We looked for a shop and found a pub.

Posted by paulrodger on May 10, 2019
  • We didn’t set out to buy a pub at all.

    We were living in a one bedroom flat in East Ham and needed more space, so we came up with the idea of finding a shop with a flat above. We could use the shop as our studio space, and live upstairs: brilliant!

    So one Sunday, we browsed the property pages of our local paper (it was 1985 and the world wide web was just a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye), jumped in the car and started cruising around east London looking for freehold shops.

  • We didn’t find anything that really fitted our brief, but we did stumble across what the agent described as a “two storey corner shop/workshop/storage premises with yard”.

    Despite its incredibly dilapidated appearance – the property was last used as an upholsterer’s workshop and had lain empty for six years – we were attracted by its sheer size, so arranged a viewing with a surveyor friend who pronounced it one of the filthiest, most run-down places he’d ever seen, but structurally sound. 

    His advice was, if we really liked it, to put in a low offer to allow for the cost of restoration and redecoration. 

  • My wife and I both loved the feel of the place from the moment we set foot in it so, emboldened by our friend’s words of wisdom, we offered 25% less than the asking price and, after a some laughter from the agent and a bit of horse trading, we eventually agreed a deal to buy 114-116 Corporation Street.

    Once we’d managed to get approval for change of use from commercial to residential and convinced HM Customs & Excise that yes, we were actually going to live there and not sneakily open a shop when they weren’t looking, we were off and running with a normal mortgage and domestic rates.

    We had bought what turned out to have been the Corporation Arms*, a pub built by Truman, Hanbury & Buxton around the turn of the last century (they bought the land in 1898) but sadly, there were no traces of the bar or other pub fittings, apart from a couple of holes in the floor where the draft beer was piped up from the huge cellar.

  • The place was big enough that we’d never need to extend it; in fact, we demolished one of the ground floor rooms to make the garden bigger. Actually, that was the only structural thing we did;  the only other major project was giving the roof an extensive going-over. 

    Everything else involved restoring floors, walls and ceilings to their former glory and repairing weather-damaged timbers outside. Oh, and putting some serious double glazing up in those big windows.

  • Corporation Street was our home for 32 happy years, raising a family and hosting some epic parties in the vast living/dining room. 

    As classic empty-nesters, we’ve now swapped London for a life in Hastings, probably one of the most eccentric coastal towns in Britain – but that’s a whole other story.

    *We discovered the name on the outside when we were burning off the many layers of old paint. Sadly, it was too late to save it.

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