Pub makeover seeks to deliver more than the Bear necessities

Bear’s-eye view: how the statue surveyed the pub before the multi-million-pound makeover

For almost 120 years, nestling between two farms in the hamlet of Fickleshole, a White Bear has stood proudly outside the inn that takes his name.

The original wooden bear was acquired at auction in 1905 from a London coaching inn known as the White Bear which once stood at the site now occupied by the Criterion restaurant in Piccadilly Circus. A concrete custodian has been keeping a close eye on developments since the popular pub closed its doors earlier this year to undergo a multi-million-pound refurbishment.

Owners, Brakspear Brewery, recently took the White Bear back from the long-time leaseholders and got planning permission to carry out urgent and future-proofing upgrades to the Grade II-listed 16th Century inn.

The charming country pub with multiple dining rooms is being restored to its original splendour, alongside the introduction of a new, 80-cover bar area with glass doors leading to a stunning patio that is replacing the old bar and cellar area.

Where the kitchen once stood, a stunning new bar will serve thirsty customers, while the toilets that were at the rear of the site have been moved to the very front.

A large new kitchen has been created where the previous toilets were.

New operators, Friendship and Beer, have been running the award-winning Barley Mow in Tandridge since 2021. They have also recently acquired the Three Crowns in Ashurst Wood and the Snowdrop Inn, Lindfield. All of these sites have become renowned for excellent service, great food and drink.

Hard at work: the pub operators are hoping to re-open this autumn while recruiting staff

The White Bear is the biggest project yet to be taken on.

“It is a sensitive refurbishment,” operations director, Stuart Labram, told Inside Croydon.

“Everything people loved about the White Bear remains, but now we have a large bar area for relaxed drink and dining options, the bar is naturally lit by skylights and the doors to the patio give a great view of the stunning countryside that the pub nestles in.

“While we have had to change some things, you’ll still find all the low beams, uneven flagstones and wonderful nooks to sit, dine and ponder what 500-year history lies beneath the walls.”

Just down in a valley of the North Downs a short hike from New Addington, the White Bear has always enjoyed visits from cyclists, it is a favourite with walkers and has always warmly welcomed four-legged friends. The beer garden has a long-held and deserved reputation for being among the best places to see heritage Spitfire fighters taking display flights around Biggin Hill.

When the Bear reopens in the autumn it is hoped that all will return to enjoy breakfast, a light lunch or celebration dinner.

Making the grade: low ceilings, ancient beams and Grade II-listed status make the refurbishment especially challenging

The pub will open daily from 8.30am serving coffee and fresh pastries. Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings will see a hearty cooked breakfast menu served.

Available all day from the bar will be a farmer’s pantry, serving sausage rolls, scotch eggs, pasties and a range of fresh sourdough breads to take away.

The new “Little Bear” garden bar will be serving cooked food, farmer’s pantry items and drinks in finer weather.

“The new layout allows us to offer private experiences for up to 25 people in our front dining rooms. We hope that the spaces are used for meetings, dinners and get-togethers,” Labram said.

While the pub will open on Christmas Day from 11.30am until 2pm, there will be no food served this year “We want to make sure our new kitchen team settle in before joining our other pubs in hosting a memorable Christmas Day lunch,” said executive chef Jordan Gregory-Astle.

Cooking up plans: the White Bear’s exec chef, Jordan Gregory-Astle, is promising a transformed menu

“Our three-course Christmas menu will be available throughout December, perfect for a pre-Christmas get-together with friends and family.” The menu will be available to book online, will cost £29.50 and include a welcome glass of bubbly.

Henley-based Brakspear has been running pubs for more than 200 years and is keen to ensure that the White Bear remains at the heart of local life. The brewery’s superb range of ales will proudly be on sale at the Bear, alongside a thirst-quenching range of lagers, cider, wine and spirits.

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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
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3 Responses to Pub makeover seeks to deliver more than the Bear necessities

  1. Tim Crayford says:

    Great news! Opening in “the autumn”? Or is there a more exact date?

  2. Allen Banks says:

    Looking good already and we are waiting to book up a table for 4….please advise ASAP.

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