Pub geography a hangover from Havering’s rural days
- Credit: Chris Saltmarsh and Norma Jennings
There was a time when Romford had a pub ‘every fifty yards’ as Prof Ged Martin discovers
There must be a posh word for the study of public houses. Maybe it’s boozerography. Havering has some modern taverns, but basically the borough’s pub landscape dates from times before the suburbs invaded.
In 1762, Romford had 22 pubs. There were five in Collier Row, and four in Hornchurch village.
Small hamlets alongside the Great Essex Road (now A118 / A12) had clusters of inns to service travellers. Brook Street, near Brentwood, retains its watering holes.
At the Gidea Park settlement of Hare Street, The Ship and The Unicorn flourish within one hundred yards. Both existed in 1762, and probably earlier.
Some local hostelries have long histories: Romford’s Golden Lion can be traced to 1440. The Phoenix at Rainham, the Cherry Tree in South Hornchurch and Havering-atte-Bower’s Orange Tree all existed by the 18th century.
Ardleigh Green’s Spencer Arms (now the Ardleigh) was built on enclosed common land – the former Hardley Green – around 1816. Another enclosure of common, in 1846, created the site for the Shepherd and Dog at Harold Wood.
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The King Harold was built in 1868 to serve travellers at the new Harold Wood railway station.
The Albion in Rainham Road opened around 1880 to cater for amateur soldiers who trained on Rainham’s rifle range. It was originally called The Canteen.
Pubs were rarely built to serve newly built-up areas. Exceptions include the Prince Albert in St Andrews Road, Romford, opened about 1860, the Old Oak (now the Havering Oak), at the corner of Brentwood Road, dating from around 1875, and the New Inn near Ardleigh Green, intended to serve a colony of railway workers.
Breweries pressed the local licensing authority for permission to open new pubs as the population grew in the 1930s. Only a few projects, such as the Elm Park Hotel (now closed) were approved.
There was a proposal in 1927 to build a pub at Harold Wood, where Gubbins Lane meets Colchester Road. The forecourt would eliminate a blind corner, and part of the site was offered for road widening. Local Methodists, whose church was nearby, objected.
The scheme was also opposed by the landlord of the Plough at Gallows Corner. At the licensing hearing, his lawyer asked a witness: “You think you ought to have a public house every mile for the benefit of motorists?”
The reply was: “We have one every fifty yards in Romford.”
Revived in 1938, the plan was blocked when Hornchurch Council refused planning permission. The site became the Ingrebourne telephone exchange.
Another unsuccessful scheme was for a pub on the A12 at Maylands, opposite Harold Park. One local supporter complained that he had to walk to Brook Street for a drink, “and by the time he got back, he would want another.”
Holiday traffic was the reason behind a 1938 application to build a “road-house” on the Southend Arterial Road at Redden Court Road, Harold Wood. Nobody challenged the idea of selling alcohol to motorists.
Havering’s pubs are changing. Some have closed, or become restaurants. The Drill in Gidea Park may be a model for the future. A rural beerhouse which existed by 1841, it’s named after a seed drill, not military square-bashing. In 2016, it reopened after a half-million pound facelift.