Brixton: Brady's/Railway Hotel
urban75 celebrates an infamous Brixton drinking den
(April 2002, updated Nov 2011)
It's a corny old cliché, but it's a sentiment echoed by many who joined in with the mad, crazy, drinking nights at the infamous Brady's Bar at 20, Atlantic Road, Brixton: if you can remember it, you weren't there!
First floor commemorative stone laid by Annie Allen, wife of the original licensee. Pic: Sept 2004
The Victorian building, with it's distinctive listed tower, has been a landmark on the Brixton skyline since 1880, when it opened as a hotel.
Looking up from the corner of Atlantic Road and Electric Lane
The building is constructed around a high level railway bridge with one of the brick arches making up part of the third floor roof: so things must have been rather noisy for the guests!
In fact, there's railways all around, with three separate lines passing within metres of the pub and this was reflected in the design of the clocktower: its six-sided design ensuring that it could be read from trains passing in all directions.
I managed to crawl up inside the clock tower one night and was saddened to see that the mechanism is well and truly knackered with little hope of repair.
Inside, there were three bars; a front front bar facing Atlantic Road, a smaller bar with an entrance on Electric Lane and behind that a long bar serving the large stage/ballroom area.
This remarkable 1905 view shows the 'Swiss Garden' in the courtyard, complete with palms, coloured lanterns and alpine scenery painted on to the walls.
Boarded up but still open for drinkers. A scene from the squatting days, June 2002.
Reflecting Brixton's famed theatrical history, the pub has a long association with music and dance, and in the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix was reputed to have regularly jammed there after playing in the West End.
Detail of roof, May 2003.
The Railway Hotel was renamed to Brady's in the 1990s, and continued to play an integral part of the local music scene, with bands like Alabama3 regularly putting on shows.
Still empty and going to waste. Jan 2006 view.
Of course, it wasn't just the music that brought people to Brady's - its well-known 'jazz' approach to the licensing laws ensured regular crowds of old-school, Brixton drinkers who liked to quaff deep into the night (and yes, I was one of them!)
Sadly, the pub was eventually closed down in 1999 as bold new redevelopment plans for Brixton were unveiled. Like many such plans in the past, things quickly went awry, leaving this well-loved pub empty.
Entrance to back bar and music room, under railway viaduct, Electric Lane, Mar 2003.
For a while it suffered the ignominy of being used as a portacabin for local construction workers, until being squatted in 2000 by some local squatting activists.
The squatters moved into the top two floors and cleaned up the inside of the building, before reopening the front bar on an occasional basis. Music and poetry nights were staged, with the bar serving a limited choice: cans of beer for the blokes and red wine for the ladies!
Word quickly got out and Bradys was once again buzzing with locals, happy to vacate some of the now-yuppie-infested bars around Brixton.
Slowly, the place was put back in shape, with the back bar and stage area being reopened and successful Open Digi Arts events being put on.
Sadly, it couldn't last. The squatters were finally evicted on 5th Aug 2002 eviction, and Brixton lost an important piece of its heritage.
March 2004. The building deteriorates with 'tagging' turning the elegant clock tower into an eyesore. Note the hotel name making up the characters on the clock face.
The film 'Rude Boy' by the Clash features scenes shot in the Railway Hotel.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2007:
There's been several bids to reopen the venue, with local community group ABCBrixton putting forward a strong case for a not-for-profit enterprise. We support it.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 2011:
Despite a visit by Prince Charles to Bradys at the invitation of his charity The Prince's Regeneration Trust in July 2010, the pub has now been bought up by a big Mayfair property developer.
Rent is advertised as £85,000 per annum. Read more here: So, it's goodbye to Brady's, one of Brixton’s legendary boozers.
PHOTOS: OCT 2007
Excellent selection of interior shots by local photographer Jeremy Quinn here:
BRADYS VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2007
BRADYS' TOWER, AUGUST 2009
The attractive clock tower remains covered in graffiti with the clock still broken, although the actual structure appears sound and weatherproofed - testament to the Victorian builders.
Chip Taylor/Jon Langford wrote a song about the pub:
"In was Thursday night at Brady's pub in the winter of ninety eight
it was raw and it was angry, it was loud and it was crazy"
Thread discussing the pub's future here: urban75 bulletin boards
» Lost bars of Brixton
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