Wonderful London Pubs
In these grey cold days, I get a powerful urge to seek refuge in a cosy corner of an old pub and settle down for the rest of the day. There are plenty of attractive options to choose from in this selection from the popular magazine Wonderful London edited by St John Adcock and produced by The Fleetway House in the nineteen-twenties.
The Old Axe in Three Nuns Court off Aldermanbury. It was once much larger and folk journeying to Chester, Liverpool and the North used to gather here for the stage coach.
The Doves, Upper Mall, Chiswick.
The Crown & Sceptre, Greenwich – once a popular resort for boating parties from London, of merry silk-clad gallants and lovely ladies who in the summer evenings came down the river between fields of fragrant hay and wide desolate marshes to breathe the country air at Greenwich.
At the Flask, Highgate, labourers from the surrounding farms still drink the good ale, as their forerunners did a century ago.
Elephant & Castle – The public house was once a coaching inn but it is so enlarged as to become unrecognisable.
The Running Footman, off Berkeley Sq, is named after that servant whose duty it was to run before the crawling old family coach, help it out of ruts, warn toll-keepers and clear the way generally. He wore a livery and carried a cane. The last to employ a running footman is said to have been ‘Old Q,’ the Duke of Queensberry who died in 1810.
The Grenadier in Wilton Mews, where coachmen drink no more but, at any moment – it would seem – an ostler with a striped waistcoat and straw in mouth might kick open the door and walk out the place.
The Spaniards in Hampstead dates from the seventeenth century and here the Gordon Rioters gathered in the seventeen-eighties, crying “No Popery!”
The Bull’s Head at Strand on the Green is an old tavern probably built in the sixteenth century. There is a tradition that Oliver Cromwell, while campaigning in the neighbourhood, held a council of war here.
Old Dr Butler’s Head, established in Mason’s Avenue in 1616. The great Dr Butler invented a special beer and established a number of taverns for selling it, but this is the last to bear his name.
The grill room of the Cock, overlooking Fleet St near Chancery Lane. It opened in 1888 with fittings from the original tavern on the site of the branch of the Bank of England opposite. Pepys wrote on April 23rd 1668, “To the Cock Alehouse and drank and ate a lobster and sang…”
The Two Brewers at Perry Hill between Catford Bridge and Lower Sydenham – an old hedge tavern built three hundred years ago, the sign shows two brewer’s men sitting under a tree.
The Old Bell Tavern in St Bride’s Churchyard, put up while Wren was rebuilding St Bride’s which he completed in 1680. There is a fine staircase of unpolished oak.
Coach & Horses, Notting Hill Gate. This was once a well-known old coaching inn, but it still carries on the tradition with the motor coaches.
The Anchor at Bankside. With its shuttered window and projecting upper storey, it enhances its riverside setting with a sense of history.
The George on Borough High St – one of the oldest roads in Britain, for there was a bridge hereabouts when Roman Legionaries and merchants with long lines of pack mules took the Great High Road to Dover.
The Mitre Tavern, between Hatton Garden and Ely Place. It bears a stone mitre carved on the front with the date 1546. Ely Place still has its own Watchman who closes the gates a ten o’clock and cries the hours through the night.
The George & Vulture is in a court off Cornhill that is celebrated as the place where coffee was first introduced to Britain in 1652 by a Turkish merchant, who returned from Smyrna with a Ragusan boy who made coffee for him every morning.
The Bird in Hand, in Conduit between Long Acre and Floral St, formerly a street of coach-makers but now of motorcar salesmen.
The Old Watling is the oldest house in the ward of Cordwainer, standing as it did when rebuilt after the Fire, in 1673.
The Ship Inn at Greenwich got its reputation from courtiers on their way to and from Greenwich Palace and in 1634 some of the Lancashire Witches were confined her, but now it is famous for its Whitebait dinners.
The Olde Cheshire Cheese – the Pudding Season here starts in October.
The Cellar Bar at the Olde Cheshire Cheese
The Chop Room at the Olde Cheshire Cheese
The Cellar Cat guards the vintage at the Old Cheshire Cheese. Almost under Fleet St is a well, now unused, but pure and always full from some unknown source. To raise the iron trap door which keeps the secret and to light a match and stoop down over this profound hole and watch the small light flickering uncertainly over the black water is to leave modern London and go back to history.
Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute
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