An historic Grade-II listed pub has been saved from demolition by residents, writes Maya Chavvakula.
The Fellowship and Star pub in Bellingham is undergoing extensive renovations after Lewisham council transferred the property to a community-led co-operative, Pheonix Housing Association.
The pub was originally built in 1923 by FG Newnham for the brewery Barclay Perkins and Co.
It still retains most of its original features with an exterior that remained largely unchanged.
The pub was built after the First World War in a so called “improved” style which was designed to be different from traditional public houses – it was part of the Homes for Heroes development, designed to offer space to war veterans and their families.
The building had two bars, a 200-seater dance and music hall, a 2260ft function room, which often hosted wedding receptions, an off-license bottle shop and family accommodation across two floors.
The theatre attached to the pub is also being renovated and is expected to show its first film this month.
Resident and former chairwoman of Phoenix Housing Association, Pat Fordham said: “I have seen the Fellowship Inn have good times and I’ve seen its worst times. It was left in a state.
“It seemed like an impossible dream to have it restored to its former glory.
“Now, when I visited the venue to see progress on the newly restored cinema, it was like someone had waved a magic wand and brought it back and made a community pub again.”
The pub had served many purposes over the years.
In 1963, heavyweight boxer, Henry Cooper, used it as a training base ahead of his famous fight with Muhammed Ali.
During the late 1960s and 1970s, the theatre hosted bands including Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
Much-needed repairs were not made to the façade of the building over the past decade.
It was feared that the pub was destined to be sold at auction and turned into a block of flats due to the lack of funding from the council until the Pheonix Association took over.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HSF) donated £3.8 million to Pheonix Association to aid their restoration efforts.
An independent company, Electric Star, was chosen to run the pub.
Rob Star, director of Electric Star Group, said: “The Fellowship has such an amazing history and we are really excited about working with Phoenix to restore this beautiful pub to its former glory and make it an asset that the whole community can enjoy.”
The new space includes a cinema, a venue for live music and comedy, a restored bar with extensive seating space, a café and rehearsal rooms.
The opening has created 70 new jobs, along with at least 45 apprentice positions over the next 15 years alongside volunteering opportunities for the Bellingham community.