The Great Fire Of Camden: Hawley Smoke

Amid much OMGing from news sites’ comments forums, the full extent of the devastation visited upon NW1 on Saturday night hit home.

Confusion amongst some news organisations was the only light relief from seeing a well-known part of Camden engulfed in flames. On BBC News 24 the newscaster referred to the Hawley Arms as a “nightclub”. No, it’s a pub. Here’s the evidence:

The Hawley Arms

Better still were the names of celebrities listed as regular clientele. Heard of “Neil Fielding” or “Neil Gallagher”? Me neither.

So yes, along with just about everyone from London who has anything to do with music, I’ve of course been to the Hawley too many times to count. Yes, the beehive was there more often than not, sat on her own, eating lunch and not being interrupted. I’ve interviewed artistes there (on one occasion the beehive interrupted proceedings) too – the upstairs area being popular for such activities during daytime.

Despite the pub’s reputation in mainstream news media as some fantastical glittering nirvana for “troubled” singers, it really was just a decent boozer. Probably a tad passé for some of the more trendoid tendencies of this world now, but it had charm, especially in the afternoons when it wasn’t too packed.

The people behind the Hawley had only a couple of weeks ago launched their second pub, Clerkenwell’s Wilmington Arms, which has a gig space, and a small record label, which had just released its first single.

They’re sure to recover from this, as are the Canal market traders whose livelihoods are also threatened by the inferno of 9th February. There will be a rallying round. And some time soon, when the refurbishments are complete, the Hawley will have an excellent excuse for a big relaunch party. Hell, they might even attract some slebs along. Here’s hoping it’s not too long before we can toast the Hawley’s reincarnation. And maybe it should consider a name change to herald its new era. The Phoenix, perhaps?

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  • Brian Taylor

    The Hawley Arms had the best Juke box in the world in the late 70’s and through the 80’s with tasty 45’s supplied by Jumbo of Dingwalls. Stiff records people used to turn up in tow with Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera. Indeed The Hawley was the ante-room to Dingwalls which was probably the best club in London ever.
    Today The Hawley is still continuing a mythos that goes back to the 2nd world war when the Irish Musicians congregated there to play music for the Ex-Pats. There was always an old bicycle wheel and a hurley in the spokes up above the bar as a relic of past Irish presence. I always wondered whose wheel, and Hurley, it was. Were they left left as IOU’s? Indeed my parents used to meet up there after shifts when they worked on London buses. they’d go on dancing in the halls that abounded in the area. Check out The Clifford Family, Star of Munster and Paddy in the Smoke.
    the Irish moved across the little park to the Stag’s head where the music continued with Alias Ron Kavana and visiting fiddlers for years. Maybve still going on?
    I hope The Hawley Arms survives the fire. It goes back a lot farther than Amy co.
    I’ll go back when it does re-open for sure.
    I wonder what happened to Jumbo? he created the new era of The Hawley.

  • pete aberdeen

    sadly the stag’s head was sold for flats a couple of years ago. i enjoyed many drunken afternoons – hammered nights there with ron kavana and many others bashing out the soundtrack. i’d love to know how and why it shut. it’s my theory that some pubs like that have a community just as real is if it was the only pub in a village. i’m convinced that we can keep many of our good pubs with a bit of communal organisation. (see the ‘old crown’ in hesket newmarket) as it is, with the stag’s head closed there’s no point visiting london anymore -apart from thatcher’s funeral party of course. anyone have any info or memories about the pub i’d be happy to hear them -i’m writing about this and many other pubs at risk, gone or reborn. peace and love -pete