Property lawyer and pub owner David Lonsdale. The Sekforde Arms has been closed for the past 18 months
Published: 20 January, 2017
by JOE COOPER
A CLERKENWELL pub is to reopen this summer – with its profits going to fund scholarships for young people across the globe.
The Sekforde Arms is to open its doors again in June, complete with a new restaurant in the basement and lectures and debates staged in the first-floor ballroom.
Property lawyer David Lonsdale, who bought the Sekforde Street pub in 2015, said the ground floor would stay as a pub and would not be “exclusive”.
Mr Lonsdale, who lives just around the corner from the pub, is in the process of setting up an educational charity trust, backed by his extensive London property portfolio, which will oversee the scholarships.
This has been inspired by Mr Lonsdale’s grandmother, eminent scientist Kathleen Lonsdale, who played a fundamental role in establishing the science of crystallography and achieved several important firsts during her scientific career.
She came from a poor Irish family but was awarded a scholarship to university in London when she was 16. A socialist and Quaker, she spent time in Holloway Prison after refusing to register for civil defence duties.
“If it wasn’t for the sequence of events which led to my grandmother receiving the scholarship then my family would not be in the position it is today,” Mr Lonsdale said.
To celebrate the reopening, and to emphasise that it aims to serve the people of Islington and Camden, the trust will award five £10,000 scholarships in September to students at undergraduate or graduate level who either live in or go to university in either borough.
When the pub reopens, the first 150 customers will be charged 1828 prices – that being the year the Sekforde started trading.
Mr Lonsdale added: “Clerkenwell has some excellent pubs and restaurants but we want to make the Sekforde more than just another pub or restaurant.”
He and his friend and project manager Hadi Sarmadi are both passionate about global politics. Mr Lonsdale said he was particularly interested in re-engaging young people in politics with debates and lectures.
“There will be a focus on international themes, from the Middle East to pollution and climate change, but anyone will be able to suggest speakers or a debate.”
He added: “But we must not lose sight of the fact that a pub is where people come to relax, socialise and feel happy.
“The key to creating a friendly atmosphere and offering great service is to attract the best staff possible. They will all be well paid. There will not be any service charge on the bills and any tips will go straight to the staff – as they always should.”
A new building behind the pub will provide accommodation for overnight guests, as well as mediation facilities to help resolve disputes.
“Most mediation rooms are bland and miserable and not at all conducive to reaching an amicable settlement, which is always for the best,” Mr Lonsdale said. “For anyone who settles a dispute at the Sekforde the drinks will be on the house!”
The pub aims to launch a free chess club for local children.