Tributes will be paid this week to a legendary pub landlord who passed away on October 29.
Erich Höfer presided over The Duke on Creek Road in Deptford from 1977 to 2000, successfully transforming a struggling pub into a vibrant watering hole much-loved by musicians, artists and residents alike.
It is testament to Mr Höfer’s reputation as a publican that locals are still happily reminiscing about the good times they had at The Duke during the height of its popularity under his reign.
Colin Bodiam, 65, of Deptford, began frequenting the pub in the late seventies, just after Höfer took over. He remembers a time when pints were pulled for 62p and jukeboxes were full of rockin’ 45s.
“They were good days, the music was great and Erich was very accommodating. He was the best landlord that I have ever come across”
He explained that The Duke became popular for its welcoming atmosphere and boisterous live music scene, enticing patrons with a casual tab system and the best local bands. “Me and my friends used to go in, we were all idiots, we knew we were idiots, but Erich loved us and we loved him!”
Mr Höfer’s wake was announced last week via a blog dedicated to the Cross Fields estate community, which The Duke serves.
It is also where its famed landlord is immortalized in a mural, by local artist Claire Humm, located on Cremer House and dating back to 1982.
Local users of the blog have already left comments in celebration of Erich.
Amongst others, Bob Humm posted: “during one of his lock-ins he went to the till, took out a tenner and gave it to us with the instruction to order another round of drinks. Good old Erich – always generous and always welcoming.”
Mr Höfer’s son Karl, 37, who lived above the pub until he was 19 but now resides in Forest Hill, also has very fond memories. “It was a cracking place that you might not see again.”
He can reel off a list of local celebrities that used to hang out at The Duke; the Flying Pickets, an acapella group who achieved the Christmas number 1 in 1983 and whose gold disc was on display behind the bar; Squeeze, Jools Holland’s hit new wave group who filmed a TV interview in the pub; and Dire Straits, who used an upstairs room to practice in before their mainstream success.
BAFTA award winning actress Emma Thompson, Eastenders’ Cheryl Ferguson and Snatch, The Damned United and This Is England hard man Stephen Graham have also enjoyed drinks down in SE8.
But most important was the sense of community that surrounded The Duke in its heydey, as Mr Höfer jr. points out. “It was an exciting and fun place to be. There was never any trouble. There was a lot of camaraderie.”
“People would go to The Duke because they knew the people there and would come in and talk to people and would probably be bought a drink!”
He is also adamant that what was so special about The Duke is also intrinsic to the area that surrounds it. “Deptford’s got a dirty name but it’s a good community place. It’s got something that you won’t find in the rest of London.”
Erich Höfer will be remembered on Friday with a 10am mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Church on Deptford High Street before moving on to Charlton cemetery for 11.30am.
A wake at The Duke, which is now under completely new ownership, will be held from 12.30pm and will likely feature some impromptu entertainment from some players who called The Duke home back in the day.