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New Magdala pub landlord: I remember hearing Ruth Ellis gunshots

Famous bar to open again after standing empty for two years

04 April, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Dick Morgan plans to re-open the Magdala

A FORMER Hampstead paperboy with blurry childhood memories of the gunshots Ruth Ellis fired outside the Magdala pub says he will reopen the famous venue this summer.

Dick Morgan, who runs the Lyric pub in Soho, hopes to create a modern but traditional-style boozer with “good but not gastro” grub and, in his words, “no Carling, Foster’s and none of that”.

The 69-year-old – who grew up opposite the pub and attended Haverstock and Fleet schools in the 1950s and 60s – has submitted a licensing application to Camden Council.

He said: “Once we get that finalised we’ll get stuck in inside – we’d hope to be open late summer.”

The Magdala has been shut since 2016 and the building’s owners have recently attempted to develop the function room as a two-bed flat. The council rejected the application, arguing that the upstairs venue was crucial for community life in South End Green. Mr Morgan said he could not comment on the case as he had only been offered the chance to run the ground floor and basement.

Recalling the events outside the pub when Ms Ellis shot her abusive partner David Blakely in 1955, Mr Morgan said: “I was just four years old, but I do remember the shots and the commotion, and asking everyone what was happening. From our balcony, you could see the Magdala pub.

Ruth Ellis

He added: “She was the last women to be hanged in the UK and that is not something to be celebrated. But if people are interested I might put a plaque up there, or a sign. I heard she was buried in a church in Amersham so I’m going to go and see her grave.”

How the pub looks in April 2019

Mr Morgan said his working-class family lived in Hampstead before it became affluent. “People always say to me I can’t have an accent like this and be from Hampstead ,” he said. “I say we were one of the original families there, long before the other lot moved in. “My grandads were born in the 1880s when Hampstead wasn’t even part of London. One of them grew up in Nassington Road, the other grandad lived in Wentworth Mansions – how do you like that? – which overlooked the Magdala. My aunty was in Constantine Road – she worked on the 27 bus in Camden Town.”

Mr Morgan added: “I was born in New End Hospital. I had my tonsils out in the Hampstead General, before the Royal Free was even built. I remember Mr Rumbold’s bakery, opposite the Barclays in Heath Hurst – they served bread, proper bread. Bank holidays, there were stallholders running all the way up East Heath Road. We used to go up to Golders Green – we used to go catching rabbits.”

He added: “I was the paperboy for Hampstead for years. We’d sell newspapers in the hospital – and cigarettes: ‘Alright mate, 20 Players?’ Seems like another world now. “I used to deliver to all the Labour mob, the MPs, journalists. Aldous Huxley. They were famous but everyone knew me. In some ways I was the celebrity.”

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