Sam Smiths appears to have provoked an unholy row during the restoration of one of its London pubs.
The Cardinal sits in the back streets of Westminster, not far from the Catholic Cathedral, surrounded by mansion flats. I was intending to pop in a couple of weeks ago and was told by Peter at Cask that the place had been closed for renovation. Sam Smiths takes a great deal of care in carrying out these works, as anybody who drinks at The Princess Louise would tell you.
Sure enough, I wandered by and found the place clad in scaffolding. Works were delayed because in stripping out, an original fireplace had been revealed and they were working out the impact to the plans. Never mind, I thought, after all The Princess Louise ran over time and turned out beautifully. You trust Sammy's on these things. I wandered on and found a pint elsewhere.
Now though, as the works come to an end, it seems that the pub name may be changed. Once upon a time the place was The Windsor Castle, until the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Manning, supported a London Dockers strike in 1889, and worked as a social reformer. As the pub sits across the street from the Archbishop's residence, its name was changed in grateful thanks. As the programme of works nears completion comes the revelation that Smiths have decided to reinstate the original name.
This isn't sitting well with local residents, including the present Archbish, the Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, who is urging the local and national Great & Good to press the brewery to keep The Cardinal name. He wants the local link and connection continued. Local history was usually reflected in pub names, a trend that has declined through corporatisation and marketing-led 'themes' and of course, large-scale closures in recent years, and I'm surprised that Smiths, usually so careful about respecting the traditional aspects of their bricks and mortar, would have changed the pub name. It comes over a just a bit frivolous. And after all, Windsor Castle has no local significance in SW1.
According to Westminster Council, Smiths don't have permission to change the name or the pub sign, as consent was only granted for the interior works, so I assume there will be a formal route to object to any application. There's also a petition here. Smiths are legendary for doing things their own way, including keeping their own counsel, to the point of appearing bloody-minded. The BBC couldn't pierce the facade for a comment on this story, but I hope they get the message and reconsider.
Pic nicked off the Daily Mail's website