Bellingham pub project will provide 40 new jobs for local people

Credit: Kirsty Lowe

The pub will have a multi-million pound renovation. Credit: Kirsty Lowe

A brewing apprenticeship will be among the 40 jobs on offer when the Fellowship Inn in Randlesdown Road, Lewisham, reopens in around 18 months time.

Another four apprentices will be recruited for the kitchen, bar, coffee shop and theatre. The multi-million pound renovation is expected to create a further 35 jobs for local people.

Dan Hills, sales and marketing director at Laines Pub Company, the firm operating the venue, said: “We aim to recruit the majority of staff from the local community. We want to have a positive impact and for local people to have a real stake in the business. The best way to achieve that is to employ as many local people as possible.”

The independent cinema is expected to seat between 150 and 180 people. Laines’ intention is that the cinema will open full time and show the latest blockbuster movies and films for children and specific interest groups.

How the theatre looks now. Credit: Phoenix Community Housing

How the theatre looks now. Credit: Phoenix Community Housing

It is hoped the performance space will attract top touring theatre shows and local productions by providing a traditional yet contemporary theatre set up with suitable lighting, comfortable changing spaces, showers and rehearsal rooms.

Phoenix Community Housing was first granted £3.8 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2014 to restore the pub to its former glory. A second round of funding has been applied for and the outcome should be announced at the end of September.

The back of the building shows how badly the rennovation is needed. Credit: Kirsty Lowe

The back of the building shows how badly the renovation is needed. Credit: Kirsty Lowe

At almost 100 years old the Bellingham pub has a long and rich history. In the 1920s there was uproar when it became the first pub to be built on a housing estate. Parliamentarians feared the collapse of society if working class Londoners had a pub on their doorstep.

However the housing estate was created to ease overcrowding in London following the return of veterans after the First World War, so the pub wasn’t simply a place for working men, it was built to serve the whole community.

Part of the ‘Homes Fit for Heroes’ project, where Prime Minister Lloyd George recognised the need for quality housing in London, the estate was home to many families. With a theatre, event space and a children’s room, people of all ages used the Fellowship Inn for socialising and entertainment.

Credit: Phoenix Community Housing

Credit: Phoenix Community Housing

Once completed it is hoped the pub will become a community hub once again. The venue will also support local arts and community projects including a community-led tapestry, performance, oral history project and website.

Local resident Sarah Shaw said: “I really love the idea of making a space that has lots of different purposes. What Phoenix are doing is getting to the heart of why this building is important and looking to build something that the community can be proud of.”

Heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper lived and trained in the pub prior to his 1963 fight against Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali. Cooper and his twin brother George were local lads, brought up in a council house on Farmstead Road, just half a mile from the Inn.

The famed boxer was a British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight champion. He fought Ali for the World Heavyweight title in 1966 but lost during the sixth round. Cooper died on May 2, 2001, age 76.

By the late 1960s the Inn had become an entertainment destination with live music nights on a Wednesday and a popular disco at weekends. Following the release of their first album, British-American band Fleetwood Mac played the venue in 1968. The Yardbirds, an English rock band that launched the career of guitarist and singer Eric Clapton, are also said to have played there.

It is thought the disco closed in the early 1970s due to drug problems and since the 1980s the pub, while still operating, has fallen slowly into decline. Phoenix Housing bought the failing pub following pressure from its tenants who want the housing association to help rebuild the community by creating places to go, learn and work.

David Cummins, resident and vice chair of Phoenix, said: “The only reason people go to Bellingham station is to get somewhere. We want people to come to us and get off at Bellingham to enjoy the pub next door.”

Those who want to stay updated on the project can follow @phoenixtogether #FellowshipInn


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