What’s it named after? HMS Sovereign of the Seas, launched from Woolwich in 1634, was the finest ship of her day. It was designed by shipbuilder Phineas Pett, whose family is commemorated in the name “Petts Wood”.
What’s the carpet like?
Petts Wood is a leafy suburb of two halves, divided by the railway line which passes through it. It’s best-known for its links to William Willett, who campaigned for the introduction of daylight saving time. It also used to be the home of the News Shopper newspaper, whose PubSpy has, remarkably, survived savage management cutbacks, presumably by hiding in the pub.
There aren’t many options for a night out in this quiet 1920s suburb – for years, the only pub was The Daylight Inn (geddit?). It’s recently been joined by a micropub, One Inn The Wood, which has firmly put the place on the beer drinkers’ map. Both are on the posher, more village-like side of the tracks.
The west side of the station feels like a huge shopping parade in the middle of nowhere. There’s a big Brutalist Morrisons and a snooker club. Your only other option for a night out is The Sovereign of the Seas. It’s a big deal. We visit during the Wetherspoon real ale festival, and while we’re on our way, there’s a chap on the bus eagerly reading up on what’s on offer.
The Sovereign of the Seas feels a bit like the Spoons that head office forgot. It’s done out in tired cream and red, with 1990s Wetherspoon logos etched in the windows of the echoey alcoves. (It opened in March 1995.) We have to squeeze around a mammoth table to sit in the alcove. Even the carpet, which presumably references daylight saving, is a bit rubbish.
But do the locals care? Not at all. It’s Sunday night, and it’s doing a roaring trade. Service is brisk, the staff are busy refilling the shelves, and there’s a hubbub of noise.
It’s a very mixed crowd, too – in most of the Spoons we’ve visited so far, we’ve found groups of older men sat at the front. That’s not the case here – there’s a few twentysomethings dotted around, with a group of parents near us talking about their kids and the offside rule.
We’re tickled by a sign declaring craft beer to be “quirky – just like JDW”, the menu declaring Newcastle Brown Ale to be a “world beer”, and puzzled by why there’s a Union Jack above one of the fruit machines.
This is convivial, cosy, and somewhere to go if you want to want a quiet drink without being seen. (Unless you come from Petts Wood, in which case the whole place is probably here.) The Liberation Pilsner is terrific, but the Wetherspoon house wine, Coldwater Creek, is nowhere near as good as the Chapel Down served around the corner at One Inn The Wood (albeit for nearly twice the price).
If it wasn’t for the Sovereign of the Seas, this parade would be dead on a Sunday night. Petts Wood is lucky to have the Sovereign of the Seas – and the Sovereign of the Seas is lucky to have the people of Petts Wood as its customers. If you’re ever in the area (and The One Inn The Wood is a good enough reason to visit), pop in and say hello.
Address: 109-111 Queensway BR5 1DG
Buses: 208, R3, R7 to the door; 273, R2 to Petts Wood station
Train: Petts Wood (Zone 5 – Southeastern)
Social media: The Sovereign of the Seas is on Facebook.