Update: 4 Jan 2020. We’re pleased to say the pub has now reopened.
Midway through 2019, a Brentford side street turned almost entirely blue.
This is Catherine Wheel Road, off Brentford High Street. The tarmac and walls are covered in hues that match the azure autumn skies. But why? An encroachment by Manchester City? The world's largest Greek flag? A Smurf atrocity?
The striking makeover was undertaken by Ballymore, a property developer who bought up former industrial land between the High Street and the River Brent. The blue supposedly represents the rivers (Brent and Thames) that define Brentford, but are almost entirely hidden from the High Street. No Smurfs were harmed.
The bluewash is a temporary artistic intervention, designed to brighten up the building site. Eventually, the Brentford Waterside development, as it's known, will provide around 876 new homes over 11 acres. These will, according to Ballymore, include 90 council homes at council rent levels, as well as new office space and retail, and a new section of the Thames Path. The whole lot will take half a decade to build.
The previously public space of Catherine Wheel Road is now privately owned, at least temporarily while construction work proceeds. The 'stopping up' order that allows the developer to do this is expected to be removed once the scheme is complete. That is, it should go back to being a public highway again. In the meantime, Ballymore can do what they bally well like with it, including painting the whole thing Twitter blue.
That's not to say you can't use Catherine Wheel Road right now. Despite the scary looking barrier and security guard, nobody should stop you wandering in. Indeed, we thought we had the best of reasons — a mid-afternoon pint. We gamely strolled past the high-vis sentry, unchallenged.
At the bottom of the hill sits a delightful pub called the Brewery Tap. It's owned by Fuller's and has a friendly, locals' feel to it. We've shot some pool here on more than one occasion. The pub is still there, but was closed for business on our arrival. Its raised entry, designed to keep out occasional floodwaters, could not, it seems, resist the painted tide.
According to local website BrentfordTW8.com, the Tap closed very recently after its business became 'untenable'. The security barrier can't have helped an already off-the-beaten-track venue. It's not clear if or when the Tap will reopen.
Yet there is life down the lane. One new business that seems to be trading well is the (by all accounts) excellent Rye by the Water cafe, which has riverside tables overlooking the Brent and puts on community events. The road is also home to Duke of London's classic car garage, The Factory, where you can get an eyeful of vintage motors, if that's your thing. The cul-de-sac is also the abode of The Brentford Project, Ballymore's public-facing hub where you can find out more information about the development.
Despite the shouty paintjob, construction work of the half-a-billion-pound housing project has yet to begin in earnest. The one exception is this concrete car park, built as part of Ballymore's Section 106 agreements, to provide more parking for the struggling High Street.
What a charmer, eh? Perhaps they should paint it blue.
With thanks to Mike Paterson, Director of London Historians and local resident for supporting information (and several pints in the Brewery Tap on previous occasions).