A house where the Beatles once drank

Ed Cumming visits Heroes of Alma: a house that was once a pub where The Beatles drank .


Most old boozers have a celebrity story or two. Corner any publican in a quiet minute and they’ll tell you about the time when Noel Gallagher came in, or the month George Best stayed. But few can have had as glittering a parade of punters through their doors as the Heroes of Alma, in St John’s Wood, north-west London.

Located in Alma Square, a mere lofted drive from Lord’s cricket ground, the pub was the local for Abbey Road, the world’s most famous recording studio. When the Beatles were recording there during the Sixties, the Heroes of Alma was where they would beat a retreat for a restorative pint or two.

Thanks to this unique location, over the following decades it watered a who’s who of British pop music: Manfred Mann, the Seekers, the Hollies, Queen and Pink Floyd all made albums up the road, and would visit the pub between takes. Since its heyday the pub closed down and was converted to a house.

Owen Taylor, who bought the building five years ago, has experienced the effect of its history first hand. “My girlfriend and I were eating in a Chinese restaurant nearby,” he recalls. “Sir Paul McCartney was at the next table and my girlfriend asked him for his autograph. He explained that the restaurant was very special to him, and he had a policy of not doing autographs or photos there, but he was happy to have a chat. I asked if he remembered the Heroes of Alma.

“He said, ‘Yeah, we used to go and practise there after we were in the studio and then have a pint afterwards. We spent hours in there.’ It sounded as if it was quite a central place for them, and for the other bands. I think he quite liked being reminded of the good old days.”

For some people, it seems the house is still on the tourist trail. “You certainly get a few tourists wandering around with cameras, thinking, ‘Where are we, where’s it gone?’ ” he says. “I think they’re quite disappointed that it’s a house and not a pub.”

Taylor, a 33-year-old hedge fund manager, bought the house in 2006 and spent the next 18 months completely refurbishing it. The pub had previously been bought by a developer, who had made the original conversion of the building from dilapidated boozer to chi-chi family home.

It now has five bedrooms and six bathrooms, with a garage. Taylor has lived in it with friends, and says that the property has remained brilliant for entertaining, even as a private rather than a public house. “I think the guys are a bit sad to be leaving, to be honest,” he adds.

The house is very conveniently located for central London and Taylor says the best thing about the place is the peace and quiet. “It’s at the end of a tiny cul-de-sac,” he explains. “You don’t really know that it’s there from the outside, but then on the inside it’s got lots of space.”

Taylor pooled all his resources to buy the house, originally intending to live in it for the longer term, but has caught the refurbishment bug. “I’d like to find another project,” he says. “I’ve really enjoyed doing exactly what I had in my head in terms of how this house should be.”

The celebrities come second, he insists. “I don’t think it really matters in terms of the value of the house, but it definitely adds something, knowing that the building has all this history.”

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