Pubs in Penge

The plethora of pubs in Penge since the transfer of the Crystal Palace to the grounds of Penge Place deserve a story to themselves. Not that there is one generic narrative for all: there are over thirty individual stories, most of which cannot be known.

What seems certain is that all played a vital part in the life of Penge’s community, at least for a while, and that the growth of drunkenness on the streets of Penge proved a nightmare for the great and the good until a Police Station was built on the high street to deal with it in 1874. Historian Doris Pullen remembers, even as late as the nineteen fifties, stretchers with comatose individuals being wheeled to the police cells early on Sunday mornings.

The great post-war survivors included the Dewdrop, the Hop Exchange, the Lord Palmerston, the Golden Lion, the Railway Tavern, the Bridge House Tavern, the Kent House Tavern, the Alexandra, the Queen Adelaide, the Goldsmiths Arms, the Crooked Billet, the Robin Hood, the Mitre, and the Maple Tree.

The Moon and Stars gastro-pub is a relative newcomer, looking like, from outside, a stage set from The Wizard of Oz  but built in 1994. Nowadays, in addition to the well-loved Moon and Stars, the Goldsmiths Arms and the Bridge House Tavern (both winning accolades from a Time Out survey in 2018 as two of the best gastro-pubs in Bromley), are the Maple Tree, the Crooked Billet and the newly-refurbished Pawleyne Arms. The Crooked Billet underwent a refit and refurbishment, re-opening  in mid-October 2019.

A re-imagined and refurbished Alexandra offers much as a very popular gastro-pub. All of these continue re-inventing the tradition of being social hubs with film nights, quizzes, music events, family gatherings, fund-raising activities and venues for art exhibitions. Some like the Goldsmiths Arms and the Bridge House Tavern have attractive gardens and are family-friendly. The Bridge House Tavern had an award-winning theatre upstairs for many years.

The pre-war pubs were, as today, places of recreation and sustenance from the stresses of life but many had real social networks: charabanc outings to Margate, whist drives, parties and other community celebrations.

The Queen Adelaide and the Alexandra were boxing pubs. The Alexandra had a sparring ring upstairs until the old pub closed in 2010. The Queen Adelaide was managed for many years by Alan Minter.

Forgotten pubs are the short-lived General Jackson which none-the-less had a lively following and clientele as shown by this photo of a pub outing.

An intriguing newcomer is the Southey Brewery which has its own tap room off Southey Street. Here you can buy delicious Penge-brewed ale and wine in a slightly mysterious ambience which adds to the fun. A password is not needed to gain entry, there are no castanets (at least not on the night I went) and you don’t need to knock three times in the manner of ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’. Unlike the titular hideaway, the tap room does have specific opening times and you will always be sure of a warm welcome. And the beer, especially the oatmeal stout, is to die for.

What with Oliver Meade’s excellent new wine/beer bar, Craft Metropolis, further up the high street opposite Homebase and an Antic pub-restaurant proposed for the high street, Penge residents will soon – again, as regards their drinking habits – be spoilt for choice.

Southey Brewery’s Tap Room has been judged one of the ten best brewery tap rooms in Europe and, according to Time Out, one of the best Tap Rooms in London. The Guardian 10 best brewery tap rooms craft beer bars uk and europe