PETER FROST surveys the ruins of what was once a popular local London pub illegally demolished in a greedy scramble for profit.
THE Carlton Tavern was a typical historic London local pub. It was the only building in its street to survive the Blitz.
It sits where posh Maida Vale meets what estate agents call up-and-coming Kilburn.
What this friendly pub couldn’t survive is the rocketing housing prices in London and the illegal vandalism that property developers think they can get away with in the greedy hunt for profits.
Just two weeks ago that vandalism was demonstrated when a gang of demolition experts arrived at the pub and razed it to the ground.
They gave no notice to staff or customers but simply closed the pub — claiming for stock-taking. They turned off the big-screen TV, ignored the stocks of drinks behind the bar and pulled the pub down.
They totally ignored the fact that the planning permission applied for to demolish the pub and build a block of flats in its place had been turned down, as well as the fact that the pub was subject to an urgent application for Grade II listed building status.
Patsy Lord(below), the pub’s landlady, rushed to the scene after she was alerted to the demolition. Patsy told us: “It’s heartbreaking. There was no warning.”
When local authority officials turned up to see what was happening, the building was already a pile of rubble.
I actually know the Carlton well. Both my mother’s family and my wife Ann’s family were born and brought up in and around Maida Vale and Carlton Vale. One of the most popular pubs in the neighbourhood was the Carlton Tavern.
Built in 1921, it was designed by one of the most famous London pub architects, Frank J Potter, for one of the capital’s leading brewers Charrington & Co.
Charrington started brewing in Bethnal Green in 1700 and by the 1960s it would, after a series amalgamations and takeovers, become the biggest brewer in Britain.
Potter’s pubs for Charrington weren’t just elegant and well-built with glazed ceramic tiles and signs outside, but inside they were designed as spaces to be used by diverse sections of the local community.
The Carlton Tavern was built not just with public and saloon bars but also with an off-sales department and a luncheon and tea room.
In the 1920s there was great concern about drinking and the Carlton Tavern was part of the improved pub movement by breweries, providing family facilities and thus hopefully reducing drunkenness.
A fortnight ago the pub was well-used, if perhaps a little down-at-heel, but most of the original fixtures could be seen in the building.
Well-preserved externally and internally, the tavern had all its original rooms, fixtures and fittings.
Outside it looked pretty much as it had when it was built nearly a century ago. It was a handsome addition to the street scene. Now it is a pile of rubble.
The Carlton Tavern had been recently been purchased by a property company called CLTX Ltd which seems to be have been set up just to carry out this development.
It planned to turn it into a new pub with 10 new flats on four floors. At current local prices, each of those flats could be expected to sell for between half and three-quarters of a million pounds.
Westminster Council vetoed the plans as the new building would block views from the adjacent Maida Vale Conservation Area and, predictably, fail to provide any affordable housing.
Apparently the developer, fearing losing all that potential profit, ordered its contractors to move in with bulldozers and wrecking balls.
As the pub tumbled passers-by were amazed to see it was still fully furnished and there was still an unfinished pint on a table.
They were also horrified at the totally absence of any barriers or normal demolition health and safety precautions.
CLTX Ltd has connections with Israel — the only named director in company records is an Israeli — and the demolition tactics the company used would certainly be more at home destroying Palestinian homes in Gaza than in Kilburn.
Local Labour Councillor Rita Begum (below) was horrified by the demolition.
“It was a shock. I have never seen anything like it in my entire life. 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 the destroyed it. The whole community is in shock. How can they do this without approval?”
Even local Tory Councillor Tom Crockett (below), who actually witnessed the demolition, said: “The council, my fellow councillors nor local residents had any notice of this demolition, which I saw with my own eyes being conducted without any obvious safety precautions such as hoardings, barriers or traffic controls.
“It all took place as children on school holidays played outside and unsuspecting traffic went past through clouds of smoke and dust.”
Westminster Council is taking legal advice concerning whether any future action is legally possible.
The most likely outcome is a fine and then the developers will build their new pub and block of flats and laugh all the way to the bank.
The only real way to stop greedy property companies thinking they can get away with this vandalism is with prison sentences and heavy fines but also to make them rebuild the pub exactly as it was at whatever the cost.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 20 April 2015
Since the article was published the local council has taken my advice and issued an order that the pub must be rebuilt brick by brick in its original form. A huge legal battle will certainly ensue. This might be difficult with the development company being registered in Tel Aviv. Worst news for local drinkers is the the same company have now bought the famous nearby Paddington pub The Chippenham. How long will that last I wonder?