Sam Smith Hits London, 1978

Samuel Smith Brew­ery pubs are a pos­i­tive fix­ture in Lon­don today but 40 years ago, there weren’t any.

Sam Smith logo from beer bottle.

Samuel Smith Brewery pubs are a positive fixture in London today but 40 years ago, there weren’t any.

We’ve often won­dered exact­ly how they came to have such a sub­stan­tial estate in the cap­i­tal and had gath­ered that it was a rel­a­tive­ly recent devel­op­ment. Now, thanks to a recent­ly acquired July 1978 edi­tion of the Cam­paign for Real Ale’s What’s Brew­ing news­pa­per, we have all the details. The sto­ry is enti­tled ‘Sam Smith Rapped for “Own Beer” Pub’:

Samuel Smith, the York­shire brew­ers, have run into angry oppo­si­tion to their plans for alter­ing their first ever Greater Lon­don pub.

The Tudor Close in Peter­sham Road, Rich­mond, is a favourite local ale house serv­ing such brews as Wad­worth, Felin­foel, Arkells and Brak­s­pear.

But now its new own­ers want to make big alter­ations to both the out­side and inte­ri­or… and replace the wide range of beers with Old Brew­ery Bit­ter, their only real ale.

Accord­ing to CAM­RA’s What­Pub web­site (note the lin­ger­ing resent­ment in the notes…) the pub is now called the Rose of York and (via Google Street View) looks like this:

In May 1979, What’s Brew­ing report­ed that the brew­ery acquired a sec­ond Lon­don pub, buy­ing the Aner­ley Arms in Beck­en­ham from Char­ring­ton’s:

The late 19th cen­tu­ry hostel­ry was rocked by a gas explo­sion last May and has been board­ed up since… A spokesman for the brew­ery said they intend­ed to restore the pub to its ‘for­mer glo­ry,’ using tra­di­tion­al mate­ri­als to make the pub look ‘much as it did when it first opened’… [He also said] Smith’s were always on the look out for more hous­es.

What we still can’t answer with any con­fi­dence is this ques­tion posed by Jor­dan St John in Feb­ru­ary:

Were they sim­ply react­ing to demand from the new breed of beer geek? Or was it that, with the indus­tri­al north strug­gling eco­nom­i­cal­ly, they want­ed a piece of a rel­a­tive­ly more sta­ble, afflu­ent mar­ket in the south east of Eng­land?

UPDATE 29/09/2015

18 thoughts on “Sam Smith Hits London, 1978”

  1. I agree there is def­i­nite­ly a tone of dis­ap­proval in the What Pub write-up. I don’t think that’s fair: the entry should be about what the pub­’s like now, because the aver­age user of the web­site won’t care what the pub was like 37 years ago. It’s not intend­ed as a vehi­cle for ancient grudges.

    I see that the notes say ‘no real ale’, but the real ale box below says ‘real ale avail­able’. The CAMRA Branch con­cerned needs to pull its socks up.

    1. There are peo­ple down here in Corn­wall who won’t drink St Austel­l’s beers because of how they tast­ed in the 1980s…

    2. Some CAMRA branch­es have shown Sam’s pubs as “no real ale” if they think they are using cask breathers, which to my mind is wrong.

      Giv­en the huge cost of buy­ing Lon­don prop­er­ties I tend to think that Sam’s expan­sion down there was more a van­i­ty project than a can­ny piece of busi­ness.

  2. I have tried to do all Samuel Smiths pubs in London,i have done 35 to date,with one the Freema­sons Arms in Covent Gar­den being took over by Shep­herd Neame.
    I think there are about 6 more to do,i dont have the list to con­firm this,the one you list is one of the few i have not done yet.

    1. These chaps seem to have a pret­ty com­pre­hen­sive list:

      2002–2005 I spent a *lot* of time in the cen­tral Lon­don SS pubs, main­ly due to drink­ing in large groups where sev­er­al were either quite poor or did­n’t under­stand rounds. One could get a whole table of ppl a drink and still get change from a 20…

  3. The local Cam­ra branch (inci­den­tal­ly, as an acronym and not an ini­tial­ism, Cam­ra should be writ­ten that way, and not CAMRA, despite what Cam­ra itself does) also needs to find some­one who can spell and write gram­mat­i­cal Eng­lish. “For­mal­ly known as the Tudor Close that was a pop­u­lar out­let …” – please.

    I’m sure Ed’s total­ly cor­rect.

  4. The Cit­tie of York is the dia­mond of the bunch, the old Heneky‘s Wine Bar. But the Samuel Smith beers in Lon­don always seemed rather bland to me, although I like the Impe­r­i­al Stout a lot.


  5. I vis­it­ed the Tudor Close a few times with my for­mer father-in-law, back in the late 1970’s. This was before Sam’s bought it. From mem­o­ry, the place was rather run-down, but we went there pri­mar­i­ly to drink the Felin­foel Dou­ble Drag­on which, on the whole, was rather good.

  6. The Aner­ley Arms isn’t in Beck­en­ham but rather, some­what sur­pris­ing­ly, in Aner­ley. Right next to Aner­ley sta­tion in fact.

    1. We gath­ered that Beck­en­ham might not quite be right when we searched it on Google Maps but that’s what the 1979 WB arti­cle says for some rea­son.

  7. Good point, Mar­tyn, about whether it’s CAMRA or Cam­ra. I fol­low the Cam­paign’s prac­tice but, think­ing about it, there is a third option, Cam­RA, not that I intend to start using it.

  8. I believe quite a few of the his­toric Sam’s Lon­don pubs includ­ing the Cit­tie of Yorke (for­mer­ly Henekey’s Long Bar) and the Cheshire Cheese were acquired as a job lot when Sam’s bought the Henekey’s pub chain in the ear­ly 1980s. This I believe had pre­vi­ous­ly belonged to the Trust House Forte hotel group who decid­ed to get out of pubs.

    CAMRA bad­ly need to look at all those ‘no real ale’ des­ig­na­tions. What they actu­al­ly mean is ‘no cask beer’ but they’re lib­er­al­ly applied to places that stock bot­tle con­di­tioned beer, some of which even boast ‘CAMRA says this is real ale’ on the label. And now CAMRA says keg con­di­tioned beer served with­out gas com­ing into con­tact with the liq­uid is real ale too. I’m glad to see Lon­don Drinker at least has respond­ed to this: the pub­check pages now use the more cor­rect term ’ no cask beer’.

    1. Thanks Des – that does seem to be when the Lon­don estate real­ly took off. There’s a recruit­ment ad from 1983 in which they boast of hav­ing 12 Lon­don pubs so they real­ly went for it in that five year peri­od.

  9. If I’m going to write ‘Red­Wil­low’ and ‘Se7en Broth­ers’ – which I think I prob­a­bly am – then I’m cer­tain­ly going to write ‘CAMRA’. Way back when Richard Boston was bang­ing on about CAMRA – and I was too young to drink – I remem­ber telling any­one who would lis­ten that it should real­ly be CRA, but I think that ship’s sailed, & tak­en Cam­RA and Cam­ra with it.

  10. A pret­ty shrewd prop­er­ty play I think. A safe haven mon­ey box for the fam­i­ly !

    I used to go to the Tudor Close in those days to drink Wad­worths 6X – sup­plied in mas­sive hogsheads.

    With hind­sight I guess we stopped using the pub as the new own­ers prob­a­bly required proof of age – I was 17 in 1978.

    There are folk on the local Cam­ra branch com­mit­tee now who were on the com­mit­tee in 1978 !


  11. Of course, it was in Sum­mer 1986 that Sams acquired a closed piz­za restau­rant on Oxford’s St Michaels Street and the “Three Goats Heads” was born.

    It still is Sams only tied house in Oxford, and until 27 July 2003, was undoubt­ed­ly the cheap­est booz­er in the city and its envi­rons. Shame that OBB was dis­con­tin­ued in the late 1990’s and the hand­pumps ripped out.

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