Thomas Lord knew when he opened his first cricket ground in 1787 that there were two main facilities – apart from the cricket - he needed to offer: a pavilion and a pub.
They were the first two buildings on the Ground and the absence of a public house was one of the main reasons for the unpopularity of the second Lord’s Ground during its short life. When the current Lord’s opened in 1814, the same two priorities prevailed. The first public house stood on the site until 1867 and its successor would last for 99 years. This was the Lord’s Hotel, better known as the Tavern, funded by an advance of £4,000 from the gin magnate Willian Nicholson, who had helped MCC to buy the freehold of Lord’s a few months earlier.
The Tavern became a much-loved institution, its broad concourse one of the most sociable places to watch cricket anywhere. The Tavern’s bars and dining rooms were always well attended during Test Matches and the building was also the hub for the catering business at Lord’s, where George Portman directed operations from 1902 to 1950. Under Portman, Lord’s became famous for its cakes, chocolates and homemade ice cream, and queues of customers could often be seen all along St John’s Wood Road.
But by the 1960s the old Tavern, beloved as it was, could no longer support the needs of a 20th century catering business. Larger and more modern facilities were required. A grand redevelopment of the Ground’s south-west corner was decided upon, with a modern stand at its heart. Catering operations would relocate to the new banqueting suite – now the Thomas Lord Suite – by the Grace Gate, with a new public house facing the street. A 12-storey block of flats – Century Court – on the corner of Grove End Road also formed part of the plans. All three buildings were executed in the easily recognisable contemporary style of the 1960s. To make room for them, the Grace Gates needed to be moved some 13 feet to the east. The Refreshment Rooms and Clock Tower building, along with the Tavern itself, were demolished.