A brief history of The White Lion

 
 

A rare survival of a two-room pub in Aldershot, the White Lion has previously been supplied by Taunton & Masters and Friary Brewery; passing on to Friary, Holroyd and Healy's who were still in situ in the late 50's. Since 2007 the White Lion has been leased to Triple FFF brewery. Despite not having a traditional pub cellar, the White Lion pub has been recognised with numerous successive Good Beer Guide entries. It was the only Aldershot pub selected for entry in 2016. The White Lion is also noted for its floral displays in the back yard.

A beer house originally, a wine licence was obtained in 1938 with a spirits licence following in 1959. The first known reference to the White Lion comes in 1857, it was owned and run by Frederick Lee. The address then was Farnham Road. His widow subsequently took the White Lion on in 1866.

Mrs Lee sold up in 1867. On June 19th a large plot of land on the corner of Stone Street, including the pub and other buildings, were offered for sale in seven lots in an auction held at theImperial Hotel. At the time, the White Lion was leased to the Guildford based T & S Taunton at £25 per annum. The other six lots consisted of three houses and three building plots. On August 18th 1880 the White Lion was back up for auction, this time with 12 freehold cottages and a villa. Taunton’s lease had 14 years remaining on it at the time.

The White Lion seems to have been one of the more reputable beer houses locally in the early days, with few reported appearances in court cases. The White Lion has previously provided lodgings. The White Lion was the scene of a rare local civilian disturbance during World War One. On January 9th 1916 Isaac Casey entered the building and started to abuse two customers present for not being in khaki. One had already been discharged on medical grounds; the second had volunteered under the Derby scheme and was awaiting his call up date. Landlord William Cluer suggested Isaac drink up and leave. Isaac refused, William and the two customers assisted him in leaving the premises. Shortly afterwards a window was put through. Isaac was subsequently fined 27s. William is the longest serving landlord to have held the White Lion, he was in situ from 1910 until 1937.

The Surrey and Hampshire Borders CAMRA News and Ale magazine dated Spring 1991 erroneously reported that the White Lion had closed, adding "hardly surprising as the area is over-pubbed." The January 1997 CAMRA magazine contained a review of Aldershot pubs. The White Lion wasn't mentioned though the nearby Heron was. These two articles help show how the fate and reputation of pubs can change over the years, the Heron has now converted to a Co-Op. The other local pubs have all closed, leaving the White Lion as the only surviving pub locally. The White Lion pub has subsequently enjoyed thirteen consecutive entries in the Good Beer Guide.

In May 2019 the freehold of the White Lion was advertised online with a guide price of £270,000. The advert stated that Triple FFF brewery had declared their intention to vacate the location when their lease expired in 2020 and that a change of use may be possible. By the start of July 2019 it was widely rumoured that the pub had been purchased with a view to turning it into an Indian restaurant. Whilst national planning law had changed to remove presumed planning consent for some public house conversions, a precedent was set locally when Rushmoor Council cited the lack of an Asset of Community Value order on the La Fontaine as a reason for believing the local residents were not interested in the fate of the pub. This was one reason cited for permitting its conversion to housing.

Rushmoor Council had previously informed CAMRA that any Asset of Community Value applications they submitted would be automatically rejected, there were contradictory legal precedents as to whether CAMRA could legally submit such applications. Considering this, and events at the La Fontaine, Aldershot Civic Society successfully submitted an Asset of Community Value application for the White Lion.

On November 15th 2019 Rushmoor Council were formally notified that the owner wished to sell the White Lion. Under the terms of the Asset of Community Value legislation this allowed the community until December 27th to prove there was a serious intent to bid. Notice of intention to bid was served in the run up to Christmas. Aldershot Civic Society and the local CAMRA branch held a public meeting at the pub on January 23rd 2020 to see whether there was sufficient local interest to fully investigate a community bid. A successful meeting led to the foundation of the White Lion Aldershot Community Pub action group. At the time of writing, the group are working out their preferred proposal to put forward to the community to try and save a much needed community asset.


Excerpt from "Alcohol & Aldershot" by Roger Deason

White Lion Ink Drawing by Elizabeth Boldizsár
 
 
 
 

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