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Historic Thomas a Becket pub reborn as Vietnamese restaurant

James Hatts

The historic Thomas a Becket pub in the Old Kent Road has reopened as a Vietnamese restaurant.

Historic Thomas a Becket pub reborn as Vietnamese restaurant

Last used by the Rock Island bar and grill, Viet Quan has opened in the former pub premises at the
corner of Old Kent Road and Albany Road.

The Thomas a Becket sign – a reproduction of a stained glass window from Canterbury Cathedral –
remains above the doors.

The pub, whose present building dates from 1898 but has a much longer heritage, is well-known for links
to the boxing world and carries a blue plaque to mark its connection with the late Sir Henry Cooper. David Bowie rehearsed in a room above the pub in the
1970s.

The pub has had a chequered history in the past couple of decades, with periods as an estate agent's
office and an art gallery.

Four years ago the building was listed as an '​asset of community value​' under the Localism Act after a
campaign by the Walworth Society, prompted by ​news that the pub was up for sale at auction​.

Frank Bruno and the Mayor of Southwark performed the opening ceremony​ for the new ​Rock Island​ grill
on Valentine's Day 2017, but little more than a year later the venue was once again closed and
repossessed
.

The pub is located on the site of an ancient watering hole for travellers, and during Rock Island's tenure
modern pilgrims heading to the shrine of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury were able to ​have their pilgrim
passports stamped
​ at the bar.

2020 promises a revival of interest in the pilgrim route from Southwark to Canterbury via the Old Kent
Road, with special events planned to mark the 850th anniversary of Becket's martyrdom.

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