Sir Alec backs campaign to preserve the celebrities' pub from pounds 4m sale

SIR ALEC GUINNESS drank there because the darts players were "safe". David Niven used to pop in for his pre-prandial because there were no autograph hunters.

Tucked away in Chesham Street, in London's Belgravia, the Lowndes Arms has always been a favourite - and discreet - watering hole for the rich and famous.

Those who have propped up its bar include Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, Tom Baker, Pierce Brosnan, Blair (Lionel not Tony), Helen Shapiro, Susannah York and Michael Crawford. It achieved celluloid fame itself in the film The Crying Game.

But property speculators have other ideas. This casual stop-off for the parched celebrity, open for 250 years, is to be sold - as a house.

With a potential pounds 4m price tag, the owner, Inntrepreneur Pub Company, has decided it can make more money from one straight sale than in the fickle trade in ploughman's and pints - a decision condemned by its clientele.

Sir Alec Guinness told The Independent: "I am very sorry to hear that the pub might be closed. I think it is the nicest pub in that part of London."

Completed in 1762 by the co-founder of the Bank of England, Sir William Lowndes, for the brickies that built Belgravia, it has served the area unbroken ever since.

Now Sir William's surviving relatives have lined up with former landlords, the pub's current managers and more than 1,000 pub-goers, to save the bar.

Campaigners point to a covenant drawn up by Sir William that prohibits any use other than as a shop or a licensed victuallers. They accuse the current owners of rushing through planning permission without consultation and of ignoring Sir William's wishes.

One of Sir William's descendants, Simon Lowndes, said they may form a limited company as a campaign group to fight the closure. "What they are doing not only goes against the memory of this great man who did so much for this country but also against the sanctity of the law by seeking to breach this covenant.

"Belgravia is, at the best of times, a very quiet, anonymous place. It's prided for its privacy but Lowndes Arms is a haven for those seeking community.

"If Sir William were alive today he would be terribly disappointed at the thought of a pub that he bequeathed free to the community being metamorphosed into a crude money-making device."

Threats of court action, petitions and protests have cut no ice with the owners, however. David Simpson, spokesman for Inntrepreneur, said: "It is a small pub and not commercially successful. As for this covenant, that has only recently emerged two or three weeks ago. We don't think it has any validity and legal advisers are looking at it but at this stage we are unconvinced it has any legal status."

For Keith Matthews, who makes the 200-yard daily stroll from his home for his pint, it will be the end of a 33-year habit.

He said: "Asking if the pub was open was as foolish as speculating as to whether the sun would rise tomorrow. But now it won't - it makes me very sad."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Howard Marks who has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer aged 69
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us