Friday, 30 July 2010

End Of An Era

It is not unusual nowadays to hear about pub closures - one a day on average, somewhere in the UK.

It is a bit different though when "one of your own" goes.

"The Doctor Johnson" , known as "The DJ" or just "The Johnson" has "finally" shut up shop in Longwood Gardens, Barkingside.

We are lucky for local pubs and "The DJ" seemed to do good business but the problem always was that the site was worth more as a building plot than as a business. The various property booms since the 80s have exacerbated this. Users of "The Bald Hind" are probably thinking the same.

During the 80s it was arguably the best pub in the district - it had the atmosphere of a village pub. Like many suburban pubs, it suffered from all day opening, as there was always a "5.30 club" of city suits returning home and they then came back at weekends and later on midweek evenings. These customers then found their space at the bar occupied by people who finished work when it got dark, plus the over-staying lunch-timers of course. Then Wetherspoons turned up at the end of the 80s and almost emptied a lot of local "boozers".

"The DJ" was opened in 1934, with the local houses then being built, as a Simonds pub - built on the plot of Hedgemans Farmhouse, which was at what is now the corner of Evesham Way, where the shops are. Unusually for a pub, it was a freehold site. It was built as a commercial hotel and "roadhouse" in typical 30s style. It was to have been on a main road to Romford - at a roundabout, hence the curved frontage - but the alignment of the "main road" was changed when Woodford Ave. and Clayhall Ave. were built, leaving it somewhat isolated.

Simonds merged with Barclay & Perkins and that all became part of Courage which is how most people remember it.

The pub was popular during World War II with aircrew from local bases at Fairlop and North Weald. The Yanks used to throw a baseball down Rushden Gdns. for the local kids to chase. Whoever caught the ball could keep it. The Yanks, of course, also had chocolate bars and chewing gum.

With the Olympics coming, one would have thought that there was a demand for "travel lodge" style accommodation in the area and maybe that will be its future but what would apartments on that corner be worth to a developer? It has a conservation area status so there are limits to what can be done with the frontage but there are building techniques to get round that. There is currently a "To Let" sign up but no buyer came forward before the closing date.

So, goodbye, and happy memories. If those walls could speak, what tales they would tell.

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