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Pubs Of Wonderful London

September 12, 2014
by the gentle author

As soon as I sense the evenings closing in, I get a powerful urge to seek out a cosy corner in an old pub and settle down for the autumn nights to come. 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

You may like to take a look at

The Pubs of Old London

The Taverns of Long Forgotten London

Antony Cairns’ East End Pubs

Antony Cairns’ Dead Pubs

Alex Pink’s East End Pubs Then & Now

The Gentle Author’s Pub Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Next Pub Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Spitalfields Pub Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Dead Pubs Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Next Dead Pubs Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Wapping Pub Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Piccadilly Pub Crawl

14 Responses leave one →
  1. September 12, 2014

    “A Swans delight
    is water clear;
    But mans delight
    is Toby Beer”

    I almost expected to see this when I started reading this post, but sadly it wasn’t there. I used to see this rhyme when going to a Mecca Restaurant for my lunch, I was too young to drink back then. These words were carved into the stone pavement, outside an old pub I suppose, as you can see I’ve never forgotten the rhyme but the name of the watering hole I never did know, I’ve often wondered and I thought that this time you had the answer for me. methinks I shall die never knowing, I can’t even recall the name of the lane; it was pretty much opposite Gt St Helens in Bishopsgate.

  2. September 12, 2014

    Wonderful London is your ancestor Gentle Author!
    I shall think of the farm labourers next time I’m having a drink in The Flask 🙂

  3. September 12, 2014

    Just looked up ‘Hedge Tavern’ and found this:
    “…Other old words for what we now call a pub are: mug-house, cupping-house, victualling house, pot house, pot shop, peg-house, tippling-house, red lattice (from where the pub chain’s name Slug and Lettuce comes from – see this old post of mine), diversory (or deversary) and change-house (a Scottish word). A lust-house was a tavern with a beer garden (from the Dutch and German Lust meaning pleasure). A night-house was a tavern that stayed open all night, as did a night-cellar, which was usually a more disreputable establishment. A shoful was a lower-class tavern, and the prefix hedge-, as hedge-inn, hedge-tavern or hedge-alehouse was used contemptuously to mean ‘third-rate’….”

  4. Kate permalink
    September 12, 2014

    Wow, what great photos and information. Another pub crawl on the cards??

  5. Greg Tingey permalink
    September 12, 2014

    A surprising number of these are still extant …
    I’ve drunk in several, & know of one or two others.

  6. September 12, 2014

    Wonderful pictures!

  7. September 12, 2014

    Nice and cozy places to enjoy a pint or two or three…

    Love & Peace

  8. September 12, 2014

    Wonderful photos, thanks for showing these.

  9. Peter Holford permalink
    September 12, 2014

    Fabulous pictures. The Dove is next door to the school I went to – I know it well and it is still recognisable from the exterior shot. It’s strange it is said to be at Chiswick when it is most definitely in Hammersmith with a great view over the suspension bridge that everybody knows from the Boat Race.

    Thank you. More please? (Yes, Oliver)

  10. David Whittaker permalink
    September 12, 2014

    Thank You for these Wonderful Photographs.

  11. margaret mcdermott permalink
    September 15, 2014

    Your site never fails to delight. Could anyone tell me the name of the pub which is right next to the Hawksmoor Church in Spitalfields?Margart Mc.

  12. Neil Franklin permalink
    September 27, 2014

    Wonderful to see the Bull’s Head. My Dad was born and raised at Strand On The Green and most of his family lived in the cluster of streets off Thames Road, immediately adjacent to the pub. It was a true local and my Grandad’s favourite; in fact, my Dad only recently told me that, knowing he was dying in the late 1960s, Grandad would spend endless hours with his brother in law on the towpath by the pub – and doubtless managed a few libations along the way. Halcion days.

  13. Miss R O'Brien permalink
    December 30, 2014

    My Great Gran is Alice Cakebread, her family run The Golden Heart for years apparently. I’ve been looking into my ancestry, amazing what you find out. Anyone out there that knows about the Cakebread family please get in touch. Will be visiting Spitalfields and visiting this amazing pub very soon. Great photos! from Rebecca in Somerset.

  14. November 14, 2020

    Most of these are still in existence, not sure about the Elephant though.

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