A stroll around the heritage pubs of Maida Vale

Warrington, Maida Vale: Tiled entrance
The tiled entrance to the Warrington Hotel

Maida Vale is a well off residential area in north west London known for its streets of mansion blocks. It’s also home to Little Venice, the canal basin on the Regents Canal famous for multiple narrowboats and waterside cafes and pubs. BBC’s Maida Vale Studios are possibly best known for being the home of the John Peel Sessions which were recorded here for his influential radio show from 1967 to 2004. What the area is less well known for is its collection of exceptional Victorian heritage pubs. This short walk takes in four pubs, all well worth a visit to see the extravagant steps brewers and entrepreneurs took to ensure their pub outdid their neighbours in style and elegance.

Warwick Avenue Tube station on the Bakerloo Line is convenient for this walk and my directions assume you get the tube. You could also catch a number 46 bus from Paddington or a number 6 from Victoria or Marble Arch. The walk starts with the sumptuous Crockers Folly, but before you set off, you should know that this is now a Lebanese restaurant with a bar. You’re welcome to just have a drink in the bar but if you’re after a proper pub vibe it may not be for you. The pub opens at 12 each day and the best time to see it is in the afternoon before 5 to avoid the diners. I’d thoroughly recommend that you do come, because it is one of the most opulent pubs anywhere in the country. And who knows, it might become a proper pub again!

To get to Crockers Folly from the tube station, carry straight on from the exit, heading south on Warwick Avenue. Turn left at Blomfield Road and walk about 400 metres down to the busy A5 and across the pedestrian crossing onto Aberdeen Place. Walk past Northwick Terrace to the end of the road and when the road turns sharply left you’ll see Crocker’s Folly on the corner.

Crockers Folly (Maroush)

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The entrance to the bar is on the corner and this, the original public bar, is the least grand of the pub’s rooms. It’s still quite impressive though, with its original mahogany bar counter and three-sided bar back with mirrored panels. The clock still shows the original name of the pub, the Crown before it became Crocker’s Folly in 1987. The room is not used for dining and it’s a genuine bar with its own regulars.

Crockers Folly, St Johns Wood: Public Bar
The public bar

Go through the door on the left into the fabulous saloon, now called the Marble Room, for obvious reasons. It has a stunning marble bar counter and a series of marble archways around the room, one of which houses a large marble fireplace. Look up to see the extravagant plasterwork ceiling with its glorious chandeliers. Next door is the Lords Dining Room, with another marble fireplace and another elaborate plasterwork ceiling.

Crockers Folly, St Johns Wood: Marble Room
The Marble Room

The pub is part of the Maroush chain of Lebanese restaurants and as well as the top class food it serves a selection of standard lagers plus Almaza Lebanese bottled beer, plus a good selection of Lebanese and French wines and a range of cocktails. The pub closed in 2004 and remained shut for ten years and it’s to Maroush’s credit that they saw the potential and reopened it in 2014.

And what about that name, Crocker’s Folly? It comes from the myth that the owner, Frank Crocker had it built in 1898 because he thought that the Great Central Railway, then being constructed, would terminate outside his pub. When the railway ended up at Marylebone, in despair he threw himself off the roof to his death. It’s all nonsense though and Frank lived on happily until his death of natural causes in 1904.

To get to the next pub retrace your steps across the A5 and walk along Blomfield Road as far as Randolph Avenue. Turn right here and walk about 400 metres to the busy road junction at Sutherland Avenue. Turn sharp left onto Warrington Crescent and the Warrington Hotel is on your left.

Warrington Hotel

The spectacular entrance of the Warrington with its golden ceramic columns and mosaic tiled floor is just a taster for the glories within (see the photo at the top of the page). Take the right of the three doors into the main bar to find a wonderfully extravagant gin palace. On the left is an intricately carved semi-circular wooden bar counter with a marble top, and above is a canopy with carved cherubs and paintings of lightly clad young women.

Warrington, Maida Vale: Bar counter and canopy
The bar counter and canopy

The walls are covered in multiple small mirrors divided by spiral columns and there is an elegant grey marble fireplace behind two matching columns. At the far end of the room is an alcove created by an arch with an art nouveau stained glass window and a ceiling with more painted ladies, all fronted by a curved leather-buttoned sofa.

Warrington, Maida Vale: Main room
The main room with the arched alcove

The pub was part owned by chef Gordon Ramsay from 2008-11 and hosted an upmarket restaurant. Its subsequent owners continued the gastro theme but it was recently taken over by Ewe Hospitality who clearly think that old school pub grub is the way forward. Cask beers were Old Speckled Hen and the ubiquitous Taylor’s Landlord on my visit.

The Warrington featured in the 1965 film Bunny Lake is Missing starring Laurence Olivier, and Boak and Bailey give the scenes in the pub a fascinating write-up on their blog.

The story that the pub, or possibly just the upstairs room, was once a brothel seems unlikely but it probably inspired the naked lady paintings which actually only date from the early 1960s.

From the Warrington it’s a short walk to the next pub. On exiting turn left and walk down Warrington Crescent as far as Formosa Street. Turn right here and just around the bend is the Prince Alfred.

Prince Alfred

The pub is an elegant Italianate building built in the 1860s but the most interesting part is the 1898 interior. The Victorians were fond of dividing their pubs into several rooms or compartments and a popular style was to create divisions with wood and glass screens. Many pubs have kept one or two of these screens but the vast majority have swept them away to create a large open space. The Prince Alfred is the only pub to have kept all of its compartments (six in total including the main bar), and each compartment has its own entrance from the street. It was one of only two pubs that English Heritage upgraded to Grade II* in 2022. (The other was Whitelocks in Leeds).

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The impressive main entrance has a mosaic tiled floor, a tiled wall to the right and a curved timber and etched glass wall to the left. This leads into the the original main bar but this was extended in 2001 to create the Formosa Dining Room. This is a slightly soulless modern pub room but it doesn’t impact too much on the rest of the pub, and I guess it helps keep it viable. It’s best to head for the other bars, but you’ll need to be nimble and flexible. In each of the screens between the compartments there is a very low wooden door which means you have to duck down to get through. The assumption is that these were to deter drinkers moving from one room into another but were suitable for pot boys when the pub was open or cleaning staff when it was closed. Most pubs with timber screens have a full size door or opening, but there are none still remaining with these mini doors. If you can’t make it through these doors, go outside and use the external doors.

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The second room is the smallest and has a lovely old set of snob screens on the bar. Camra’s Heritage Pub Group reckons that these are one of only eight sets left in the country. They are rectangular cut and etched glass panels that can be open or closed and their purpose was to divide customers who wanted privacy from the bar staff. There is nothing on the doors of the rooms to indicate their purpose (e.g. saloon, private room, smoke room, public bar etc), but there is a suggestion that this was the ladies room and the snob screens provided privacy to women ordering at the bar.

Prince Alfred, Maida Vale: Snob screens in room 2
The snob screens at the Prince Alfred

The Prince Alfred is a Youngs pub and I had a pint of their seasonal Winter Warmer. Young’s Original bitter and Redemption Big Chief were also on sale.

To continue the stroll, turn left out of the main door along Castellain Road, then right onto Warrington Gardens then left onto Warwick Avenue. Walk past the modernist St Saviour’s church with its fibreglass spire, across the road and past the tube station, and carry on down Warwick Avenue. Turn right on Warwick Place and a short walk along on the left is the Warwick Castle.

Warwick Castle

This is a characterful and little altered Victorian pub, and the locals are a mix of wealthy city and media types, and more bohemian canal boat dwellers from nearby Little Venice.

The pub and the neighbouring shop fronts are part of a mid 19th century Grade II listed terrace and all are painted the same dark green. As you approach it’s hard to miss the lantern on a huge iron bracket which must have looked very inviting on dark Victorian streets. The entrance to the main right hand bar is through a fine lobby with wood panelled walls, a tiled floor and stained glass door windows.

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Inside is the original ornately carved bar counter with an unusual protruding top. The room has matchboarded wooden walls and a nice Bass mirror in front of a leather upholstered sofa. The door on the left of the bar takes you to another tiled-floor lobby and to the smoke room. This room is also wood panelled and has another, larger Bass mirror above an original marble fireplace.

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There’s quite a small range of cask beers but it usually includes Taylors Landlord and the splendidly named Made of Ale. This is a house beer which is actually Hardy & Hansons Bitter, which is rarely seen outside the East Midlands. The beer quality is good enough for the pub to be a regular entry in the Good Beer Guide.

The artist Edward Ardizzone was a resident of Maida Vale, and his illustrations for Maurice Gorham’s classic 1939 book The Local feature both the Warwick Castle and the Warrington Hotel. His image The Warwick Castle shows two well dressed gentlemen leaving the pub, while The Lounge at the Warrington has a character heading up the staircase looking a bit the worse for wear

When you’re leaving the pub take time to carry on along Warwick Place to the Regents Canal. Just down to the left is Little Venice canal basin with its nose-to-tail boats, cafes, restaurants and even theatres.

You passed the tube station on the walk here so just retrace your steps along Warwick Place, turn left on Warwick Avenue and it’s a short walk to the tube entrance.


18th-century Leeds pub upgraded to Grade II*-listed status. The Guardian 15th June 2022
Brandwood, Geoff, Andrew Davison & Michael Slaughter. Licensed to sell: the history and heritage of the public house, English Heritage, 2004
Girouard, Mark. Victorian pubs, Yale University Press, 1984
Pub Heritage website pubheritage.camra.org.uk/

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