July 31 2014 Latest news:
Monday, February 17, 2014
A couple who have run a Highgate pub for more than 30 years – welcoming stars like Tom Hardy and Liz Hurley through its doors – are to bid a tearful farewell at the end of next month.
Pat and Val Collins will call last orders at the Winchester pub and hotel in Archway Road for the final time in March before they move to Ireland, where Mrs Collins grew up.
In 32 years running the much-loved pub, they have served drinks to the likes of Liz Hurley, Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden, actor Martin Clunes and The Dark Knight Rises star Tom Hardy, when he was just a budding actor.
Mr and Mrs Collins, who were at the heart of a campaign to stop Archway Road becoming a six-lane motorway in the 1980s and 1990s, called the Winchester “more of a community centre than a pub”.
The couple, who were married at St Joseph’s Church in Highgate Hill in 1990, said they will miss their regulars when they swap Highgate for Kildare, and were in no doubt of many tears being shed at a farewell party planned for March.
Of their reasons for quitting the pub, Mrs Collins, 45, said: “I think we’ve done enough. When you’ve done something for as long as we have, you’ve given it enough.
“My mum lives with us, she’s 83, and it’s getting to the stage where it’s important for her to be near family and for us to be near family too.
“And to have some quality of life too. We’ve been living in a fish bowl for the last 30 years, so it will be nice to have a normal life and to have some quality time.”
The pub has been bought by developers, not a pub company.
Though Mrs Collins said she was happy to let the new owners do what they liked with the building, she hopes the developers will keep it as a pub as she would like to enjoy a drink there in years to come.
Mr Collins, 55, who grew up in York Way, King’s Cross, and attended the now-closed Richard of Chichester Roman Catholic School in Royal College Street, Kentish Town, said one of the most memorable moments in the pub’s history was the night when their Labrador Kelly saved the building – and them – from burning to the ground.
“The carpet was smouldering,” he said. “The dog came downstairs and I saw him looking at something in the corner and barking. There was no-one there so I turned off the lights and went upstairs. Kelly started to scratch at the door, which woke me.
“She went downstairs and started barking at the stage area and then I could see that the stage was glowing and the carpet was smouldering.
“If it wasn’t for the dog, the whole place might not be here today.”