A five-year tale of mystery and intrigue over a derelict public house in New Barnet has been brought into fresh focus in the wake of the drama and controversy surrounding the fate of The Crooked House in the Black Country.


The Jester and its beer garden were once a popular venue on the New Bevan housing estate, between New Barnet and Cockfosters, until it was damaged in a fire and partly demolished in 2018.

Unlike The Crooked House, once dubbed the UK’s wonkiest pub -- and now just a pile of rubble -- The Jester is still standing, just about.

Local residents are reinforcing their demand that Barnet Council should insist on the demolition of what is now an eye sore so that the site in the middle of Mount Pleasant can be cleared for community use.

Community activist Ros Howarth, who has already fought several campaigns on behalf of residents of the New Bevan estate, hopes that the outrage over destruction of The Crooked House will serve as a salutary reminder to Barnet Council that the only answer is for the local authority to intervene directly.

Behind The Jester’s partial demolition is a troubled history of changing ownership, futile planning applications and a seemingly never-ending sequence of court cases and appeals.

Built in 1958 as a result of a petition from residents, The Jester became a well frequented pub and restaurant, and its loss five years ago was said to have been a heart-breaking blow for the community.

Ms Howarth – seen here being interviewed for BBC London TV (by reporter Guy Lynn with cameraman Nick Chadwick) – said that while she supported Barnet Council’s insistence that a new “community facility” should be built on the site, the current stalemate was unacceptable.

“We fought so hard to try to get the pub restored but we got nowhere and now feel abandoned. Of course, we would be delighted to see it rebuilt and re-opened as a community pub.

“But leaving a wrecked building like this is an eyesore. If the planners and the owners are going to go on arguing over its future, the least that could be done is that the building could be demolished, and the site cleared of rubbish.”

Ms Howarth -- a founder of the Justice for Jester Facebook page – said that after the fire at The Jester in 2018, demolition work began within days, but the council stepped in to halt the work.

After the owners failed to get planning permission to redevelop the site an order was finally issued requiring the pub to be rebuilt within three years or replaced with equivalent community space.

When that order lapsed in 2022, a new owner submitted a fresh application to build a private nursery on the site, together with houses and flats.

“Again, a judge has said that it must be rebuilt with a new public house or community facility. But a private nursery is not a community facility.

“We think the council should intervene and get the demolition completed. But the owner doesn’t want to do the demolition until there is planning approval in place, and the council don’t want it demolished as they fear a vacant site would be even worse, so it is stalemate again.”

She has been supported in her campaign by East Barnet Councillor Simon Radford who said it was unacceptable for the local community to have to put up with what looked like a “a haunted house” in such a prominent position.

Ms Howarth is used to fighting drawn-out campaigns and as the Barnet Society reported in 2019 -- see above -- she was at the forefront of a spirited appeal to save the New Bevan Community Church as a much-used meeting room and children’s play area.

When the London Baptist Property Board put the Community Church up for sale the Barnet Christian Fellowship organised a crowd-funding appeal to try to buy the premises after gaining protection for the building for six months as an asset of community value.

“In the end the church was demolished after we failed to raise the £1 million needed to purchase the building and the site. It was bought by a developer who has built flats in its place.”

At one end of the site the developers erected a 2,000 square foot, two-storey freehold community building which was completed in the summer of 2022 and is currently on the market.

Ms Howarth – seen here in front of the new flats that have replaced the church -- said a new privately owned community building was no substitute for the former Community Church and she feared that if a private nursery is built on the site of The Jester, the community will lose out again.

“We already have several nursey schools nearby, at Livingstone Primary School, Brookhill, and St Margaret’s.

“What we have lost are buildings available to the community. At the Community Church we had a well-supported senior citizen’s lunch club and two popular children’s clubs. What we want is a building that can provide a hub for the community and become a home for local initiatives.”