Where's My Boozer Gone? mural at Arnold Road. Photo credit Ben Martin.
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New mural preserves the memory of East London’s historic boozers

East London may be rapidly losing its historic boozers, but our lost pubs are being commemorated by a new mural on Arnold Road.

Members of the Bow Geezers Club collaborated with Jerram Falkus Construction Company and local artists to transform an empty hoarding into a mural paying homage to the countless closed pubs of Tower Hamlets.

Established in 2006, The Geezers Club is a community group for elderly gentlemen from Bow. Organising events and speakers, the Geezers provide advice to members of the local community on various issues such as healthcare and housing. 

In 2014, the Geezers Club launched a project Where’s My Boozer Gone? to raise awareness of the gradual disappearance of East London’s historic pubs. The Geezers calculated that in 2015, 92 pubs had been lost in Bow alone over the past 20 years. 

The Where’s My Boozer? campaign caught the eye of Alison Cormack, the Social Manager at Jerram Falkus Construction Company who had started work on an affordable housing project on Arnold Road in Bow.

Cormack saw the bare construction hoarding as providing an ideal canvas for the development of a mural which could tell the story of the surrounding community.

As part of the Where’s My Boozer? campaign, the Bow Geezers had compiled a list of East End pubs which had closed down over the years. That list became the template of the new mural on Arnold Road, which pays homage to the several drinking institutions that our borough has lost.

From the Ordell Arms in Bow to the demolished White Hart once situated on Old Ford Road, the graffiti-style mural celebrates the public houses lost to history. 

Cormack contacted artists Ben Martin and Steph Warren who began painting the mural on Wednesday 1 November. Martin is eager to carry on adding lost pubs to the mural which he views as ongoing. He said:

‘The sad thing is that these pubs are shutting down in their droves. The importance of the Geezers’ website, this project and the history of the lost pubs is that they were social hubs for people to unwind and talk with their neighbours.

‘Maybe fewer people drink alcohol these days but the social aspect is still needed, and it’s the same with the Government’s cuts to spending on youth clubs. Tragically, we use online social media and PlayStations to fill the void.’

Alan Tucker, 70, a Geezers member, said:

‘The mural’s purpose is to highlight and remember not so much the buildings of the pubs, but what went on inside them. It brings back happy memories of socialising with friends, families and neighbours.’

When Tucker and his wife Sheila first moved to Bow in 1985, they discovered the Hand & Flower on Parnell Road and soon became regulars to the pub’s Friday jazz night. Like so many other boozers, the Hand & Flower shut its doors in 2008. 

Tuckers’ other favourites were the Caledonian Arms on Fairfield Road and the Royal Cricketers on Old Ford Road in Bethnal Green. Both Victorian establishments stopped business in the early 2000s. ‘They are two well and truly shut pubs, but in the 1980s and the 1990s we used to quite like them’, Tucker said.

In the first half of 2023, more than 380 pubs were demolished or converted for other uses across England and Wales. The statistics are particularly grave for our borough: between 2001 and 2018, 36% of pubs in Tower Hamlets closed.

Soaring energy costs, a reduction in consumer budgets and shifts in London’s demographics have all contributed to the gradual disappearance of these institutions.

The mural on Arnold Road, funded by LF Solutions, is an unfinished project and painting is expected to resume in due course.  

The Bow Geezers crew at the Arnold Road mural.
The Bow Geezers crew at the Arnold Road mural.
Geezer member Alan Tucker.
Geezer member Alan Tucker.
Geezer member John Forster, who used to be the manager of The Jolly Butchers.
Geezer member John Forster, who used to be the manager of The Jolly Butchers.

To learn more about the Bow Geezers, who are always looking for new members, visit their website. 

If you liked this, you may enjoy reading Ray Gipson – Bow’s top Geezer.

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