When the Carlton Tavern was constructed in 1921 by the brewery Charrington & Co., London’s skyline looked much different than it does today. Located in the city’s Maida Vale neighborhood, the turn-of-the-century pub stood strong throughout the decades. It even survived the bombings that took place during the Blitz in World War II — and was the only building left standing on the street.
As a result, the pub was on track to receive Grade II protection status from English Heritage, a philanthropic organization that works to protect historic sites. The status protects “buildings with special architectural or historic interest considered to be of national importance,” as written on the organization’s website. But that never happened. On Easter weekend in 2015, developers from CLTX Ltd. — an Israeli-based property firm — demolished the site to “piles of brick and glass.”
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Three months prior, CLTX Ltd. requested permission to turn the upstairs part of the pub into flats — and were denied. The “bulk, height, and design would be detrimental to the view” within the area, a subcommittee explained. Instead, the developers tore Carlton Tavern down without permission from the city, just one day before it would be confirmed as a listed building under Grade II status.
So when then-manager Patsy Lord returned to work after news of the deconstruction, she was distraught. “It is heartbreaking. There was no warning. I thought they were just going to dig the back garden,” Lord told ITV at the time. “Westminster City Council sent a planning enforcement team to find the pub was being demolished.”
Even more unsettling, the developers worked against protocol, abandoning the 1984 Building Act that requires authority to be given notice about any demolition six weeks prior. In January of that year, the city council even reported that “its loss would be regrettable” ahead of the heritage meeting. In the months following, disheartened community members made their voices heard in the form of protest and council meetings.
“I have never seen anything like it in my entire life,” Westminster city councillor Rita Begum told ITV six years ago. “I went past just the other day and there were people drinking inside the pub — there was no warning whatsoever. The whole community is in shock. How can they do this without approval?”
As the city mourned the loss of a beloved historical site, the Westminster City Council relayed a stark message to CLTX Ltd.: “Recreate in facsimile the building as it stood immediately prior to its demolition.”
Six years later, that message was delivered, as the Carlton Tavern stands tall on that same street as it did in 1921 and beyond. News of the pub’s reopening was posted to the Rebuild The Carlton Tavern Facebook page, which garnered over 3,000 fans since its inception in the wake of the pub’s demolition. Throughout that time, the page offered updates on the building’s progress, as users shared memories from their time there and hopes for reopening.
“People said it was impossible,” Polly Robertson, one of the leaders of the Rebuild the Carlton Tavern campaign, told The Guardian. “Many people said, ‘Polly, it’s not worth it, nothing’s going to happen.’ And I just thought, no — I’m not going to let it lie.”
Thanks to ample footage and photo archives from the English Heritage, builders were able to reconstruct the site to look almost exactly as it did before demolition. According to Tom Rees, one of the building’s new lease owners, the remnants of the pub’s banister, stairway, fireplace, and even part of the bar were rescued in the rubble. These working fixtures help to “tell a story, … [giving] character and charm to the building.”
A century after the Carlton Tavern first opened its doors, the site’s new owners welcomed the community once again on April 9, 2021. “I stepped away now that the [rebuild] is complete,” a post from the Facebook group read. “See you all in our local for a drink and a bite.”