When we lived in Walthamstow in East London, we never once visited the Chequers, halfway up the High Street in the middle of the famous market. We admired the grand Victorian corner building and enjoyed the Taylor Walker livery surviving on its sign, but it never looked remotely inviting. In fact, it looked downright threatening.
The Krays moved to Walthamstow when they’d made a bit of money and supposedly made their way to the Chequers immediately after bumping of George Cornell at the Blind Beggar in Whitechapel. Every pub in East London has a Krays story but, true or not, it says something about the Chequers’ reputation. When we read that the landlord and landlady had voluntarily closed the pub ‘under police pressure’ as a result of accusations of drug dealing, we weren’t massively surprised.
What did massively surprise us was the news (gossip, for now) that it is to be taken over by Antic, the pub chain behind the excellent Red Lion in nearby Leytonstone. That should mean a brand-new-vintage makeover and an exciting range of beer from London breweries and elsewhere. From a selfish perspective, we can’t help but be pleased.
But what about the regulars? Though it wasn’t our cup of tea, it did have a steady clientele, and they’ll probably feel as unwelcome in the new Chequers as we would in the old. Let’s hope the market (and, indeed, the Market) continues to provide a range of pubs so that everyone can find one in which they’ll feel comfortable.