Caught by the River

The Wenlock Forever

Ben McCormick | 10th October 2010

A Pint by the River public service announcement. By Alan Tyler

Situated in Wenlock Road near North London‘s City Road, the Wenlock Arms opened in 1835 as a tap-house for the old Wenlock Brewery. It survived the Blitz while most of the adjacent buildings were destroyed, and in 1994 it was taken over by the current owners, Will and Steve, who, in the humble but very enthusiastic estimation of me and many others, turned this shabby old boozer into the best real ale pub in London. Now past retirement age, Will and Steve are ready to sell up to developers who have already acquired all the industrial units on the rest of the block. Curtains before Christmas? It doesn’t look good…

A “Save the Wenlock” Facebook page and campaign blog have been set up, and quite rightly so, though regulars close to the owners are concerned not to act precipitously and upset the retirement prospects of those to whom they feel they owe so much. The situation is not yet hopeless; planning permissions for the block do not include the land the Wenlock stands on, and the prospective owners have not stated their intentions. A fairy godmother could magically appear. People are waiting to see what happens, but they are also painfully aware that once it happens it may then be too late to do anything.

All is not lost. Or, as the graffiti on the toilet cystern says, “nothing lasts but nothing is lost”. I write not to bulldoze The Wenlock Arms, but to praise it, and to urge you to visit the place while you can. It’s not just the ever changing bill of great ales that’s on offer, the honest live music in the corner at weekends, or the satisfying bacon, sausage and salt beef sandwiches early evenings, that make the Wenlock special; it’s a proper London local in a world where proper London locals barely exist. It’s rough around the edgesbut comfortable and comforting; it’s lively and surprising but it’s also unpretentious and doesn’t try too hard. It knows what’s good and it doesn’t feel like it needs to change or fix what’s not bust; it’s welcoming and inclusive but sufficiently unattractive and off the beat to ensure that the twats and the tossers who pass through the parish will invariably pass it by.

Get yourself down there if you get the chance, and show that you care in whatever way you can.


The Wenlock Arms is situated at 26 Wenlock Road, London N1 7TA