House for sale in Chiswick has built-in mini-pub

Image above: inside the secret pub on Staveley Gardens

Whitman & Co. list property for £950,000

The £950,000 semi-detatched house in Staveley Gardens has three bedrooms, a study and a garage as well as a home bar dressed in decades worth of collected pub memorabilia.

The room is covered in countless pub beer mats, key rings and collectibles on every inch of the walls, as well as a huge vintage Monopoly slot machine in alcove.

When Brenda Irons and her husband Jim moved into the house, some 45 years ago, it looked completely different. The pub room was Jim’s idea and is the result of years of dogged accumulation. 

Since Jim died Brenda is seeking to downsize, and she told me her story of how the fascinating room came into being and what she now plans to do with the decades-worth of collectibles when she eventually has to move out.

Image above: door through the study which leads to the at home bar, these old pennies were the first items to be mounted on the wall

Can’t run a pub? Build your own instead

Originally the house, in a quiet cul-de-sac on Staveley Gardens, only had two rooms downstairs – the living room and the kitchen, so the Irons decided to extend.

“A lot of [Jim’s] friends were all in the trade. They were builders, plasterers, electricians… you name it. All of them in their different trades built all the extension and then when Jim got to this bit [the pub] there was one friend who was an electrician who did the electrics, Jim did the bricking.”

Jim loved going to the pub and also worked as a drayman, delivering beer for the now closed brewery Watney’s Combe & Reid, better known simply as Watney’s.

“He used to go over to the Fuller’s social club all the time,” said Brenda, “if he wasn’t over there he was at the George and Devonshire on the roundabout. Sundays there, it was an atmosphere you don’t get today in pubs. They played darts and shove ha’penny. You name it,they did that…”

At the time, Watney’s were looking for managers to for their pubs. Jim, who loved being a drayman came home and pitched the idea of being a pub landlord to Brenda. But they had four children, including two small children, which Brenda said, and Jim later conceded, wouldn’t have worked out. ”

What happens to the children when we’re downstairs? You have to work all the holidays, Christmas, Easter” she said.

They came to a happy compromise and Jim decided to build a pub of his own. It took him roughly two years to carve out the bare bones, but the memorabilia collection itself took far longer.

Image above: beer mats and all manner of things are a part of the collection (view from the bar)

Beermats, key-rings, pennies and antiques

Dozens of beer mats, draught pump labels, Watney’s collectibles and perhaps some antiques line the walls. But the first things to be mounted were some old pennies.

“He just stood there and stuck them on the wall,” Brenda told The Chiswick Calendar, “I don’t know what the idea was, maybe he thought the whole thing would be covered in pennies I’ve no idea. Then he started collecting all these badges, and then it just got out of control really.”

Jim sourced items from all over the place. Whenever she and Jim would go away, whether it be visiting family or on holiday, Jim would scope out the nearest junk shop or antique shop to find something to add to the collection.

Plenty, Brenda says, were brought back from pubs and bars abroad by family and friends. There’s even some old draught pumps fitted to the wall, brought over all the way from a closed pub in Ireland. The more people were made aware of the room, the more they would offer to give Jim items to add and he would hardly ever refuse.

“When he run out of ceiling space we went to a pub somewhere, I don’t know where it was, the pub wasn’t very big but it was covered in key-rings. So he came home and immediately started collecting key rings.”

I said it must be challenging to clean everything, but Brenda has a soft duster which she goes around with to clean the dust off. She said she has, understandably, knocked a few things off from time to time.

Image above: a faux fireplace inside the mini-pub room

Boxing up the collection will be “heartbreaking” 

Over the years, any visitors have been shocked and impressed with the collection. Even when the fire brigade came around to install new fire alarms, Brenda said they spent most of their time chatting in the pub room.

“I know it’s unusual, I’m surprised at the interest now to be honest because we’re used to it” she said.

Shortly after beginning to collect the key-rings, Jim was diagnosed with a terminal illness and died a year later.

A few items have been added to the collection since then by family members, but Brenda hasn’t added anything. Instead she has sought to preserve all the memories each item represents. With such intense sentimental value attached to the place, how is she going to feel when she eventually moves out? And what will happen to all the memorabilia?

“I feel already heartbroken at the thought, absolutely heartbreaking… I didn’t know what to do with it and that was my biggest nightmare, everything here is a memory. When Jim first died I would sit out there and look at things and know where we bought them, if it was on holiday, who gave it to us. It was how I passed some evenings sort of looking at the memory.”

“I thought, what do I do, where do I start? That bothered me for a long time. But now I’ve come to the conclusion I’m not gonna get rid of it. I’m going to take down everything of memorabilia, box it up and store it. One day the children might find it easier to disperse of it.”

Image above: the vintage Monopoly bandit

One last party 

Brenda spoke fondly of the atmosphere cultivated in old-school pubs, and thought that atmosphere had definitely been captured in Jim’s bar with their family and friends regularly invited over for birthdays, christenings, Christmases, weddings and more.

“In the past, a lot of [his friends] have now have passed on sadly but we had them all here at different times. Even his funeral, because he died quite young, all his friends came and they were all out here having a drink before we all went to Mortlake crematorium. It was lovely really… he would have wanted that.”

Jim used to buy kegs of beer and attached them through draught pumps, so actual pints could be poured at parties. The slot machine accepted real pound coins, and worked as a kind of interactive piggy bank.

Deciding to have a party in the run up to making moves to dismantle the pub, Brenda’s family and friends joined for her for a final send off and went to plug in the bandit.

“I had 16 people stay that night. We plugged it in and it went woo-woo-woo-woo-beep-beep and then went off. It’s not come to life since. It’s been well played, but why it made that loud funny noise and then stopped? Perhaps it just doesn’t like the idea it’s not wanted anymore.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Voting opens to choose next community artwork for W4th Plinth

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