>Most towns have one. Some have more than one. Some unfortunate towns have nothing but them; rough pubs. I don’t mean the type celebrated by tongue-in-cheek guides, with a meat raffle, a copy of the Racing Post left on a buffet and Karaoke on fridays. I mean the ones with a tangible sense of threat, like an unexploded bomb. We have one of those in Leytonstone – it’s called Lincolns. Opened in 1872 and originally called The Elms, Lincolns is a handsome building about halfway up the High Road between the railway bridge and the parish church. A lot of the older community have fond memories of the Elms as a decent pub, but it’s had a varied history. In 1983 – as the newly renamed Lincolns – CAMRA described the place as a “Young people’s musically orientated establishment. Loud music in main bar”. In the late 80s it was briefly renamed “Big Hand Mo’s” and i’m sure it was a precisely as good as that sounds, especially as it was selling Webster’s Bitter, perhaps the least-missed Yorkshire ale of all time.
In recent years there were complaints by local residents of blatant drug dealing and customers openly urinating and defecating in neighbouring streets. Vomit, used condoms and discarded tights became an unwanted feature of many a local garden. There was at least one stabbing and even rumours of firearms being waved around. A midnight punch-up could be witnessed at least once a week. There were some very intimidating characters hanging around. I’m no coward, but I often used to cross the road to avoid them and their stocky, snarling dogs.
The local Police have been proactive about this charming establishment, and spent some time quietly gathering evidence. What finally cooked Lincolns’ goose was a copper actually being told on his undercover visit that he “looked like he might enjoy some coke” and that the dealer had “just popped out” but would be back. He was later offered counterfeit DVDs and treated to a lock-in. A court appeal revealed that the manager was actually too scared of his clientele to confront them about their behaviour. To the delight of everyone except the hoodlums who came from as far away as South London to make merry on our doorstep, the pub is boarded up. It doesn’t end there though – the pub will reopen in autumn as a rebranded, renewed “community pub” selling real ale. Leytonstone could definately do with a couple more decent pubs – and I really hope that this will be one at last.
I haven’t got a picture of Lincolns – so here’s a supremely hoppy and fresh pint of Skinner’s Betty Stoggs I enjoyed at the Bush Inn, Morwenstow, last week.
>Great reporting! Of course, the ability of pubs to reinvent themselves is well illustrated at The Blind Beggar, just down the road in Whitechapel (see http://www.theblindbeggar.com). They even have Pasta and Chicken Caesar salad on the menu these days! And the Betty Stogs looks good too!!
>We used to live near the Blind Beggar, back when it was still quite scary. Whitechapel’s pubs have mostly changed out of all recognition. I hope I haven’t made Leytonstone sound like a toilet, which it most assuredly ain’t.The Stoggs was superb – and definately enhanced by the setting!
>The Blind Beggar website is amazing! Doesn’t London just love its gangsters and seedy side? It often takes on a new persona after the guilty have been put away…..and when they come out, they become ‘characters’on the scene. Leytonstone will probably be the same in time.
>Leytonstone was the place where gangsters bought a house for their Dear Old Muvvers!I’ve only been in the Beggar a couple of times, many years ago. They were pretty cagey about the Kray connection then – but for a while last year they had the iconic David Bailey portrait of the twins promoting something. Mrs TIW’s dad used to drink in pubs owned by the Krays – when the twins did their rounds, the pubs would instantly empty ‘cos you never knew what would happen…
>There are a couple of pubs along the High Road that look like gangster hang outs. Is Lincolns the one that’s painted black…? Or am I thinking of another one?The Baker’s Arms at, er, Baker’s Arms has now come out openly as a Lithuanian pub. All the signs are in Lithuanian, they’re serving Svyturys on tap, and there’s a bloody great Lithuanian flag in the window.
>Bailey – Lincoln’s is is the blue one more or less opposite the Ichiban restaurant.The black-painted one is the Loaded Dog – actually a very good Camden-style music pub! It did used to be as rough as guts though…