Barking & Dagenham Local History
                                                                                                           Where History is in the Past

Where History Is In The Past

The White Horse Led to Water for the Last Time

The White Horse, High Road, Chadwell Heath, Essex has closed its doors for the last time!

Another of Barking & Dagenham's historic pubs have shut, and is added to a long list.

 Left: The White Horse Hotel, prior to changes circa 1890s

People who drank here said the pub had been allowed to deteriorate in the run up to the closure. In May 2016 the management had recently altered, and they were noted by some regulars as being rude and incapable of pulling a pint. It was also reported by this person that, "... senior management have deliberately placed incompetents in charge to drive away custom, and ruin the business with a view to selling the land".

Other drinkers noted that the public house was being run down, with missing light bulbs, a shabby drinking room and filthy toilets, without proper facilities to wash and dry hands.


White Horse History

Many histories state  the current pub is not that old, being found on the location of a former structure. 

There is no disputing that this is the oldest alehouse site in Chadwell Heath, with the earliest account here from July 1602, when an Edward Crowe was victualler.

         Above: 'B'  type Omnibus No 25 at the White Horse terminus Chadwell Heath.

         This was housed in Seven King's Garage, circa 1920

The inn can be found fully documented in the old county directories from 1826 onwards. A string of landlords have stepped behind the bar, and are found from the early 19th century. The 'Westcoate' family were behind the bar for about 20 years from around 1840 to about 1860.


We know that the alehouse was reconstructed c.1899-1900 to the front, rear and sides, but an earlier building can still be seen, behind these changes and survives intact. Its architecture suggests that this is from the early 19th century, but it may well precede this. The White Horse was a former coaching inn on what was known as the 'Great Essex Road', being a staging post, whereby the horses would have been changed and watered or rested. It also served as a resting point for weary travellers, hence the name 'Hotel'. Later it became the omnibus terminus.

The White Horse was found at 118 High Road. It consist of two-storey’s, with a separate function room, plus a conservatory, which can both be viewed from the car park to the east.  In the 1920s, a lovely landscaped garden, including a rose pergola and lily pond were fashioned [see below]. The pond was stocked with fish.  Currently, trees surround this garden, and its entrance is separate, being to the west of the main building.

The old stables: I. Vickers, March 2009

This building was once the old stables. In modern times it became known as ‘The Stables’, function room,  seating 70 people, and this had its own garden.This large function room became popular for school reunions, weddings, funerals etc., and had it's own separate bar, toilets and conference facilities. The staff here were able to provide a buffet of a sit-down meal if need be here.

It is the most archaic building here circa 17th century. A relic from the days when it was used as the stables for the coaching inn. A black-smith also operated from here.

Recent History
In October 2007 the Orchid Group ran the public house, and it had been refurbished quite recently. It also came under new management during this period. It was now aimed at families, having an assortment of food, and drinks, with a table service. There were no restrictions where you could eat, and food was being served until late evenings from a good pub, with reasonably priced food menu. All produce was sourced in the UK, and dishes prepared freshly on the premises.

The interior came across as being quite high-class, with plush and serene décor and great customer service, with soft background music playing.  In addition it had  good toilets with baby changing facilities. Outside was an extensive garden, described as 'stupendous', with a lovely fish pond, being suitable in the summer or winter.

Regular live music, along with karaoke or a DJ was played usually every Friday & Saturday night, also sport shown. Its claim to fame was that it was also the only pub in the country to have its own set of traffic lights in order to exit the car park onto the busy High Road. My conclusions at this time were that this was the best establishment in this area, being well worth a visit.

This was stated as the busiest pub in the area, with people coming during the day alone or with friends to enjoy a quiet drink, a meal or for a cup of coffee and surf the net or work with free internet access which was now available. 

The White Horse in happier times: I. Vickers, March 2009

It is not nationally listed as Historic England  have already refused an application for this. For what it is worth, the White Horse public house had been included on the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham  Local List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, being No., 99 (updated 2013).  

The second week of August 2017 see the White Horse public house closed and quickly boarded up to prevent vandalism. We can ask ourselves what went wrong? It was clear that the old pub had a nucleus of customers as a petition for the building to remain as a pub had around 300 names on it.


According to the Barking & Dagenham Post: [11/08/2017, p1], people had great memories. "Our history in this area is slowly being erased. I’ve been a regular for years, have several friends who have worked there, I’ve performed there with my band and even met my husband in the pub," said Vic Godfrey-Bonnici.


What is clear is there is pressure on public amenities to close, and the borough has a despicable record in allowing this to happen. The last owners here appeared to allow the old pub to deteriorate. One drinker noted, " had to peel your feet off the floor when you were walking to the bar because it was so dirty.”


One day in the near future we may well rue the day we allowed all our old inns to close!

 Picture courtesy of Barking & Dagenham Post, August 2017

At the end of August 2017 the White Horse and its associated land of 0.8 acres was advertised in a sale catalogue by Kingsbury Investment & Development Consultants  Ltd, at a price of £4 million pounds. This rectangular area was being sold for residential or mix-use purposes.

With a view to retaining the property as a pub, it could also be sold freehold, with vacant possession when completed.  It also benefits from Class A4, which enables its use as a 'Drinking Establishment'.  Offers were also invited for a full repair and insurance lease [FRI], whereby a tenant taking on the lease would be responsible to put the property in a good state of repair, even if it already is.  

Around a year later the sale of the White Horse was still not settled and a public consultation took place on Wednesday 25th July 2018. This appears to be on behalf of Ebury Holdings, who stated in March 2019, that they want to construct fifty-four properties here, comprising of one, two and three bedrooms, up to 4-storeys high on either side of the public house. They also want to retain the public house and its garden, restoring it to its former use. 

It will be refurbished and they have already lined up a potential new landlord- Andy O' Sullivan. He stated, "This development will allow it to reopen." The founder of Ebury Holdings, David Kaye, noted, "We are delighted to submit this application... (its) the opportunity to reopen the White Horse alongside new homes."

Ebury Holdings: White Horse redevelopment plans: Barking & Dagenham Post, 21-02-2019

Unfortunately, the White Horse was gutted by fire at 04.47 on Sunday, September 20th 2020, when 40 firemen battled to save it, and the fire was under control by 07.17. The cause of the blaze was said to be unknown, with the investigators unable to determine the cause. Most of the establishment was left in ruins.

On Monday January 18th 2021, a second fire took hold here at 09.24.  Again the fire investigators were strangely unable to find the cause... me thinks perhaps it was arson. This would not be the first time, a pub in the borough has mysteriously caught alight, after being left to rot for months, when developers come a calling. Anyway this saves them a headache and a lot of money!
White Horse, Chadwell Heath, ablaze on September 20th 2020.