Toast to the Fellowship as £4million heritage pub restoration confirmed

Updated: 20 October 2016 at 13:37pm

We are thrilled to have been given the green light to press ahead with the multimillion pound restoration of the Fellowship Inn in Bellingham.

The £4million Lottery funded project – including a cinema and live music venue – will play a vital role in Phoenix’s ambitions to regenerate Bellingham and surrounding wards in Lewisham. As well as offering a new community venue in an area short of amenities, the project will create 70 new jobs along with at least 45 apprenticeships over the next 15 years.

Minister for Sport, Heritage and Tourism Tracey Crouch announced the second stage Heritage Lottery Fund award during a visit to the 1920s pub on Thursday 20 October, along with Heritage Lottery Fund Chief Executive Ros Kerslake.

Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch (second left) with (L to R) Phoenix CEO Jim Ripley, Heritage Lottery Fund CEO Ros Kerslake and Phoenix Chair Anne McGurk.

Built for returning First World War veterans and their families, The Fellowship Inn sat at the centre of the new Bellingham ‘Homes for Heroes’ estate designed to ease inner city overcrowding.

Vast in scale, the building originally comprised: two bars; a 200-seater dance and music hall; a 2260ft function room which often hosted wedding receptions; an off-license bottle shop as well as family accommodation across two floors.   

In 1963, heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper lived and trained at The Fellowship in the lead up to his first fight with Muhammad Ali at Wembley Stadium. 

A local lad who had grown up with his parents and twin brother George on Farmstead Road on the Bellingham estate, he moved into the pub so he could focus solely on his training. 

Henry Cooper training at the FellowshipSir Henry Cooper working out in the Fellowship Inn's lower hall (@mirrorpix)

The story was covered at the time in renowned magazine Sports Illustrated:  “For weeks he had lived at the Fellowship, taking his meals there, training in the back room when a wedding reception or tea party did not interfere.”

It reported that ahead of the fight: “The menfolk [at the Fellowship Inn] munched pork pies and lifted their nightly pints of lukewarm bitter in salute to the doggerel posted over the bar by one of the regulars. It made the point that Humble Henry would soundly thrash Gaseous Cassius ‘and once again prove that very old adage: Action speaks louder than strong verbal cabbage!’”.

In the 1960s and 70s, The Fellowship Inn hosted many well known music acts including Fleetwood Mac and Eric Clapton but since the 1980s the Fellowship has fallen into serious  disrepair. Its decline mirrored the area and Bellingham is now among the most deprived areas in London.

Phoenix is leading the revival of The Fellowship Inn and the newly developed pub will be made commercially sustainable and include a:

  • cinema
  • new live music venue - at a time when many of London’s venues are closing
  • café
  • microbrewery – with beer using locally grown hops
  • music studios

In addition, the main bar area will be fully restored and remain open as part of the project.

Jim Ripley, Chief Executive of Phoenix Community Housing, said: “This is the best news Bellingham has had in decades. We’re so proud to have the opportunity to restore this historic pub and create a thriving venue for our residents and the wider population of south London to enjoy. This project will bring new jobs, new investment and new hope to our area.”

This new money has been awarded through HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme. It is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that redevelopment is simply not commercially viable.

Grants of £100k to £5million bridge the financial gap, funding the vital repairs and conservation work needed to convert derelict, vacant buildings like The Fellowship Inn, into new, usable commercial spaces that can have a positive impact on local economies.

Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said: "It is fantastic that this once vibrant pub will be restored to its former glory thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players.  This restoration, through the Heritage Enterprise programme, shows how reviving our nation's rich heritage can have added economic benefits, creating new jobs, businesses and opportunities for local communities"    

Stuart Hobley, Head of HLF London, said: “This fascinating historical building has long been at the heart of the community. What makes this project particularly exciting is its innovative and commercially-focused approach to securing a sustainable future for this much loved local landmark.  It is exactly the kind of project for which the Heritage Lottery Fund created Heritage Enterprise.”  

The Heritage Minister also recreated an iconic image of Sir Henry Cooper serving drinks from behind the bar at the Fellowship Inn.

Tracey Crouch replicates photo of Henry Cooper pulling pints


Henry Cooper behind the bar at the Fellowship InnPhoto: @mirrorpix


We are expecting the outcome of a planning application for the Fellowship in late 2016 and will also be producing more detailed plans for the restoration works. Please look out for future updates.