The roots of the public house, one of Britain’s most distinctive institutions, can be traced as far back as the Romans. Surviving through the centuries, and adapting to waves of arriving rulers and new beverages, the essence of the pub has remained constant – somewhere to relax and meet, providing an easy-going space for social cohesion. Under the Localism Act of 2011, public houses became eligible as assets of community value (ACV). This prevents demolition, protects their use as a pub, and recognises their value to the communities they serve.
The Chesham Arms on Mehetabel Road, just off Homerton High Street, is just such a pub. Built in the latter half of the nineteenth century, it was purchased by a developer in October 2012 and work began to convert it into flats and offices. Locals, dismayed by this turn of events and the loss of a community hub, formed Save the Chesham, a campaign group that fought and won a two-year battle to return the building to its former use. Landlord to this legacy Andy Bird, along with manager Joe Gooding, took on the challenging task of returning the space to its previous incarnation in just twelve weeks. Taking into careful consideration the poor old pub’s journey, they sought to revive its community feel, recreating an atmosphere that would feel welcoming to all-comers.
Despite its brand-new spit and polish, the pub is warm and inviting. Stools line the central bar and in the corner is that old East London staple, a piano. All remaining period features have been retained (check out the wallpaper on the way to the loo), and at the rear you’ll find a lovely, walled beer garden. Drinks are carefully selected, with a good representation of local producers. There are interesting canned and bottled beers, ales on rotation, ciders from the southwest, and a refreshing alternative to more ubiquitous pub lagers in the form of Bavo Pils.
The pub is already thriving; it is a fitting happy ending to a fiercely fought campaign, and a real success for the borough. Cheers Chesham Arms!