Greene King, Hawthorn Leisure and The Cross Keys pub.

By   10 August 2014

We have been asked to post the following by Steve Green:


I’m sending this email to various people who might be interested to know that Hawthorn Leisure who recently purchased 275 pubs from Greene King (including Cross Keys and Saxton Arms in Abingdon) have now applied for planning permission to convert the Cross Keys into flats!
Reference: P14/V1476/FUL Click here for link

I haven’t compared the plans directly, but they look similar to the plans GK had put in this Spring before they withdrew the application when selling the pub. It is completely residential with nothing left of the pub.

The worry is whether Hawthorn Leisure are really just a property development company pretending to be a new pub company, and that we will see the same fate for the Saxton Arms.

The press release during the acquisition from Greene King had a quote from Hawthorn’s CEO Gerry Carroll, saying “Hawthorn Leisure’s strategy of supporting and investing in its tenants provides a fantastic opportunity for these pubs. Our experienced team is fully committed to working in close partnership with the tenants of both the R&L and Greene King pubs and we are delighted to welcome them all to Hawthorn Leisure.”

The landlord of the Keys (who previously managed the Harp/Plough in Stert Street which closed at the start of the year) seemed very positive about the future of the Cross Keys following the sale which broke the tie with Greene King, so this new planning permission is quite unexpected. Converting the pub into flats is the exact opposite of supporting and investing in its tenants!

It is thought that the Cross Keys pub has existed on the site since the late 1600’s… and was later sold to Morrells Brewing Company from Oxford in 1874. Morrells brewery closed in 1998 and all its pubs were acquired by Greene King in 2002.

Ock Street has now lost most of its character with mainly ugly flats and modern buildings on the Southern Side all the way from Drayton Road down to Knights, whilst the Northern side is a depressing reminder of how vibrant the street may have been in the past before all the pubs were closed and converted into housing. Without the Keys, this will leave only the Brewery Tap and White Horse pubs on Ock Street. I can also foresee this affecting Abingdon Traditions such as the election of the Mayor of Ock Street which has been going on since 1700, as there is now little community spirit left in Ock Street and it is pointless processing up and down the street past modern characterless flats without pubs or interesting historic locations to stop and dance at.

– Steven Green

9 Comments on “Greene King, Hawthorn Leisure and The Cross Keys pub.

  1. Brian

    On the 21st February 2017 The VOWHDC registered the following planning application –
    Redevelopment of site including partial demolition of existing public house and demolition of outbuildings and redevelopment to form a retail store (375.6sqm) with associated access and parking.
    The Hinds Head Public House Witney Road Kingston Bagpuize OX13 5AN
    Hawthorn Leisure Ltd
    C/O Agent

  2. Anon

    Same at the Royal Hunt in Ascot. These saviours of the the great British pub as the headlines read are nothing more than developers setting up non-viable versions of the former local with a view to building houses

  3. Peter Cadwallader

    Just come across this discussion. I live in a village in Nottinghamshire and our local pub – the Nevile Arms – is one of those now owned by Hawthorn. Sure enough, a planning application has been put in to use up most of the pub gardens and car park to build houses. The worrky is that this will almost certainly make the pub non-viable and it will have to close and, no doubt, be demolished to make way for more property development.

    This looks pretty widespread.

  4. Hester

    A quick look at the application shows that it is submitted by the existing owners (I.e not Tesco) and that it says:
    ” The application proposes the infill extension and reconfiguration of the ground
    floor layout in order to improve the dining and disabled toilet facilities of the pub.
    The existing building includes a poorly configured layout which does not lend
    itself to best use of the space.
    The existing pub operation has historically catered for the needs of the local
    community rather than seeking to draw customers in from further afield. The pub
    is not seen as a specific destination facility and visits are generally from the
    immediate local area rather than people travelling to the premises by car. It is not
    envisaged that this trading style would vary, and the proposals to refurbish and
    extend the bar area will simply allow the business to be enhanced without an
    increase in vehicular activity.”

    So at face value that is re-assuring, although the owners are Hawthorn Leisure so who knows!
    PS I don’t think Tesco are likely to be in a position for further expansion just now?

  5. BykerRode

    A planning application has been submitted for the Saxton Arms, to demolish the small storage
    area at the rear and to replace it with a large extended storage area and also to make an 8 space parking area at the front. Me thinks it smells of preparations for converting the pub into a convenience store !

  6. Steven Green

    District council approved the development on 7th October 2014 (

    Cross keys have posted on Facebook today:

    “To prevent rumour control centre going into overdrive: Hawthorn Leisure will put the Keys on the market on Monday with a view to selling it for redevelopment, there is no underlying problems, financial failings or any other secret reasons. This is purely a financial decision, Larry and Kay will continue until a buyer is found and will trade as normal, thank you for your continued support.”

  7. colin

    A quote from the Hawthorn website.

    “Hawthorn Leisure is a new and innovative pub company which was formed in 2013 to acquire, invest in and support pubs across the UK.”

    The truth may be quite different, Hawthorn paid an average of£275k for each pub they bought from greedy king, a site like The Cross Keys is worth a whole lot more if they gain planning permission for the said flats.

    Take a look at the characters from Hawthorn yes they have a pubco background but they are also business men and chancers.
    The whole Hawthorn exersise is a money making venture not a friendly landlord of your local pub.

  8. Anonymous

    Well, why don’t we just sell of all the schools and the doctors surgeries and make them into flats and social housing. Hey we could even sell off the council building – Abbey House and make that into flats too. Let not stop there, lets flatten Abingdon and just build one big block of flats. We don’t need infrastructure, amenities and retail/leisure services, after all we have the internet!!!


    And of course I will stay anonymous…

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