This mournful building is – or was – The Woodhouse Tavern in Leytonstone’s Harrow Road. It’s been there about 150 years, and the unusual configuration of the building is due in large part to a near-direct hit during The Blitz. It closed with barely a murmur just before Christmas – I think it did, anyway. It could have been closed for six months for all the impact it’s had. Compare the passing of this place with the nearby Birkbeck Tavern, which had locals a-froth about its potential closure and conversion to flats, a threat which they successfully fought off.
The landlord of the Woodhouse was in the local paper back in 2010 saying that he couldn’t go on much longer and that he was in talks to sell the place to a housing association. It looks like he has thrown in the towel, but the local council have just chucked out the association’s application to demolish the pub – one reason being that it would mean ‘the loss of a public house’. What happens next is anybody’s guess.
I must have been in the Woodhouse about three times, each visit more underwhelming than the last. It was perfectly friendly and perfectly clean. A run-of-the-mill East London boozer, really. But it sold only very ordinary drinks that were far, far cheaper to consume at home. There was no real ale – on our first visit the barmaid informed my incredulous dad that the handpumps were ‘just there for decoration’. On our last visit (about two years ago) we were the only punters – at 8pm on a saturday night. There would have been more atmosphere swigging a can of Fosters in a bus shelter. There were (and are) much better places to spend my hard-earned. I’m a card-carrying beer nerd, but i’m perfectly happy to drink Lout if the pub’s worth visiting – a case in point being the Lord Rookwood round the corner from the Woodhouse, and the nearest pub to Ten-Inch Villas. It’s another standard-issue East End battlecruiser, but what it lacks in nerd-pleasing ales it makes up with a welcoming atmosphere and the added-value of an occasional comedy club and even a world-renowned weekly jazz night.
Pubs. Use them or lose them. If they’re worth using.