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Home > London > SW3 > Markham Arms

Markham Arms

Picture source: Greg McGuy

The Markham Arms was situated at 138 King's Road. This pub closed in the early 1990s and is now a branch of the Abbey National with a coffee shop inside it.

From late 1987 to 1991 my stepson Jonathan (who took my surname) ended up as Assistant Manager at this pub - the Manager's name was Steven Searle and he was a good guy...the pub was very popular, originally with the gay community and with locals, both young and old - it had quite a history, with connections to the infamous British spies, Burgess and Maclean. I often used to sit outside (at one of the few tables/chairs there) and watch the comings and goings of the Kings Road - I remember the hairdresser's "Scissors" was nearby...Jonathan was very popular, especially with females, young and old, but he eventually married Claire, an Irish girl who was a regular at the Markham Arms and who had just started working for Scissors!
When I visited we also used to drink at various Pubs/Clubs in the Kings Road - names which now escape me - I do know that the Six bells had already been changed to a Henry Beans place, but I recall a pub at Worlds End (or was that its name) - the Firkin and Bottle or something...there was also a pub/club across the road from the Markham Arms, which was very popular with the young, and a biggish pub on that same side, but down the road and nearer Sloane Square.
On the evening of May 10th.1988 we visited a betting-shop opposite and, with the assistance of alcohol and a large amount of money that I happened to (legitimately) have at the time, I placed £500 on a Peter Scudamore-ridden horse over the sticks at Towcester - I showed Jonathan the bet after it had been placed (to his utter shock) - Fortunately it won at 7/2f - I won £1,500 (I took 3/1) - but it wasn't without its worries as the TV coverage from Towcester broke down - fortunately it came back on just in time to see my horse safely jumping the last, in front - the betting shop (?Hills) had to send a taxi to another branch to get more money for me!

John Clement
Wow, my husband and I, married nearly 20 years, both worked at the Markham Arms around 1988-a friend of my husband's (from Suffolk) at the time, "Jonathan", was quite influential in getting my husband to party on a nightly basis before I arrived on the King's Rd from America. I worked at the Arms for a couple of months and remember a few local characters, "Jan", "Mike"- Black Swan, and the Chelsea Pensioner, "Ted"- pint of Tetleys, please.
We were featured in the Chelsea Times for the celebration of the 1960s Kings Rd - we all dressed in 1960's attire and had a blast with the opening of the new room at the Markham.  The staff I worked with included John and Caroline, of course Steve Searle his wife and daughter, a Yugoslavian girl named Mimi.  After we "left" the Arms, I worked outside the pub at the outdoor stall, run by Vic and his daughter, Mandi, until one day I walked down the King's Rd for lunch, and upon returning, found the stall "repossessed". Hence my next job at Smollensky's Balloon.  I remember Scissors, the Chelsea Kitchen, popular with backpackers, Worlds End, and stupid wine bars. Lots of great memories. Been back to London a couple of times, and will never forget the good times.
Carol Simpson
I worked at the Markham Arms in 1978/79. At that time I was living on Draycott Avenue in the YWCA. The owners at the time were Irish. Mick and Dave were their names. I loved working Saturday afternoons, watching the faces of tourists as the gay population took over the bar! I also worked at Europa Food & Wine and a restaurant on Old Brompton Road called Brookes? Busy times! I was eighteen and living in London was expensive, although rent at the YWCA was only £9 per week!
Jo Rosen (December 2014)
I just wanted to add that my parents David and Rita Casey ran this pub from 1968 to 1980, and can confirm the information from Sheila Fitzgerald and Marie Darling to be correct.
I understand it was Ind Coope’s most successful pub alongside, The Old Bull and Bush in Hempstead, the manager who my father knew well and was a good friend.
The pub had an off license where the coffee shop is today on the right hand side , called Victoria Wine . It was then heavily refurbished in @71-72 and the pub was made one, with two large white ventilation ‘Domes’ integrated in the ceilings at the back.
This is when you will also notice the large gold lettering of “Markham “ on the outside getting added.
It also had a good reputation for the lunch time trade, with a good varied selection on the menu
We had many celebs visit the pub, it also had for the time an amazing sound system( at least 6 speakers ), I can still remember ‘Layla...Eric Clapton’ constantly playing !
My uncle Jimmy Tyrell who was married to Marie Darling , Mervin, my cousin Kevin Mc Carthy and Mick Conway were also on hand helping running this busy pub.
It had a few bomb scares, where we all had to evacuate onto the street, and the Chelsea Cruise once a month, where the pavement would be full of customers enjoying the cars go by.
If you look at some of the photos, you will see a white line on the pavement. This was because the council insisted that the line be painted, and my father to keep the customers from spilling onto the road !
David Casey (April 2020)
In Augustus John’s anecdotal autobiography he wrote of meeting theatre and musical people in the Markham Arms, including Martin Shaw of folk music fame.
Robert Graham (March 2021)

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Name Dates Comments
Steve Coombs 1985-1989  
Dave Kavanagh 1987-1989 I worked around the corner in South Kensington for John Lewis, that's how I first discovered the pub. I was originally from Dublin, Ireland. I drank cans of Black Swan Premium Lager which had to be ordered in. I had many a good day and night there and met many nice folks. It would be great to get in touch with a few old friends again. There was an American chap who managed the place, can't remember his name.
Marie Darling 1970-1974 I worked here in the early 70's with my ex husband Jimmy Tyrrell, who was bar manager, his sister Rita and Husband David Casey were the manager's there for several year's There were quite a few famous people who used the pub, I have served Rod Steward and his band, George Best, the Chelsea Football Team, Elton John.and many other's. It is the busiest pub i ever worked in, sometimes we stayed overnight as we were too tired to go home.
Andrew Cory 1986-1987 I worked and lived at all this pub.The staff were international (Aussie,kiwi,American and South African). It was gay on saturdays and did attract noteable actors and artists of that time.The staff were in their 20s and loved to party. I have great memories of this pub.
Sheila Fitzgerald (nee McCarthy) 1967-1970s My uncle Davy Casey ran this pub in the 60s with his wife Rita. My brother Kevin McCarthy and jimmy thrill and frank Fenton were his bar men then. It was a really busy pub on the weekends you couldn’t get in the door it was popular with the gay crowd back then. My brother went onto run two pubs down the west end for ind coope he was one of the youngest managers ever back then.
Penny Shearman 1986 Worked behind the bar for about 6 months as a fresh-faced 22 yo from Sydney. First time ever in a bar - had to learn everything. Can't remember the boss then but do remember a massive brawl one night with the football crowd - chairs and tables being hurled around the room. Was hilarious! Never forget having to clean out all those ash trays!
Other Photos

Picture source: Chris Amies 

Bar staff, c.1974 with publicans David & Rita Casey far right

Picture source: David Casey

Victorian snob screen from Markham Arms.