Sunday, November 18, 2012

Royal Albert for Sale

Last week's Transpontine pub round up mentioned that the New Cross Inn is up for sale. Now it seems that another key local pub, The Royal Albert, is also up for sale. To be precise the terrace of buildings from 460-464 New Cross Road, which includes The Royal Albert, is on the market.  As well as the pub, the site includes three other Victorian buildings, two with shops on ground floor and flats above, and one next to the pub not currently in use. There is also an empty site behind the terrace (see photo below).

Worryingly it is being marketed by Kalmars in the 'development sites' section of its website. However, there is no reason to think that there is any immediate threat to the Royal Albert. TBAC Ltd signed a 15 year lease for the pub in 2009, so there's another 12 years to go on that (I believe TBAC is associated with Antic who run the pub). Antic are adamant that there is no danger to the pub.


The Royal Albert has a long history stretching back to the mid-19th century. At times it has been an important music venue. In the 1970s Kate Bush was among those who played there. Local band Rubber Johnny, who grew out out of the Albany in Depford, played a Friday night residency there from around 1978-1981.  The picture below shows the band playing there, as well as the mural in the pub.

picture by Steve Golton from a set from this time at Flickr
Later it became the Paradise Bar. The flyer below is from a 1992 event promoted by SYLVIA (Support Your Local Venues and Independent Artists) promising 'Deptford Beat bands' including The Proles and Moral Panic.

1992 flyer from set of Proles flyers by mdx at flickr
In 2003/4, the Paradise Bar was the centre of the 'New Cross scene' associated with Angular Records and Caffy St Luce's Pop of the Tops night. - Bloc Party, Art Brut and The Long Blondes all played early gigs there  (happy days). When Antic took it over in 2006 it reverted to its original name, and is now a very comfortable pub with good food and drink.

Bloc Party at Paradise Bar 2003
(from set of photos by Paul Madden at flickr)

Although there seems to be no reason to worry now about the future of the Royal Albert, the fact remains that a property developer could buy up the site with a longer term ambition to redevelop it. That is happening to pubs all over the country, including just down the New Cross Road where the recently closed Walpole faces demolition to be replaced by a hotel. Perhaps we shouldn't wait until the places we value are about to shut down before we take action to preserve their future. For a start, anybody can recommend that a building be listed by English Heritage (details here). And there is also the option of getting a pub listed as an 'asset of community value' as Southwark Council have done for the Ivy House in Nunhead.

Update 19th November: just realized that Bill at Deptford Misc has previously researched the history of the pub, starting out with this early history: 'The first recorded mention of the Royal Albert Public House was when Frederick Andrew Hall was granted a license for the premises on 6th September 1848. On the 1851 census Mr Hall is described as a Master Bricklayer aged 47, born in Plumstead employing 10 men; his wife Elizabeth aged 60 was born in Rotherhithe. Three children Betsey 36 , Harriet 23 and George 20 (a Carpenter) are listed along with Ostler John Dickenson 22 and Pot Boy George Runham 14. Apart from Betsey who was born in Rotherhithe (presumeably Elizabeth's daughter by a previous marriage) they were all shown as born in Deptford'. Lots more here: http://deptfordmisc.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/royal-albert-pub-has-stood-on-corner-of.html

A lot of owners, licensees, bar staff and drinkers have passed through since 1848, which only serves to highlight that whoever currently owns old pubs like this really only have temporary custody of them before they pass them on. They shouldn't be able to wipe out decades, even centuries, of continuous social life in pursuit of a short term property deal. But that's exactly what countless owners of these buildings are being allowed to get away with.

9 comments:

Bill Ellson said...
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Bill Ellson said...
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Bill Ellson said...

I suspect the description of the pub's tenant as TBAC Ltd is erroneous. In April this year I was researching the history of the pub and the then freehold owners of the pub were The Black Ant Company Limited. Black Ant is part of the Antic set up and I presume somebody at Kalmars has abbreviated the name not realising that there is an entirely unrelated company actually called TBAC Ltd. It is common for commercial leases to be backdated and if the lease described by Kalmars does exist it is yet to be registered with the Land Registry. I do hope that Antic took proper legal advice before going involved in a complicated land deal. Antic recently failed to get a license in Woolwich simply because they failed to understand the licensing law considerations that apply in what is designated as 'Saturation Zone'.

Monkeyboy said...

Would be interesting to get a comment from Antic. Seeing as they are mobilising the community to save their other pub from development (the Catford tavern) it would be cynical if they have similar long term development ideas here.

None of the above reflects on Richard who ran Jam Circus, the Albert and now the Tavern. He's a fine landlord.

Transpontine said...

Bill, I haven't checked the land registry: are you saying that Black Ant (i.e. Antic) actually own the freehold on the pub, and therefore that it is actually them that is selling (perhaps in some kind of partnership with whoever owns the neighbourhing buildings)?

Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please said...

It the Black Ant Company owned the freehold, it may be of interest to note that that company appears to have gone into administration: http://www.companiesinadministration.co.uk/company/03400474/the-black-ant-company-limited

The Royal Albert is not currently listed on their properties up for sale by insolvency practitioners, though interestingly land behind the (antic-run) Westow House in Crystal Palace is: http://www.moorfieldscr.com/properties-for-sale/

There's clearly some historic relationship between Antic and Black Ant (perhaps the latter as a separate but linked property company). Antic are still trading, so cleary separate enough. But we do need some clarity about who owns the Albert now - if it's in the hands of administrators I would be very worried.

Bill Ellson said...

Sorry for the delay in responding.

Antic run pubs, that is what they are in business to do. For an independent publican running his or her own pub it may well make sense to own the freehold (or a long leasehold) particularly if it is his or her home. For an expanding chain like Antic money tied up in property is less money to expand and extend the core business.

If you go to Find a Property on the Land Registry website and search by postcode SE14 6TJ you will see that 460 (the pub) and 460A (the shop unit next door that was once part of the Paradise bar) are still shown as seperate freeholds. As previously commented it may be that any change is yet to be registered.

From what two pints says it would appear that Back Ant are in a different situation from Antic. Black Ant shared the same registered office address as Antic up until August 2011.

Unless Antic choose to shed some light on the subject it may all remain a bit mysterious, but Antic Ltd appear to up to date with accounts and returns to Companies House.

Anonymous said...

Has there been planning permission granted for The Walpole demolition?

I thought the current building was going to be converted.

Could it not be listed?
It has some fantastic Victorian tiling which should be preserved.

Jon Jones said...

just to say i work there and all seems ok :-) everyone will fight to keep the albert open as we love it as much as the people who go there.

i don't know what i can say but i know the freehold is up for sale but our lease is 15yrs. you can never be certain but for now it seems we're all fine.

we got some kick arse ales coming in so i'm just gonna keep working and see what happens.