Forest Gate pub guide: 2014

Monday 18 August 2014

A year ago we published one of our most read, and certainly commented upon, blogs, on Forest Gate pubs - past and present (see here). Well, a year is a long time in supping, and much beer has flown  since then, so it's time for an update on where things stand. And the news isn't, overwhelmingly great.

Below: we record a  success,  welcome an addition, rectify an omission, regret some closures, update some wobblers, report some progress and dig up some history.

The success

The undoubted pub success of the last year has been the opening of the Forest Tavern, on the site of the old down-at-heel Railway Tavern.  Bought by the London chain of gastro-pub, shabby chic specialists, Antic, eighteen months ago, the pub opened last September, to much local acclaim, and affirmations that gentrification was finally arriving in Forest Gate.

It's a pub and chain that listens to its customers. So, bit by bit has added a restaurant, an interesting range of bar snacks, entertainment nights (Forest Gap, comedy and quiz nights), a monthly record fair, a good, tasty range of real ales, ciders etc. and most recently a (rather uninspiring) back garden. There's no piped music or intrusive TV, so lots of animated chat and conviviality, from an overwhelmingly white, middle class clientele.

Great success: Forest Tavern
The food menu hasn't perhaps lived up to its early promise, and those concerned with the pub's management (and profit and loss accounts) must be a little disappointed at the apparent lack of take-off of the restaurant.

But, the venue has certainly become a favoured meeting place, and big hit with so many who have been frustrated at Forest Gate's lack of a decent pub, over the years.

The addition

The bravest initiative over the last year, however, has undoubtedly been the roar-away success of the Wanstead Tap. Stuck out of the way (352 Winchelsea Road - round the corner from the Holly Tree - see below), in a railway arch (surrounded by car repairers), with trains rumbling overhead, and no beer on tap. Madness; a guaranteed failure by someone who didn't have a clue; a certain money loser, failure, bankruptcy inducer and early closure.

How wrong! A real welcome awaits from a delightful mine host and friends and relatives; coffee shop and toy and game-packed environment for those with toddler care in afternoons and a huge and absolutely delightful range of bottled beers and ciders in the evenings for drinkers.  Here's a beer seller, who loves his job and is ever on the look-out for new stock to add to his already very impressive range.

Unlikely success: Wanstead tap
And at night, a fascinating range of wide-ranging activities to entertain the patrons.  Great supper nights, once a fortnight, with food supplied by Forest Gate's gourmet chef, Michael Sanders, timely film showings (Mrs Doubtfire the night after Robin Williams' death), fascinating talks by authors and music makers with local connections, or stories to relay.

If you haven't been - don't delay. But not because the much predicted closure beckons!

The omission

Lots of flack for a key omission from last year's listing - the Holly Tree on Dames Road. Although (like the Wanstead Tap, above) not in Newham, it is in Forest Gate, and there has been a pub on the site since at least 1870 - so mea culpa.  Here's a quick addition to last year's listings.

Last year's omission: The Holly Tree, Dames Road
It's a popular pub, offering simple hot food (with a 4 star food safety certificate)and a range of entertainments, including sports on TV, Karaoke on Fridays (from a small raised stage area), a pool table and some gaming machines.

There's an outside garden, which overlooks Wanstead Flats and hosts popular barbeques in the summer. It even has some simple children's play equipment.  One of the best features of the pub is the large conservatory extension, offering pleasant, airy views of the Flats.

The closures

It was almost inevitable that there would be losers and closures over the year, following the national trend. And so it has been. Within four months of last year's article, the Live and Let Live (or "The Live", as it was generally known) died and is currently boarded up (see photo), with no sign of a new licensee, or even new use, in sight. A real shame, not only to see a pub with history go, but one in what is rapidly becoming the scruffiest, most unwelcoming parts of Forest Gate.

Dying on its feet: The Live and Let Live
Last year, we reported on the (then) recent closure of Temptations, which had operated as a nightclub on the site of the old Wagon and Horses on Romford Road.  It was closed, following complaints of rowdiness from neighbours.  There was always a possibility that it could have re-opened as a pub.

But no - it has followed the trend running in former pubs such as the Princess Alice - a little further down the road - and become and Asian restaurant.  It looks smart (as the photo shows) and has only recently opened, so it's very much, watch this space to see how it prospers.  But, one more local pub closure confirmed.

From Wagon and Horses to Temptaions,
now just the Family Grill, Romford Road

The wobblers

As predicted last year, the most likely victim of the Forest Tavern's success was the Fox and Hounds, almost next door, on Forest Lane. And so it has proved to be. Enterprise (a company that leases pubs to landlords/tenants) has recently posted details on its website of the availability of the pub, as a new business challenge for somebody.

Their website puts its best spin on what's on offer "This is a real 'heart of the community' traditional 1930's public house, with an original U-shape central bar, tons of original features, fireplaces, warmth and charm. It also benefits from a rear paved ('secret') garden, and well maintained three bed private accommodation."

Up for grabs, with £1,000 a week running costs
The annual rent is £35k, with additional estimated costs of £16k p.a. It must be a big ask to clear £1,000 per week "profit" from the pub, before making a wage!

Watch this space, for a forthcoming closure or very serious competition for the Forest Tavern.

The old Freemason's Arms (called Simpsons from the 1980's until around 2000), 324 Romford Road was boarded up at the time of last year's pub round up.  It still is, albeit with a scaffold-supported roof cover now.  It is not clear what will happen to this building, but a re-emergence as a pub seems highly unlikely.

Simpsons, further down the road of dereliction

The standing and operating

In summary then, Forest Gate now supports only 6 pubs:  Forest Gate Hotel (Sebert Road) , Forest Tavern (Forest Lane), Fox and Hounds (Forest Lane), Golden Fleece (Capel Road),  Holly Tree (Dames Road) and Hudson Bay (Upton Lane) , and one pub-like establishment (Wanstead Tap, Winchelsea Road).

Progress report: Old Spotted Dog, Upton Lane

The Grade 11 listed former pub continues to be boarded up, and remains in the hands of a liquidator, who having held it for about seven years, is trying to dispose of the site. There have been some pre-planning application enquiries about using the car park area for residential accommodation, but these have not progressed. The liquidators have been helpful to the local campaign to save/reopen the pub, who report that, despite its outward appearance, it seems fairly watertight inside and not too structurally damaged.
Fighting for survival and refurbing: The Old Spotted Dog
Previous squatters have been evicted and the site is reasonably well secured and patrolled. The Campaign held a well attended and successful public meeting in April this year and have been able to report interest from the Prince's Regeneration Trust, in helping them secure a community future for the pub. Realistically, it is going to take at least £2m to acquire and refurb the location, so the campaign group has set up a trust with a view to raising the money and seeking to get some building plans drawn up. Contact them for further details, and how to help and get involved.

Updated history

Meanwhile, this website provides details of additional, Forest Gate pubs, that have been closed over the last century, that did not feature in last year's listing, and provides further details and photographs of some of those already covered. Huge thanks to them for their painstaking work.

The Builders' Arms, 47 Station Road, Forest Gate. There was a pub here, from at least 1874 until 1934.  Its last recorded publican was Herbert Henry Webb. There are now garages, attached to flats built on the former pub site.

Camden Arms, 70 Field Road. Although we recorded this pub, which closed in 2008, we didn't have photo of it.  Below is one (thanks to Stephen Harris). There was a pub on this site, although clearly at least one pre-dating the one in the photo, from at least 1870. There are now flats built on the site of the old pub 

Camden Arms, after closure

Earl of Derby, Station Road, Forest Gate. The fate of this pub caused a little controversy following last year's posting, when we described it as having been subsequently tuned into a nursery.  The photo below (thanks to Stephen Harris) confirms this fact. The pub was managed in the 1930's by former World Bantamweight Boxing champion, Teddy Baldock, who had to hand it back to the brewery during World War 11, when custom dried up.

Let there be no doubt, what was
the Earl of Derby is now a nursery!
Forest Glen, Dames Road.  There has been little change from last year, as the pub still appears to be awaiting refurbishment into residential accommodation, and possibly a restaurant.

The Globe, 40 Chestnut Avenue.  There was, what must have been a small,  pub on this site, according to trade directories from 1871 - 1886. The building remains, as a house.

It's a small world: site
of The Globe, Chestnut Road

Golden Horse, 111 Forest Lane.  A pub of that name was listed at this location in trade directories from 1861 - 1934, and continued until the 1950s. The pub and a large area of Odessa and Wellington Roads were bombed in the second World War, and prefabs and a prefabricated Golden Horse were ereceted on the site. They have subsequently been demolished ard the area is now occupied by  St James' school playground.

Jolly Smiths - Field Road. This pub existed between 1871 and 1885, until its publican, Edward Prince surrendered his licence to local magistrates. We don't have its exact location, unfortunately.

Parliament House, 1 Parliament Place, which subsequently became 63 Forest Street, by the 1911 census. A pub of this name was located there from 1871 - 1944. For a lengthy time at the end of the nineteenth century it was in the hands of the Burren family, who were landlords of a number of pubs in Kent and elsewhere in East London. The site of this former pub is now occupied by part of Forest Gate Community School.

The Plough, 55 Field Road. There was a pub here from 1871 - 1887. It is now the Al Dubbagh Indian restaurant and take-away.

Once The Plough, now and Indian take-away
Prince of Wales, 58 Forest Street. A pub of this name was located here 1872 - 1886. The building has long gone and the site is now occupied by flats, behind Forest Gate Community school.

Railway Bell, 129 Forest Lane, 1877 - 1886. This site is now residential accommodation.

The former Railway Bell, Forest Lane
Travellers' Rest, 12 Cemetery Road. Thanks to Brian Berry for use of a photo of the most recent manifestation of a pub that had been on the site from 1871, until its recent transformation into flats.

Site of Travellers' Rest, Cemetery Road
Well, that's this year's round-up.  At the current space of developments, it is likely to need an update - and we hope a better news on -a year hence.


  1. Just a further update - some time ago, the nursery at the earl of derby went bust - 2 or 3 plus years ago? it's now been turned into flats.

  2. I remember drinking in the Earl of Derby in the late 1970s. It was managed at the time by Rose & Manny (Levene?).

  3. Thanks for the article. I hope the restaurant in the Forest Tavern makes it, but they need to up their game a bit...

  4. I was born in The Travellers Rest pub 1964 till 1986. Lots of memories

  5. What a beautifulbuilding is the old Earl of Derby. What's the hall next to it?
    Holly Tree area you describe as becoming one of the scruffiest parts of Forest Gate. Not so. Its house prices collect the rich young ones from Hackney. It is very improved. Artisan Bakery, under arch beverage places. Not that scruffy. Vansittart has plrnty of outside mattresses but I'd say Woodgrsnge Road is a bit nasty. Dames Road and the Lanes are beautiful. Only one obvious brothel

  6. Yep. It's Oct 2021. The top end of Vansittart (Dames Road End) is enjoying gentrification. Scruffiness is the result of unloved houses and Newham's lack of cleaning and neglecting fly-tip piles. Vansittart is the last of the LBWF roads so is cleaned regularly.The Holly Tree and Rookwood Village are posh. The nursery in Field Road's clientele has changed drastically.
    Pub bread is sourdough,so there!


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