Arsenal marks an important milestone for the blog – I’ve now reached the halfway mark on the journey! This is the 135th station I have visited. As today is transfer deadline day, it also feels somewhat appropriate to be putting the review up now…
The station first opened as Gillespie Road on 15th December 1906, and this name remains on the platform tiles. It became Arsenal(Highbury Hill) in 1932 at the instigation of their manager at the time, Hebert Chapman, given how close the station was to Highbury. This in turn was streamlined to the current name during the 1960s.
The passageway leading from the platforms to the street is divided by a metal fence, in order to manage the flow of people using the station on matchdays. The station building is rather plain, with the white wall dominated by a large Underground roundel. The original Leslie Green building was demolished during expansion and upgrade work in the 1930s.
The Pub: The Bank of Friendship, 224 Blackstock Road, N5 1EA
The Bank of Friendship is around a 10minute walk from the station. Head along Gillespie Road until you reach Avennell Road. Heading down this road, you will pass the site of Arsenal’s former ground, Highbury, and the preserved frontage of the old East Stand which has now been turned into luxury apartments. From there, head along Elwood Street until you reach Blackstock Road and you’ll spot the pub. The name refers to Highbury’s old North Bank stand, which according to the club themselves, ‘sheltered the heart and soul of Arsenal’s support.’
As we visited on a non Matchday, it was pretty empty. The Bank had a couple of decent ales on tap in London Pride and Landlord, which makes a change from certain football pubs that simply pump out lager. It feels like a pretty standard old school pub with sprinklings of Arsenal memorabilia on the wall. To their credit, they haven’t gone over the top with this and it certainly doesn’t feel like a modern ‘sanitised’ supporters bar. There is a dart board too.
We found some rather comfy chairs to sit in although the fact they also had wheels was a little disconcerting at first! As you would expect, the pub has a Sky Sports Licence for fans eager to catch the early kick off before heading to the ground. I have walked past the Bank of Friendship on a Match Day and it was definitely popular with home fans.
I’m not sure if I would recommend going out of your way to visit here. That said, it is undoubtedly better than many other pubs near football grounds which are often pretty bleak. The beer was also reasonably priced so if you do want a drink before an Arsenal game, you are better off popping here for one than paying the inflated prices inside the ground.
(The pub has no website)