The Forest Gate Good (and not so) Pub guide - past and present

Friday 30 August 2013

Friday 5 September sees a  welcome opening of the recently restored Forest Tavern, as the district's most recently face-lifted pub.  It has replaced the former Railway Tavern, on the corner of Forest Lane and Woodgrange Road, in what is rapidly becoming the centre of the recent Forest Gate revival.

The pub is owned by London pub chain Antic, which had its own financial difficulties at the start of this year. Antic's business strategy has been to take over old, run down, pubs in London suburbs that are about to experience a bout of gentrification, as a survey of their website shows.

It is a bold move that aims to buck the trend of floods of pub closures, by offering a different product to a younger, more affluent, aspirational market.
Railway Tavern, transformed into Forest Tavern

The national Good Pub Guide, published over the last week has predicted a speeding up of this trend, with only about a quarter of the pubs that are closing to be replaced with Forest Tavern-type locals, catering for a rather different market to that of traditional local boozers.

Antic  doesn't like the term, but the Tavern will become the post code's first gastropub - with relatively expensive, but well prepared and cooked, meals and a fine selection of interesting, and more highly priced, drinks, including many "real ales" and ciders.

It is a tough market they are entering. Pubs are closing at the rate of one every other day, nationally, and that pattern is more than reflected locally. The national trend, coupled with changes to local demography have meant that three times as many pubs have closed in Forest Gate over the last twenty years as currently remain open.

Below, in alphabetical order,  we look at the Forest Tavern's competition - now and then, in presenting Forest Gates own Good (and not so good) Pub Guide!

The survivors

Forest Gate Hotel - Godwin Road. The post code's only remaining pub off a main drag, buried in what in estate agents' speak is now known as Forest Gate Village. Its decor is shabby, and the pub has had its problems with neighbours, noise and drugs over recent times. 

Like all our local pubs, it has had to move with the times and offer more than just booze, to its predominantly white, middle aged, male, manual labour, customer base.  So, there is a limited range of bar meals available, along with regular feature nights.  These include Karaoke, DJ's and a Wednesday night quiz, together with Sunday roast lunches as attractions. There are the inevitable sports screens, and fruit machines, as well as a pool table.

Forest Gate Hotel
The pub is also host to the monthly Giggle Club comedy night and Forest Gap music club.

At the back there is an outdoor smokers' zone and a few tables and chairs, which share the enclosed space with a small car park.  There is a large function room, available for hire, in a stand-alone building.  The pub boasts cheap accommodation on its upper floors.

There is a limited range of drink available, and although a hand pump is in evidence, there's not much sign of real ale being widely available.  A pint of Stella will set you back £3.30.

Fox and Hounds - Forest Lane. Of all local pubs, this is most likely to feel the impact of the Forest Tavern, which is only a couple of doors away. The pub has had its ups and downs over recent years and a few changes of owners, having been closed for a while in 2011.

It is now as close as you'll get to an old east end boozer in Forest Gate, complete with a juke box, a fruit machine, pool table and Sports Bar screens.  There's a stage for live music, discos and karaoke. There is also a paved back yard with tables and chairs, for smokers and others.  While there are bar snacks and food is served on special occasions, there is no standing menu for would-be diners.
Fox and Hounds
There is a relatively limited range of drinks on offer, with no real ale.  Using the price yardstick we have adopted, a pint of Stella will set you back £3.65, the dearest in a Forest Gate local, at present.

The walls are covered with evidence of its involvement in the local community: receipts for charity donations, old local photographs, West Ham memorabilia and death notices of former customers
The clientele is almost exclusively older, male and white.  The pub looks like being the face of the old east end, as it continues to look after this traditional customer base, and tries to survive the offer made by the Forest Tavern, to the incoming "Nouveau Forest Gate" younger crowd.

Golden Fleece - Capel Road. Probably Forest Gate's smartest pub, overlooking Wanstead Flats.  It is now owned by John Barras pubs, an old north-east England brewery which rebranded itself in 2010 as a pub chain, along Chef and Brewer lines.  It has over 250 pubs in the group, nationwide.

In addition to being able to spill out on to the Flats on a warm summer evening, the pub has a well established back garden, complete with children's play equipment.  It has a small function room, integrated into the main bar, which is a favourite for wakes and funeral events for the nearby by Manor Park and City of London cemeteries.
Golden Fleece
The Fleece has the most mixed clientele of any of Forest Gate's locals, and the only one to attract almost as many female as male drinkers.  The customer base has a fair sprinkling of young people (with children), middle aged and old, from many races and a reasonable social class mix. Although quite far away, it could be the local whose customers are most attracted to the Forest Tavern, and could end up with a fight on its hands, to retain many of them.

It boasts sports screens and a quiz night every Wednesday.  It has a fairly extensive and reasonably priced pub menu for diners. The drinks offer is extensive, with at least three real ales regularly on supply, and a pint of the ubiquitous Stella there costs £3.54.

Hudson Bay - Upton Lane, located in the premises of the former Co-op supermarket.  This is a typical, pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap Wetherspoons pub. And the formula works for Forest Gate's most consistently busy pub, with a wide-ranging black and white customer base. Like all Wetherspoons pubs, there is an attempt to connect with the local community.  

The pub is named in honour of the local nineteenth century landlord, Sir Henry Pelly, who was, for a while, governor of the Hudson Bay Company, which did so much to open up Canada as a British colony. There are also a range of photos on the walls, featuring aspects of local history.
Hudson Bay
The selection of food and drink is wide - along typical Wetherspoons lines, with at least five real ales on sale on the day of our visit, together with a range of interesting ciders, following a recent "cider festival". In common with all pubs in the chain, there is no music, piped, or otherwise and although there are TV screens, they are silent, for sports viewing, as the principles established by pub chain founder Tim Martin are maintained.

Using the adopted price yardstick, a pint of Stella Artois is £3.15 - best value in Forest Gate.

Live and Let Live - 268 Romford Road, located close to the site of the former West Ham Brewery. What was formerly an old boozer, the Live and Let Live has had a facelift and now offers a sports bar (and associated big screens) in the front of the pub and a club setting in the back bar.  There is a paved outside area at the back of the pub, overlooking the Ranks Hovis McDougal bakery, which acts as a smoking area and also hosts a food bar. 

We were offered a goat stew, when we visited! Not surprisingly perhaps, the back room club is aimed at the local African clientele, and provides music from 11 pm til 4 a.m. 
Live and Let Live
There is a limited selection of drinks in the pub, and no real ale.  Using our price guide, a pint of Stella Artois is £3.25 during regular opening hours and £3.75 during club hours.

The Forest Gate Stellarometer
All five of the local pubs sell draught Stella Artois, which provides a handy guide to the prices they charge for drinks generally.  here are the prices, as of early August 2013.

Pub                                       Price of a pint of Stella
Hudson Bay                           £3.15
Live and Let Live (pub hours)  £3.25
Forest Gate Tavern                 £3.30
Golden Fleece                        £3.54
Fox and Hounds                     £3.65
Live and let Live (club hours)  £3.75
The fallen
Below we list those we know of, thanks to an excellent website,
We will return to the history and stories related to some of them, in more detail, over future months.

Albion, 144 Boleyn Road, closed 2002, converted into flats
The Albion
Camden Arms, 70 Field Road, demolished 2008

Duke of Fife, Katherine Road, now partially used as a nightclub
Duke of Fife
Eagle and Child, 112 Woodgrange Rd, closed 2004. This and the neighbouring printworks have been converted to Raymond Chadburn flats, with a pharmacy on the ground floor. It was a well-known pub by 1744, which was completely rebuilt in 1896. 
Eagle and Child, as a functioning pub
Earl of Derby, 16 Station Road, closed 2002 and converted into a nursery
Earl of Derby
Forest Glen, 39 Dames Road, closed 2010, awaiting conversion into flats and a restaurant. Currently occupied by squatters.
Forest Glen
Freemasons Arms (called Simpsons from 1980's until early years of this century), 342 Romford Road
Freemasons Arms, later Simpsons, now closed
Gatsby, 176 Woodgrange Road, closed 1993 Short lived pub, also known as Mickey Finns, it is now  a mini market

Odessa Arms, 53 Odessa Road, demolished in 1998
Odessa Arms
Old Spotted Dog, 212 Upton Lane, closed 2004. This pub dated back to 1602 when Forest Gate was forest and was named after royal hunting dogs. Closed in 2004 and in 2009 a notice was posted by the Fire Brigade saying it was a dangerous structure. For further details of its history and the campaign to save the remaining building, see here.
Old Spotted Dog, in better days, as a thriving local
Princess Alice, 329 Romford Road. It has had an interesting decade since being shown on TV as the location of a "sex slave sale" transaction, under a variety of different names.  It now operates as a multi-national restaurant and all-day buffet.
Princess Alice, 100 years ago - in better days
Travellers Rest, 12 Cemetery Road, now converted into flats

Tower  Arms, 83 Tower Hamlets Road, closed 1996, converted into flats in 2002 Martin Warne tweets: "Not especially attractive, despite proximity". Andrew Jarman is even more frank; "Went in once just before bailiffs seized the contents and closed it down. Filthy dirty hole of a place".  Great to get feedback!
Tower Arms
Wagon and Horses, 392 Romford Road, became Temptations nightclub.
Recently had licence revoked, following complaints about violence inflicted by bouncers on drunken customers.

Wagon and Horses becomes
 Temptations night club, now closed
White Hart, 249 Green Street. Now the Mango Leaf Indian Restaurant (although it appears that customers can just have a drink there). Also used the names Mo's Bar and Terry Spinks MBE (after local boxer and recently deceased Terry Spinks, who won a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics and went on to be a British Professional Featherweight Champion).
The White Hart, later Spinks, now a restaurant


  1. What about the Holly Tree on Dames Road? Got a bbq in summer, kareoke on Fridays, sports on the tell, simple hot food, nice staff. My new local and I love it!

  2. The Earl of Derby photo you've used is now a pub in Manor Park called the Blakesley Arms and has been for over 30's not Nursery and it's on 53 Station Road!! Very poor lack of research there!!

    1. I am sorry to say that you are wrong. This is indeed a photo of The Earl Of Derby. You are obviously a stranger to this area and certainly do not know your pubs.They are similar buildings but first started drinking in both pubs in the late fifties.

  3. Live and let live now boarded up

  4. You missed out the lamb in pelly road that is still open.

  5. The Hudson Bay is on the site of the old Nisa supermarket-not the co-op. Had my wedding reception at the Duke of fife in 1991.

  6. There was a Co-op on that site before the Nisa supermarket

  7. So sad to hear the Live and Let Live or 'The Live' as we used to call it, is boarded up. Spent many a joyous occassion in there.

    1. The live was a nice pub in the 80s.

  8. I used to live in Westbury Road. There was a pub on the corner with Romford Road. What was it called. I was pretty young and spent most of the time partying and not remembering stuff what I do remember is that it had the first video juke box I had seen a big one!

    1. Freemasons Arms with gay Barry as the DJ

  9. My grandad robert read known as bob was the publican of the forest glen and then the lord henniker. I would love to see old photos of how the pubs were then. Any ideas what sites to look at ?

  10. Try: Loads of photos of ex pubs there, together with some potted histories

  11. The Fox and hounds is run down now, everything is old and shabby/grubby. I would say now the Forest Tavern is open its only a matter of time before the Fox goes, unless it gets new management and a revamp

    1. Nice pub in the 80s.
      Landlord was George and his wife was kit.

  12. Any chance of your excellent website researching long lost pubs in E7 that have left only the faintest architectural echo? There appears to have been a pub opposite Cann Hall Primary School on the corner of Woodhouse Road and Cann Hall Road for example. (I can't seem to verify my Google account philiphawker16 for some reason)

  13. The Camden was my local for about five years when I lived in Vansittart Road from 83 until 88. It was a lovely friendly East End boozer, whilst being very multi-cultural;not being a problem to me,as I am Scottish. Paddy Tynan,the landlord then, was a fantastic guy, as was his cellerman Alan, another Irish guy. There was also a gorgeous barmaid there called Joan I think, who lived just up the road on Field Road with her equally gorgeous husband Stan (the man). Joan also worked in the Eagle & Child for a bit. Sadly, Paddy died when I went there, but his wife, whose name escapes me, carried on there with the help of Alan. Me and my mate, who lived in Bignold Road, were just remenising about our times in the Camden, when we got talking about an incident that caused Paddy some embarrassment. His main bitter at the time was called Webster. It was OK, but we persuaded him to install Ruddles County, which was popular in other pubs in the area. Well this stuff was very potent and would bring on quite a hangover if consumed beyond moderation. We went in one night and found that the Ruddles was off and upon enquiring what the problem was, Paddy told us that he had to take it off as he iked it too much. Apparently, after having consumed a few too many a couple of nights before, he had done the cashing up at the end of the night as usual, but couldn't remember anything about it the next morning. The takings were not in the safe where they should have been and he had called the police, as he believed he must have been robbed. As the day progressed, he started having flash backs and eventually went to check a cupboard that he would not normally use. The takings were there, but unfortunately, no more Ruddles for us in the Camden. Sad to see it gone.

  14. The White Hart was a good music house. very popular with the Irish fellas. had some great times there in the early seventies, great pint of Guinness... Shame to see our old pubs disappearing. There were some great characters in there too, a good old east end pub....!!

  15. Paddy O'Brien ran Forest Glen in 80s then took over the White Hart on Green St but can't remember for how long though. Mighty Irishman.! His daughter Linda (married to Steve Murphy) ran Holly Tree then the Live & Let Live. They were all great pubs back in the day. Such a pity some are gone.

    1. I remember pat o brien and steve

  16. Thank you for this excellent information - I was interested in 110 Woodgrange Road (The Danish Dairy Co) - do you know if any images exist of it? I can be contacted on stjohngray [at] hotmail dot com


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