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The first Wetherspoons (Marlers bar): a research note

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2016 by kmflett

Marler’s Bar: a research note

marlers

what was Marlers bar in Colney Hatch Lane, N10

I was intrigued by a tweet from beer bloggers and writers par excellence Boak and Bailey about the original Wetherspoons bar, known as Marlers, which was in Colney Hatch Lane, Muswell Hill N10.

They suggested, based on comments in the London Drinker, that it was a pub frequented by the trendy and charged robust prices.

My intrigue-ment was based on the fact that I used to drink in Marlers bar with friends and with my late father at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s. It was about a mile from my parent’s house which was in the Alexandra Park area of Muswell Hill.

How I heard about Marlers I cant recall but probably via CAMRA (this was before social media and mobiles).
As a research historian I’m wary of basing things on memory which is often a bit unreliable and prefer to check against printed sources.

That I endeavoured to do on a Sunday afternoon while drinking small quantities of some interesting draught French craft beer with my partner Megan in Mother Kellys.

The problem here is that as a source the interwebs are just as unreliable as memory.

My memory suggests that Marlers was a joint venture between Andrew Marler and Tim Martin. The officially approved version indicates that Marler was the original owner and then sold to Martin. That did not preclude Martin from having an interest previously of course but it is Marler I remember behind the bar.

What happened to Marler is mildly obscure though his record of owning the Worlds End in Camden Town and then a pub in Shepherds Bush is well known.

The interwebs indicate that in 2012 he was the owner of two pubs in the St Albans area, one of which, the Cross Keys, had been sold to him by Wetherspoons.

What of the beer in Marlers? My memory suggests that it was from regional brewers like Wadworths, Greene King and Ruddles that were then hardly available in London. CAMRA sources from the time concur. I thought I also recalled Sam Smiths but I might well be wrong..

A friend who I drank with in Marlers at the time, Mark Baker, recalls ‘it was quite exotic stuff for that part of the world at that time (i.e. wasn’t Ind Coope or Courage!)’

It was certainly the case that Marlers was a shop conversion (more or less unheard of the time). It appears to have been a bookies. Before that the interweb suggests it was a private drinking club for footballers, One source says Spurs, another Arsenal. We can be sure it was not both but the pub is on the Arsenal side of Haringey so it was quite probably them.

The pub has long since ceased to be a Spoons anyway but the story has a,for most, happy ending.

Wetherspoons have returned to Muswell Hill, up the hill, just at the top of the hill itself. The Mossy Well is rather a handsome pub and were you in the area you could do worse than stop by. Possibly best not to mention the name Marler though.

Update 27th April 2017:
I revisited this post following a social media discussion on what the first Wetherspoons pub to feature in the Good Beer Guide was. Of course in the late 1970s the pub was not badged as a Spoons. I’m fairly sure it eventually was but when that happened I’m not sure(of course!).

Certainly Wetherspoons started out in Haringey and Tim Martin (who was a lawyer) is on record as saying that a key reason was because there were no decent pubs where he then lived in Wood Green.

Mr Martin is not always right but on this he is absolutely correct. Unexciting as the range of beer in Marlers bar in the late 1970s might seem to us now, the best part of 40 years ago it would have been very easily the best real ale and hence the best beer range in Haringey as keg meant Twitbreads and Grotnys. Other alternatives included Courage Best (John Baird Muswell Hill) Ind Coope Burton bitter (Alexandra, St James Lane N10) and Bass and Charrington IPA (Railway Crouch End).

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3 Responses to “The first Wetherspoons (Marlers bar): a research note”

  1. Re: Mr Marler, he bought the BBC TV theatre and turned it in to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire as it operates now, sold it to the owners of Brixton Academy, bought a number of properties around the country, changed the planning to A3/D2 and let them to major chains/brewers, and has The Old Manor in Potters bar, amongst other exploits.

  2. If I can recall, I seem to recollect Andrew Marler the owner when it opened, I think,came from South Africa to London and did motor racing at one time? My brother-in-law had a shop 30 yards away and when he had closed at 6.00pm used to drink there and on few occasions I joined him. And many a time, being a friend of Andrew, would throw himself behind the bar to help out when it got very busy.
    I remember Tim Martin and his brother (Gerry?) frequenting the pub and my brother- in-law saying to me,watch this man (Tim Martin) he’s going places! And the rest is history.

  3. Although I always thought it was Marler’s, in Wetherspoons about-us/our-history site, it says:

    1979
    First Wetherspoon opens
    The first pub, a former bookies’, opens in Colney Hatch Lane, Muswell Hill, north London, on 9 December. For the first month, it was called Martin’s Free House, but was renamed Wetherspoon’s early in the new year.

    Here’s the link: https://www.jdwetherspoon.com/about-us/our-history

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