"It was a bit of a dump ultimately, when all was said and done, says Trevor Barre, but he still misses the Harringay Arms."
So, the axe has finally fallen. The Harringay Arms has called last orders and emptied the premises for the final time. This has been on the cards for years, and in some ways it is surprising that this didn’t happen a long time ago, as the swingeing effects of gentrification have gradually closed so many ‘old Crouch End’ businesses and premises.
The Harringay Arms was unambiguously and unashamedly old-fashioned. It joins The Devonshire Arms and The Wishing Well as public houses that specialized in selling alcohol and little else. Although, admittedly, the Dev did do, as a Wetherspoons outlet, reasonably priced pub grub; the Well knew exactly where its bread was buttered, however, and it involved neither bread nor butter. The latter and the Harringay Arms did offer food, it has to be said – a choice of crisps, pork scratchings and peanuts. Now, I don’t want to get into a reverse-glamorisation of retro-distress shtick regarding this place. It was a bit of a dump ultimately, when all was said and done, and had been (deliberately?) neglected by the brewery, and looked a bit sad and left-out in the midst of all the trendy barber shops, nail bars and fancy kitchenware outlets that came to surround it. The new Waterstones across the road added to the ‘rotten tooth’ appearance of what was, when push comes to shove, one of Crouch End’s oldest pubs. Only The Maynard Arms is more venerable (1850s, built to serve what was then the center of Crouch End village, although The King’s goes back even further in time, but, for most of its life, was in a slightly different place to its present location). Now that The Harringay and The Devonshire have gone, The King’s Head and The Railway are the last watering holes left in that part of Crouch End.
The Harringay was small and unpretentious. Liz, the principal barmaid, was, in many ways, the ur-barmaid, polite but distant, with little time for chit-chat (apart from with the guys who looked like they’d been drinking there since the place first opened). This is not a criticism, by the way, the bar staff was perfect for the pub, and probably not temperamentally suited for work in a gastro-establishment. The décor was strict-1970s, with a penchant for wall-mounted record sleeves and discs, and, to enrich this, a collection of ancient vinyl with an equally anachronistic old gramophone to play the things on (not that anyone availed themselves of the facility, as far as I could see).
The landlord did try to extend its remit, to give them due credit. It featured live music for a short time, which showed promise. I attended a gig by a very decent trio playing Irish music, and a fun Bowie Night, which was packed. My son tells me that it was also popular with younger punters in the evening, due to its late closing times. However, as is the way with newly-gentrified areas, the locals complained about the noise, so these sorts of events were forced to stop. So farewell then, Harringay Arms, killed by indifference and neglect, after 100+ years of service to the community. What’s next? Bishops? The wonderful electrical shop on The Broadway? At least The Queen’s seems safe, having moved with the times into food in a big way. I admit that this may all be a bit of faux-nostalgia on my behalf, looking at this place with rather rosy bifocals, but I really feel that The Harrigay Arms could have become a delightful venue, which could have given any smallish boozer in Camden Town or Spitalfields a run for their money. It just needed just a bit of imagination, some TLC and a bit of motivation from the brewery.
There is talk, apparently, of both The Harringay and The Wishing Well being reopened as boozers. I wish them both well, as we need to treasure our rapidly diminishing public spaces (they are public houses, after all) before they mostly disappear into private housing stock.