Magdala Tavern: Famous Hampstead ‘Ruth Ellis pub’ could reopen by Christmas as licensing date fixed

Dick Morgan with an award for another of his pubs, the Sussex Arms in Twickenham. Picture: Dick Morg

Dick Morgan with an award for another of his pubs, the Sussex Arms in Twickenham. Picture: Dick Morgan/Jacques Pretorius - Credit: Archant

The new landlord of the infamous Magdala Tavern is returning to his roots to reopen the much-loved pub.

The Magdala. Picture: Polly Hancock

The Magdala. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

The Magdala, in South Hill Park, closed in February 2016 and unsuccessful planning applications had since been submitted to turn it into flats. One was turned down earlier this year.

However new landlord Dick Morgan, who was born and grew up in Hampstead, is hoping that the historic pub will be open by Christmas.

"We've been in negotiations for 18 months, after I saw it advertised in a trade magazine.

"There's the emotional connection with the area, but also it can be a good traditional pub. We'll do real ale, and also pub food, without it being gourmet. I think it can work in Hampstead." he said.

Dick lived in South End Green, and his grandad lived opposite the Magdala.

Growing up he delivered the Ham&High as a paper boy, and also had his first pub job in the Vine, in Highgate Road.

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The family connection continues for Dick in the trade. His children all work in pubs, and his son founded and runs the Big Smoke microbrewery in south London.

The Magdala is notorious for being the site of where the last woman in Britain to be hanged, Ruth Ellis, allegedly shot her lover David Blakely outside it in 1955.

While 68-year-old Dick is too young to recall the night itself, he remembers the shockwaves it sent through the area afterwards.

He said: "My grandad heard the gunshot go off. I don't remember it but it was a big scandal at the time. "

An application to get its licence back is due to be heard on May 16, in front of Camden Council's licensing committee. He has signed a 25-year lease.

He met with some residents last week over concerns about the proposed hours last week.

He said: "Because the licence lapsed, it's as though it's a completely new pub. We'll also need to put a new ventilation fan in as well, so will have to go to planning committee."

However even with the hurdles left to jump, he's confident of making it a success. He said: "I like sticking with projects. The pub's in good nick, and even if it takes two years to make it work, I'm happy to do that. We're hoping to be open in time for Christmas."