Fuller’s close their doors at The Spreadeagle for a quick change

Changing hands: the Spreadeagle, on Katharine Street, will no longer operate as a Fuller’s managed pub

The Spreadeagle, one of the town centre’s biggest and busiest pubs, closed its doors as a Fuller’s-run establishment for the final time last night.

The pub, in a prime location on Katharine Street next to the Town Hall and Central Library, will remain closed for a few days, before it is expected to re-open early in the week as the latest to be run by Whelan’s, who also operate a chain of Irish-themed pubs and bars. Its name and branding will remain unchanged, Fuller’s have told Inside Croydon.

All staff at the Spreadeagle are to be kept on after the Whelan’s takeover, sauces behind the bar told Inside Croydon’s undercover reporter this week.

The Spreadeagle stands in a grand, Victorian-built former bank building.

Its town centre location has made it a popular venue for visitors, as well as the default drinking hole for the borough’s politicians, although a recent change in the opening hours, with last orders being called at 9.45pm, has screwed councillors caught up in late-night Town Hall meetings. They’ve ended up in the Green Dragon instead.

Time please: the Spreadeagle is to switch to operate as a tenated pub

The Spreadeagle is within less than 100 yards of three other pubs, but has managed to maintain its business, despite the post-covid challenges facing the pub trade.

There is another Fuller’s tenanted pub, the Royal Standard, just a short walk away under the Flyover on Sheldon Street, for those who crave a pint of London Pride.

The switch marks an end to Fuller’s “Pie and Ale House” operation in the town centre after nearly 30 years. The failed regeneration of Croydon’s high street, the increasing number of people sleeping rough on the streets nearby, and the increase in violent crime locally have all weighed on the venue’s operations. A man was attacked, possibly with a machete according to eye-witnesses, on the other side of the road from the Spreadeagle two Saturdays ago. There have been no arrests reported by the Met Police in connection with that incident.

A spokesperson for Fuller’s told Inside Croydon that the Spreadeagle, “is moving from our Managed House division to our Tenanted Inns division.

“This isn’t an unusual move and we often move pubs between the two different operating styles.

“There are a number of reasons that can impact our decision to move a pub between divisions – and in this case we just feel it’s the right time to give an entrepreneurial tenant the opportunity of running this iconic site.

“The best news in all this, of course, is that the site is remaining as a pub for the local community to enjoy.”

London Pride: a final pint in the Spreadeagle

Fuller’s runs more than 350 pubs, inns and hotels across southern England. They operated London’s longest-surviving brewery, at Chiswick, which dated from 1816. In 2019, the brewing division of Fuller, Smith & Turner was sold to the Japanese giant Asahi.

Those close to the pub trade have detected a shift in the company’s focus since the takeover, with a move away from pubs towards the hotel business, and the unloading of the Spreadeagle may be indication of that.

Whelan’s is a rapidly growing, independent pub operator which has already established a strong reputation with its eponymous Irish bar in South Croydon.

What had previously been The Folly, and then Baskervilles, and which had stood empty for more than a year, was transformed in 2018 with a £400,000 refurb, and has not looked back since. Then, Whelan’s South Croydon was the fourth bar to carry the name of the business’s owner, Austin “John” Whelan, Kingston, Cricklewood and Uxbridge.

The business has also managed the Purley Arms, on the Brighton Road, and the Bedford Tavern, in central Croydon.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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7 Responses to Fuller’s close their doors at The Spreadeagle for a quick change

  1. Richy P says:

    You’re very naughty! I was caught hook, line and sinker!!

  2. Lewis White says:

    If it was posted at 12:02 pm, that is not a joke.
    If it is true, it is pretty sad.

    Guinness is a lovely pint, as well as being good for you, but, in the heart and mind of a real ale afficionado, is no substitute for ESB, HSB, London Pride, Chiswick, Bengal Lancer, etc etc.

    This pub is the best remaining, magnificently big Victorian pub in Croydon. To enjoy a pint of good English Ale in such surroundings is very different from drinking the same beer in the intimate surroundings of a Fuller’s “Local”.

    It is to be enobled, by the architecture and the craftsmanship of the pub glass engraver, the wrought iron, marble and plasterwork designers and artisans, the scale of the building and the sheer feeling of being part of the history of the pub.

    A few years ago I was in this pub, taking in the vibe, and relaxing, and exchanged a few pleasant words of pub conversation with a similarly middle aged man sitting near me. He turned out to be a native Croydonian who has lived in the Pacific West coast of the US for several decades, but he told me that he has to re-visit Croydon every few years, drawn back to his roots, not by remaining family ties (there were none) but by a feeling of “coming home”– how ever scruffy Croydon is (he remarked on this) .

    I got that, and felt it too, as my own family lived in the Oval Road area for decades in the Victorian era, and 20th Century. The Spreadeagle is part of that heritage.

    If it is true, I will be weeping into my pint of Fullers, whether at the excellent but intimate Royal Standard, or at home, and raise a glass with tears still in my eyes for another coffin nail in the death of the English Pub.

    I just hope the place will not be repainted green.

    • Jeff Simmons says:

      Just wondering if you realise that this is not an example of a large Victorian pub. It used to be a branch of Nat West Bank and wasn’t converted to a pub until the 1990s!

  3. Lewis White says:

    I had failed to take in what the article clearly said–and realised that fact after posting.
    Thanks for mentioning it , quite rightly.
    I actually remember it as a bank, so I have no excuse for the blunder.

    Yesterday, having enjoyed the truly excellent experience of the afternoon open music events and evening Oratorio of Hope at the Fairfield, I walked past the Spreadeagle and hoped againsts hope that the IC article was a wicked spoof, of April Fules day.

    Sadly, no, and I had missed the last session. I mentally raised a glass to the memories.

    Hoewever, a few minutes later in the intimate surroundings of the Royal Standard, enjoying a pint of Fullers (formerly Gales) HSB, talking with a beer-knowledgeable person, I was reassured that the new owners and management of the Spreadeagle are a good, real ale loving bunch, who are not into wall to wall plastic shamrocks.

    That went a very long way to putting my mind at rest, so will pop in to the new Spreadeagle in due course, and see how it feels.


    • I hate to disappoint you, but the ale at Whelan’s is often undrinkable (even the Doom, not that you’d want that in the first place).

      I’ve wearied of returning so many pints of Pride that I don’t even bother now, just defaulting to Guinness.

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