Pubs

I’ve only ever really had one local, that is a pub I visited at least once a week for a couple of years. But what a local. Crocker’s Folly was one of London’s best pubs, a beautiful old gin palace, with a stunning saloon bar that featured 50 kinds of marble, Romanesque marble columns, Jacobean ceiling, cut glass, chandeliers and carved mahogany.

The pub even had a great back story. It was built by Frank Crocker in 1889, who got wind that a new station was to open at Marylebone and so placed his extravagant new hotel at what he believed was going to be the perfect location to attract the thousands of travellers. Sadly, the station was constructed half-a-mile  to the south and – it’s said – a ruined Crocker leapt to his pavementy death from one of the upstairs window. (In truth, he died in 1904 of natural causes.)

I used Crocker’s when I lived on the nearby canal at Lisson Grove, popping there for a pint after work, for a quick lunch or long dinner, to watch the football, for a sneaky drink between visits to the launderette, to take part in the pub quiz, to meet friends, to be alone. We had a great landlord and the pub was always full of canal folk and locals, a place you felt welcome, where there was always somebody to talk to or enough room for you to settle down on your own, with a packet of cigarettes, a newspaper and a couple of quid for the fruit machine.

Then, pretty abruptly, things changed. A new landlord was brought in by the owners and you couldn’t tell exactly what he was doing wrong, but it was clearly something. Dodgy kids from nearby estates become more prominent. The quality of ale declined. Less events were held. The food menu got worse. Suddenly, Crocker’s became a little rough – it was no longer the sort of place you’d expect to encounter the annual Christmas party held by national newspaper crossword compilers, as had once been the case in the late 1990s – and so we’d walk past it on our way to other, now better, pubs around Warwick Avenue. That’s the problem with pubs. If they aren’t good enough, there’s always a better one around the corner. Until that one closes as well.

I noticed on one of my last visits to Crocker’s that the door policy had changed to an almost unheard of ‘Over-25s only’. In 2002, shortly before I left the canal behind, it closed.

It’s still closed.

Lord know what Crocker’s looks like inside, even though it is a listed building and being carefully watched by CAMRA members. Last time I passed it was as boarded up as ever, but there is planning permission for flats to be installed in the many upstairs rooms. Work has begun, I’ve heard, but CAMRA do not think a pub is part of that plan. What this means for that astounding ground floor, I do not know.

Crocker’s Folly was a beautiful building, open to all Londoners, serving many needs and creating a community around it, and it’s demise is as great a tragedy as that imagined for its creator, more so because it always felt deliberate, as if the company that owned the pub were opting for managed decline, an excuse to close the pub and find a way to sidestep planning permission so they could sell it to developers. That never happened and so the pub was left to rot, like so many others in London.

If you can stand it, scroll through this amazing Flickr archive of London’s lost pubs. I knew some of these, once.

I’ve written about the threats to London pubs and what can be done to save them in this month’s Metropolitan magazine for Eurostar. 

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10 responses to “Pubs

  1. I loved Crocker’s Folly. I rarely visited because I’m not from the area. I loved the interior. If we went for a wlak along the canal, we’d always pop in just to look inside (and drink obviously). I saw Sally Thomsett drinking there once. I can’t believe it’s been shut for so long.
    If the downstairs isn;t used as a pub or a bar or a restaurant, it will be destroyed. What a shame.

  2. David Boothroyd

    I was on the committee for the planning application (17 November 2011). The building is now owned by Abouzaki Holdings, which is the parent company for the Maroush Restaurant chain.

    There are some photos of the inside (including the ground floor) in the background papers: http://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/files/E3DBEA56E42C470AD41F87A336735C8F/pdf/11_04875_FULL-PHOTORECORD-2089720.pdf

  3. Pingback: Extra, Extra | Londonist

  4. A little sad. I don’t really go to pubs but I remember this one, basically as it was unforgettable.

  5. A similar thing keeps happening to all my favourite pubs in my local area. A sad trend.
    Ali | The London Hack
    http://thelondonhack.com/

  6. Great post and fascinating to hear that Crocker just missed out on Marylebone station – I love any Marylebone related fact as I run the site over at http://marylebone-london.co.uk! Definitely one for my collection!

  7. Thanks for all the info & pics – sad to hear this wonderful pub is still closed. Doing a walk around Maida Vale today from the Camra London Pub Walks book, & was hoping it would be open this time (after finding it closed in 2008, the last time I did this walk).
    Let’s hope sanity prevails & it can somehow be restored to its former glory :-)

  8. My mates and I (between 8 and 14 of us at any one time) would meet in Crockers on a Thursday for quiz night, and a Sunday for ‘open mike’ night, which was just fantastic. Had some great regulars who would always get up on stage and have a go. And everyone barring none always got a great round of applause. It was simply THE best pub around in the 90′s. An unbelievable eclectic mix of people from all walks of life, be it a street trader, a politician, a copper or a film star, a great leveller as we could ALL afford a drink! And such a relaxing place with real open fires in both bars, you would chat to familiar faces and make new friends in a heartbeat.
    So, so sad when I see it all boarded up. Was hoping Gordon Ramsey might have saved it along with The Warrington!
    A terrible waste of a beautiful building

  9. Dear all

    We are wotking hard to bring back your memories! The Crockers Folly will be soon open and will provide best food and drink in the area. We have Chef experienced in Worlds Best Restaurant and World Renowned Mixologist working on this project.

    Please stay tune

    Culinary regards

  10. One slight correction to the article – I moved into the area in 2003, and managed a drink soon afterwards – possibly early 2004. By the taste of the beer, they may just have reopened briefly to get rid of some old barrels. The place was very rough looking and the toilets closed, I seem to remember.

    “Chef experienced in Worlds Best Restaurant and World Renowned Mixologist working on this project” – well, best of luck to you, but I can’t see that working. Just decent food and well kept beer would do nicely.

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