Chalton Street’s half a dozen watering holes have an interesting history. Three no longer survive: the Chalton Arms was at #82, long since demolished, and at the street’s most northern tip, where the road brushes up against Camden Town, stood the Eastnor Castle, which closed in 2013 and is now housing.
A few minutes back down towards Euston, however, stood the Anchor, which has a fascinating backstory. Back in the late 1920s, most pubs in the area were rough-and-ready joints which encouraged drunkenness (ahem). The Restaurant Public Houses Association was thus formed to open joints with seating to serve inexpensive wholesome food (an early forbear of the gastropub) where “even a clergyman would feel comfortable”.
Whitbread’s were persuaded to refurb the Anchor as a restaurant-pub and it opened as such in 1929, with a Father Jellicoe as licensee. An oak-panelled bar served only beer – no spirits – and drunkenness was “taboo”, while a restaurant upstairs served lunch for 7p. In its short life the venue was visited by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Queen Mary and Prince Of Wales – but it was handed back to Whitbread’s in the early 1930s when the RHPA gave up running pubs to concentrate on training aspiring licensees.
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The Cock Tavern
This is the definition of a traditional local boozer (with pints at just £3.50): it’s covered in Celtic football merchandise, coated in dust and musty with the smell of spilt pints penetrated into thinly varnished wood. Upon entry the regulars may not be entirely used to welcoming new faces, but soon re-ignite their conversations, a cheery mood emanating from the thick Irish accents, chattering and chuckling away.
The place is filled with pockets of interesting characters, lone wolves fingering through The Mirror, elderly couples, men sat around the same table, some consumed by the horse racing, others too busy putting their worlds-to-rights. Groups of philosophers and academics pop in and out from the British Library, local families and nattering groups of young artists. All share little in common but a hankering for cheap beer and a nostalgia for a bygone era.
The interior is vast, equipped with snooker tables and darts boards, with a space upstairs which, according to Robert, the mellow barman, plays host to a variety of events, including spontaneous poetry nights, art performances in collaboration with Chalton Street Gallery and meeting rooms for various unions, philosophy courses and social groups.
The Cock Tavern has recently been the set for a Sky Sports advert and has just had an American film crew in who felt that the carpeted floors and walls lined with framed football memorabilia proved to be the idyllic setting for their documentary about Brexit.
It’s a unique and refreshing experience to stand in a building that’s retaining its identity, clientele and avoiding, for the meantime at least, the gentrification that seems so inevitable in a city developing at the pace and in the way it is. 23 Phoenix Road, just off Chalton Street NW1 on the cut through to St.Pancras
This landmark corner house was originally called the Rising Sun, its name still visible in the red brickwork, rebuilt in the grand old Victorian gothic style around 1899.
A pub has stood here since the early days of Somers Town, when it would have had a view across the road towards fields, reportedly so dangerous in the early 19th century that a horn would be sounded every half hour so people could cross together for protection.
Something to contemplate as you sip on a Hop House lager, a Punk IPA or Camden Hells, all on draft along with a range of ales. 120 Euston Road NW1
Somers Town Coffee House
Now it’s summer, this historic (and once-French) pub’s fantastic west-facing terrace out front gets the evening rays and is packed with thirsty office workers, while the small back garden is pretty cosy if a breeze is up.
Inside, the dark-panelled interior, which dates back to 1927 (although the original pub was built in the 18th century) is spacious enough to find a table, and there’s even a speakeasy called the Cosy Kettle downstairs. British ‘tapas’ is on the menu. We’ve been here more times than many others on the stretch. 60 Chalton Street NW1
Words: Stephen Emms and Clare Hand
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With thanks to the Streets of St Pancras (Somers Town & The Railway Lands) published by the Camden History Society (priced £7.99). Available here.
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