Still standing at 94, Kennington Lane, S.E.11 is ‘The Kings Arms’, a wonderfully preserved example of interwar public house architecture in south London.
The pub was a rebuild of an existing site, owned and operated by Messrs. Watney, Combe, Reid & Co., Ltd., who during the 1930’s, were among the largest brewing groups in Britain.
Like the nearby ‘Giraffe’, another Watney public house, at 45, Penton Place, S.E.11, a stone’s throw from Kennington Lane, the building was designed by A. W. Blomfield, F.R.I.B.A., (Alfred William Blomfield, 1879-1949), Watney’s Chief Architect.
Whilst each site was unique in terms of both size and scale, largely dictated by the existing footprint in the case of rebuilds, Blomfield’s buildings share many of the same design elements, most notably their extensive use of brick.
Traditional materials were used to accentuate traditional designs, with Blomfield clearly favouring the ‘Neo-Georgian’ architectural style rather than the more flamboyant ‘Art Deco’ designs of the era.
The exterior of the Kings Arms is in near-original condition, spoilt only by an absurd array of unsightly cables, linking alarm systems, lights, and satellite dishes, whilst an irrigation system for the various hanging baskets necessitates further visual clutter.
Above the main entrance to the pub is a small porthole window, which originally displayed the famous Watney ‘red barrel’, yet this has more recently been replaced by the Royal Standard of England.
A modern air conditioning unit has been awkwardly installed at street level, with one of the original metal casements being partially removed so as to accommodate, however both this and the excessive cabling could be quickly addressed by any new owner or as part of a modest refurbishment programme.
Inside, the pub retains much of its original character, which is unusual among the former Watney sites in London, most of which have lost either their original layout, period features, or both.
As such, ‘The Kings Arms’ stands as one of the best surviving examples of Blomfield’s work for the brewery group.
It would therefore be a sad loss to the architecture of interwar public houses were it to close, yet in their most recent Pub Closure Report, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) estimate that there are still 14 pubs closing each week across Britain.
Were it to cease trading as a public house, the building would likely be converted, either to residential use or worse still, the dreaded Tesco Express, which never ends well, as per the former ‘Regal’ cinema nearby, which exists as a shadow of its former self.
The solution therefore is simple, next time you’re in the area, pop in for a pint!