Why has one of north London’s most famous pubs closed down?

The Magdala on Hampstead Heath has shut its doors after an expensive refurb

The Magdala in its prime. Photo: SE
The Magdala in its prime. Photo: SE
It was all looking so promising. Historic Hampstead Heath watering hole The Magdala reopened with a fanfare in the autumn, after a stylish refurb from the owners of The Stag, just down the road in Belsize Park.

In case you’ve forgotten, it’s the infamous boozer where Ruth Ellis shot her lover on Easter Sunday in 1955 – and subsequently became the last woman in the UK to be hanged. Heck, bullet holes in the wall even survive out front.

New leaseholders the Perritt brothers reinvented the place in a sort of contemporary-canteen-meets-rural-pub style with coffee machine, drinks fridge and counter piled high with sausage rolls, Scotch eggs and cakes. The idea was something like a co-working space by day, where freelancers could park themselves with laptops and businessmen linger over lunch meetings, and laid-back atmospheric retreat for beer aficionados by candle-light. With a fairly basic evening food menu.

So why on earth has it shut down? “Regrettably we weren’t able to agree terms and conditions with the freeholder for the long lease at the site,” says Jonathan Perritt. “Simple as that really.”

But why pay for a pricey refurb then? It all makes for an odd and unsatisfying end to what was, for many years, a really great pub – with a good chef in the kitchen throughout the noughties to boot.

Will it continue as a boozer? “We never had any interest in the freehold so have no control over the future of the site,” says Perritt. “My understanding is that it will be marketed as a pub.”

Let’s bloomin’ well hope so.

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