Remembering The Two Brewers bombing, 80 years on

The Two Brewers in Ponders End, prior to its destruction
The Two Brewers in Ponders End, prior to its destruction

Ponders End pub was destroyed and 20 people killed when it took a direct hit during the Second World War, recalls Mary Smith

On the night of Monday 30th September 1940, the German Luftwaffe were flying over the Lea Valley, probably looking to target the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock.

Instead, several high explosive bombs were dropped over Ponders End. Hearing the air-raid sirens, drinkers at a public house on the corner of High Street and South Street took shelter in the pub’s cellar.

Unfortunately, the bomb went straight through the building and exploded in the basement. Twenty people were killed that night, but only 17 bodies were recovered. One person who was pulled out alive lost both his legs but survived, while another died in hospital a day later. The Two Brewers was destroyed and never rebuilt, the site standing vacant for decades.

At the time of the bombing Cliff Short was a 14-year-old boy who lived in Lincoln Road. He was a runner for the fire brigade and was one of the first people on the scene. He helped to retrieve the bodies from the ruined building – a memory that lived with him all his life.

The wreckage of The Two Brewers in Ponders End after it suffered a direct hit from the Luftwaffe

Cliff later campaigned for the vacant bomb site to be turned into a memorial garden. It took many years, but the garden finally opened on the 74th anniversary of the bombing in 2014. Cliff was 89 then, and helped to officially open the garden. Commemoration events are usually held on the anniversary date but not this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As Cliff became ill, he was concerned about the future of the garden, but thankfully it still thrives today. Since Cliff’s death in 2016 myself and Pam Shapland have volunteered to maintain the garden, as its custodians. With local grants and support from Enfield in Bloom and local Ponders End councillors, the garden has become a pleasant green space, winning gold awards from Enfield in Bloom. The aim now is to get lighting put up in the trees to light the garden in the evenings – especially at Christmas.

History isn’t taught very well in schools these days and I think many people in Ponders End don’t even realise there was a pub here. We want to make as many people aware of it as we can. The pub was originally a coaching inn along the old Roman road, Ermine Street, which was the main thoroughfare to Cambridge for hundreds of years. It even used to have a stables at the back. The pub was later rebuilt, in 1890, and re-opened as The Two Brewers. It was a beautiful building.

The memorial garden on the site of destroyed pub, The Two Brewers
The memorial garden on the site of destroyed pub, The Two Brewers