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The Pubs Of Old London

October 2, 2012
by the gentle author

The Vine Tavern, Mile End

I cannot deny I enjoy a drink, especially if there is an old pub with its door wide open to the street inviting custom, like this one in Mile End. In such circumstances, it would be affront to civility if one were not to walk in and order a round. Naturally, my undying loyalty is to The Golden Heart in Commercial St, as the hub of our existence here in Spitalfields and the centre of the known universe. But I have been known to wander over to The Carpenters’ Arms in Cheshire St, The George Tavern in Commercial Rd and The Grapes in Limehouse when the fancy takes me.

So you can imagine my excitement to discover all these thirst-inspiring images of the pubs of old London among the thousands of glass slides – many dating from a century ago – left over from the days of the magic lantern shows given by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society at the Bishopsgate Institute. It did set me puzzling over the precise nature of these magic lantern lectures. How is it that among the worthy images of historic landmarks, of celebrated ruins, of interesting holes in the ground, of significant trenches and important church monuments in the City of London, there are so many pictures of public houses? I can only wonder how it came about that the members of the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society photographed such a lot of pubs, and why they should choose to include these images in their edifying public discourse.

Speaking for myself, I could not resist lingering over these loving portraits of the pubs of old London and I found myself intoxicated without even lifting a glass. Join me in the cosy barroom of The Vine Tavern that once stood in the middle of the Mile End Rd. You will recognise me because I shall be the one sitting in front of the empty bottle. Bring your children, bring your dog and enjoy a smoke with your drink, all are permitted in the pubs of old London – but no-one gets to go home until we have visited every one.

The Saracen’s Head, Aldgate

The Grapes, Limehouse

George & Vulture, City of London

The Green Dragon, Highgate

The Grenadier, Old Barrack Yard

The London Apprentice, Isleworth

Mitre Tavern, Hatton Garden

The Old Tabard, Borough High St

The Three Compasses, Hornsey

The White Hart, Lewisham

The famous buns hanging over the bar at The Widow’s Son, Bow

The World’s End, Chelsea, with the Salvation Army next door.

The Angel Inn, Highgate

The Archway Tavern, Highgate

The Bull, Highgate

The Castle, Battersea

The Old Cheshire Cheese, Fleet St

The Old Dick Whittington, Cloth Fair, Smithfield

Fox & Crowns, Highgate

The Fox, Shooter’s Hill

The Albion, Barnesbury

The Anchor, Bankside

The George, Borough High St

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to read about

Sandra Esqulant, The Golden Heart

At the Ten Bells

The Carpenter’s Arms, Gangster Pub

At the Grapes in Limehouse

At the Hoop & Grapes

At the Two Puddings

At Simpsons Tavern

At Dirty Dick’s

At the Birdcage

Other stories of old London

The Ghosts of Old London

The Dogs of Old London

The Signs of Old London

The Markets of Old London

32 Responses leave one →
  1. Ana permalink
    October 2, 2012

    They’re all full of character. One can only imagine the sorts of things that went on, both good and bad. Quite intriguing.
    What has mystified me about English pubs is how they get their names.
    The World’s End, the Saracen’s Head and so on.
    I’ve never thought to follow up the naming process.

  2. @rupertbu permalink
    October 2, 2012

    A very enjoyable illustrated narrative sidepost to right for

  3. JerryW permalink
    October 2, 2012

    Fine establishments! Maybe they were popular photographic subjects because they had such character, and in those days there were a lot of them about..

    In the photo entitled “The George & Vulture,” I suspect the photographer may have been trying to highlight the Jamaica Inn (“At the sign of Pasqua Rosee’s Head”) whose door lantern can be seen through the archway.

  4. Teresa Stokes permalink
    October 2, 2012

    I am puzzled by “The Fox”. No location is given, but if you look at the sign closely it is actually called The Fox Under the Hill, perhaps an earlier version of the current Fox Under the Hill at Shooters Hill.

  5. October 2, 2012

    Yet another brilliant post. I could really do with a pint now. Thanks

  6. October 2, 2012

    A bit off your patch – but have you tried the Princess Louise in Holborn. Neglected for decades, it’s now one the most complete Victoriana pubs you’ll find.

    Worth a drop in while you’re round that way is the Freemason’s Arms on Longacre. just across from the masonic lodge – my aunt used to manage it until the 80s (and I had my 18th upstairs). Keep an eye out for the false front on the right hand side. What ,in passing, appears to be the window for another bar (curtains, window boxes, posters etc) is actually a Masonic corridor allowing Freemason’s access to the function room upstairswithout passing through the bar

  7. October 2, 2012

    OK, yes, now for that pint!

    Fab pics. Love the Dickensian lugubriousness. And lovely to see the London Apprentice and Worlds End…..know them well.

  8. Cherub permalink
    October 2, 2012

    I had no idea of the existence of The George at Borough until a friend who lives in Southwark took me there to eat years ago, before I moved away from London. I also wonder what now stands on the site of The Vine Tavern at Mile End? I was a mature student at QMC in the early 90s and we favoured The Globe. However, my OH was a student 20 years before me and said in his day they went to The Fountain which was opposite the college.

  9. Gary permalink
    October 2, 2012

    Most of the old 3″ slides that are around are not the work of individual photographers but commercial products. In the days before the cinema one of the most popular entertainments were magic lantern shows. These sets of slides could be purchased, there were many sets around, tours of many parts of the world, local interests and many more. They came in 12″ long black metal boxes, numbered and with a script to be read out as they were shown. Another item, of which I have one was a kaleidoscope, a flat wooden frame that fitted into the projector with a handle which when turned filled the screen with colour.

  10. paul permalink
    October 3, 2012

    Dear G.A.
    Thanks for these wonderful photographs. I’m always intrigued when you publish a photo with no title and I have to go on a journey hunting for clues. A sign for G. Bailey is still intact at Barbon Close WC1.

    The van advertising the Votes for Women Newspaper, published from 1907 to 1918 in Clements Inn led me to these wonderful photos published by the LSE.

    They include some great photos taken in Stepney in the 1940’s.

    So thanks for setting me on my way.

  11. Jill Leman permalink
    October 3, 2012

    The Albion is my local! Thank you for photo & v.interesting post – Jill

  12. Isis permalink
    October 3, 2012

    Gentle Author, I would especially like to see Clothfair!

  13. October 3, 2012

    Wonderful pictures, I’m glad some of these pubs are still going.

  14. October 24, 2012

    Can’t believe quite how many of those I’ve actually drunk in….!

  15. November 18, 2012

    Ihis year, I met my Canadian cousin, and both being interested in the places our Rondeau family lived, silk weavers of Spitalfields, and attending the Christ Church with many other Huguents, I was directed to this site. I feel I can almost still see them when I see these wonderful photos. Thank you!

  16. Terry Basson permalink
    November 30, 2012

    Well, I get up each morning now and look forward to what a delight this daily past life has on offer.

    Thank you so much for bringing Blank life before my birth into reality.

  17. Anita permalink
    December 4, 2012

    My girlfriend married the chef of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in the early 1960’s. the river Fleet flowed under the basement…..memories..

  18. David Whittaker permalink
    June 7, 2013

    Wonderful Wonderful Images..

  19. Cobby Kibbler permalink
    July 25, 2013

    Oh what happened to you,,What ever happened to me,,What became of the people,,We use to be ,,Tommorows almost over,,Today went by so fast,,The only thing to look forward to is the past………..Born to late….

  20. Mike Pattison permalink
    September 7, 2013

    Beautiful old captures of the day. I am compiling a modern version of all london
    pubs, before they all disappear, like these excellent old pictures. Oh to have been around in the day with my Nikon.

  21. Craig permalink
    September 13, 2013


    LOVE the old pub photos! Any chance of dating them?

    Also, the galleried place isn’t labeled separately (is/was it part of The Fox or The Albion above or below it? My quick Internet search didn’t reveal that it is/was and it appears to be a different place to The George in the last pic?). What pub is it and where was it/is it?

    Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

    P.S. For any Potter fans, there are a few of these just like Diagon Alley ay ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Geoff permalink
    October 17, 2013

    I have drunk in the Anchor (from late 70s), the railway depot entrance is a door in the railway viaduct.
    I have drunk in borough(again late 70s) I cannot picture the layout from the pictures.
    I also ate at mamas cafe (1980s) right where they filmed lock stock, and they filmed a window shot for one of the harry potter scenes there I recognised the signal it was my old maintenance.

  23. Daniel Grew permalink
    November 12, 2013

    The Angel Highgate, this photo shows the proprietor to be R. Dunning, Richard Dunning was the son of a Soho Wine merchant. He ran the Pub and Livery yard from 1865 until his death in 1875, when his son Henry took over until he sold the freehold. The pub was then re- built in 1880. The sign across Angel Row says ” Livery & Bait Station” Bait, is Achaic for a short stop for refreshment during a journey.

    My maternal grandfather was a riding master and ran his riding school from Angel Yard from 1918-1928. The Angel Inn was demolished and re-built in 1930, as the present day PH.

  24. Jeanette Foster permalink
    November 13, 2015

    Oh i do love these old photographs. My dad used to play the piano in a lot of the pubs round Kings Cross, Hatton Garden, Islington. I search photos hoping to see him banging away on the piano and always someone would get up for a sing song. When i was a little girl he used to to play in The Kings Head, Cumberland Market, Regents Park Estate, as i lay in bed i could hear him. Those days it was the saloon bar and the public bar and sometimes a little offi (off license) where you took your R Whites bottles back for a few pennies and got a packet of crisps. It is so sad a lot of our london pubs are being turned into flats, so many memories. Thank you for keeping them alive.

  25. December 4, 2016

    How many of these were victims of the blitz, and how many were victims of the Greater London Council and modern development? Many were architecturally significant or adjacent to remarkable buildings. Can you imagine the characters who were their customers?

  26. December 28, 2016

    My younger brother Jimmy had the Jack the Ripper pub for a few years ,opposite the Market and I was at the ,Manager of the White Hart in Bethnal green ,My brother in laws pub.,we use to exchange music ,types every now and again ,,And when I boxed Lew Lazer at the Shorditch town hall we were the first ever sportsmen on ,independent Telivision 22.9.1955 ,it was there opening night ,regards Great to see all the old pubs

  27. Paul Shearsmith permalink
    September 27, 2017

    Photos of the Garden Gate Hunslet, Leeds of which I obtained Grade 2 listing to stop the council pulling it down in 1971.

  28. January 6, 2019

    Fascinating. I grew up in Bethnal Green, father had a barber shop (Alf’s Ladies and Gents’ Hairdressing, evacuated during the war, returned to SpitalfieldGirls’ High school, went to LSE then left forAmerica. Please see my book, Cockney Girl,by Gilda Moss Haber about growing up in East London before, during and after WW2. It might be made into a film.Google CockneyGirl or Gilda Haber on Amazon and you will see the cover of Mummy and me. Am looking for the words to “Knees up Mother Brown, yer drawers are falling down, Under the table you must go, e i e i e i oh, etc and other Cockney Songs I knew. i.e. Muvver wos bafing the baby, and There I was, waiting at the church. Gilda Moss Haber, PhD

  29. Stuart Lodge. permalink
    May 18, 2022

    Excellent. I love London, old and new.

  30. Steve Arnott permalink
    February 26, 2023

    I have searched everywhere to find a photo of the ‘Prince of Wales’ pub which is no longer standing but was located in Greyhound Road corner of Margravine Road in Fulham W6.
    If you could help that would be great!

    Steve Arnott

  31. Lorraine permalink
    February 27, 2023

    Why is the prospect of Whitby pub missing from these listings?

  32. Adrian permalink
    June 5, 2023

    Hi, doing a spot of family research for a pub called the Chain Locker. Stepney Green / Limehouse area. Believe the road is now flats but canโ€™t seem to find any record of it?

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