|Bird in Hand, West End Lane (Dick Weindling, August 2018)|
No.12 West End Lane was the Bird in Hand, first named in 1831 as a beerhouse run by James Paty, who had just gone bankrupt. He is described in the proceedings as a retailer of beer at Kilburn, formerly a timber dealer and stagecoach proprietor of Paddington Green. From 1840 to at least 1861 the owners of the beerhouse were William and George Verey who ran the Kilburn Brewery in the High Road near today’s Brondesbury Overground station.
Members of the same family ran the Bird in Hand for 70 years. It backed onto a crowded set of mainly working-class streets between Belsize Road and West End Lane, with more of the same across the High Road in Willesden. In 1861, Ellen Lovegrove was living with her uncle, a publican in Child’s Hill. She married William Grantham in 1866 but he died three years later at the Bird in Hand where he was almost certainly the beerhouse keeper.
Ellen took over and the following year she married again, to George Miller. He ran the business until his death aged 75 in 1922. The couple had nine children, but tragically, their four-year old daughter Rose died of blood poisoning in 1884, just a week after a new pair of boots had grazed her heel. George Miller committed suicide in a very unusual way by drowning himself in a tub containing only 8½ inches of water. He was under the delusion that he was affected by a contagious disease. The inquest jury verdict was ‘suicide while of unsound mind’.
For the second time, Ellen took over the Bird in Hand and got a full license in the late 1920s. In 1926 the pub was described as having a public and a private bar, with a tap room at the rear. For a few years after Ellen’s death in 1932, her son George and then her daughter Ada, ran the pub. Ada had left by 1938, moving to nearby Mazenod Avenue. From about 1927 and until the 1990s, it was owned by the Truman’s group.
In November 1952 the Times reported a High Court case where Mrs Lilian Alice Joan Morgan, the tenant of the Bird and Hand, lost her case against Mrs Phyllis Broom of Brixton Hill. Phyllis and her husband, were hired by Mrs Morgan to manage the pub for three months. He was the manager and she worked behind the bar and made light refreshments. There was a trap door behind the bar which concealed a lift to the cellar. In February 1950 Mrs Broom fell through the open trap and was badly injured. In court, Mrs Morgan said it was Mr Broom’s negligence for leaving the trap open, and that Mrs Broom should sue her husband. The Lord Chief Justice quoted legal precedence which said that a wife could not sue her husband, and Phyllis was awarded damages of £367 and 5 shillings from Mrs Morgan.
Until quite recently there was a plaque on the wall, which recorded the height of the water that flooded the pub on 14 August 1975. It rose about a metre up the walls. That afternoon, parts of north London were hit by a violent thunderstorm and over six inches of rain fell in a few hours. Michael Keen who was in his 60s died of a heart attack in his basement flat in Brondesbury Villas while trying to move his furniture away from the water.
After heavy rain you can still hear the old Kylebourne stream rushing through the drain outside the pub. The stream rose in Hampstead and ran downhill through West Hampstead and along what is today’s Kingsgate road. It passed under the High Road and flowed on to join the Westbourne which empted into the Serpentine. This part of West End Lane was the lowest point of the stream which was culverted over in the early 1860.
After about 170 years, the Bird in Hand closed in 2003, when an application to demolish and replace it with a block of seven flats was refused.