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 there 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.