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Sekforde Arms: Opening date for pub that serves up pint and a debate

Barrister-turned-landlord transforms Georgian building to give drinkers a place to discuss ideas

06 October, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

The Sekforde Arms, in Clerkenwell, before its revamp

A BARRISTER turned publican has said his revamped pub will be open before the end of the year.

Property lawyer David Lonsdale had aimed to reopen the Sekforde Arms, in Clerkenwell, in June, but extensive refurbishments have pushed the date back until early December.

He wants to return the pub to its Georgian splendour and make space for debate and discussion – not just somewhere to have a drink.

The 189-year-old pub, in Sekforde Street, was bought by Mr Lonsdale, who lives in the area, in 2015.

The ground floor is to remain as a pub, with a new restaurant in the basement and space for lectures and debates in the first-floor ballroom.

“We had hoped to open in June but it’s taken slightly longer due to the amount we’ve had done,” Mr Lonsdale said.

“We’ve taken the plaster off the front of the pub, which reveals some rather amazing Georgian brickwork.

David Lonsdale

“There’ll also be some wooden frontage, as there would have been in the late 18th century.”

He has enlisted the help of painter Ian Harper to decorate the ballroom and to make a pub sign featuring Thomas Sekforde, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s Masters of the Court of Requests, which travelled the country dealing with poor people’s cases.

The Queen gave him three acres of land in Clerkenwell on his retirement.

“I’m hoping that bringing out this history will help make this a special place,” Mr Lonsdale said.

“I hope it’s a place where young people can come and discuss things and ideas.”

Sekforde built almshouses and gave money to good causes. Similarly, Mr Lonsdale is using his extensive London property portfolio to fund five £10,000 scholarships to support young people living or studying in Islington.

It has been inspired by Mr Lonsdale’s grandmother, eminent scientist Kathleen Lonsdale, who was from a poor Irish family but was awarded a scholarship to university in London when she was 16.

The opening night of the pub will be on either December 1 or 2.

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