The Macbeth Pub: 1930 (approx) – 2004
Badly laid out but quirky pub full of character in the heart of Hoxton
The Macbeth, which died two weeks ago on Sunday aged approximately 74, was one of the most loved and enduring pubs in Shoreditch.
A relatively quiet boozer, it could never lay claim to the presence of the famous (Paul McCartney preferring to drink in the Lamb and Flag down the road) or the infamous (The Krays being more concerned with the Nelson’s Retreat) like some of its neighbours. Nevertheless this relaxed and unassuming pub managed to carve out its own unique identity which soon saw it becoming the preferred local for many in the area.
Like many pubs in the area, the Macbeth witnessed the troubled times in Shoreditch, as a lack of business and government investment saw the growth of poverty and unemployment. Yet the Pub was to pass through these times relatively unscathed unlike many of its brethren – although at the cost of several changes of ownership - and emerged intact to see the vast changes that have swept through the area in the last few years.
These changes have seen a massive influx of bars, clubs and restaurants, helping to begin the revitalisation of the local economy, seeing the area around Old Street and Hoxton become one of the most prominent night-life locations within London. Throughout these changes, the Macbeth had played a key role. Whilst many establishments chose either to cater solely for the “traditional” community or sold their soul to capitalism and became pompous and trendy wine bars, the Macbeth endeavoured to strike a balance between the two, offering a quirkily decorated but pomposity-free environment where both trendies and non-trendies alike could enjoy a relaxing drink. In an area increasingly concerned with image and hip-ness, the Macbeth offered its punters a clear message – it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from, or what you are interested in, what matters is that we all share a common love of drinking and the community that the pub offers. The presence of a full painted mural of a scene from Macbeth, a pool table and a good balance between sofas and classic pub tables served to present a unique and relaxing environment - perfect for those random pub conversations
Sadly whilst it excelled at this role it was not to last. The continued trendification of the area finally caught up with the Macbeth at the beginning of the month. After another change of hands, a definite change overcame the place. Whilst some improvements were positive – such as the introduction of credit card acceptance and the installation of a flat screen tv for music and football – many more were negative. The quality of the beer on tap declined whilst the amount of bottles available increased, a number of the tables were removed and replaced with new sofas and the fruit machines were removed. These changes also served to bring about a change in the balance of the clientele – with many of the original locals moving to over pubs and a more trendier element becoming dominant.
Finally, one Sunday, this reporter and his housemate left his house with the intention of having a lazy afternoon drink yet on reaching the Pub discovered that the name been changed and that, on venturing inside, it was playing booming Techno and Garage Music and the Manager was making cocktails for a bunch of clubbers and artists – two of whom apparently felt that “making out on ithem” is what pool tables are designed for.
The Macbeth passed away at 15:00hrs on Sunday 11th July. It leaves behind a pub/bar called the Hoxton Distillery which, whilst still a pleasant enough environment for a drink, lacks most of the character (and indeed characters]) that once made it so unique. It will be mourned by this reporter, his housemate, and several former locals.