Good call, by George, as Forster wins Appeal Court tavern war to stop flats on pub doorstep
PUBLISHED: 16:58 05 July 2016 | UPDATED: 18:30 05 July 2016
The Forster family have finally won their nine-year battle to save one of London’s oldest taverns dating back to the late Middle Ages from encroachment by 21st century developers.
The Appeal Court has ruled in favour of The George Tavern and music venue on the Commercial Road in east London by overturning a planning decision for a block of six luxury flats on its doorstep.
The block would blot out natural daylight to the upstairs studios above the Stepney music venue used for recording BBC TV period dramas and modelling photoshoots.
The battle has been waged with Swan Housing Association since 2007, although legal appeals may still lie ahead.
“It’s a massive relief because it’s so stressful fighting these battles,” landlady Pauline Forster told the East London Advertiser.
“I’ve had to be in court as well as run the pub, look after the building and keep open seven days a week. It’s tough.”
All that revenue-earning filming would be in jeopardy with the flats adjacent to her property because the only natural light onto the first and second storey landings and on the historic staircase would be lost, the Appeal Court ruled.
“Building six luxury flats isn’t even going to help solve London’s housing crisis,” Pauline added wryly. “But it would hit our business. We get loads of requests for filming.”
The George is a favourite with the BBC for period dramas because of its authentic Georgian décor and original features like the wooden panelling and upstairs marble fireplace, which are being used for a TV drama next month.
A documentary-drama about the Krays was filmed in the saloon bar two years ago. The 2015 movie Mr Holmes used The George upstairs for interior scenes, starring Sir Ian McKellan—who didn’t have far to walk to work from his home in Limehouse.
Profits from filming and fashion model photoshoots subsidise the live music venue and fund the ongoing restoration of the Grade-II listed Georgian building.
Records of the tavern can be found from to 1623. Oliver Cromwell stabled his horses there in the 1640s during the English Civil War.
But an ale house is thought to have existed on the site 200 years before then, first known as ‘The Halfway House’ between the village of Stepney and City of London.
The pub today has a 3am music license which Pauline admits would be “pretty hellish for any new neighbours”—but The George was there first, by 600 years.