Friday, 11 May 2012


Don't you just hate it when you're meeting close friends or family and you can't agree on a pub where to meet? Well The Hole in the Wall was thought by me to be a safe option when I arranged to meet my nephew recently - although I had not been in there for 37 years...

Little has changed with the pub in all honesty from that Saturday night I was there on the only other occasion I visited the HitW - the trains arriving and departing nearby Waterloo station still rumble overhead. Not so much a boozer, but an institution.
I was a teenager then and had moved to London the month previously. This was just 4 years after UK currency was decimalised and Thatcherism wasn't even thought of. But in those days drinking anything that even resembled a decent pint in London was a real challenge. There was a handful of free houses - and these were welcome oases in a beer desert - bereft of decent real ales. Breweries such as Young's (Wandsworth) and Fuller's (Fuller's Smith and Turner of Chiswick) kept faith in real ale production at a time when insipid keg alternatives such as Watney's Red Barrel and Ben Truman Export (truly dreadful) was pretty much the norm throughout London.

Both Young's and Fuller's pubs were centred in the immediate environs of their brewery locations - with a very few exceptions - so you had to go to south and west London in the main to sample their products. It really is difficult to believe now that there was such a dearth of decent watering holes in London in 1975.

The 1975 CAMRA Good Beer Guide described The Hole in the Wall as "a recently refurbished railway-arch pub" and beers on offer were Young's, Bass Worthington, Brakspear and Ruddles. It still resides under the railway arch, of course - but the recently refurbished bit? - nah! You've more chance of seeing Englebert Humperdinck on the Eurovision Song Contest than this place seeing a forthcoming lick of paint!

Other free houses of note at that time were the Lamb Tavern in Leadenhall Market, the Anglesea Arms in South Kensington and the George in Southwark.

The following year - 1976 - saw the emergence of real ales from brewers Charringtons, Whitbreads, Ind Coope and a few others in London - more choice, more localised and more of the same was to follow.

Interesting fact - at some stage each member of the Australian band Men at Work has been unemployed.

The Hole in the Wall
5 Mepham Street
London, SE1 8SQ
Tel: 020 7928 6196  

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