diamond geezer

 Friday, May 04, 2012

This used to be my local pub.
Bright white frontage, with smart red and black detail and golden lettering.

The Kings Arms - 2009

In 2009 the pub closed. The new owners stripped out the interior and painted the front a mucky grey. Then they reopened shortly afterwards as the 12 bedroom Hotel Kings Arms Guesthouse. An E3 B&B option for sixty-ish quid a night. Alas the Hotel Kings Arms Guesthouse doesn't have its own website, so let me kindly reproduce their marketing blurb below.
The Kings Arms Guest House is a Victorian heritage completely refurbished budget property, managed by experienced, helpful and friendly staff at reception which is 24 hours open. The rooms serviced daily by the team of trained housekeepers. Excellent 24 hrs connectivity, anywhere in London, well mixed multicultural surrounding and quick and easy access to transport linksoptions for Stratford, Dockland destinations and Central London tourist attractions. We do understand and exercise the true spirit of hospitality! You are coming to London by air, by train or by bus - it is quite easy to reach Kings Arms Guest House at Bow Church. It just needs to link your journey to Stratford, Mile End Underground, Bow Road Underground or Bow Church DLR station. Bus 25 from Stratford and Tottenham Court Road, Bus 8 and N8 from Oxford Street, 205 from King's Cross Saint Pancreas, Bus 425 from Padington and Liverpool Street Station, D8 and D6 from Docklands will bring you in front of Guest House and these buses run 24 hours to and fro on Bow Road. The location of the guesthouse also suites to the students of University of East London, Greenwich University, London Metropolitan University and Queens Marry University of London for short or long stay.
Here's what the Hotel Kings Arms Guesthouse looks like today.

2012 - Hotel Kings Arms Guesthouse

It's an insipid looking building. All the former charm has been over-painted, from attic to floor, in a shade that disturbingly resembles concrete. It must have sounded like a good idea at the time, giving the former pub a complete exterior makeover, but the broadbrush approach has been wildly unsuccessful. The ironwork in front of the doors used to read Saloon Lounge and Private Bar, but the gold lettering has been painted black and the ornate effect is entirely lost. The second doorway is used for storage, mostly bags and rubbish, sealed in behind locked trelliswork. Three hanging baskets dangle forlornly above the pavement, any greenery many seasons dead. A small Guinness sign somehow survives, plus an Abbott Ale poster near the ash-stubber, but there's nothing at ground level which properly signals "guest house". Indeed I've seen several foreign tourists standing outside, suitcases in tow, unconvinced this might be the place they've booked overnight.

Timelapse 2009-2012

The most eye-catching feature of the Hotel Kings Arms Guesthouse is plastered across the first floor frontage. Instead of a painted sign, in tasteful gold, somebody thought it would be a good idea to over-paint the name-board and stick black plastic letters on top. They started well on the left, neatly stuck and tightly kerned, then lost it rather on the way across. Later letters were more slapdash, more irregularly spaced, and not entirely vertical. My timelapse photo montage, above, reveals what happened next. A couple of wind-whipped winters and the letters are peeling, almost tumbling, from the face of the hotel. Those Ss are part-destroyed, the R has lost its stem and the G is barely legible. And yet the owners seem content to leave this ghastly textual mess as their branded high street face. English Heritage recently spent considerable sums restoring some of the Grade II listed buildings alongside, as part of the High Street 2012 project in advance of the Olympics. But they couldn't touch this former pub, and it's become a nagging blot on the Bow Road streetscape.

Inside may well be a different matter. I've not peered any further than the tiny reception, so I'd not want to judge conditions and the accommodation within. Various travel websites offer a selection of guest reviews, and many visitors claim to have enjoyed their value-for-money stay. But it just goes to show, when you book from afar, you never do quite know what you'll face when you turn up. Come soon, before The Kings Arms peels away altogether.

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