolving.
Sadly the history of Lambeth Walk as not been preserved but I don't think that their is a possibility of turning the clock back.
The idea of a new market is interesting and I am sure that this could be explored with a private market provider - but the fact that they are not knocking Lambeth's door down is because they know that it's not sustainable. And just think if it was - what then for Lower Marsh, Oval Farmer's Market and Brixton's emerging Farmer's Market and existing markets - it certainly a factor that Lambeth Council would have to consider.

Steve said...

I think there is a wider debate to be had about encouraging the Lambeth Walk, Lower Marsh, The Cut etc to all come together and make the area somewhere that flourishes with small businesses, shops, culture etc. Especially given the diversity of the area.

Columbia Road in E2 has done it and the spin offs for the surrounding area have been incredible - so much so that a whole neighbourhood and "street" culture has developed around Hoxton and Shoreditch - areas that were fast becoming derelict, pubs and cafes closing etc.

It would be great to see the area regenerated and it would be advantageous for all.

And hey - we could even use the Lillian Bayliss site as a true community hub instead of a super church for the ANC.

But hey - what do we know, we only live here and are proud of our area.

Sid Boggle said...

@ Michael: I didn't mean the new build on Lambeth Walk. Generally, there are pockets of social housing in the area suffering from neglect due to under-investment by successive LBL regimes.

A new market would have to be a sustainable retail destination. The Cut and Lower Marsh are thoroughfares within a developed commercial district. Lower Marsh has s slightly bohemian feel, which I seem to recall is under threat (from landlords?). Who would need to use The Walk as a throughway? I don't see it, myself...

Michael said...

Dear Steve,Sid and Lurker,

Agreed - I am all up for trying something new and if a market can be established and encouraged then all for the greater good. I certainly think that if succesful and unique that their would certainly be spin off benefits for the wider community.
I don't want to be a naysayer, I just wanted to say that it will be difficult to get started and the imptus will need to come from the private sector rather than the Council.

Mark Harrison said...

Lambeth Walk is a subject close to my heart, having lived on the street for over five years.

I think there is a phd thesis to be written on the reasons for the decline of the street, but primarily it's to do with Lambeth changing from a very high-density, pretty socially-homogeneous working class area, to the much more socially-mixed and lower-density area we know today. Lambeth Walk was the retail focus of the area, dozens of local pubs were used by their immediate neighbouring residents, and the market was a traditional London working class market, of which almost no remain in London today.

Retail and consumption habits have changed dramatically, which coupled with the replacement of the Victorian (slum) buildings with the housing estates of China Walk, Ethelred and Vauxhall Gardens, has caused the street to decline so dramatically.

A couple of stalls of the old market remain, but it's lost the critical mass needed to attract shoppers in from around the area.

The Council's working hard to rent out the remaining shop units under Pory House. They have some of the lowest retail rents in London, but five are still currently empty. Some of the units have been rented out as business spaces without active shop frontages, which is a shame, but better than them being empty altogether.

A new market would be fantastic, and we'd fully support any viable business proposition for one. The problem is - would it attract custom? Most successful new markets serve a pretty upmarket clientele - and we already have a farmers' market at Oval Church. We'd need to think carefully about what any new market would have to offer and whether the people living around Lambeth Walk would actually use it.

Having said all that, Lambeth Walk is in a better state than a decade or so ago. The remaining Victorian buildings at the top end of the street are renovated and used as small business units, Lupino Court is an improvement on Sugden House which went before it, the Ethelred Estate has had a lot of investment to bring the buildings up to standard, and several of the shops under Pory House are fighting on and still providing good services (the off licence, chemist, optician, and pizzeria come to mind). I'm hoping we can direct some Section 106 money to further improve the shop fronts to ensure the businesses there are supported by the Council as much as is possible. Some local residents are investigating turning the market square into a community garden. And a future community hub at Old Lilian Baylis could well be the catalyst for further improvements.

Sid Boggle said...

@Mark H: When you say it's better than nothing that the retail units are rented out, better for whom? The Council, who get a rent, or the locals?

I can remember the Co-Op supermarket under Sugden House, in the little square, and a busy retail parade in the early 80's. Once Kennington became more "socially-mixed", I wonder if the expectation was that amenities would be around Kennington Cross? There was a butchers, baker, a couple of grocery shops, a pharmacy on the main parade in Kennington Lane, but they'd gone pretty much by the late 70's, as have the shops further up the Lane towards Newington Butts. It took more than a decade for anything more sustainable than estate agents and the two Indian restaurants to become established after the mid-80s in Kennington Road, and the Tesco site built in 2000 dispersed the retail, but not too far.

The only destination pub in Kennington (Zeitgeist) is near Lambeth Walk, but there's nothing to really draw shoppers away from existing amenities. I couldn't see residents supporting anything like a farmer's market, even if it could attract shoppers from elsewhere.

I dunno - the commerce is in Vauxhall and along Albert Embankment, and it's mostly government. Large employers that were here like Naafi and James Burroughs have gone and not been replaced. Look at the pictorial story of Kennington's pubs linked on the main article. Kennington in the 21st century couldn't sustain that number - there were 26 between Vauxhall and Newington Butts in the early 80's.

jason hall said...

I grew up in Vauxhall in the 1970s.....it's changed almost beyond recognition and the great Lambeth walk so busy in the 70s and now look at it, a derelict shadow and no doubt the people living there now haven't got a clue what it was or once stood for....very very sad....what's happened to my Vauxhall

'Mysterel' said...

So much regeneration going on around from Battersea, Nine Elms and Vauxhall and then Waterloo (Shell Centre) and the Ethelred Nursery side of Kennington. In the middle of all this lies Lambeth Walk, run down and neglected-looking but no sign of any proposals to reinvigorate the area. Surely funding can be identified to sort out the shop fronts (see Jamaica Road near j/w St James' for an example of what could be achieved) to get the ball rolling. S106 money may not amount to much but it could be the start of something great - so come on Lambeth - do something positive to help bring back Lambeth Walk back up to scratch...

Barrowboy said...

I have just learnt a little of the past history of the Lambeth Walk pub. Apparently it was known as the Mason's Arms prior to the early 1950's. In his autobiography, Lullaby of Birdland, the late Battersea born blind jazz pianist Sir George Shearing says "The place I began my professional career was not the Latchmere, near to hand, but the Mason's Arms in Lambeth Walk". This was way back in 1935. Bearing Shearings phenomenal success as a jazz pianist in the US would it not be appropriate for a GLC Blue Plaque to be mounted on this building?

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