Calling time on Orwell boozer The Compton Arms?
As it goes up for sale, regulars fight to save one of author’s perfect watering holes
03 November, 2017 — By Emily Finch
Publican Malcolm Mant
DEVOTED regulars are fighting to preserve one of George Orwell’s favourite pubs after it was put up for sale.
The Compton Arms in Canonbury was one of three Islington boozers that inspired the author’s imagined perfect pub in his 1946 essay, The Moon Under Water.
Situated just two minutes from a bus stop, on a side street and with little to no music playing inside, the pub in Compton Avenue has played host to regulars for decades but there has been an alehouse on the site from the 16th century.
On Tuesday afternoon the main topic of conversation was a debate over everyone’s favourite curry house in the borough and the future of the country under Brexit.
Regular Andy Gardner will apply for the public house to be registered as an asset of community value with the Town Hall next week after it was put up for sale by its freehold owner Greene King, which owns more than 3,000 pubs throughout the country.
“It is one of the last pubs with regulars left, where people who live and work around here, meet and talk,” said Mr Gardner. “It really does what it says on the tin – it’s a local forum.”
Mr Gardner, who is also the chairman of the Islington Archaeology and History Society, hopes registering the pub will make it harder for developers to demolish the site and convert it into flats.
It would also make it easier for a community group to purchase the pub and preserve its character.
Publican Malcolm Mant, 48, has managed the Compton Arms for around seven years and lives above the bar with his family. He currently employs around 11 members of staff.
“The freehold owners have had some open viewings. There were some people who wanted to knock it down and build flats instead but some people want to run it as a pub. You never know, the person who buys it and runs the pub might be a genius,” said Mr Mant.
Regular Rolando Savva with Ned
“The regulars don’t want to see it go. It’s a proper part of their lives, there’s a lot of single guys or divorced guys and this is their lounge. They come in here every day, seven days a week, whether they drink soft drinks or something a little harder. This is their life, their community and social circle.”
Of the sale, Mr Mant said people shouldn’t feel sorry for him. “I knew this sale was coming, it’s been on the horizon for a year as Greene King has sold around 40 pubs in central London. In a drunken fit one day I saw an advert for a tube driver and I applied for that, so I’ve actually got a part-time job as a tube driver,” he added.
He said a sale would be finalised by the end of this month and he expects a new owner to take over at the beginning of January.
A spokesman for Greene King said: “Our commitment to high quality, community pubs sometimes means we have to take the difficult decision to sell a pub to continue investing in our estate.”
They added that the pub remains open for the foreseeable future and it is “business as usual”.