Category Archives: history

The White Bear

Like the Elephant & Castle, the White Bear is a Kennington pub with a very long history, which has recently relaunched in impressive style.

The White Bear Theatre Pub new exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

Thomas Ellis owned the Horns Tavern pub on Kennington Common, where Guy Fawkes stored his gunpowder in the cellar. Mary Cleaver leased White Bear Field to Ellis in 1780, and he laid out Cleaver Square, the earliest London square south of the Thames, and built the White Bear (read more Kennington history on their blackboard).

The White Bear Theatre Pub fire and local history - kenningtonrunoff.com

We first knew The White Bear as a rather edgy, although rarely busy, Irish sports pub, with the White Bear Theatre feeling very incongruous in the back. It was bought by Young’s around 2012, after which there was a short-lived relaunch (bye Irish sports fans, hello not many other people), then it closed for a long time for a much more thorough overhaul.

The White Bear Theatre Pub middle dining room - kenningtonrunoff.com

The White Bear Theatre Pub back dining room - kenningtonrunoff.com

Now it’s huge – Kennington’s biggest pub  – with two dining areas where the theatre used to be, plus a garden stretching the width of two properties (which we’ve only visited after dark unfortunately).

The White Bear Theatre Pub garden - kenningtonrunoff.com

The theatre (which we’ve not visited since the relaunch) has relocated to the first floor – the bear will show you the way.

The White Bear Theatre Pub bear - kenningtonrunoff.com

The new White Bear has the feel of a country pub, and we can’t think of another like it in central London. Perfect for Kennington Village!

The White Bear Theatre Pub bric a brac - kenningtonrunoff.com

They serve food which is decent although not quite yet of the standard of the Elephant & Castle. Mains range from toad in the hole for £11 to black Angus sirloin, mushrooms and tomatoes, chips, Bearnaise sauce for £21. Being mostly vegetarian we haven’t tried either of their specialities yet, which are beef Wellington, black cabbage and chestnuts (£21) and steak and kidney suet pudding, calcannon (£20). But we have tried rainbow chard, pine nut and blue cheese quiche (£13):

Rainbow chard, pine nut and blue cheese quiche at the White Bear - kenningtonrunoff.com

And the roasted pumpkin cobbler, purple sprouting broccoli, not entirely successful but relatively cheap at £12:

Roasted pumpkin cobbler, purple sprouting broccoli at the White Bear- kenningtonrunoff.com

The Queenie and monkfish scampi, chips, peas cost £16.50:

Queenie and monkfish scampi, chips, peas at the White Bear - kenningtonrunoff.com

And the ale battered cod, chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce are £13, which is £2 more expensive and not quite as good as the Duchy Arms’ equivalent:

Ale battered cod, chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce at the White Bear - kenningtonrunoff.com

Nonetheless, we will eat there again and found the service exceptionally friendly and helpful. They have a good selection of ales on tap, and both times we’ve been, it has been very busy in the bar area – great to see after years of emptiness. Well done The White Bear and Young’s brewery.

where have we gone?

We’ve been blogging less recently but we will be back, and meanwhile we remain active on Twitter and Instagram.

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Also check this out for some great photos of Kennington in bygone eras. This is 317 Kennington Road (where Barnard Marcus is now, and not 317 Kennington Lane as the archive says) in 1966. What was Barron & Shepherd? A Google search suggests it might have been a timber yard.

Malborough House, 317 Kennington Road from the London Photo Archive

The Beehive

Once upon a time, we lived in East Kennington, and The Beehive was our local. We recently went back for the first time in years and it was every bit as special as we remembered it.

The Beehive exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

Why so long in between visits? It’s the kind of place you have to seek out, being tucked away down a side street, but plenty of people do seek it out, and let’s be honest, there isn’t too much competition in terms of decent pubs in in East or North Kennington.

The atmosphere is calm but not sedate – it’s the perfect pub for a Saturday afternoon pint.

The Beehive bar - kenningtonrunoff.com.JPG

They have a wide selection of single malt whiskies, but they could do better on the real ale front, especially as the Orbit Brewery is just yards away. They also serve a huge selection of burgers and some other pub classics, although we can’t comment on the quality of the food right now as we last tried it around the turn of the millennium. Food served Wed/Thu/Fri 17:30-22:00, Sat 13:00-21:00 and Sun 12:00-20:00.

The interior is tastefully decorated, including this image of the now-demolished Heygate Estate, or is it Aylesbury? How quickly we forget!

The Beehive local art - kenningtonrunoff.com.JPG

There’s a beer garden in a classic East Kennington setting:

The Beehive beer garden - kenningtonrunoff.com.JPG

Like a lot of East Kennington, The Beehive has a rich history – read more about it on their website. Last year the Walworth Society were involved in a successful bid to have it declared an asset of community value, and rightly so.

Address: 60 Carter St, London SE17 3EW (not to be confused with the Beehive at the junction of Durham Street and Harleyford Road).

G Baldwin & Co. (AKA Baldwin’s)

G Baldwin & Co. – better known as Baldwin’s – is London’s oldest herbalist store and one of the city’s most interesting and welcoming shops.

G Baldwin & Co shopfront - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Baldwin’s website says “We have come a long way since George Baldwin first opened his doors on 77 Walworth Road, South East London in 1844”, but that’s not true in the geographical sense – they’ve just moved a few yards down the road to 171-173 Walworth Road, as well as building a successful mail order business and website. The current owners are the Dagnell family, who took over in the early 1900s!

The old Baldwin's

The old Baldwin’s

To step into the right side of the store – the apothecary and herbalist – is to step back in time.

G Baldwin & Co Tonic & Nerve Mixture sign - kenningtonrunoff.com G Baldwin & Co apothecary glass shelves - kenningtonrunoff.comG Baldwin & Co apothecary jars - kenningtonrunoff.com

It’s always busy, with all kinds of people coming into to discuss their ailments.

G Baldwin & Co apothecary counter - kenningtonrunoff.com

The left side of the store is a standard health food shop, albeit well stocked and with very well informed staff:

G Baldwin & Co health foods shelving - kenningtonrunoff.com

They also offer all kinds of demonstrations and work shops, from occasional free hand massages to soap making, and they always have a recipe up on their blackboard. But even if you’re not into any of that, it’s still fun to visit Baldwin’s.

Shalimar (formerly Soma Books)

Long before Vanilla Black and Finishing Touch, and decades before even Kennington Bookshop (RIP), Kennington already had a bookshop – Shalimar, formerly Soma Books:

Shalimar shop front - kenningtonrunoff.com

They’ve been at 38 Kennington Lane, SE11 4LS for around 30 years, and the proprietor appears to have been growing his beard for that long. He remembers the days when Jamyang Buddhist Centre was a courthouse, and Shalimar was part of a cluster of shops including a greengrocer – but apart from that, he says the area hasn’t changed that much.

mobile, cushions and books at Shalimar - kenningtonrunoff.com

They started out selling children’s books, which they still do, but they have diversified into African, South Asian and Caribbean books on a variety of subjects including spirituality, many of which you won’t find anywhere else in the UK.

Nowadays their core business is distributing Indian books to UK shops, which probably explains why Shalimar isn’t open on weekends (on weekdays, you have to ring a bell then wait some time to gain entrance).

pots and books at Shalimar - kenningtonrunoff.com

They also sell folk craft and art from India and beyond, and a selection of greetings cards.

toys at Shalimar - kenningtonrunoff.com

It’s a real gem packed with intriguing items, and not quite like any other shop we’ve been to. Let’s hope it stays open for another few decades.

coasters and books at Shalimar - kenningtonrunoff.com

Café at Jamyang Buddhist Centre

There are three Buddhist Centres in Kennington (see also the Kagyu Samye Dzong Tibetan Buddhist Centre and the Diamond Way Buddhist Centre in the former Beaufoy Institute), but only one of them is worth visiting if you have no interest in Buddhism, yoga or meditation – that’s Jamyang, for its excellent Courtyard Café.

The counter at Jamyang Buddhist Centre Cafe - kenningtonrunoff.com

All the food is vegetarian, much of it is vegan, and it’s delicious. They always have a selection of salads and cakes as you can see above. Their quiche is our favourite main but they’d run out last time we visited so we had bulghur wheat served with spinach, caper and artichoke for £4.80, or £6.80 with salads:

Bulghur wheat served with spinach, caper and artichoke sauce at Jamyang Cafe - kenningtonrunoff.com

Most of their products are organic, and they serve local sourdough bread from the Kennington Bakery.

Jamyang Buddhist Centre - kenningtonrunoff.com

The building is an old courthouse dating from 1869, in its later days used as a maximum security court for special remands, including IRA terrorists, the Kray twins, and members of the gang who seized the Iranian Embassy. Despite that, when the sun is shining, Kennington has nowhere more peaceful to eat your lunch than the Jamyang courtyard:

The Courtyard Cafe at Jamyang Buddhist Centre - kenningtonrunoff.com

and certainly nowhere else with a giant gold statue of Buddha surrounded by plants:

Golden Buddha in the courtyard of Jamyang Buddhist Centre - kenningtonrunoff.com

Glastonbury Festival are increasingly looking to Kennington for inspiration when booking their acts. When the Foo Fighters pulled out as headliner, they booked Florence & The Machine, clearly remembering the time Florence Welch stepped up to the plate at short notice at South London Pacific. Likewise, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama “played” Glastonbury this year, but he appeared at Jamyang way back in 1999, when he blessed and inaugurated a new shrine.

Jamyang’s cafe is open Monday-Friday 10am-4pm (we wish they’d open on the weekend too). They have free wi-fi and takeaway available. Get there early for the quiche.

Address: Jamyang Buddhist Centre, The Old Courthouse, 43 Renfrew Road, London, SE11 4NA.

Lambeth Palace Gardens

We finally visited Lambeth Palace Gardens for the North Lambeth Parish Mega-Fete.

This is a garden so big (over ten acres) that you can barely see from one end to the other!

Lambeth Palace Gardens - kenningtonrunoff.com

We were promised morris dancing, and we got it:

Morris dancers at North Lambeth Parish Fete - kenningtonrunoff.com

The North Lambeth Parish Fete was Kennington’s best publicised event since The Great Chartist Meeting of 1848. But if you somehow missed it then don’t despair – there’s another chance to visit the garden today, and the first Wednesday of every month – it’s the Lambeth Palace Garden Open Day from midday to 3pm. It’s £4 or free for children. The entrance is on Lambeth Palace Road. More info here.

This is the oldest continuously cultivated garden in London, having been a private garden since the 12th century. The big question is why isn’t this huge, lovely central London garden open to the public every day? Sort it out Archbishop Welby.

wooden chairs in Lambeth Palace Gardens - kenningtonrunoff.comLambeth Palace from the Gardens - kenningtonrunoff.com

Requiem for the Subways

Requiem for the Subways

Sadly, the campaign to save the subways under the north roundabout in North Kennington is all over bar the singing. The 104 year old subways will be filled with concrete from April 9th.

Tomorrow, Good Friday, is your chance to say goodbye. Meet in the centre of the roundabout at 7pm. From sunset, there will be a free choral performance of a specially written composition by Danyal Dhondy, with one section being performed in each of the seven subways.

Open House Kennington

Open House London is this weekend and the following Kennington places are participating:

Arts Lav (more info here)

Beaconsfield (more info here)

Lambeth Palace, but all the tours are booked up there

Mobile Gardeners Planting Station, which is the new incarnation of the Mobile Gardeners Park in the former Shell garage, 137-149 Walworth Road, SE17 1JZ. Help them construct the garden on Saturday from 1pm. More info here.

Morley College (Sunday only)

Perronet House (Saturday only – more info here)

Roots and Shoots (Saturday only)

Siobhan Davies Studios (Saturday only – more info here)

The Cinema Museummore info here

Coming Thursday for 3 days - The Cinema Museum - kenningtonrunoff.com