The World's End | 2013
The Cornetto Trilogy comes to a triumphantly apocalyptic conclusion with The World’s End, as Gary King (Simon Pegg) gathers together four of his pals to relive the pub crawl to end all pub crawls.
You won’t be able to recreate the legendary Golden Mile crawl. It’s not so much that there is no ‘Newton Haven’ (you can find most of the locations in two Hertfordshire towns north of London) but that not all the ‘pubs’ are pubs. One is a restaurant, one a vacant shop, one a cinema and one is even a railway station.
To make things worse, establishments have since changed names or closed down. Good luck.
By way of compensation, two unacknowledged pubs are sneaked in to provide interior scenes.
Ironically, for a film based around a pub crawl, the main location is Letchworth Garden City, north of Stevenage. The first ‘garden city’ created by the idealistic New Towns movement in 1909, the community was launched with a policy forbidding the sale of alcohol on public premises. Although a couple of pre-existing pubs were allowed to continue trading, it wasn’t until 1958 that licenses were granted to new businesses. To this day, the town centre has few more than half-a-dozen pubs. Which might explain why several of the film’s premises had to be faked.
Among a distinctly unenthusiastic crew, the least willing to revisit his laddish past is Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), who’s settled into a conventional office job for law firm ‘Beckingham Davies Knightley’ in the Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, Bankside, alongside Tate Modern, London SE1. In real life, the innovative tower is the HQ of magazine publishing empire, IPC Media.
There’s no arguing with Gary and Andy, along with Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine) find themselves at High Wycombe Railway Station in Buckinghamshire patiently waiting for their predictably tardy organiser.
Heading to ‘Newton Haven’ in ‘The Beast’, the roundabout they encounter on arrival (and on departure, too) claiming to be the first of its kind in the UK, is – surprisingly – the real deal. It’s Sollershott Circus, on Broadway, south of Letchworth Garden City at the six-road junction with Sollershott and Spring Road.
Having established Letchworth Garden City as the fictitious ‘Newton Haven’, the first four stops on the ‘Mile’ can all be found in Welwyn Garden City, 12 miles to the south.
All of the pub names, invented for the film, are cryptic pointers to the plot, so it’s natural that the evening starts out at ‘The First Post’. This turns out to be The Pear Tree Inn, Hollybush Lane at Woodhall Lane, southeast of Welwyn Garden City. And that really is the pub’s interior, gamely allowing itself to be dissed as bland.
The gag is that it’s the same interior used for the second pub, ‘The Old Familiar’, the exterior of which is The Doctors Tonic, Church Road, between Parkway and Longcroft Lane, a lively bar (with live music) closer to the centre of Welwyn Garden City. This is where Oliver’s sister, and Steve’s secret crush, Sam (Rosamund Pike) turns up.
Staying in the centre of town, pub number three, ‘The Famous Cock’, haunt of Mad Basil (David Bradley), retailer of dark conspiracy theories, was The Cork, now The Two Willows, a former bank at 9 Howardsgate. Since the younger Gary had been barred for life, the stay at the ‘Cock’ isn’t too long.
It’s quickly off to pub number four, ‘The Cross Hands’. This is the Parkway Bar on Parkway, which is indeed just around the corner from The Two Willows. Although the Parkway’s real bar is used, you won’t be surprised to hear that the gents’ toilet, in which the evening starts to go disturbingly awry, was recreated in the studio.
Reasoning that to continue with Golden Mile is the best way not to attract attention, the five head off down ‘Newton Haven’s’ high street, becoming uncomfortably aware of the locals’ odd attitude. This is finally back to Letchworth Garden City, and Leys Avenue, the town’s main shopping street.
And also where the locations begin to get tricksy. Venue number five, ‘The Good Companions’, is a vacant shop at 71 Leys Avenue with pubby set dressing added to its frontage.
Although the exterior of number six, ‘The Trusty Servant’, is a real pub – The Three Magnets, 18-20 Leys Avenue, the bar interior where Gary susses out the Rev Green – his one-time dealer – is the Director’s Arms, at the junction of Ripon Way and Cranes Way, in Borehamwood. The town of Borehamwood itself is familiar from plenty of screen appearances, since it’s so close to Elstree Studios and the old Borehamwood Studios.
From The Three Magnets, it’s just across the roundabout to find stop number seven, ‘The Two Headed Dog’, where the initially sceptical Sam encounters creepy twins in the beer garden. This was The Colonnade, and is now The Platform, Station Road.
Number eight, ‘The Mermaid’, with its ‘School Disco’ theme is the Broadway Cinema, Eastcheap. Opened in 1936, it’s still very much an independent cinema, so this time the interior was filmed at Chalfont Campus, a former college in Newlands Park, just outside Chalfont St. Giles, in Buckinghamshire.
Conveniently, only a few doors away from the Broadway, pub number nine, ‘The Beehive’ is the now-closed Thai Garden, 10 Gernon Road, which in the real world was a restaurant. It’s here that their old school teacher, Mr Shepherd (Pierce Brosnan) coolly explains the situation in the most reasonable terms. The remaining ‘musketeers’ don’t find the explanation quite so unproblematic, and the spectacular ruckus that follows was filmed back in the studio.
Fleeing ‘The Beehive’, they retire to lie low for a while in their old ‘smoke house’, the club house of the Howard Garden Social Centre Bowling Green, Norton Way South at the foot of Gernon Road. This is where the film briefly references John Carpenter’s The Thing, as each character in turn is obliged to establish authentic humanity.
The escape route now fortuitously leads them through pub number ten, the deserted ‘King’s Head’, where the indefatigable Gary maintains the ‘drink in every pub’ objective by serving himself a pint. Both inside and out, this is the Arena Tavern, 3 Arena Parade, another live music venue, in the heart of Letchworth.
Chased by glowy-eyed ‘blanks’, Gary legs it north up Broadway to pub number eleven, perhaps the most surprising location of all. ‘The Hole In The Wall’ is Letchworth Garden City Railway Station, Station Road. A false wall was built across the station entrance and, if you’ve seen the film, you’ll understand why the pub interior was built at Elstree Studios.
The survivors triumphantly make it to their ultimate destination, ‘The World’s End’, which is The Gardener’s Arms, Wilbury Hills Road at Icknield Way. Unlike the other Letchworth locations, which are fairly close together in the town centre, the Gardener’s Arms is about a mile west of the town. Oh dear – it's currently closed for refurbishment and due to reopen as a 'pizza and carvery'. Nothing to do with alien beings. Nothing at all.