ONE of the country's best loved pubs has closed its doors and seen its legendarily quirky furnishings auctioned off for £21,000.

The Montague Arms in Queen's Road, New Cross, has been packing in punters for decades, drawn as much to its bizarre collection of artefacts and eclectic entertainment as its beer.

Known affectionately by regulars as 'the Monty' regularly appears in lists chronicling Britain's best boozers, admired for decorations including a human skeleton and stuffed animals.

But, following the deaths of the couple who have run it since 1967, the Monty has shut, its future is uncertain and a petition has already been set up to save it.

Neil Pettigrew pub preservation officer for the South East London Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, said the Montague was "one of a kind".

He said: "It was so wonderful to find an old-fashioned eccentric pub like that. You can't find places like that anywhere else.

"I always thought we should give the couple some kind of award - now it's too late."

He added: "If that place gets pulled down and turned into another ugly block of flat's it'll be an absolute crime."

According to the pub's folklore it has attracted visitors as diverse as the Krays and Michael Jackson, while its entertainment has included renowned punk bands like Gang of Four, adult film nights and regular music from its house band - the Two Petes.

The Monty has also picked up a number of awards, not least Pub Spy's Golden Pint award for his favourite pub in 2010.

He said at the time: "Without a doubt, this is the best pub in the News Shopper area, if not London. No, no, the world. OK, you’re right, the universe."

Regular Scott Mullins, from Bromley, has launched an online petition to get it reopened which he intends to submit to its owner.

The 27-year-old said: "It's a bitter blow last orders have been called on such a fantastic pub.

"Future generations will now sadly be denied the Montague Arms' welcoming atmosphere and tasty ale.

"The thought of this amazing pub being turned into flats or a kebab house fills me with dread. The Krays would be turning in their graves."

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Going, going, gone.

Auction house Toovey's, based in Sussex where Montague owner Peter Hoyle lives, sold off around 60 items from the pub in one day.

Top seller was the diver's helmet, which made £2,900, while the penny farthing which used to stand in the pub has gone for £1,900.

Toovey's manager Edward Ash confirmed that it was the landlord who had put the items up for sale.

He said: "We get lots of strange things here - you do in this game.

"But it was certainly one of our more unusual, eclectic collections."

Manager Stan Pownall once told News Shopper: "It's quality stuff from across the world.

"I don't know what that Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen fella would think but it beats Baco-foil wall paper."