Comment: The historic Thomas A Becket must be saved

(18 June, 2015) Editorials

The Walworth Society are fighting to protect the storied boozer.

3348The Thomas A Becket

Thomas A Becket is one of Southwark’s most notable pubs and for it to be lost would be a travesty for local history.

This is a pub with a history that stretches back to the 14th century. An inn on the site is mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and the current building has a celebrated boxing past that has put it on the world stage.

Yes, recently, the pub did lose its licence following a “serious assault” but that should not be used as an excuse for developers to move in with the obvious intention of building more luxury apartments.

Thank God for the likes of Jeremy Leach and the Walworth Society who have already done so much to save what little historic buildings we have left from the bulldozers.

Only last week we reported how the Walworth Society stepped in to protect the Elephant & Castle pub from being turned into estate agents. This 1960s boozer does not have the same historical credentials as Thomas A Becket, although there has been a pub on that site since the 1700s. The Society also helped the Manor Place development retain its historic frontage and is in the process of getting the Walworth Road listed as a conservation area.

Its plan to get the Thomas A Becket listed as a community asset is the first step in retaining it for generations to come.  This is more than a gesture as it will automatically flag it up as an important community asset, making it harder for any developer to get a change of use and potentially stop it becoming a block of flats. It is important that people start to take part in a pilot scheme currently running between Southwark Council and the News to make planning applications more accessible. By registering an interest in an area post code or street you will be notified when an application on a building like the Thomas A Becket is lodged with the council. You can register at www.southwarkcouncil.co.uk/register

This is important to ensure that not only historic buildings are kept but that the character of our high streets and town centres are preserved in the face of extensive development. See our story in this week’s edition on page 23 about a group of residents  fighting to protect small businesses in ‘higgledypiggledy’ Peckham as Foxtons prepares to move in.

There is little doubt that local residents value the historic significance of the pub after it was awarded a Blue Plaque by popular vote in 2011 in honour of its connection with Sir Henry Cooper.  The British, European and Commonwealth champion trained upstairs for fourteen years from 1956. You’d hope that the hundreds that voted for the plaque will do the same to save the pub.

 

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