Poor King Billy
Poor King William IV gets a bit of a duff deal all round really. I mean, for starters, he’s the ‘boring’ monarch crammed in between George IV and Victoria that everyone forgets (though in reality he was quite a card), but in Greenwich the poor guy gets a particularly poor time. His slightly snigger-worthy statue is currently surrounded by scaffolding as something rather worrying happens to the ex-graveyard of St Mary’s Church, and the pub named after him in Trafalgar Road isn’t one of the classier hostelries in town.
Or should I say ‘wasn’t one of the classiest hostelries?’ For stuff is happening – or rather, isn’t happening, down Trafalgar-way.
For the past few weeks the place has been dark – devoid of the usual ne’er do wells and underagers hanging around outside, devoid of bunk beds crammed into dormitories upstairs, devoid of lights or, indeed, optics.
What’s gone/going on? Have they gone bust? Is it a refurb? Who can tell. All I know is that it doesn’t look at all well.
I think we need to be treading carefully here. This place, despite its unpleasant nature (who can forget those gullible-fool-baiting white-goods ‘sales’ held at short notice on a Saturday evening when Trading Standards and the local constabulary were looking the other way…) is a really beautiful building – as Benedict’s close-ups show.
It’s mid-late Victorian, with incredible mouldings, some absolutely lovely interior fittings and a splendid, totally inexplicable oval disc (can you have an ‘oval disc’?) at the top of the side. This could be a FABULOUS venue in the right hands. It suffers, granted, from having no exterior frontage (hence the dodgy blokes – and it did always seem to be blokes – hanging around outside) but even so, this has HUGE potential.
What I fear is that developers, such as the odious London Taverns Ltd will also see it as a having huge potential – as ‘luxury’ flats.
The worst possible thing that could happen is what happened to the Penny Black (for anyone new to the area, the Penny Black was a cute old London pub, opposite and a few doors along from the King Billy which is now modern flats with a dead shop underneath it, ‘dead’ in this case meaning ‘never actually lived’.) Demolition of the William IV would have this Phantom in tears.
I confess I didn’t like the King William IV as a pub. But just imagine what it COULD be. The Feathers, the Vanbrugh, the Cutty Sark, and most recently, the Pelton Arms, have all reinvented themselves and become seriously enjoyable establishments in East Greenwich. I hope the King Billy will find its time.
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