Disabled group joins battle to reopen pub

A GROUP which organises outings for elderly and disabled people in St John s Wood has joined the campaign to save the historic Crockers Folly pub on Aberdeen Place

Susanna Wilkey

A GROUP which organises outings for elderly and disabled people in St John's Wood has joined the campaign to save the historic Crockers Folly pub on Aberdeen Place.

Members are calling for the much-loved pub to be reopened after struggling to find another accommodating pub since it closed four years ago.

Kathy Bryan runs the north-west London Scope group and takes the group on trips.

But they struggle to find a pub to go in as many of the members are in wheelchairs.

Ms Bryan, who lives opposite the pub on Aberdeen Place, said: "The pub has been an eyesore for the last five years and it is terrible the way it has been left to do nothing for so long.

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"We used to do a lot of our group functions there and we really do miss it.

"There are hundreds of people who want to see it reopened because it is a waste of a building and it is so lovely inside.

"It is a shame that whoever owns it has done nothing about it.

"It has gone to rack and ruin and we want it reopened. Our group loved it in there and it is ludicrous the way that is has been left.

"We have to find other places to go to now.

"The Crockers had really good disabled access and a disabled toilet which they put in - it was great.

"I feel like crying every time I open my front door - it looks so terrible.

"We have to go far afield to find a place which will take a number of disabled people."

Group member Bill Noone added: "There are 50 to 100 people in the club and we all used to use the Crockers Folly to go for a drink and for our Christmas party.

"It is a lovely Victorian pub well over 100 years old and it would be a shame to see it turned into flats or a shop.

"The pub is just boarded up at the moment, which is such a shame because it is a beautiful building and a great pub.

"It is really sad that it has closed and I want to do all I can to see if we can get it open.

"We used to go on the trips and always end up at Kathy's house - so we used to go to the pub to have a drink while we waited for our ride home."

The group plans to start a petition calling for the pub to be reopened after reading about its plight in the Wood&Vale.

Pub owners Maroush say it is for sale and has been on the market for about a year.

But as yet no buyers have come forward at the right price, it says.

Last month, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers called on the government to take action to stop pubs across the country, such as the Crockers Folly, closing.

ALMR chief executive Nick Bish said: "What's happening in St John's Wood is happening across the capital - and the country - as a whole.

"Pubs have been closing, jobs have gone, and important local facilities have been lost.

"It's particularly tragic to see what has happened to the Crockers Folly."

o The pub on Aberdeen place was built about 1900 and closed in autumn 2004.

o The Grade II*-listed building has an uncertain future with no proposals or applications for reuse having been submitted to the council.

o Crockers Folly, which opened as The Crown, is an example of a richly-decorated Victorian pub with its saloon bar, billiard room, restaurant and concert room.

o The saloon bar is particularly grand with a lavish use of marble on the fireplace, wall covering and counter.

o A lot of space is devoted to billiards and the Crockers Folly billiard room used to house two tables with seating for up to 40 spectators.

o The billiard room also has a highly decorated Jacobean-inspired ceiling.

o The pub has many stories and myths surrounding it - including that it was first opened as a hotel to serve future travellers on the Great Central Railway.

Instead, the story goes that the railway terminus was built a mile away in Marylebone and the publican threw himself from an upstairs window in despair.

In fact, the line of the railway was widely known and the original publican, Frank Crocker, died of natural causes several years later.

o The pub is now on English Heritage's buildings at risk register and is one of London's most precious assets.