A historic Grade II listed Lewisham public house where legendary boxer Sir Henry Cooper once lived and trained is to undergo a £4m transformation into a cinema and community venue, creating 70 new jobs.
The Fellowship Inn in Bellingham will be restored after planning permission was granted by Lewisham Council.
Phoenix Community Housing Co-op, the group restoring the building, was given £4 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The semi-derelict pub will become commercially sustainable once completed, boasting a cinema, a new live music venue, a café, microbrewery, bakery, and artists’ studios.
Located near Bellingham railway station, the Fellowship Inn was built in the 1920s for returning First World War veterans and their families. It was created as part of a “Homes for Heroes” estate to ease inner city overcrowding.
With its connection to the designated housing estate, the pub was created not simply for the working men to drink, but also for the whole community to enjoy public space of socialising and entertainment. By the late 1960s, the Fellowship had become an entertainment destination in the neighbourhood with live music nights on a Wednesday and a popular disco at weekends. It is believed that the disco closed in the 1970s due to drug problems, which became the main reason of the pub’s decline in recent decades.
Famous heavyweight boxer Sir Henry Cooper who lived on the Bellingham estate, moved into the pub to focus on his training prior to his 1963 fight against Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali at Wembley Stadium.
Cooper grew up with his parents and twin brother George on Farmstead Road on the Bellingham estate, just half a mile from the Inn. He was a British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight champion. He fought Ali again at Highbury in 1966, this time for the World Heavyweight title, but lost during the sixth round. Cooper died on May 2, 2001, age 76.
Bellingham councillor and Phoenix Community Housing Co-op board member Alan Hall said: “I am simply delighted. We have been given the green light to renew and restore one of London’s historic, landmark pubs.”
Councillor Hall told East London Lines he expects the pub to become “the beating heart” of Bellingham, providing a great destination for local activities. “This will create over 70 jobs and provide apprenticeships for young people. It will be the catalyst for social regeneration in Bellingham,” he added.
Lewisham Council planning committee met on November 17 and decided to grant full planning permission for the development application. The pub is expected to reopen in roughly 18 months.