Monday, 13 January 2014

The Malvern Tavern - Detective Work

This is a painting i bought from a junk shop or boot fair, down here in Hastings, a few years ago. It's been on the wall at my old studio and recently in the house, but i decided i wanted to see more of it so brought it down my new studio today. We were talking about it in the studio and decided to see if we could track it down in the real world, where was this pub? There wasn't much to go on just the name and year it was established, there was also a small inscription. Isn't the internet amazing, it would have been a tough task before, but within 3 minutes we had found it mentioned on a blog about Notting Hill, west London and there it was.... demolished!

... but there the journey sort of started. This is the page i came to Notting Hill Nonsense, last post 2007, this post a couple of months earlier, thank goodness! The painting is inscribed "To Riggs on 16-5-2005 JB", i never really imagined ever discovering who Riggs was or JB. I always imagined Riggs to be a long serving landlord and JB, obviously must have done time and presented this upon his release and return to his favourite watering hole! (it has something very 'prison art' about it!)

Anyway, the truth. It turns out The Malvern was bought by a Riggs O'Hara, actor and theatre director. It says in this blog post that Riggs was Irish American brought up in the Bronx and came to England with the cast of Guys and Dolls and just never returned! In fact we found mention of him on a Marc Bolan website as befriending a young Marc for a bit in his early career, indeed speculation that he was the basis for Bolan's Wizard! Marc moved in with Riggs and fellow housemate, actor James Bolam (of Likely Lads fame). This made me wonder if JB is James Bolam himself.. it kind of works, but the writing doesn't fit with the actor and the JB on the painting is crude, not an aging actors monogram. I like the idea of it though, so that's how it will be until proven otherwise.

Riggs, or so it says here, bought the pub in 2003 (having not served a pint for many years) and then in 2007 it was demolished to build some rather terrible apartment block called The Picasso, hmm. He then ran a theatre company somewhere near this site, but as for all the 'facts' i've put here, i'm not really sure. This hasn't all been checked out, i'm just laying down what i've stumbled on, probably perpetuating myths!!

The funny thing is this pub was at the end of the road where my Grandad was born and raised!
 I know, of all the pubs! He and his brothers could well have drank there. He later lived just the other side of the railway tracks on Southern Row, where my mum was born and grew up. It's right in their neighbourhood... and now it's on my wall. Something must have drew me to it. Don't pass by things that 'speak' to you. It might mean nothing to you now, but there's often a reason. The Universe certainly seems to be joining a lot of dots for me this last year or so. I'm kinda coming to believe that if you open your eyes and start to see and follow connections, things seem to slot together very weirdly. Coincidences? just paying more attention? only noticing the things you want? who knows, but give it a whirl, open up. If you start to turn down a street, but then remember you were going a different way, don't turn back, carry on, follow that path. Be intuitive, listen to your gut. It works in weird ways. Even if you're not doing anything, there's often a good reason that will become clear and you otherwise would have wasted time and energy on a wrong step. I keep reassuring myself that this is why my pottery has stalled and in years to come i'll understand why i stalled for a while (or what seems like for ever, if you are me!) Who knows what the stories are behind all the other paintings i've found? This one has certainly made for a fun day of discovery... and if Riggs wants his painting back, i'm not sure i could give it!
A young Riggs in Promise Her Anything, and as theatre director.
(There has been a development in this story since i started writing this, but i will save that for the next post! It's a funny old world.)


  1. argh!! I hate cliff hangers! can't you just whisper it to me?! I promise not to tell anyone!

    1. I'm working on it Peter!... hopefully this week... hopefully. How's the clay going? Going to up my game in Feb..well, as much as I can!

    2. It's going good thanks Scott!
      my kiln has finally been ordered :-)
      We are covering coil building in pottery class at the moment. I made a rather weird looking lion.
      I wondered if this is the technique you mostly use?

    3. I do coil, but i'm too impatient, so i tend to use slabs to make most of my cylinders and vessels... and a bit of pinch work. I need to re-stock on clay, i'm totally out... and of course i have the urge!

    4. Clay cravings!.....yeah, I get those too! :-)

    5. Your account of the Malvern is fascinating. Like you I have been doing some investigative work whilst researching my family tree. My grandad was the landlord of the Malvern from 1938 to 1944. So a little before the timeframe you have been looking at. The photos you have posted are the only ones I can find.

  2. Hi Anonymous! I know how frustrating it is to find pictures of it. I tried recently to find those pics again and i've no idea how i found some of them the first time. I guess the painting is probably the best pic of it out there. Interesting to know a bit more of it's past. I'm pretty sure your grandad would have served my family members. Could you give me his name? and then i'll put a note on the back of the painting. Thanks for leaving your comment. It's great fun researching family. i got a bit intense on it about 4 years ago. Really helps you feel the connections.