The St. Helier Arms

A public house with a very chequered history

By Carole Smiles

Photo:The St. Helier Arms was an attractive building perched on the corner of the Circle roundabout

The St. Helier Arms was an attractive building perched on the corner of the Circle roundabout

Sutton Local Studies and Archives

The bulding was originally constructed by the old London County Council in 1934 as a community centre for the St. Helier estate but when the money ran out,  Whitbread brewers bought the lease on the property. In 1936, the St Helier Arms opened and for years it was a focal point for the estate. The architect who drew the plans for the building was R. G. Muir of Grays Inn.

From the outside of the building it was hard to accept that it truly lived up to the bad reputation which finally forced its closure. The red-brick exterior, though large and somewhat imposing, looked attractive on a sunny day.  It had the appearance of a family pub, welcoming and accessible with wooden benches and tables outside.

The Arms was in fact famed for its music and some popular bands of the time performed there.

Skrewdriver  Skrewdriver was a British punk rock group and was one of the more notorious bands to play the public house. The band were formed in Poulton-le-Fylde, England in 1976 by Ian Stuart Donaldson. Ian Stuart Donaldson used to perform in a Rolling Stones cover band known as, 'Tumbling Dice'. They started out as a punk band, but changed their image into a skinhead look. They were criticized for some of their musics apparent racist content and this prevented them from going on to higher things.

Bill Hayley was booked to play at The Arms but, unfortunately, died before the gig was able to take place. It is rumoured that the 'bad aura' of The Arms killed him

It is rumoured that the 'bad aura' of The Arms killed him.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The St. Helier Arms' page

This image was provided with the friendly permission of Mr. Klau Klettner from Hydra Records. The copyright holder of this work allows anyone to use it for any purpose including unrestricted redistribution, commercial use, and modification.

 

 

 

Despite the notorious stories told and retold about this public housed, mosty people I have spoken to have nothing but fond memories of the arms and describe it as a large and happy part of their youth. In fact a true local pub with atmosphere and a certain old world charm.

 

 

Image accompanying MP3 audio clip: Enjoying the local - For the locals The Arms was the focal point of the estate ( KB)

Enjoying the local - For the locals The Arms was the focal point of the estate

John Young remembering happier moments at the Arms.

Image accompanying MP3 audio clip: Brian Doubtfire remembers the Friday night singing ( KB)

Brian Doubtfire remembers the Friday night singing

Transcript for 'Enjoying the local - For the locals The Arms was the focal point of the estate':

Many local residents felt the tavern to be the focal point of the estate. A place for the young to  let off steam while enjoying music a pint of beer .

 

This page was added by Carol Smiles on 10/06/2010.
Comments about this page

Yes the nights in The Arms were fabulous. The guy that sang Jerusalem was Nobby Clark a nefarious local character, that had a dubious reputation, yet he had a heart of gold. If you were down on your luck or out of work, he would always lend you a bob or two. He was a really well known bloke among those that walked the line sometimes legal sometime not. Also at The Arms they used to come round and you could write down who you wanted to sing. There was one older lady there that they called Vera Lynn, she couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, yet everyone used to vote for her to sing. Two other favorites in the late 50s or early 60s were the Haggerty Brothers - they used to do the Everly Brothers songs and they were very good, sad to think those days are gone.

By Ted Blowers
On 19/08/2010

I remember my Dad used to take me to Country and Western nights in the hall at the back of the pub. This was in the 70s when I was a child. I also remember we took my Nan for a meal in the pub when she was quite elderly and it was only some years later that I heard about the bad reputation the pub had. I wonder if my Nan would have gone in if she'd known!

By Sandie Bradley
On 27/08/2010

I loved the Arms, whether it was Friday night in the public or Saturday night and Sunday lunchtime in the room at the back, there was always music and a sing-a-long - a great atmosphere. There were some rough and ready blokes but if you were a local you were normally OK. Most importantly I met my wife in the Arms and we have now clocked up 45 years so can't have been a bad place can it?

By John Palmer
On 08/09/2010

When I was a baby one of the two small 'outbuildings' was the place where you picked up your ration of National Dried Milk and concentrated Orange Juice. I can still remember the taste of that juice - nothing compares - but that could just be influenced by nostalgia. Over the years both 'outbuildings' had many guises, one served for many years as an Off Licence. My grandfather attended the RAOB (Royal and Ancient Order of Buffalo's) meetings at the 'Arms' and in my teenage years many evenings were spent either congregating on scooters in front of the Arms or dancing in the room at the back. There were several violent incidents associated with the pub - I remember walking home from Morden having missed the last bus when a group of us were prevented by the police from walking around the Circle - apparently a Polish man had gone into the Arms with an axe looking for his wife who he suspected was having an affair - I think he hacked a few of the light fittings - I never ascertained whether he found his wife or her 'lover'. Perhaps someone else could enlighten me.

By Val Newman
On 10/11/2010

I worked at the Arms summer 1976. I would like to hear from other staff from that summer, e.g. saloon barman Dave Wyatt, Paul and Babs Terry and Cynthia, managers Cyril and Vera. I worked in off licence with a lady called June. I was a Geordie from Tyneside

By Mick Chalder
On 26/02/2011

Sorry Ted but you got the name wrong, it was Cyril Jackson(Jacko) who sang Jerusalem at The Arms. the rest of your CV for him was spot on. That also went for his two brothers, Gordon and Tommy. Although they had a reputation, they were the salt of the earth unless you upset them. We had some good nights there,and there was rarely any trouble. The only problem was that they ran out of glasses half way through the evening and unless the girls hung on to their original glass they would get their gin & orange in a pint pot. Happy days

By Peter Leonard
On 14/03/2011

I remember The Arms very well having lived opposite the pub for 16 years in 1975-1991, in Neville Walk. My Dad used to go there all the time in the late 70s to early 80s. He seemed lucky there was never much trouble when he was there. We used to go to the car-boot sales there in the back hall. When I was old enough to drink, it was the St Helier Tavern. They had spent tons of money doing it up after it was empty for a few years. It was nicely done, but it didn't stay open for long after what happened there made the national news. There's a big block of flats there now !

By Alan Johnstone
On 10/06/2011

The St.Helier Arms and the Backroom hold very special memories for me , in particular during the years 1955/ 1956 . A well known barrow boy ,entrepreneur and Jazz Fan by the name of Harry Knowles, organised a weekly Jazz Club in the Backroom where top British Jazz musicians would play . As a young and aspiring local Jazz drummer I had the occasional honour to play with the Jazz group . I was born and grew up on the St.Helier Estate in Pershore Grove but now live in Niagara On The Lake , Canada . Some years ago , on a visit to Carshalton , I managed to acquire a couple of relics from the Arms - some clay roof tiles and a Parking Lot wall sign . Such wonderful memories of a treasured period in my life . Derek Collins .

By Derek Collins
On 17/09/2011

From the mid to late sixties I was at the back room of The Arms often at weekends when my Uncle Peter Holmes was singer/compere. At drinking-up time he always finished with the same song - 'By a babbling Brook'. Good old Uncle Peter.

By john
On 04/12/2011

I remember the pub when I moved to this area and the Sunday market they had there .My husband was a regular there with his family in the 80s for many years.

By julie crabb
On 31/01/2012

My parents ran the 'Arms' for a while back at the beginning of the early 70's so as I was just a teenager I lived there too. It was notorious and my parents paid the price. I remember very much the crime and the gangsters and the protection but I also remember the other side and the fabulous singing nights and believe me there were some really fabulous singers. It's a shame that it has been pulled down as it was a great building and held lots of secrets.

By Jacqueline Bryant
On 11/09/2012

I use to go to the Arms and the library nearby. There was an off-license in one of the out buildings and a taxi rank in the other. I moved to Sussex so did'nt find out what the big tragedy was that caused its closure, does anyone remember what it was.

By hev
On 21/10/2012

In the 50s the atmosphere in the lounge bar was amazing. Loads of people made regular contributions to entertainment. One of them was a blond woman called Margie who was always requested to sing "Bewitched bothered and bewildered". There was a man who played the Spoons to everything unless he was told to "give it a rest" (or something like that).

By Irene Cooper
On 10/10/2012

Me and my family lived almost next door to the St. Helier's Arms at 323 Middleton Road from 1936-1945 and I remember my mum Ethel was a barmaid there. Us kids used to sit outside with our crisps and Tizer drink. Does anyone remember the day the pub got bombed? I'd like to get hold of some of the pictures and the one of us kids standing on our Anderson shelter next morning...was taken by some newspaper

By phyllis ( Moore ) Evinger
On 05/12/2012

I remember the St. Helier Arms with love and deep affection, my stepfather and my grandfather both worked there. One as a barman, in the public bar and one as a potman. The room at the back was called the Middleton Room and there used to be a three piece band, you could get up and sing. I remember one, we used to call him Tick Tock, he always rocked his head in time to the music. I also remember Jacko he was a great friend of my stepdad and often came to our house in Tintern Road. I belonged to the British Legion Youth Club in Newminster Road and the Arms was our meeting house. At Christmas we would all meet for our Christmas drink in the Middleton Rooms. My stepdad was also in the Buffs, his name was Sidney Smith, does anyone remember him. Yes I have fond memories, grandad worked there until he died aged 85. Can anyone remember the pie and eel shop at the circle and Ralphs store, I worked at their shop at Rosehill, the small shop. I lived and worked in this area from 1946 when I came home from evacuation, until I got married in 1960 at St Peters Church. My sister still lives in the same house. To anyone who thinks they remember me, get in touch.

By Patrick Smith
On 22/12/2012

All these memories, stop it your making me cry. As an inmate of Tweeddale cubs from 1943-1954, any of us left and an ex choir boy of St. Peters, I first started my drinking and singing career in the Arms and used to sell cars over the weekends bought from Dingwell motor auctions Croydon along with Ricky Davis. Remember Jacko well lived opp 355 Middleton Rd. Harry Stevens was the compere, on weekends he sang That old black magic he used to strip with it. Burt was the guv at the time other names was Harry Godbold- Billy the Hat and many more. Alfie Bartlett still with us today 84y old use to order rounds by the crates sat in the middle of the public bar with the family.Last time I lived near there was when I managed The Swan Inn Figges marsh no longer there, another story. Last sang country music at the Arms along with Jonny Saddler as a duo same time as the Silver dollar CM club started. I have so many more memories and information A Bro Smith who lived in Middleton Rd Initiated me in to The Buffs St Heliers lodge No:2900 there in 1961 the lodge is now defunct.

By Wally Chapman
On 22/02/2013

Hi Wally, were you the Wally that use to buy golden virginia off me in the off-licence in the arms in 1976. You used to call me geordie. Had a few drinks with you friday nights at the rose. Mick from Tyneside.

By mick chalder
On 02/03/2013

In the fifties my Dad was a bus driver at Sutton garage and they used to have their dinner and dance functions at the St.Helier Arms, which were really good do's. The first one we went to was in April 1953, I had just come home from Merchant Navy sea school before joining my first ship. The next one was 1954 when home on leave and the last was 1957 which coincided with my 21st birthday.

By Eric Plummer
On 18/03/2013

I was called to a shooting inside the pub one night 1966 or 67 I think. We gingerly opened the door and peered in not a sole to be seen totally deserted. Never been so scared before and very seldom since.

By Richard Whiteland
On 06/05/2013

A lot of the comments on this page refer to the fact that the St Helier Arms was such a good place for its singing, dancing and parties. I wonder if all those who pursued these pleasures in the 1950's and 1960's had any thought for the poor residents whose houses surrounded the Arms. I lived in a house in Sherborne Crescent, whose garden practically backed onto the rear of the Arms, and the racket emanating from there at the weekends was terrible. Imagine on a warm summer evening, you're an adult peacefully sitting in your garden after a week of hard toil, or a kid trying to get to sleep. The bedroom windows are open, (or even if they aren't) your eardrums are assaulted by loud music and singing, getting more shrill and raucous as the night wears on. We had no escape and it used to drive my poor Mum round the bend. Thanks you lot, for disturbing my sleep and making my poor Mum a tearful wreck.

By Christine Gawthorpe nee Watts
On 10/09/2013

Does anyone remember a northern man from Preston Lancashire who managed the St Helier Arms in the early 1960's. His name was Jack Blundell and his French wife was Michelle.

By Simon Blundell
On 17/01/2014

You should really look at 'the Arms' in context... ...a rough pub, in a rough area, frequented by some of the roughest characters you were ever likely to meet! The Saturday nights at the 'Chick-a-Boom' Rock'n'Roll club out back in the late 70's, early 80's are the stuff of legend; the like will sadly never be seen again.

By Steve Harris
On 04/03/2014

I was only a child living in a prefab in Culvers Avenue with my parents Doll & Joe Costellow. Fond memories of great parties after the 'oldies had a great evening at St Helier Arms' A few names in the gang were Ronnie Costellow, Derek, Lenny & Brian Bristow, Wally Fairbrother (always sang I left my heart in San Francisco on stage!), Tom & Rose Yelloly, Will Street, Roy Murray. Apologies to those I have not mentioned. Many Lilleshall Football Club dinner & dances were enjoyed there too. Gone are the days when there were many happy house parties especially at my grandparents house in Middleton Road (Joseph & Kate Costellow)

By Josie Bristow
On 10/08/2014

Josie, One of the names you did forget was my brother Mick Crook. He was the goalkeeper for Lilleshall. I too remember them all at parties in our house in Montacute Road. I also played in goal for Lilleshall at the same time as Joe's brother Ron. He usually had the first team spot. Good times.

By Reg Crook
On 30/08/2014

Hi Mick

Browsing the net for old photographs, decided to check the Heliers out saw your comment, I am the Paul that was with Babs had great time working there, I did not realise it had a bad reputation, I must have been really naive, a Scouser working in a pub like that. To be fair I didn't really have any problems there, the customers were great even though they seemed a bit of a handful. Iwas there when Cyril and Vera were Managers. I am terrible at remembering names, but I remember Tom who was our cellar man.

By Paul Campbell
On 09/09/2014

So nice seeing comments about my Grandad, Cecil Jackson, (Jacko or Jack) used to sing Jerusalem. He was a bouncer and so was my other grandad Bert Farley. My Mum Jayne Farley nee Jackson fell through the sky light of the Arms into the office.

my Grandad Jacko died in 2009 xx 

By Sarah McGinnis nee Farley
On 16/01/2015

Mr Jackson (Jacko he was the father of  one of my best mates at the time) for all the stories you hear about him and how many times he is mentioned on this page not a bad word from anyone, rest in peace Mr Jackson. As for Josie Bristow you forgot to mention my Dad Vic Ringwood. I remember watching all the people you mentioned playing football along with a few others, is it true that when Rod Stewart first started singing he used to travel back from the gigs no matter where it was to play Lilleshall FC.

By Graham Ringwood
On 01/05/2015

Hi Paul I remember Tom the cellar man Irish if I remember,and Dave Wyatt the saloon barman and June who worked in off licence wonder what happened to them oh and Cyril and Vera.

By Mick Chalder
On 05/05/2015

My dad Bob Haggerty and his brothers used to sing in there.

By Simon Haggerty
On 09/05/2015

Hi, Josie Bristow. I knew all the Bristow brothers,  Lenny and Brian, the twins lived in Welbeck Walk, sisters Janet and Norma. Janet was a lovely girl. What one did you marry? I know from searching records that Lenny died very young.

 My Dad did the plumbing work on your prefabs when built in 1946 and my brother did the fencing.

By Terry Kates
On 08/08/2015

My family lived on Middleton Rd. about 200 yds. from the pub. At Xmas 1961, when I was just 15, my sister who worked in the pub's off-licence, got me a part-time job stacking crates and stocking shelves. It was the year that Heineken lager arrived at the pub - and it sold like hot cakes! I continued to drink at the pub occasionally during my late teens, but spent most of my time - and money - at the Fox and Hounds near Carshalton Ponds.

By Tom Hopkins
On 05/09/2015

My dad Wally Smith drank at the Arms. He also worked there as a potman for a year. He loved drinking at the Arms and I remember being there with my family as a kid. My dad used to have many nights and Sunday afternoons playing cards.This must have been from 1966- sadly he died age 65 in 1996. I miss him very much. I remember when I was a little older Keith took over with his wife and their son Simon Kent. My brother John Smith who was a scaffolder died in 2014 aged 54 he also liked the Arms. We lived in Winchcombe road does anyone have any good memories of my dad. Where have the years gone?

By Caroline Jordan
On 23/01/2016

It was about 1976 when my Grandad Fred Pask used to do part time work in the off licence. I used to help with the bottles etc.

Does anyone know who a guy called Tiny was?

By Colin Golding
On 11/02/2016

My Dad, Tony Peck, with his parents & brother Roy moved to Carshalton in 1940. His Dad, Charlie played in a band, Charlie Peck & the Woodpeckers at the St Helier Arms on a regular basis (he was the drummer). By all accounts he went down well.  Unfortunately the family had to move when Charlie went into the Fleet Air Arm.

By Terri Peck
On 06/07/2016

My husbands grandfather worked there as an assistant in the off license in 1939. he was Thomas OCarroll. We never knew he worked there until I found information on the 1939 census. We moved into Shrewsbury Road in 1998 until 2004. A history we never knew. Shows the world is very small.

By nicki h
On 28/01/2017

I worked there late 1985 until April 1986, Alvin Williams was the Whitbread tenant and had some nice times . Some staff would come from agencies and would last about 1 day . Nice memories.  

By Dennis Melia
On 25/11/2017

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