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.


 

 
 
 
 

Here are my five favourite London council estates

The Dunboyne Road estate. Image: Steve Cadman/Wikimedia Commons.

The author is a Labour member of the London Assembly. In the name of impartiality, CityMetric would like to extend the invitation to write similar columns to representatives of other political parties.

From successful post-war efforts to move families out of slums and into modern homes, to today’s efforts to construct a new generation of social housing, there’s much to be celebrated in London’s precious council housing stock.

This year we celebrate the centenary of the Addison Act, which established a national building programme with government funding for the first time. So here – in no particular order – are my top five London estates:

1. Dunboyne Road

In 1965, the newly established London Borough of Camden was bold and radical when it came to public housing. Their architect’s department boasted 98 staff, led by Sydney Cook. The Grade II listed Dunboyne Road (pictured above) was Britain’s first high-density, low-rise estate. Designed in the late 1960s and completed in 1977, it was the first major work by architect Neave Brown.

Its concrete construction and geometric layout are eye-catchingly modernist, but the 71 flats and maisonettes fit neatly into their surroundings; a reimagining of the classic London street for the 1960s. Each has a private terrace and own entrance onto the central pedestrian walkway and communal gardens, with stepped levels and dual-aspect windows creating light throughout.

Neave Brown himself lived on the estate in the final years of his life remarking, “Who am I to say, but it’s beautiful”.

2. Lilington Gardens

Located just off Vauxhall Bridge Road, the fourteen blocks at Lilington Gardens were built between 1964 and 1972. Between three and eight storeys each, it was again a rejection of the tower blocks which dominated the era, showing that mid-rise housing could provide both beauty and density.

Image: Ewan Munro/Wikimedia Commons.

At a time when Westminster could be proud of the quality of its housing, John Darbourne and Geoffrey Darke won a competition to design the new estate. The result was something special, eschewing modernist forms for something more rugged and layered. The layout allows for secluded green spaces, while the red brick cladding echoes the neighbouring Victorian church of St James the Less. Like all good estates, it included a pub – the Grade II*-listed Pimlico Tram (now The Cask). It was included not as an afterthought, but an integral part of the estate’s design.

3. Ossulston Estate

By the early 1950s, the London County Council’s architect’s department was the biggest in the world, building housing on a huge scale in addition to showp iece projects such as the Southbank Centre.

Though their suburban estates – Downham in Bromley, and Becontree in Barking and Dagenham – were pioneering examples of low-rise of modernity in metroland, these efforts did not always suit the needs of poor city dwellers who weren’t able to move further out. The Ossulton Estate, however, built between 1927 and 1931 on the site of a Somerstown slum and located between Euston and St Pancras stations, did exactly that.

Image: Stephen McKay/Wikimedia Commons.

Chief architect George Topham Forrest’s work was inspired by visits to ‘Red’ Vienna and Ossulston bears distinct similarities to Karl Marx-Hof, which was constructed at the same time. While the roofs and windows have traditional elements, the overall aesthetic is a modernist classic. Like many estates in post-war years, it suffered from neglect and a lack of investment, but following a £6m improvement programme by Camden Council in 2004, the Ossulston is now back to its brilliant best.

4. Alton Estate

Roehampton’s Alton Estate, completed in 1959, was designed by a team led by Rosemary Stjernstedt – the first woman to serve as a senior public sector architect in Britain.

The two parts of the estate – East and West – are the crown jewels of British post-war council housing. Alton West was Le Corbusier in Albion: six ultra-modernist blocks modelled on the Unité d’habitation in Marseille, set among the landscape inherited from the Georgian Mount Clare house. Alton East was a softer, Scandinavian-inspired design of the “new Brutalists” in the LCC.

Image: Stevekeiretsu/Wikimedia Commons.

Rising above the trees to the north east of Richmond Park, the Alton Estate stands testament to the visionary idealism of post-war council housebuilding. On its completion, visitors flocked from across the globe, with American critic G.E. Kidder Smith calling it “probably the finest low-cost housing development in the world”.

Sadly, Alton West however is now at risk from ‘regeneration’ proposals which would see 288 existing homes lost. While council estates should not be fetishised, with investment, improvement and expansion encouraged, any change must be done sensitively and with residents’ backing. I hope that Wandsworth Council and Redrow will follow the mayor’s Good Practice for Estate Regeneration and hold a ballot before plans go ahead, and that if they do, they build on Rosemary Stjernstedt’s legacy.

5. King’s Crescent

When it comes to regeneration Hackney Council have taken an altogether different approach to Wandsworth.

Located on Green Lanes opposite the magnificent Clissold Park, King’s Crescent’s route to a successful and well-supported regeneration project hasn’t always been an easy one. The early 1970s estate was blighted by poor construction, navigability issues and an ill-fated partial demolition in 2000 which turned much of the landscape into hoardings and rubble. But thanks to a step-change in resident engagement and a transformation programme funded by Hackney Council, by 2023 it will be host to 765 new and refurbished homes.

Image: David Holt/Wikimedia Commons.

In the era of government-imposed cuts to local authority budgets, councils have to be pragmatic about funding choices and the new King’s Crescent does include homes for private sale. This is understandably a source of some consternation, but it’s also the source of funding which has made the regeneration possible. Hackney has ensured that more than 50 per cent of the new homes are genuinely affordable, with 97 brand new council homes for social rent.

The new developments have greatly enhanced the area, using both new build and renovation to stitch the estate better into its Victorian surroundings. Existing homes have been retrofitted with balconies, while disused garage space has been repurposed for modern flats. Hackney have clearly thought carefully about character and open spaces, as well as ceiling heights, windows and internal storage.

It is an exceptional project – one of a growing number of new schemes now being spearheaded by ambitious councils across the capital. In 2018-19, the Mayor of London funded the start of 1,916 new council homes – the highest figure since 1984-85.


…what about the Barbican?

On the fiftieth anniversary of its opening, it would be remiss not the mention the Barbican. It’s a brutalist masterpiece and a fantastic feat of post-war planning and design. The location and design are clearly outstanding, but it’s the bright and modern interiors which are truly to die for.

So why is it not on the list? Although it was built by the City of London Corporation, not one of the flats was ever available at a social rent. The properties were built to let at market rents to workers in the City, who later found themselves in the fortunate position of being able to snap them up under the Right to Buy – still the fate of far too many of London’s vital social homes.

Tom Copley is a Labour member of the London Assembly.