We’re still in learning and thinking mode when it comes to the thorny issue of pub preservation.
The question that’s currently dogging us is this: is it more important to preserve pub buildings, or the spirit of the pub? Or does it have to be both?
The other week, walking through South East London, we came across The Yorkshire Grey, a rather striking example of the “brewers’ improved” style of public house. Red-brick, mansion-like, and taller than the surrounding suburban houses, it was so well-maintained and clean it might have been built yesterday. It was also apparently well-used by the local community.
Except it isn’t a pub any more — it’s a drive-through McDonald’s burger restaurant.
We couldn’t help but feel that, if McDonald’s hadn’t taken it on, it would probably be mostly empty and in poor repair, if not falling down and boarded-up like some pubs we saw on the way into nearby Woolwich. Perhaps this conversion was for the best?
Of course it would be better if there was such huge local demand for a pub that it could have continued trading as such.
Failing that, it might also be better if, like Eltham Palace down the road, an organisation such as English Heritage could take control and preserve it as a museum and time capsule. (Better for us, anyway — Elthamites seem extremely happy with Maccy Ds.)
But any form of occupancy has to be better than dereliction.