The Fox and Hounds Union…

Photo: Alex Brooks

This post started with a question from Alex, who passed the Greenwich Union as it was having a refurb, revealing the Charrington’s sign below. It made him wonder how long ago that was, and what the pub was before it was the Union.

I confess I’m a lazy Phantom. Why bother reinventing the wheel when there’s a Phantophile on brew-tap who knows all about these things? I did what any self-respecting idle Phantom would do – I contacted Phantom brewmaster Rod. And since there was such a fine reaction to Raymond’s glorious Wood Wharf memories, I decided to be even lazier and give this to you straight from the Rod’s mouth…

My recollection of the Union (and precursors) dates back only to the late 70′s, when I first came to Greenwich.

Earlier history is hard to find, but this link gives a little bit

When I first darkened the doors, the pub was called the Fox and Hounds, and still had some Charringtons’ signage, although I’m fairly sure it was a free house by then. It was run by an Irish couple, as a proper local pub – good atmosphere, proper Sunday roasts, days out at the races, etc etc. There was folk music from time to time. All seemed well.

However, one day the pub stayed locked and remained that way for a long time. The Royal Hill rumour was that the Irish couple had, literally, done a moonlight flit. Dark stories of huge gambling debts circulated…

After, I don’t know exactly, a year or so, serious work began on the old Fox. Lots of skips full of wood and rubble got filled and taken away. Work would be erratic – activity stopping and starting seemingly at random (although money presumably had something to do with it, as ever…..).

Eventually, after being closed for, I would think, at least 18 months, it re-opened as the Observatory. On the opening launch night, le tout de Greenwich was there to see what it was like.
Unfortunately that was the busiest night the Observatory ever had, as most of the people who came to have a look didn’t much like what they saw…

Some of what had been done was good – the current conservatory replaced the never-very-pristine Gents bog. Fine, but some of the other improvements were less successful. The stone floor, which still remains was (arguably) better that the previous patterned carpet.

The building is (still) an inherently cold one, and painting the walls a frigid dove/oyster grey exacerbated this badly. The heavy, carved teak furniture would perhaps have looked better in a Thai restaurant. The 18th Century engraving of the Thames, which bizarrely didn’t feature any of the Greenwich riverfront, didn’t really go with anything else. Certainly not the furniture.

One beautiful Summer Saturday afternoon, when the Richard I was chocker, my wife and I had an admittedly very nice lunch in the Observatory. We had the place entirely to ourselves, and ate to the strains of a James Last-type orchestral recording of arrangements of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Greatest Hits. Not cool.

The Observatory closed within a year, if memory serves and Meantime snapped it up. It re-opened about a week later, and I walked in the first day, to find *no* big brand beers at all – just Meantime. Some proper German-styles, a Wheat beer, a Raspberry beer etc etc.

I liked it so much I joined the company.


So ┬áthere you have it, Alex. All the news on the Fox & Hounds that’s fit to print. Rather less exciting news, however, for its next door neighbour. I understand the Tolly’s having a ‘refurb’ and from what I’ve been hearing it’s of the most ghastly kind imaginable.

Honestly – don’t the owners get why people go to the Richard I? It’s precisely for all the things they’re about to obliterate. Sigh.

the attachments to this post:

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fox and hounds

Photo: Alex Brooks
alex Union bar

6 Comments to “The Fox and Hounds Union…”

  1. Alexander says:

    For the most part I thought people went to the Richard I because the Greenwich Union is usually packed out! Pubs in Greenwich are having to go more upmarket to keep up with the way the whole area is going more upmarket. The Hill maybe got in too early, but they’re certainly doing really well recently.

    It’s the same reason why the Morden Arms is always half empty in recent years, which is is a great option if you want to go a pub that is realistically going to have some space to sit down in on any given night.

    I expect the refurbished Richard I will become a bit of a gold mine with the increased capacity, and I look forward to being able to get a table in there without having to make a reservation!

  2. Booze Radley says:

    What’s happening to the Tolly?

    When I first moved to Greenwich in the early 90s it was the Tolly and the Ashburnham Arms that were the places to go for a great alternative to the tourist friendly boozers of the town centre. The latter is now an over-bright living room. (Do you remember those ‘chuck out your chintz’ IKEA adverts…I blame those for many a deterioration of many a cozy boozehole).

    Thanks goodness for the new Crown on Trafalgar Road. And the new management of the Yacht. And the Pelton.

    3 reasons I won’t get thirsty for a while.

  3. Matt says:

    Far as I can gather they are extending the pub part of the Tolly out into the beer garden. So probably better for them in the winter months but a bit of a shame in the summer

  4. Sedlmayer says:

    The bit that really worries me about the refurb is not so much the giant conservatory (which will double the size of the pub) but the fact that they are going to knock both bars into one, which will completely change the character of the place.
    There are so few pubs now that retain the traditional arrangement of having several smaller bars that it’s a terrible pity to lose yet another.
    It’s a slightly odd thing to want to do anyway, as it will actually reduce the amount of seating in the two bars (as they are now).

  5. Jack Cross says:

    Notes to all the grumpy old men who came into the Richard last night complaining that the pub was going to be spoiled -

    a)Too little, too late – you’re right, but you should have started a petition or something ages ago. The refurb is a done deal now – starts Monday.

    b)During the period when the Richard is closed please don’t come into the Union and stand at the bar loudly complaining that there’s no cask ale. The reason there isn’t any is that you weren’t drinking it and they were throwing gallons of it away. The Union is not a charitable subsection of the Campaign for “Real” Ale.

  6. Meirion says:

    Love the TR4 jauntily parked outside Fox & Hounds. Tolly will have “arch” smashed through between the two bars at the front (the pub and the offie in the picture)and vastly extended at back. Never really liked the Tolly since the last refurb but Booze Radley right about new Crown, Yacht and above all the wonderful Pelton. Shame Youngs didn’t learn lesson from their great refurb of the Cutty Sark which has enhanced its character and made it again a great place to drink and eat. And what’s all this calling the Tolly by the name of some useless absentee plantagenet who almost financially ruined England after getting himself lost on the way back from his Mediterranean holiday?