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The Pubs Of Old London

November 8, 2017
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 Marksman in Hackney Rd 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

12 Responses leave one →
  1. November 8, 2017

    Wonderful – like the ghosts of good fellowship. I thank a kind providence that I’ve had a drink (or three) in four of these establishments.

  2. November 8, 2017

    indeed, every one looks like a treasure

  3. November 8, 2017

    Nice pictures. I love the juxtaposition of ‘World’s end’ and the Salvation Army! Valerie

  4. Hugh Macfarlane permalink
    November 8, 2017

    Fantastic, I love the old pubs of London and have had a drink or two in a few of these, I like the Fox & Crowns at Highgate, which looks so rural. Do all of these still exist? It would be nice to know which do.

  5. Yvonne Kolessides permalink
    November 8, 2017

    My old dad was a Battersea boy born and bred and I loved listening to the stories he enjoyed telling..even though I’d heard them many times.
    Oh how I’d love to sit and listen just once more..

  6. November 8, 2017

    Super photographs. I can only hope that the Still and Star pub in Aldgate isn’t simply the subject matter of old photographs soon. Please readers, write to the council to protest, all is not lost while the pub still stands.

  7. Helen Breen permalink
    November 8, 2017

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, what a great collection, really a treasure.

    When last in London, I made a pilgrimage to The George Inn (your last photo) currently managed by the National Trust – the only surviving galleried coaching inn.

    An interesting book about the George is SHAKESPEARE’S PUB, A Barstool History of London as See Through the Windows of Its Oldest Pub – The George Inn by Pete Brown. Rather fanciful as regards the Bard’s presence there, but most informative about the centrality of these “coaching inns” to London’s commercial success.

  8. Annie S permalink
    November 8, 2017

    Very interesting to see a photograph of the original Archway Tavern.

  9. Jeanette permalink
    November 8, 2017

    Great to see these old photos and lovely that some of these pubs still survive. I’ve had lunch in the George and Vulcan and drinks in Us Olds Cheshire Cheese. In fact my Great Grandfather used to deliver the big cheddar cheese that they used to have on the bar for their patrons and where I presume the name derives from. Read about my Great Grandfathers life working and living in the City of London on this site. Search for William Henry Knapp.

  10. Gary Arber permalink
    November 8, 2017

    The photo of the horse drawn tram in Highgate is very rare. This is the first picture that I have seen of one.

  11. Peter Holford permalink
    November 8, 2017

    Fascinating – I can study old photos of pubs for hours imagining what they would have been like. I remember the cellars of pubs from the 1950s onwards as my uncle used to take me with him while he did all the cellar work – a lot of heaving 36 gallon barrels onto racks, tapping them, filtering beer back into them. And I loved the smell – but not the taste! But that was then.

    I was surprised at the picture of the pub in Isleworth – it almost looks like a scene from the London Docks and yet it is well upriver of the old urban boundary of London. I checked it out on StreetView – remarkably unchanged apart from the cranes having disappeared and looking rather more gentrified now.

  12. Marcia Howard permalink
    November 9, 2017

    I grew up in London during the 1950s, and although my dad wasn’t a heavy drinker to my knowledge, he liked a pint, but more so, the camaraderie of his ‘local’. Many pubs back then had their own personalised cocktail sticks (no doubt for those ladies who had a cherry in their snowball or babycham), some were just a miniaturised swinging pub sign, others more elaborate. My dad amassed quite a collection over time. He died in the mid 60s when I was still a teenager, and I asked my mum whether I could have his collection of cocktail sticks – which I’ve added to over time. One of my favourites is a mini replica of the post office tower where my late husband and I had a meal in the revolving restaurant in its early days. A treasured collection making up a little bit of pub history.

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