Suttons Radio, Lewisham
Suttons Radio by day – the ghost sign is still visible

Lewisham town centre’s hardly known for quality pubs – it never seemed to get over the horror of Yates’s, which shut its doors nearly 10 years ago.

But Antic, the firm behind quirky boozers across south London, has ridden to the rescue, by opening Suttons Radio in what used to be the Market Tavern (and before that, The Quaggy Duck).

If you’re not a pub-goer, you may know Antic from the kerfuffle stirred up in 2013 when it opened the Job Centre in a former job centre in Deptford, a supposed gentrification shocker which became the Guardian’s equivalent of those Mail stories about Winterval – it’s constantly referred back to as there was supposedly an outrage but in truth very few really cared that much.

Suttons Radio, Lewisham
Thirsty work: The first customers queue to get into Suttons Radio at 5.55pm on Thursday

It marks a return to SE13 for the company which sold the Ravensbourne Arms to a developer last year.

The pub was originally meant to be called E&H Hadley, but plans were changed when they found remnants of a sign reading Suttons Radio during building works, left over from a long-gone shop.

And they’ve done a grand job – showing off the mix of retro stylings and the “let’s leave this bit looking a bit battered” look that Antic now seems to have down to a tee. Look for the vintage radios up on a high shelf. The pub promises to be somewhere Lewisham can be proud of.

Someone also had the bright idea of creating a map theme – you can see it in the menus and beer mats, and on the wall too.

Suttons Radio, Lewisham
The map features prominently in the pub

But look closely… what’s this?

Suttons Radio sign, Lewisham
“This famous colourful map…”

The map chosen is Charles Booth’s poverty map of London, part of the Victorian reformer’s exhaustive survey of social conditions in the capital.

Booth's poverty map in Suttons Radio
Perhaps nobody was expected to look this far up

It sees most of inner London’s streets characterised by the people who lived there, from “upper-middle and upper classes – wealthy” through to “Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal”. The page dealing with Lewisham, Deptford and Greenwich is displayed on the Suttons wall, with the key taped over.

Suttons Radio poverty map
The key to the poverty map has been taped over

Uh-oh. Perhaps not the wisest of choices after the jumped-up Job Centre row brought accusations that Antic was taking the mickey out of the area’s working class heritage. You’d think they might have been a little more cautious after that.

853 got in touch with Antic to ask, and had this response from founder Anthony Thomas:

“We have utilised the Booth maps at Sutton’s Radio because they were instrumental in persuading the government of the day that poverty as a social ill needed to be tackled. The maps are rather beautiful things (we’re surprised Mr Hirst hasn’t re-imagined the idea…) and they very effectively depict how far our society has come in the last 100 years.”

It’s early days, yet, so get down to Lewisham to enjoy its nice new pub. But expect a damning Guardian comment piece to come along soon…

PS. An earlier version of this piece said Antic hadn’t responded to a request for comment on Friday. They actually did respond – but one of our mail servers clearly nipped out for a swift half and so 853 never received it. Apologies to them.

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