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Monday, August 15, 2005

Pubs on London Underground Platforms....should they be re-introduced?

I'll have a pint of Pride, a Bicardi Breezer and an Oystercard top-up

This post has arisen out of a totally unrelated
comments spat that I had with Jon Justice. We were arguing about me taking pictures of the police, amongst other things - then continued our discussion privately by email - and at the end of the day, we ended up resolving everything and had a much more jovial email exchange.

Part of that exchange was that on Saturday Jon was listening to Radio 4's "Home Truths" where they were discussing moles (the furry underground variety) and Jon said: "then they went on to mention the concept of pubs on the Tube. Apparently there used to be a bar on the platform of Sloane Square station. You could jump from train to pub without touching the platform." Jon thinks their re-introduction would be a good idea as he was trying to get to a pub during the recent attacks - "I was frustrated in my attempts to head pubward by the terrorists. If TfL were to reopen the pubs on platforms, then I could have supped in peace."

My vintage copy of A Word ChildWell, I actually knew all about the bar on the platform of Sloane Square as it features very heavily in an excellent novel by Iris Murdoch called - "A Word Child".

Written in 1975, the lead character (who was a bit of a tube fan) seemed to spend half of his life in that pub: "The concept of the tube station platform bar excited me. In fact the whole underground region moved me, I felt as if it were in some sense my natural home. These two bars (Sloane Square and one at Liverpool Street) were not just a cosy after-the-office treat, they were a source of dark excitement, places of profound communication with London......

"The coming and departing rattle of the trains, the drifting movement of the travellers, their arrival, their waiting, their vanishing forever presented a mesmeric and indeed symbolic fresco: so many little moments of decision....The uncertainty of the order of the trains. The dangerousness of the platforms. The resolution of a given moment (but which?) to lay down your glass and mount the next train. But why? There will be another in two minutes)"


Both London Underground platform pubs (and all licensed premises on the Underground) gradually disappeared. The platform pub on Sloane Square was called "The Hole in the Wall" and survived until 1985. It's now a convenience store called "Treats". The one on Liverpool Street, on the eastbound platform of the Metropolitan Line, was known as "Pat-Mac's Drinking Den" and survived until 1978 and is now a cafe.

Apparently, at one time there were over thirty licensed buffets on Underground premises and many were open for out of hours business (All historical information from the indispensable Underground to Everywhere by Stephen Halliday).

Map from HarbottlesThe only pub that I know of which is virtually on an Underground platform now is The Railway in Kew Gardens. Formerly called The Flower & Firkin - fancyapint's understated comment on closeness to the tube "you'll see it as soon as you leave the station". Harbottle's pub guide also say "actually a part of Kew Gardens Station".

The Railway pub at Kew Gardens station


It used to be my local when I lived in Kew. Regulations of some sort prevent the doors opening onto the platform itself, but you can hear and see trains pulling up from inside the pub. So if you're fast, you can down your last drink and leg it out of the front of the pub to catch a tube (I've done it on more than one occasion).

The Railway's proximity to the platform at Kew Gardens station


Perhaps we could do with having pubs on platforms again? I'm not sure what the legalities are, but it'd certainly make life easier for people doing Circle Line pub crawls if nothing else.

Update - guess the booze brand quiz - In one of those freaky weird co-incidences, when I arrived at work my friends were all doing a quiz where you have to guess the brand name of different alcoholic drinks from little pictures of them. We've downloaded the booze quiz here - it will drive you mad, specially as whoever designed it doesn't seem to have a great use of apostrophes.


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