Magdala Tavern: Historic ‘Ruth Ellis pub' in Hampstead set to reopen

'I don’t want anyone thinking we’re building a restaurant – it’s going to be a pub with some decent food'

Thursday, 4th March 2021 — By Harry Taylor

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The Magdala Tavern

PUNTERS could finally be able to buy pints in an historic Hampstead pub nearly seven years after it was closed.

Work has begun inside the Magdala Tavern in South Hill Park with a view to reopening next month.

The pub has a place in the annals of UK crime history for being where nightclub hostess Ruth Ellis shot dead her abusive boyfriend on Easter Sunday 1955. She became the last woman in Britain to be hanged, after being found guilty at the Old Bailey.

Campaigns continue seeking a pardon on the grounds that Ms Ellis’s mind was affected by the abuse she suffered in her relationship with racing driver David Blakely – a factor that was not considered in court.

For years, legend had it that you could still see the bullet holes in the outside wall of the Magdala, but four years ago a story circulated that a former landlady had added them with a drill to keep true crime tourists visiting.

Builders have been inside the pub this week and landlord Dick Morgan is hoping to serve takeaway drinks when government restrictions relax on April 12.A new kitchen and ventilation is currently being installed.

Dick Morgan

A previous deal that looked to be on the cards for the lease to include the upstairs function room has fallen through, with the current plans only covering the ground floor. Mr Morgan grew up nearby and previously told the New Journal that he remembers the night of the shooting. “I was just four years old, but I do remember the shots and the commotion, and asking everyone what was happening,” he said. “From our balcony, you could see the Magdala pub.”

Now 70 years old, he said he was relieved to finally have a deal agreed.

“It’s completed at last,” said Mr Morgan. “It’s been a long hard struggle to get this far. We’ll be open for takeaway initially, which we don’t think will be too massive, but I want people to see it open. Then when we’re allowed inside, we’ll be inside.“

He added: “It’s restoration not renovation, varnishing and polishing, repainting, getting new seats in and the kitchen. I don’t want anyone thinking we’re building a restaurant, it’s going to be a pub with some decent food. I don’t want it to be thought of as anything different. You’ll be able to come in off the street and get a good pint.

Ruth Ellis

“There’ll be a fine selection of beers and ales, wines. Because of the new kitchen we’re building, the food selection… we’ll be able to give a better service on that.”

The pub was awarded Asset of Community Value (ACV) status in an attempt to stop it being turned into flats several years ago. Mr Morgan, who attended Fleet and Haverstock schools, said he knew the area well, adding: “I went out to get a coffee and a sandwich when I was on site, I was talking to the guy in the paper shop by the bus terminus and I was able to tell him ‘this used to be a fish shop’.”

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