Fires at two central Croydon pubs raise widespread suspicions

Double trouble: the two fires needed 100 firefighters called out from across south London this morning

The Crooked House Pub in the Midlands burns to the ground under highly suspicious circumstances and creates national headlines.

Croydon’s response? “Hold my beer”.

Two closed pubs in Croydon town centre were ablaze this morning, having caught fire within an hour of each other.

The inevitable conclusions were jumped at immediately. At least one of the pubs had been the subject of a recent planning application which had been refused by Croydon Council.

It took 14 fire engines and 100 firefighters, drawn from at least eight stations across south London, to tackle the blazes at The Windmill on St James’s Road and the Drum and Monkey on Gloucester Road. The pubs are little more than 200 yards apart.

There were no reports of anyone being hurt in the fires, although town centre traffic was much worse than even Croydon manages on a weekday rush hour.

Long ladder: the LFB called on some of its biggest pieces of kit to tackle the blaze at The Windmill

According to the London Fire Brigade, they received the call about The Windmill fire at 5.44am. The alarm over fire at The Drum and Monkey came at 6.24am. That was under control within an hour, while it was 8.35am before The Windmill fire had been put out.

The Brigade says that both incidents are now “under investigation”.

At The Windmill, “The whole of the second floor and the roof of the building were destroyed by fire, resulting in a roof collapse.

“One of the Brigade’s 32-metre turntable ladders was used as a water tower to tackle the fire from above.”

At the Drum and Monkey a short walk away on Gloucester Road, “The whole of the first and second floors of the building were destroyed by fire.”

Burnt out: the long-derelict pub was destroyed by today’s fire

Suspicions were aplenty.

Both pubs had been out of use for so long, though, that even the Croydon branch of CAMRA had removed them from its guide to local boozers. The Windmill called last orders for a final time last year.

Roger Protz, the guru of beer-drinkers across the country who was editor of The Good Beer Guide for 24 years, was among those who drew attention to the under-threat nature of The Windmill and The Drum and Monkey.

Protz tweeted: “Two ‘famous’ derelict pubs in close proximity, the Windmill and the Drum and Monkey ‘caught on fire’ within 15 minutes of each other early this morning…. Traffic chaos, smoke billowing seen for miles. ‘The cause of the fires as yet unknown’.”

Wags on social media asked whether there might be a job-lot discount available from Arson Ltd.

Concerned for The Windmill, the East Croydon Community Association had appealled in February 2021 for readers to “keep an eye on the pub to ensure no illegal attempts at demolition”.

The Drum and Monkey site was in Croydon planning limbo, with an application submitted last December by George Prinos on behalf of Lewisham-based Epsilon Developments that sought “Demolition of existing outbuildings. Erection of two-storey rear extension and roof extension to existing pub building with 4 x dormer windows and changes to fenestration to facilitate 2 x self-contained residential units and retention of pub.” Our italics… keeping a pub, often on a much-reduced footprint, is a ploy used by developers to try to nudge planning departments to lean in favour of their flat-building schemes.

Plus, they wanted, “Erection of two-storey building at the rear of the plot to facilitate 2 x self-contained residential units, with associated landscaping.”

Planning permission was refused by the council in May.

Neighbours relate that there had been problems with the building for some time, with the site not secure, windows left open and the possibility of squatters having moved in.

There is no suggestion that the owners of the two buildings were responsible for either of this morning’s fires. But, as the LFB has said, the causes of the fires are under investigation.

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5 Responses to Fires at two central Croydon pubs raise widespread suspicions

  1. David Lands says:

    Although the Drum & Monkey was ‘long closed’, the Windmill has operated as a pub far more recently – it only closed in 2022.

  2. Ken says:

    Next stop, the Glamorgan?

    • Allders, more like it.

      No empty historic building is safe until arson for developers means that anyone who commissions this kind of crime is treated as though they personally set the place alight

      • Ian Kierans says:

        They are. Its a criminal offence. The Police are involved in all suspicious fires, but perhaps do not have enough resource and leave those to Insurers investigations who really do not care about the actual building just the loss adjustment.

  3. JD Buchanan says:

    Why did they refuse planning permission? It’s surely time for these grotty derelict old buildings to be knocked down and replaced with something that will actually be of use

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