Three star - A pub interior of exceptional national historic importance
Listed Status: Not listed56 Kew Bridge Road
Tel: (020) 8560 8484
Real Ale: Yes
Real Cider: Yes
Lunchtime Meals: Yes
Evening Meals: Yes
Nearby Station: Kew Bridge
Station Distance: 150m
Public Transport: Near Railway Station (Kew Bridge) and Bus Stop
View on: Whatpub
The Express Tavern, owned by the Aldington family since 1882, has survived remarkably little-altered with three separate rooms and some of the oldest bar fittings anywhere in the UK.
The Express Tavern was rebuilt in mid-Victorian times and old photographs show three original entrances. Now, the sole central doorway leads into the right hand bar with a doorway (with no door) to the left-hand room. The right-hand room retains its original counter, but in 1994 it was moved back in order to create a larger drinking area. The bar-back is ornate but, unusually, is constructed of two very different and separate sections; the left-hand section is taller than the right, has a single rounded centre, whereas the right-hand section has three decorative pilasters. The doorway to the former landlord's parlour at the back (now an alcove with bench seating for customers' use) has a fascinating double-sided clock over it, surrounded by brown painted and gilt glazing bearing the name of the pub. This decoration suggests a date of about 1870 and, if so, then perhaps here we have some of the earliest surviving pub fittings in London. Over the servery between the right and left-hand bars is a wooden arch.
The left-hand room has a beautiful marble fire surround and original counter. The third room behind it was remodelled in Tudor style in 1932 judging by the date that had been scratched on a ceiling beam. This room had been used by the Royal Antediluvian Order of the Buffaloes for their meetings, whose horns still hang proudly over the opening to the front bar. Until recent years there had been a door to the servery with the curious feature of a little peep-hole in it apparently used to call for drinks when the room was in use to ensure the privacy of the occupants. .
Recently lightly redecorated with no changes to the original fittings - a model example on how to bring a pub up to the high standards liked by customers but respecting the historic interior.
The Express was rebuilt in mid-Victorian times and old photographs show three original entrances. The sole entrance now leads into the right hand bar with a doorway (with no door) to the left-hand room. Sadly, the full height partition with a mixture of Victorian and (perhaps) 1930s glazing that formed a vestibule just inside the front door has been removed. The right-hand room retains its original bar fittings but it was originally a much smaller room. It's now L-shaped since some rearrangements in 1994 when a partition that created a tiny private bar on the right hand side was removed. This was accessed from the now blocked in right hand door. Also, the bar counter was moved back in order to create a larger drinking area - you can see where the counter in this room is misaligned where it meets that of the left hand bar. At the same time, in order create a doorway to the former tiny landlord's parlour at the back, a three to four feet section of the bar-back that was beneath the clock on the right was removed; and the bar counter in front of it cut short so that there is now no counter in front of it. This doorway to the former landlord’s parlour has a fascinating double-sided clock over it, surrounded by brown painted and gilt glazing bearing the name of the pub. This decoration suggests a date of about 1870 and, if so, then perhaps we have here some of the earliest surviving pub fittings in London. Note the large ceiling rose and frieze now painted black.
The left-hand room has a fine marble fire surround fireplace, original fixed seating and original counter. The third room behind was remodelled in Tudor style in 1932 judging by the date scratched on a ceiling beam (now not visible - probably beneath the grey paint that we see so often in pubs). This room has seen the most recent change with fresh fixed seating and partitions with good modern stained and leaded panels, but the 1930s brick fireplace on the left is now hidden behind the seating. Another sad loss in this room is the removal of the door to the serving area with the little peep-hole in it, apparently used to call for drinks when the room was in use for private functions - for example, meetings of the brethren of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes whose horns still hang proudly over the opening to the left hand bar.
Operated by owners of Big Smoke Brew Co., it sells a large range of real ales. On the exterior note the ancient 'Draught' 'Bass' advertising (illuminated at night) a beer that the pub still sells.