This building has the richest history of any other in the town, we CANNOT and WILL NOT stand by quietly and watch it be destroyed for fast cash. – Save the Tumbledown Dick campaign
The Tumbledown Dick is a sleazy run-down pub on the main road running through Farnborough. Or was. It used to have a reputation for drug dealing, though I never saw any evidence for this.
The Tumbledown Dick may have been sleazy, but it did at least have character, which is more than can be said for the soulless town centre that lies behind it, a town centre that must rank as one of the ugliest in the country.
The Tumbledown Dick closed down in 2008 in very suspicious circumstances. The pub was raided by local environment health, at the request of a member of the public, the pub then closed, the staff sacked. It has remained closed and boarded-up ever since.
At the time it was at serious risk of demolition. It stood surrounded by vacant land, half the town centre and a small housing estate was about to be demolished for an unwanted Sainsbury’s superstore. Had the Tumbledown Dick been demolished, it would have created a very large site for redevelopment as part of the town centre redevelopment.
What ever nefarious scheme was planned must have fallen through as The Tumbledown Dick still stands, vacant and boarded up.
At the time, it was requested of the council that an Emergency Listing was applied for the building as it was under threat. No application was ever made. It is also highly suspicious The Tumbledown Dick has never been a listed building. It is listed as a Hampshire Treasure, any entirely worthless and meaningless listing.
The Tumbledown Dick pre-dates Farnborough. Old maps show it as an isolated building in the middle of desolate heathland, on a track running through the heath. The track running past Farnborough North Station, across the line and across the River Blackwater, towards Frimley Green, is the original track across the heathland.
The first documentary evidence of the Tumbledown Dick appears in a letter dated 30 July 1722, from Thomas Matthew of Cove. The earliest known tenant was William Prior in 1817, and it was also owned by the Lord of the Manor of Farnborough in the 1820s.
In more recent years, as well as being a popular public house, The Tumbledown Dick has been a popular music venue. Bands such as The Jam have played there.
The name Tumbledown Dick has two possible origins.
Richard Cromwell was the third son of Oliver Cromwell. He was the second ruling Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, serving for just under nine months, from 3 September 1658 until 25 May 1659. Royalists rejoiced at his downfall and he was given the name ‘Tumble Down Dick’ or ‘Queen Dick’.
The heathland was the province of Highway Men, one of whom was reputed to be Dick Turpin.
The threat to the Tumbledown Dick is now acute, it has been bought by McDonald’s who wish to develop the site as a McDonald’s.
- McDonald’s plan revealed for historic pub
- McDonald’s confirms plans for Tumbledown Dick pub
- Drumming up support for Tumbledown Dick pub
The last thing the area needs is yet another McDonald’s.
It is claimed the Tumbledown Dick is not viable as a pub. This statement is not true as it was viable before it was closed.
The Spirit Pub Company, the current leaseholder, claim the Tumbledown Dick to not be viable as a public house. What may not be viable for the Spirit Pub Company to invest in is not the same as the Tumbledown Dick being viable following the required investment.
Spirit Pub Company was recently spun off from Punch Taverns. Punch Taverns is a zombie company.
A zombie company is one that is in a hole, drowning in debt, with no hope of paying off the loan, which is barely able to pay the interest on the loan, not able to invest in the company.
There are an estimated 150,000 zombie companies in the UK of which one is Punch Taverns. They went on a massive buying spree, financed by borrowing billions of pounds on an overvalued estate which has since collapsed in value. Punch Taverns is only able to stay afloat by jacking up rents to pub landlords (not good news for the pub landlords) and selling off pubs for development (not good news for pubs like the Tumbledown Dick). Interest rates are currently at a record low. Were interest rates to go up, zombie companies like Punch Taverns would go bust.
Were the Tumbledown Dick a listed building, which it should be, it would have no redevelopment value, which raises big question marks against the developers best friend the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor for not applying for a listing as soon as it become apparent the Tumbledown Dick was under threat. It also raises the question why an historic building like the Tumbledown Dick is not a listed building.
Where do we go from here?
As a matter of absolute emergency an Emergency Listing must be obtained for the Tumbledown Dick. If listed, the owners can then be forced to maintain the building.
The Tumbledown Dick will need extensive renovation, then turned into a cultural venue, music, art, decent place to eat.
Farnborough is a cultural wasteland, there is nowhere decent to eat.
The Tumbledown Dick could be a coffee bar during the daytime, serving quality coffee, lunches, afternoon teas, meals in the evening.
The walls used for art exhibitions.
The small bar used a as free space for meetings.
It could even be alcohol free. Yes, I can hear the groans, but such places are springing up across the country, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, are but three examples.
If it is to serve alcohol, then emphasis on quality, not rubbish out of what is little more than a chemical factory. Support for local breweries.
The food served locally sourced, freshly prepared.
The separate music venue probably needs demolishing and rebuilding. It could go completely and use the large bar.
Possibility of a recording studio.
It should be open to all ages, from kids in buggies, to young teens feeling a safe space to meet their friends
Anyone who thinks this is pie in the sky, look around locally.
The Keystone, Guildford: Excellent, freshly prepared food., Café Scientifique, art on the walls, Keystone Spirit.
The Foresters, Church Crookham: Excellent food, albeit a little pricey.
The Barn, Farnham: Music, food, popular with all ages, art exhibitions, record launches, drawing classes, yoga …
Café Mila, Godalming: Coffee bar, excellent coffee, lunches, afternoon teas, occasional dinners in the evening, yoga …
This by looking what is possible locally, and highly popular, is possible locally.
Funding could be raised using Kickstarter.
All what is lacking is the will.
But what must not happen, is demolition and turning into a disgusting fast food outlet.
If relaunch as a cultural venue does not happen and demolition is imminent, then the building should be occupied, seized as a cultural venue for the locality.
An excellent example would be Ramparts, a very popular cultural centre in London that was occupied and held for a number of years.
Anyone wondering about the legality of occupation, it is not illegal to occupy a vacated commercial building that is sitting empty and putting it to good use. That is what happened with Ramparts and is happening across the country.
Please sign the petition, and pass to friends and colleagues.
Costa tried to muscle their unwanted way into Totnes. They were booted out. Now do the same with McDonald’s.
The Coach and Horses in Soho is under threat. One of many pubs sold off by zombie company Punch Taverns.