Which London borough has the worst pubs? An important CityMetric investigation

Mmmmmm beer. Image: Getty.

There are countless ways of ranking different parts of London from best to worst: transport links, crime rates, does it have a Wimpy, etc. But only one truly matters: are the pubs crap or not?

To start this investigation, we need a list of all the pubs in London – and the Greater London Authority helpfully keeps a list of all 4000+ of the city’s pubs as part of its ‘Cultural Infrastructure map’, curated by the Campaign for Real Ale (well, just the pubs bit of it, I assume). The list doesn’t appear to be 100 per cent up-to-date, but to be fair, keeping up with pub closures and name changes would probably be a full-time job. But does allow us to get a reasonably representative view of how London’s pubs are distributed. For example:

Which borough has the most pubs?

Colour scale of ‘head’ to ‘beer’ where head indicates not many pubs and ‘beer’ indicates lots of pubs.

If raw numbers are what matters to you, Westminster is where it’s at, with more than 10 per cent of London’s pubs. Barking & Dagenham has the fewest, with just 29 to serve an entire borough.

Which borough has the most pubs per square mile?

Number represents the number of pubs per square mile in the borough.

If you break it down by area, The City – yes okay, not technically a borough, have a sweetie – stands out way ahead of everywhere else, packing over 200 pubs into The Square Mile. (It’s actually slightly larger than one square mile, explaining the slight discrepancy between the count and the count per square mile.)

Which borough has the most pubs per person? Or 10,000 people, for the purposes of this map?

Number represents the number of pubs per 10,000 people who live in the borough.

The City also wins on pubs per 10,000 residents, because only about four people live there. The inner London boroughs do much better here, and being in West London and on the river seems to help sustain a greater number of pubs.

Boroughs not specific enough?

Here’s the city broken up into square mile chunks that are coloured according to how many pubs in each one. Looking at this, the Thames also seems to help in southeast London to an extent – Greenwich’s pubs certainly seem to have clustered along the river.

(Note: this map is slightly unfair on places on the fringes of London where, plausibly, you might e.g. have several excellent locals that are in, for example, Essex. Well, some pubs, at least.)

But where are London’s shittest pubs?

Ah, some kind of “connoisseur” who doesn’t measure pubs by weight, is it? Taking the GLA’s list of pubs and matching as many of them as possible to reviews on Google and TripAdvisor, here is the average rating (out of 5) per pub in each borough.

Sorry, Barking & Dagenham, but you officially have the shittest pubs in London, at least according to the sort of people who review pubs online – 3.64 out of 5 on average.

To be fair, this doesn’t include the future shipping crate-based bars promised by the pictures on the website for the Barking Riverside development, which could turn out to be London’s most highly regarded drinking establishments, what with their excellent views of... erm, Thamesmead and Crossness Sewage works.

Lewisham, on the other hand, is the king of the boroughs when it comes to pubs, with 4.18 out of 5 on average. Although there’s always the possibility that people who go drinking in Lewisham just have really low standards.

Except, hmm. Because if we look at just the 1 star reviews, sure, Barking & Dagenham does have the highest proportion (15.7 per cent), and Lewisham has one of the lowest (7.7 per cent)

Numbers represent the percentage of 1 star reviews for pubs in the borough.

But there are a higher proportion of 5 star reviews to be found in boroughs other than Lewisham (46.1 per cent) – notably Bromley and Haringey which are both near the 60 per cent mark.

Numbers represent the percentage of 5 star reviews for pubs in the borough.

And B&D has far from the lowest proportion of 5 star scores, beating Newham, Enfield, Croydon, Hounslow and Havering.

So while you’re more likely to have a bad time in a Barking & Dagenham pub than anywhere else in London, you will have a higher chance of having a really good time than in say, Croydon.

They should put that on the “Welcome to our borough” signs.


 

 
 
 
 

Transport for London’s fare zones secretly go up to 15

Some of these stations are in zones 10 to 12. Ooooh. Image: TfL.

The British capital, as every true-blooded Londoner knows, is divided into six concentric zones, from zone 1 in the centre to zone 6 in the green belt-hugging outer suburbs.

These are officially fare zones, which Transport for London (TfL) uses to determine the cost of your tube or rail journey. Unofficially, though, they’ve sort of become more than that, and like postcodes double as a sort of status symbol, a marker of how London-y a district actually is.

If you’re the sort of Londoner who’s also interested in transport nerdery, or who has spent any time studying the tube map, you’ll probably know that there are three more zones on the fringes of the capital. These, numbered 7 to 9, are used to set and collect fares at non-London stations where the Oyster card still works. But they differ from the first six, in that they aren’t concentric rings, but random patches, reflecting not distance from London but pre-existing and faintly arbitrary fares. Thus it is that at some points (on the Overground to Cheshunt, say) trains leaving zone 6 will visit zone 7. But at others they jump to 8 (on the train to Dartford) or 9 (on TfL rail to Brentwood), or skip them altogether.

Anyway: it turns out that, although they’re keeping it fairly quiet, the zones don’t stop at 9 either. They go all the way up to 15.

So I learned this week from the hero who runs the South East Rail Group Twitter feed, when they (well, let’s be honest: he) tweeted me this:

The choice of numbers is quite odd in its way. Purfleet, a small Thames-side village in Essex, is not only barely a mile from the London border, it’s actually inside the M25. Yet it’s all the way out in the notional zone 10. What gives?

TfL’s Ticketing + Revenue Update is a surprisingly jazzy internal newsletter about, well, you can probably guess. The September/October 2018 edition, published on WhatDoTheyKnow.com following a freedom of information request, contains a helpful explanation of what’s going on. The expansion of the Oyster card system

“has seen [Pay As You Go fare] acceptance extended to Grays, Hertford East, Shenfield, Dartford and Swanley. These expansions have been identified by additional zones mainly for PAYG caping and charging purposes.

“Although these additional zones appear on our staff PAYG map, they are no generally advertised to customers, as there is the risk of potentially confusing users or leading them to think that these ones function in exactly the same way as Zones 1-6.”


Fair enough: maps should make life less, not more, confusing, so labelling Shenfield et al. as “special fares apply” rather than zone whatever makes some sense. But why don’t these outer zone fares work the same way as the proper London ones?

“One of the reasons that the fare structure becomes much more complicated when you travel to stations beyond the Zone 6 boundary is that the various Train Operating Companies (TOCs) are responsible for setting the fares to and from their stations outside London. This means that they do not have to follow the standard TfL zonal fares and can mean that stations that are notionally indicated as being in the same fare zone for capping purposes may actually have very different charges for journeys to/from London."

In other words, these fares have been designed to fit in with pre-existing TOC charges. Greater Anglia would get a bit miffed if TfL unilaterally decided that Shenfield was zone 8, thus costing the TOC a whole pile of revenue. So it gets a higher, largely notional fare zone to reflect fares. It’s a mess. No wonder TfL doesn't tell us about them.

These “ghost zones”, as the South East Rail Group terms them, will actually be extending yet further. Zone 15 is reserved for some of the western-most Elizabeth line stations out to Reading, when that finally joins the system. Although whether the residents of zone 12 will one day follow in the venerable London tradition of looking down on the residents of zones 13-15 remains to be seen.

Jonn Elledge was the founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.