Isle Of Dogs: How The Lord Nelson pub is starting a new chapter with Cara Venn

Bow-born licensee has taken over venue following a £220,000 refurbishment by brewer Heineken

The Lord Nelson on Manchester Road is set for its official reopening on February 24, 2024

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“It will be a very sports-led pub – a community hub – somewhere everyone can enjoy coming,” said Cara Venn.

“That’s what I want to bring to the Isle Of Dogs. We’ll be playing all the sports, with new screens installed showing Sky and TNT.” 

It’s a vision that fits well with The Lord Nelson’s history.

Built in 1855, linked to Bethnal Green’s Charrington Brewery, the pub once served as the headquarters of Millwall Rovers (now Millwall FC) who played their games at the neighbouring Lord Nelson Ground from 1886-1890 and used the boozer to change into their kit.

Fast forward 134 years, and Cara’s tenure is set to mark the latest chapter in the story of the pub that stands on the corner of East Ferry Road and Manchester Road.

Now owned by Star Pubs And Bars – part of Heineken UKThe Lord Nelson has spent the start of 2024 undergoing extensive refurbishment and is set to officially mark its reopening on February 24. 

Born and raised in Bow, Cara has moved in above the pub as its new licensee, building on a career she embarked on as a teenager.

“I’ve always worked in pubs since the age of 16, first as part-time jobs,” she said.

“I’m a bit of a workaholic – I’ve often had three jobs, working in offices and film studios – random stuff. 

“When Covid hit, I lost all my jobs. Then pubs started opening up – it was the only work available, so I thought I’d look at it properly.

Cara Venn, The Lord Nelson’s new licensee

“I had so much experience to build on and I ended up managing The Full Nelson in Deptford – which was a vegan bar serving cocktails and food. 

“That was great, but I left because I decided I wanted to join a chain company.

“You learn so much on the job, but if you join a bigger firm, you get training too and I wanted to understand every aspect of the industry, including back-of-house stuff.

“I wanted to do it properly and to find out about becoming a licensee. 

“Over the past four years I’ve been general manager for a number of pubs in London and now I’ve taken on one of my own.”

Cara’s CV includes time in charge of The Chandos in Brockley and the Three Compasses in Hornsey. She left that venue for Star’s Just Add Talent programme – which matches prospective licensees with pubs – and has presided over The Lord Nelson’s refit.

“The idea is you get your own pub, be your own boss – it’s like being a general manager, but you also get major support from Heineken and it felt like a natural progression for me,” said Cara.

“I’ve always wanted to run my own place and I’m ready to do it.

“I went for it and ended up getting The Lord Nelson. 

“They give you a list of all the pubs they have available in the country and, because east London is my home town, I thought this one would be ideal for me. 

“The pub is wet-led, which I think is a great place to get started and the plan is to take on some more pubs once I’ve progressed with this one. 

“This is going to be my baby. I wanted to go back to east London because it’s home to me and I’m passionate about the community.”

Cara has big plans for the venue and is eager to welcome locals old and new.

She said: “The refurbishment has gone really well – it was a tired looking pub and needed a lot of work.

“With Heineken investing £220,000, I feel like it’s a place people will be proud of and want to come into.

“As well as the sports, we’ll have a programme of continuous entertainment.

“I want to do quizzes, live music, burlesque nights – I feel like there will be an appetite for all of this. 

The Lord Nelson has had an extensive refit inside and out

I also want local people to come in and chat with me so I can listen to what they want.

“I want to do charity events and make it a fun pub that’s a proper boozer.

“It’s looking beautiful and I want it to be really, really busy, for everyone to come together here.

“I also have budgets to spend on hosting our own darts and pool teams – I want to sponsor local sports teams too, so get in touch.

“Living above the pub, it will be 24-7 – but this is my home and I’m really excited.”

While the pub has already opened for a soft launch, Saturday February 24’s opening party marks the start of a new era at the pub. 

“Everyone is welcome to come,” said Cara. It will already be a busy day with the Six Nations games taking place and Arsenal on as well. 

“Then, later on we’ll be having a live band called the Bear Pit – it’s going to be a big palaver.”

After that, the business is set to get into the swing of things with regular drinks offers including buy one, get a half free on Mondays and happy hour offers from Tuesday to Friday.

The venue also has a 24-seat garden, with Cara pushing for an outdoor screen in time for the warmer months.

“I can’t wait to see people sitting out there and having a good time,” said Cara.

“I can’t wait to welcome my new neighbours in.”

Find out more about The Lord Nelson here

The pub boasts a dart board, a pool table and a beer garden

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Bermondsey: How Jerome Favre set out to capture Millwall FC fans on their turf

The New Cross-based photographer has created a book based on the hundreds of images he took

The cover image of Jerome’s book – all images Jerome Favre

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The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes into focus as I chat to photographer Jerome Favre.

He spent three years trying to capture the true face of Millwall FC fans on their home turf in Bermondsey.

The aim was to take a closer look at modern day supporters and whether they deserve the reputation that has dogged them for years.

“I’m a huge football fan and a fan of football culture,” he said. “I moved to England in 2005 – New Cross in 2013 – and the stadium is really close to me. 

“I’d heard about the reputation of Millwall fans and was interested to go and see for myself and to have an honest look at them.

“The aim of the book was to evaluate their reputation in contemporary football culture.”

Thousands of camera clicks later, his self-published photobook No One Likes Us contains more than 200 images taken in and around the South London stadium between 2018-2022. 

Dave has been supporting Millwall since 1967

He photographed ageing die-hard fans, fresh-faced teens, families and everyone in between, all proud to wear the blue and white and many grateful for the chance to show there was more to them than tattooed hooligans.

But to be successful, first Jerome had to overcome the fan’s initial judgments of him.

“I went to The Den with a couple of cameras around my neck and my French accent,” he said.

“At first I hung around with the supporters and then I started going in the stadium as well.”

He usually had no more than a minute to pitch his idea to passing fans and try and take their photographs. Unsurprisingly, he was told to ‘do one’ on more than one occasion.

“Some asked me if I was the Old Bill and things like that,” said the 46-year-old.

“They were a bit suspicious, but I didn’t mind because I’d be the same if a photographer approached me on the way to a game.”

It took a lot of rejection before he got the ball rolling, with Jerome estimating only 1% of people he approached said: ‘Yes’.

Millwall fan Daniel

“Sometimes they didn’t have time, sometimes they didn’t want their photos taken and I had to be patient and ask a lot,” said the photographer, who took up the profession 10 years ago.

“I didn’t really have time for long conversations with people because they were drinking with their friends or going places.”

The first person to say yes was a dapper gent named Morris. 

“When I explained what I was doing, he said: ‘Yeah, why not?’ I wouldn’t say he was super keen though,” said Jerome.

But the photographer persisted because the project had personal connections. Jerome grew up in the north of France supporting his hometown club of RC Lens – which he said had striking similarities to Millwall.

“It was set up by a mining company and for decades, both players and fans were coal miners,” he said.

“Millwall was founded by the workers of JT Morton’s canning and preserve factory, on the Isle Of Dogs. 

“I was fascinated by the fact that Millwall was, and still is, a working-class club and a tight-knit community.

“It also has a terrible reputation, and I was curious to cast an honest look at this football community.”

Keisha, a lifelong Millwall fan

Even across the Channel, he had heard about the stigma of violence attached to the club.

That reputation can be traced back more than 100 years, when supporters of Millwall and local rivals such as West Ham were primarily made up of dockers who worked for opposing firms, often vying for the same business.

The association with hooliganism came to prominence in the 1970s largely due to The Millwall Bushwackers – one of the most notorious hooligan firms in the UK.

Sustained criticism of their behaviour in the press and media perpetuated an image of them as violent thugs.

In response, fans created the infamous chant “No-one likes us, we don’t care” – often belted out with pride at matches.

Despite his positive intentions for the project, Jerome said he found it hard to just shake off the negative image of fans that has lingered for so many years.

”I was nervous when I started going down there, especially bearing in mind their reputation,” he said. 

Richard, a lifelong supporter

“There is one photo of a guy called Daniel who is covered in tattoos and looks menacing.

“I was scared to approach him, but he let me take his photo and it was memorable.

“I was really, really happy I got that one.”

Fans eventually got used to Jerome hanging around and the project ended up becoming a lot easier than he anticipated.

“A lot of people were genuinely interested and there’s a few people that I met, I’ve got really good memories of,” he said.

“The gentleman on the cover of the book with the tattoo on the back of his skull is a nice story.

“My friends were surprised I approached him because, of course, he looked a little bit intimidating.

“But he was so polite and so nice. After the book came out, his wife got in touch with me and said how exciting it was to have him on the cover.”

Many of his subjects are almost glaring into the camera, which does little to dispel the hard image, but Jerome said he always tells his subjects not to smile

Photographer Jerome Favre

“Because then you lose them,” he said.

“It immediately turns cheesy and you don’t really see their personality.

“So I asked people to have a neutral expression and look straight into the camera for most of the shots.”

So what did the fans he met think of their reputation?

“It’s undeserved, but it’s almost taken with a sense of pride now,” he said.

“They have turned it on its head and use the slogan to enforce the community so it feels even more tight knit.

“I think there is a sense of frustration that they’re always portrayed in that way in the media because they have been demonised and it is such a tiny minority.

“That’s why there was a lot of interest in my book.”

Jerome said he achieved what he set out to do with his project, to a degree.

“I’m not saying I’ve revolutionsed football culture, but it’s something that’s never been done before,” he said.

“It’s not trying to be positive or negative. It’s just a neutral look at them.”

Jerome’s book is available through his website, price £15.

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Laura Enfield is a writer for Wharf Life and other publications covering a range of topics. You can contact her via the Wharf Life team at info@wharf-life.com
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