The Lambeth Walk pub in London is named after a road in the UK’s capital but also reflects the local indigenous Pearlie Kings and Queens culture. In other posts, I have been talking about our history of pubs and its connection with the social history of England. This is a fine example of how a pub becomes a cultural icon.
The Lambeth Walk Song
The Lambeth Walk was a famous music hall song by the comic artist Lupino Lane. On the market stalls of London, the Pearlie Kings and Queens, a society of costermongers (apple sellers), were and remain a cultural institution of those streets.
This is a working class history from a time when the music hall was the prime entertainment of working people. The words of the song espouse an ethos; “Do as you damn well pleasy!” which was about a personal sense of freedom in communities riven with poverty and harsh working conditions.
The Lambeth Walk Now
The image of the young boy and his mother from 1926 above comes from “London Types” by W.Pett Ridge. This is a patriarchal text which describes the working class with all the salivating sense of superiority as a BBC natural history documentary. That the Pearlies have survived this vanishing “working class” world is quite amazing. Demographic changes in London, the gentrification of old slum areas and the digital economy have ripped apart the natural ecology within which this population of London lived.
Survival of the Pearlies in these changing times is a matter of wonder and a small cultural treasure within our city’s heritage. The Lambeth Walk pub though has not proved so durable. In 2010 this public house lost its place within our community at the hand of property developers. These economic hyenas see no purpose in life other than making money and have been a cruel curse on our London pubs.
Property values in London have risen to fraudulent levels, driven by debt levied on ordinary people and the influx of a global super wealthy elite who pay their sevants a minimum wage which just about covers the bus fare to work. Estate agents and developers have conspired to turn out local communities from their pubs by forcing up the price of beer whilst increasing the rents for licensed tenants. Through this mendacious manipulation a bankrupt business is knowingly created. This then allows the bone crunching hyeanas to force through local planning departments a change of use scheduling which then permits changing pubs into residential apartments. Some of these stories are found on the excellent web site Derelict London.
The Lambeth Walk of the British Pathe film was turned into apartments in 2010. No doubt substantial profits were made but no doubt a landmark of social history has been cast aside in favour of the worship of money. Such has always been the way of our public houses in London as I recently wrote here.
If you have enjoyed this blog post then consider picking up my book “The Old Scrapbook” which will make a fantastic Christmas present for any history buff.