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At The Duke Of Wellington

February 26, 2015
by the gentle author

The Duke of Wellington, 1939 – courtesy of The National Brewery Centre, Burton on Trent

Just round the corner from The Gun that shut forever last week is The Duke of Wellington, which is currently under threat of closure and may also vanish from our streets shortly if the campaign to save it is not successful. Contributing Photographer Colin O’Brien, my frequent companion in visiting public houses, came along with me when I paid a lunchtime call recently.

I have always admired The Duke of Wellington swaggering on the corner of Brune and Toynbee St, flaunting its eccentrically-pitched roof and tall chimney stack in the style of  a Tudor cottage like a swanky hat and complementing the terrace of shops opposite, each with a dwelling or workshop above and resembling a long tithe barn.

Colin & I were happy to leave the clamour of the street and enter the peace of the barroom, where a highly concentrated game of darts was in progress. Nick Harris, who has run the pub with licensee Vinny Mulhern in recent years, greeted us and explained that eighty per cent of the customers were darts players. “We’ve got so many teams, there are matches every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday,” he admitted to me, “I first came here as a member of a team to play in a match.”

There has been a pub on this site since at least the eighteen-fifties yet, as with many others across the East End, London and the Nation, its days may now be numbered. Recent law permits alteration in use of pubs without the necessity of planning permission, generating an unprecedented number of closures, as pubs that are economically-viable and valued community meeting places are snapped up by predatory developers, eager to shut them down and convert the buildings to other uses that will deliver a quick profit.

Vinny Mulhern’s problem is Mendoza Limited who bought the freehold of his pub for fifteen million pounds. As owners, they have the right to prescribe the list of suppliers that he, as tenant, can buy from. As a consequence, Vinny has to pay £265 a barrel where he paid £130 previously. Meanwhile, he has discovered Mendoza Limited have acquired a string of twenty-seven pubs for ‘conversion,’ employing questionable tactics to further their purpose.

“They’re saying we’ve been buying from unapproved suppliers and they’ve sent in a stocktaker,” Nick revealed. For months now, I learned, Vinny has had his weekly rent returned the day after he has paid it. “I think they are getting ready to send the bailiffs in to change our locks for not paying the rent,” Nick confessed to me, turning emotional, “They don’t care – they don’t realise how much it offends good honest people who are just trying to make a living.”

Before Christmas, Mendoza Limited put in a planning application to gut the pub, demolish part of the building and pack in as many pokey flats as possible, building upon the pub garden and adjoining land. You only have until the end of this week to object.

Click here to learn more about the campaign to save The Duke of Wellington

Vinny Mulhern, Publican

Nick Harris & Vinny Mulhern

Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien

You may also like to take a look at

Last Orders at The Gun

The Pubs of Old London

The Gentle Author’s Spitalfields Pub Crawl

16 Responses leave one →
  1. February 26, 2015

    Objected. Glad to hear you’re fighting back guys – very best of luck

  2. February 26, 2015

    Fifteen million pounds? Wow!

  3. February 26, 2015

    Planning objection added. But this law has to be changed, or we will all simply spend our days objecting to yet more developers proposals! Is there a specific movement we can join for the purpose?

  4. Vicky permalink
    February 26, 2015

    This behaviour by Mendoza is appalling. CAMRA give advise about how to get a pub listed as an ACV ‘asset of community value’ to help stop this sort of thing happening – it has worked elsewhere.

  5. February 26, 2015

    Out of curiosity….

    Who sold the pub to the greedy Mendoza for fifteen million pounds?

  6. Vicky permalink
    February 26, 2015

    Following on from my comment above I would recommend that all pubs seriously consider getting themselves listed as an asset of community value, even if they are not currently under threat. It’s worth checking with your local pubs that they have done this – anything to help stop this tide of destruction and disappearance of our heritage.

  7. February 26, 2015

    Utterly horrified at this news. One of the last proper pubs in the area and wonderful architecture too. This would never happen in Paris! Or Rome! it does not have to happen here. its not just in the East End either. Soho and East Oxford Street looks like the Luftwaffe has just paid a visit. A desperate shame and no Betjemin to stem the tide.

  8. February 26, 2015

    Ha! Someone has stolen the “G” of WELLINGTON — I hope that is a “GOOD” Omen…!

    Love & Peace

  9. Pauline Taylor permalink
    February 26, 2015

    How I sympathise with the people in this pub. New landlords bought the property, where our successful secondhand bookshop has been for nearly 32 years, and refused to renew our lease, despite us not owing them any rent. They are now busy converting the premises into residential flats in the name of greed!!

    I hope that the objection to this shocking proposal will be successful, but as another comment points out, why should we have to continuously fight to retain and protect our heritage, something is very wrong when these greedy developers can get away with things like this all the time.


  10. February 26, 2015

    Community Asset status is needed. Not sure how that works but it is a designation that prevents – say – conversion to a house.

  11. February 26, 2015

    Where are the laws to prevent unscrupulous behaviour like this which undermine and deliberately destroy viable businesses?

    To get consent the ‘owners’ will have to demonstrate they have marketed the site as a pub and failed to gain a new buyer, don’t they? They are proposing change of use after all…… They need to demonstrate unviability. Where is the MP? The Councillors too?

  12. February 26, 2015

    Steven and I would drop by this afternoon, if we could, for our 5:00 beer, if we didn’t live in Indiana. Best wishes, and persevere!!!

  13. Jeannie permalink
    February 26, 2015

    I’ve objected too – I hope it helps

    I strongly object to the plans to build flats and destroy yet enough open space. I live very nearby and it is one of the local pubs where I can go to meet up with my neighbours.

    The design is not in keeping with the conservation area and it is an over development of the space. It will impact on light and space for the neighbouring properties. the development is at risk of destroying an Asset of Community Value.

  14. alison homewood permalink
    February 26, 2015

    I feel sick by this story. I agree, why are not all these beautiful old pubs better protected. At the very least, buy some time by listing it as a Community Asset (worked with the Cross Keys in Chelsea)

    But it is too dispiriting to have to keep fighting battles which should never happen when we need energy and effort to fight the big bad boys like British Land.

  15. Dale Ingram permalink
    February 27, 2015

    The Asset of Community Value application was made some weeks ago. The Cross Keys in Chelsea was not saved by being ACV listed, as ACVs weren’t invented then. It was saved by a huge and vocal local campaign however, with lots of political support.

    We should be grateful to Matt Smith, the Conservatives Parliamentary candidate at the election in May for his full-throated support.

    On March 10th at 4pm we have Labour’s London Assembly Member for east London John Biggs coming along with Tom Copley another Assembly Member from Camden. Tom was a great supporter of the Golden Lion there, and the landlord there has now bought his freehold after fighting off a developer over three years.

    So, hope some of you reading this can come to the pub and show your support on March 10th.

  16. rob madigan permalink
    August 4, 2016


    The League will begin with the Winter Challenge Cup competiton in September .
    League will consist of one division of eight teams only.
    Six players plus upto four substitutes will make up each team.

    1 x triple play
    3 x single play
    2 x pairs play
    3 x single play
    1 x triple play
    3 x single play
    Home team to throw first on each and every leg.
    Away team to chalk up their players first in each challenge
    1 point earned per leg won.

    Matches to begin at 7pm

    Entry fee to the league is £10 per team
    End of season comps to be played March 2017

    For more information email Rob on

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