Last week, I showed a mural by Aida Wilde, a street artist I didn’t know. Or, I thought I didn’t know.
On further investigation, it turns out that I’ve seen a fair bit of her work around London. One of her achievements was the street-artistic revival of a closed pub in Hackney Wick that I revisited a few weeks ago. I have shared a couple of photos of this pub before, but didn’t know the story behind it.
Lord Napier, Hackney Wick, London, all images September 2020
It turns out there’s quite a tale behind this now decorated pub. It was licensed in 1868 under the name The White’s Arms, with plans to become the local for the workers and residents of this area. The high density of factories and workers’ housing in this area of plastic production and oil refinery, made this location a good choice. It was sold shortly afterwards and renamed the Lord Napier. It duly became the much-used local, visited for pre-work drinks and post-work drinks and everything in between.
As industrialisation reduced and the area changed, the pub lost customers and gradually declined. It operated for just over 125 years, closing in 1995, and then transformed into a place for squat parties and illegal raves. In 2000 someone acquired the freehold, planning to revive this historic public house. Initial plans seem to have been for an artists’ workshop, but change of use and planning permission presented problems, and abandonment continued.
In 2016, Aida Wilde obtained permission from the owner to have a a 48 hour artistic takeover of the building by a team of 29 local street artists, including Xenz, Dscreet, Malarky, Donk, and Stik. The result was the transformation from “shithouse to penthouse”.
You can still see the original 2016 work at the top of the building, whilst the lower half has undergone the normal street art lifecycle of paint and paint again. It now attracts many visitors to admire the artwork.
There are still plans to convert into a pub again and let’s hope this happens. The area itself has undergone many changes with new housing and retail in place, and the pub sits very close to the overground station and the canal, so revival could be successful and much welcomed by the new residents of the area.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 12 October 2020