Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Half Moon pub 'will reopen'..... one day

* The below was written prior to me finding this sign on the corner door of the Half Moon. I don't know when it went up but it was bone dry, unlike the rest of London. It would appear the Half Moon pub is being squatted. I'm hoping to be corrected.

It’s a terribly sad sight to see the beautiful Half Moon pub in Herne Hill closed. The pub's beautiful doors have not been opened to welcome a paying customer since the awful flood of August 2013 and rumours about its fate swirl endlessly around. Some claim to have heard it is going to be converted into an Asda, or a Tesco Metro, or maybe into a Wetherspoons clone or simply turned into flats. 
Thankfully the truth is a little simpler than that; the most likely outcome is that it will, one day, reopen as a pub. To understand why, below is the Half Moon’s entry on English Heritage’s Listed Buildings Register:
Public house. Dated 1896 on gable. Red brick in Flemish bond with rubbed brick, artificial stone, terracotta dressings; ground-floor with polished granite columns. Mansarded roofs of various descriptions, all turnerised. STYLE: Jacobeathan Revival. 
PLAN: rectangular corner plan, with corner itself chamfered. 
EXTERIOR: 3 storeys stepping down to 2 to left and rear. Seven-window range, one-window range at corner and five-window range to return. Five flat-arched entrances, that to corner designed as the main one. All windows are flat-arched unless otherwise stated. Ground floor treated as pilastrade of Composite order, supporting an entablature, which is topped by a pediment over each entrance. In the centre of main elevation a bulbous attached column supports a 1st-floor balcony set under a canted, open porch which is, in turn, topped by a truncated gable and a 2nd-floor balcony with pierced strapwork parapet. This ensemble set in a full-height, round-arched recess, pierced at top by a Serlian window with panelled over spandrel. The 4th to 6th window ranges are treated as a single Dutch-gabled bay with scrolled parapets and finials. A 1st-floor porch in the corner range with Elizabethan-style columns; round-arched window; window above set in aedicule consisting of pedimented hood that projects above eaves of high mansard roof, topped by a bellcote, which crowns the corner range. 2nd-window range on return treated as a gabled bay. Entrance porch with polished granite columns to rear of return elevation. On the main elevation, 1st-floor windows in the 3rd- and 7th-window ranges are tripartite and round-arched. The 2nd-floor windows alternate with round-arched recesses; the windows have scrolled aprons and plaques of brick cut and rubbed to resemble swags. High hipped roof to 2nd-window range which projects slightly to form a bay. High stacks to centre and end walls, some with floral decoration. To the rear of the return there is a single square stack in the plain of the outer wall. 
INTERIOR: public bar intact; original panelling and coloured glass; etched mirrors of original design. Some mirrors with painted decoration of good quality depicting birds and flowers. The proliferation of ornament across the surface of this building gives the whole a sense of vital unity through their sheer number, a design approach characteristic of large public houses built c1895. 
Such is the admiration of this building, not only is the exterior of the pub Grade II* listed, so too is the interior. This makes it very difficult to adapt for other uses. Any applicant would have to convince Southwark Council that the site couldn't operate as a viable pub once more; an extremely difficult proposition to establish considering the Half Moon's long service. An attempt to convert the pub into a supermarket, for example - the sorry fate of far too many pubs - would inevitably lead to dramatic interior changes and is almost guaranteed  to spark ferocious local opposition and also objections from English Heritage. Sadly, such a fate befell befell the George IV, in Brixton Hill recently. A lovely pub but not one, as far as I can see, benefitted from a heritage listing. It had also had a more troubled recent history which made it much harder for the council to resist the advance of Tesco, despite a vigorous campaign to save it. It is now another pointless Tesco Metro store.
The Dulwich Estate, owners of the Half Moon Pub, do have redevelopment plans for the building; it seems likely to have been these plans which led to the previous leaseholder, Robert Harrison, leaving the pub in March 2013. In an interview with journalist Jason Tate, Mr Harrison said:
I left the Half Moon in March 2013. My leased had expired and the landlord had not offered me a new one. I spent seven years at the Half Moon and during that time I gave my best attention to the upkeep and well-being of the premises. I would have liked the opportunity to continue - there was much more that could have been done - but unfortunately the landlords had other plans for the building.
(The full interview can be found here, search 'Half Moon Pub Remembered' and it should come up.)

The flood which closed the doors of the Half Moon
But The Dulwich Estate are committed to reopening the pub.
'When the pub was flooded it coincided with The Dulwich Estate's plans to redevelop the pub and provide flats on the upper floors,' John E Major, the chief executive of The Dulwich Estate, told me in a brief conversation.
He acknowledged that is was 'a beautiful building but it is not in great condition and it needs a lot of careful restoration'. The previous tenants have given up the pub and The Dulwich Estate are now in discussions with planning at Southwark Council about the way forward. While the Herne Hill Forum estimates the pub will reopen in June 2015, 'there is no target date to get it back open, it all depends on the planning process', Mr Major said, though he added:
'Obviously, it's in our interests to get it reopen again as a functioning pub as soon as possible.'
And the future of live music provision at the venue is still not decided either.
'Whether there is a music venue depends on the future tenant. Soundproofing could be done to enable the music venue to remain.'
Past experience suggests that the planning battle could be a fraught. A consultation was held in April 2013 about parts of the building being turned into flats and, according to the Herne Hill Society, 'local residents were concerned over the loss of the function rooms on the upper floors and, more particularly, the impact on the live music performances, an important tradition at the Half Moon. Could they ever be compatible with residential flats?'
There's a long way to go then, but hopefully, not too far in the distance future, I will, along with other fans of the pub, walk in to the familiar bar, order a pint and settle back to enjoy one of the finest pubs in London.


  1. There is no such thing as "Dulwich Estates". They are called "The Dulwich Estate".

    Still, I hope it does reopen. Maybe if their esteemed "clientele" go back there the Commercial will be a usable pub again.

  2. I've been watching closely what is going on with the Half Moon Pub in recent times as I am also concerned that this Herne Hill landmark will end up the same fate as the George IV in Brixton - a pub that I had a strong connection with between 1999 - 2007 as I used to put events on there. Was a very sad day when this was transformed into a Tesco's. Incidentally, The George IV was squatted prior to the Tesco's re-fit so there may be light at the end of the tunnel for the Half Moon as whoever had been was obviously ejected successfully.

    I'm very glad you have posted the comments from The Dulwich Estate as they appear positive at this time and I was worried that they were (as per rumour) were going to convert the whole building into flats. My real fear that in this present climate no (good) brewery would want to take on this pub now. Trade in the week days was never great...I've been in there many times over the years and its been just me and the bar person. JD Wetherspoon however do have the promotional power to do something with this. Personally I would hate this to happen but I would much prefer them than this to no longer be a public house. There has been a pub on or near to (the original one being at the corner of Stadella Road) this site for over 200 years.

    Dave D

  3. I see we are almost a year on and nothing has been resolved.If Weatherspoons take nover there would be little chance of the music surving which would be a real shame as it has historical value.


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