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: http://www.samsmithschallenge.co.uk

      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.

    Gary

  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 !

    Steve

  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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