The Crown and Greyhound Hotel
By Ian McInnes
By the end of the nineteenth century there were two pubs in Dulwich Village, the Crown Inn and the Greyhound Inn. Both had been built in the early eighteenth century and by the late 1880s were in poor condition - contemporary photos show them looking very run down. The Crown Inn stood on the site of the current Crown and Greyhound and the Greyhound was on the other side of the road, roughly where Aysgarth Road is today. The latter was the more upmarket establishment, noted for its public dinners (the Dulwich Club was founded there in 1772) and its cricket pitch - its large grounds were bounded by the line of the modern Burbage Road to the south and Turney Road to the west. The Crown Inn catered for a more working class clientele and was probably more successful commercially. The Crown Inn’s lease was due to run out in 1894 and the Greyhound Inn’s in 1907.
In April 1892 Mr Jennings, licensee of the Crown Inn, wrote to the Dulwich Estates Governors about his lease renewal. They were receptive, as the date was imminent and, after some Board Meeting discussion, decided to take a more holistic look at the long term future of the pubs – not so much because they were concerned over the drinking habits of local residents but to see whether the pub sites could be used more profitably for housing development. A London estate agent and surveyor was commissioned to make a report on the terms to be asked for lease renewal in each case “together with the pecuniary results of closing one or all of these houses”.
Mr George Bell of the Greyhound Inn wrote to the Estate offering to pull down and rebuild his pub saying “the original building is a very old one, and although altered and added to at various times, is still most inconvenient and incapable of alteration and meeting the requirements of the present time.” He added “I need only say that the buildings are in part constructed in wood; that the rooms are very low; the urinals and lavatory very badly placed under the private sitting room; and the bedrooms in the top storey being only 6 ½ ft high are unsuitable for letting to visitors, who have frequently to be declined in consequence. There is only one WC in the houses and no bathroom.”
The surveyor, Mr Miles, delivered his report, spelling out, and costing, the various options, by which time there was also talk about a reduction from 7 day to 6 day licenses – presumably the Governors thought that it was inappropriate for local residents to drink on Sundays - they were certainly not allowed to play any games on Estate land on Sunday, even as late as the 1940s.
In February 1893, the Manager had a meeting with Mr Jennings and put forward a proposal to renew the Crown Inn’s licence for a short period so that it would line up with the Greyhound ie 1907 - and on the basis that the pub be closed on Sunday. Mr Jennings was uninterested. The Manager then discussed taking back the Greyhound Inn lease from Mr Bell and providing a new one which would exclude the cricket ground. Again the answer was no.
After further discussion, and despite a report from the Surveyor, Charles Barry jnr., that the sanitary condition of the Greyhound was not that bad, the Governors agreed to demolish the Greyhound as it was a better development site.
The Governors then sat tight and waited for Mr Jennings to come back to them. Over the next year he made several alternative proposals and, finally, in November his solicitors wrote asking the Governors views on the retention of only one pub in the Village. As the Governors were hoping, he offered to acquire the Greyhound Inn site and surrender it to them if they would then allow him to redevelop the Crown Inn as he wanted. The principles were agreed in April 1894 and in October the lease was ready for signing. At this point permission was required from the Charity Commissioners who, unhelpfully, queried whether the loss of income by closing one pub was such a good idea. Charles Barry jnr produced a report which set out the value of the various options which satisfied them and, finally, In February 1895, the building agreement was signed. The lease was to run for 84 years from Lady Day 1896 and require Mr Jennings to pull down the existing Crown Inn within 2 years and “erect and complete a new tavern to be called the ‘Crown Inn’ with requisite and proper offices, at an expenditure of £4000 at least in accordance with plans and of the materials to be approved by the Surveyor to the Governors.” He was also required to purchase the existing lease (and licence) of the Greyhound Inn without ‘pecuniary consideration’.
Mr Jennings mortgaged his building agreement to a Col. Wetherley of 133A Blackfriars Road, and employed well known London pub architects, Eedle and Meyers, to prepare designs but soon after he suffered a serious accident. He transferred his licence to Mr Robert Brinckley and the Governors allowed Brinkley to transfer of the existing licence to the Cannon Brewery Company in order to secure a mortgage.
Work progressed through 1896 and on into 1897. In February Charles Barry jnr reported that the building was progressing quickly and that he had received more drawings from Eedle & Meyers showing an additional storey to a part of the building at the back. Apparently Mr Brinckley was anxious to have a few additional bedrooms – and these were to be obtained by putting a flat roof in lieu of the pitched one at first intended.
On 27th May the Estates Manager reported that the ‘Crown Hotel’ was approaching completion and was likely to be opened in June. In the mean time Eedle & Meyers had asked permission to
add some stable buildings and a skittle alley in the rear. Mr Brinkley wanted a quick decision but the Governors decided that he should wait until they had visited the new building as part of their mid-June annual review. Following the visit they agreed to the proposal “subject to the removal of the manure pit from the position shown on the plans to a site to be fixed by the manager, and to the skittle alley being kept for the use of subscribers only”.
In April 1898 Mr Brinckley finalised the purchase of the Greyhound Inn lease and handed the site over to the Governors who demolished it shortly afterwards. The same month he received permission to assign his lease to the Cannon Brewery Company Ltd who took over the running of the new pub. The Cannon Brewery were very commercially aware and, having seen the success of the ‘Plough’ on Lordship Lane as a bus terminus, they responded positively to the London General Omnibus Company’s proposed inauguration of two new omnibus services from Dulwich Village to Farringdon Street (via Brixton) and Liverpool Street (via Tower Bridge). In June 1900 they made an application to remove the existing stabling and build new ones. The single storey building would provide jobs for 50 workmen but would cover most of the garden. There would have been stall accommodation for 214 horses, with 10 loose boxes, a harness room, surgery, office, farrier’s shop, and living rooms for a yardman and large yard covered by a glass and iron roof. The Governors were underwhelmed and, having successfully stopped the development of any tram routes on the Estate they were not minded to allow buses to run from or through the Village – only with the more recent introduction of the P4 have buses finally done so.