Kentish Drovers: Application to restore Old Kent Road mural

A view of the Old Kent Road mural before long term damage

There are plans for the former Kentish Drovers pub building in Old Kent Road, part of the Pilgrims’ Way, to be restored.

The pub, on the corner of Commercial Way, has been a landmark since at least 1838 due to having England’s longest pub sign.

This takes the form of a curving mural of extremely rare ceramic block Doulton tiles. The signed picture, depicting a rural Old Kent Road, is by a female artist although the name ‘ALICE D…’ has become indecipherable.

Work will include the conservation and restoration of the mural which is damaged

The pub’s original name was The Kentish Drovers and Halfway House being halfway between Deptford and London Bridge. Drovers and their flocks of sheep and cattle once came over Shooters Hill and up the Old Kent Road from Kent on their way to Smithfield. Nearby Drovers Place may indicate the site of a field used for resting and grazing.

The corner building is now occupied by the New Saigon restaurant. The interior retains late 19th-century carved mahogany fittings and engraved glass.

The frame of the Truman’s pub sign remains on the pavement.

The restoration of the building exterior, along with its deteriorating mural, is being made possible with the help of a £15,000 grant from the Heritage of London Trust as well as Community Infrastructure Levy payments.

Southwark Council will consider the planning application shortly with work expected to start next year. The former pub remains on Historic England’s At Risk Register.

Part of the mural today with the artist’s name only partly visible

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