London Stay Apartments, a Rotherhithe-based company, applied to Greenwich Council last year to convert the upper floors into an HMO with 11 double rooms, and to make alterations to the bar area.
The company promised the bar would be kept, however, the current operators are moving on after tonight to the Melbourne Arms in Sandy Hill Road, Woolwich, they revealed on their Facebook page.
Greenwich planning officers approved the plan for the White Horse after several previous proposals – including demolishing the 132-year-old pub altogether – were rejected. No objections were received from residents or local groups.
“It is not considered that the proposal would harm the viability of the existing pub,” they wrote in their report.
The once-intimidating pub was revamped and relaunched in 2020 but efforts to take it upmarket were stymied by the coronavirus lockdowns. In a review for this website in December 2020, our reviewer Paul Breen wrote that the pub had “definitely changed beyond recognition” and had moved away from its “shaven-headed incarnation”.
It’s a brave time to open a new pub, but the once-infamous White Horse on Woolwich Road has been reopened with a new look and a new menu. PAUL BREEN popped in for a pint.
Having taught briefly at the old Holborn College (now Windrush Primary School) over the road, I knew the reputation of The White Horse. Passing it a few weeks ago, I realised that something about it seemed very different from the past associations of the place. However, I didn’t enter because like with most people, the act of going out is now a rarity.
But after seeing the lounge empty one early evening, with sensible precautions in place for social distancing, I went in and ordered a pint, where I experienced something new, positive and unexpected.
Under the radar, Charlton seems to have acquired a decent new pub to go along with the others that we already have. The angry past has moved out and there’s a new rider on the saddle of The White Horse. Though I never ventured into the previous shaven-headed incarnation, everything’s most definitely changed beyond recognition, from décor to drinks. I could feel echoes of The White Swan’s early days in a lot of what I saw, from the friendliness of staff to the general ambience of the place.
Speaking to the owner, I get a sense that he’s got a vision for the place and for being a part of the Charlton community. That seems timely when the football club has just acquired a new owner too; Thomas Sandgaard. There’s something about new ownership that fills people’s hearts and minds with a sense of hope, a sense of better times on the road ahead. That’s as true of a local pub as it is of a football club. Something in the human spirit feeds so strongly off fragments of an imagined future. Here, the promise of Sunday roasts (including a veggie option) brought back those lost moments of in-law lunches as a group at the same table.
Possibly even better than that (sorry in-laws) was the promise of forthcoming craft lagers and theme nights that used to be such a feature of The White Swan from dodgy DJs to quizzes and folk sessions. I wanted to scream out “my God, there is a future!” but present regulations dictate that shouting ecstatically is very definitely not allowed in public. I do though want to shout about this place because in my head I’m already there on that sunny May day when Thomas Sandgaard shocks us all by reaching this stage of his title-winning pub crawl around Charlton.
Though I only got a snapshot of one brief evening here, this discovery gives me a sense of hope, a light in the darkness of this lingering winter. Going to our other locals, of course, does the same I should add but there’s something beautiful, something restorative in finding newness right now. There’s a kindling of hope that the good old days can come back to us, that they’re not just moments lost in time in these days of living in fear.
The White Horse is somewhere I’m hoping to visit on one of those rainy Saturdays, in a time when we’ll joke darkly of days when we could cough suddenly and clear the bar to get a round.
There is hope out there and there is healing in the sight of old places staying open and new ones springing to life, even in this darkest of winters. We do need to support them though so that they’ll be there for us on rainy evenings, match days, film festival nights and the like. Nobody knows what the future holds or even how this virus is going to play out, but we’ve got to keep believing and to keep looking ahead. Thanks to the White Horse and Hachi Sushi Grill for their tastes of the past and the future. Thinking about it almost brings tears to my eyes, though it could just be the wasabi from last night in the Japanese café!
Residents can have their say between now and 28 August on the proposals, which would retain the locally-listed building – notorious for its sloping floor but unused for over 20 years and damaged by fires, most recently in May – and build above and behind it to create a two-storey apartment block.
A previous application, in 2016, to demolish the building for flats was refused, while this application follows a withdrawn plan to build two large student flats behind the pub, which the council objected to on the grounds that student accommodation did not fit into the Charlton Riverside redevelopment programme.
Of converting the pub to a Domino’s pizza outlet, the developer says: “The ‘A5’ use would be a Domino’s pizza outlet. They deliver. Even in a Town Centre context 95% of orders are delivered. In a location such as this it would be a lot higher. The layout allows for moped or scooter parking. Staff would be encouraged to use the scooters or cycles to access work from home.”
Some things that leap out at us.
Firstly, there have been six months of to-ing and fro-ing with council planners before this has emerged, so presumably they are broadly happy with it.
Secondly, that blank wall! Surely we can get a mural out of this. Get your thinking caps on, readers.