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A Pub Crawl In Smithfield & Holborn

April 7, 2019
by the gentle author

What could be a nicer way to spend a lazy afternoon than slouching around the pubs of Smithfield, Newgate, Holborn and Bloomsbury?

The Hand & Shears, Middle St, Clothfair, Smithfield

The Hand & Shears – They claim that the term ‘On The Wagon’ originated here – this pub was used for a last drink when condemned men were brought on a wagon on their way to Newgate Prison to be hanged – if the landlord asked ,“Do you want another?” the reply was “No, I’m on the wagon” as the rule was one drink only.

The Rising Sun – reputedly the haunt of body-snatchers selling cadavers to St Bart’s Hospital

The Rising Sun and St Bartholomew, Smithfield.

The Viaduct Tavern, Newgate St– the last surviving example of a Victorian Gin Palace, it is notorious for poltergeist activity apparently.

The Viaduct Tavern, Newgate

The Viaduct Tavern, Newgate

The Viaduct Tavern, Newgate

Princess Louise, High Holborn – interior of 1891 by Arthur Chitty with tiles by W. B. Simpson & Sons and glass by R. Morris & Son

Window at the Princess Louise, Holborn

Princess Louise

Princess Louise

Cittie of Yorke, High Holborn

The Lamb, Lamb’s Conduit St, Bloomsbury – built in the seventeen-twenties and named after William Lamb who erected a water conduit in the street in 1577. Charles Dickens visited, and Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath came here.

The Lamb

The Lamb

You may also like to look at

The Gentle Author’s Pub Crawl

The Pubs of Old London

14 Responses leave one →
  1. Jill Wilson permalink
    April 7, 2019

    Fabulous interiors! But where were all the customers?

  2. Helen Breen permalink
    April 7, 2019

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, what a great array of pub interiors with their lovely frosted glass tracery, lighting fixtures, sculpted ceilings, gleaming glassware, shiny wood, leather seating and so forth. Presumably you visited before the rush to show off these traditional pubs in their best light. Loved the story about being “on the wagon” – often wondered what it meant…

  3. April 7, 2019

    Great pubs, great beer, great photographs. I’m thirsty.

  4. April 7, 2019

    I know the Lamb is still in operation but are the others? Something to investigate.

  5. April 7, 2019

    Dear GA, Second to none in my admiration. However ‘on the wagon’ has nothing to do with executions. It was first recorded 1889 as ‘on the water wagon’ and later the ‘on the water-cart’ and remained a US idiom until 1920s. For details, see: (the Wodehouse book of 1910 was set in New York). Beware the wicked snare of popular etymology (not to mention pub self-mythologizing).

  6. Colin Lennon permalink
    April 7, 2019

    Great pub crawl – I haven’t done one for years and that looks very inviting. I would definitely have the Lamb on my route as it is probably the London pub I have visited most over the years; you can usually get a seat too. I pass the pubs on the early part of your itinerary quite often but have never gone in because it has been standing room only – I pick the wrong time obviously.

    Interesting route, with what appears to be a long trek to the Princess Louise before backtracking to the Cittie of York – bet there’s a good reason though. I might have slipped into the Old Mitre after the Viaduct, just for old times sake – one of the first pubs I visited in London, although it was many years until the second visit as I could never find it again in the days before Ye Olde Internet!

  7. Jude permalink
    April 7, 2019

    I wish I’d been with you! I love London’s pubs. Truly the interiors are nearly always amazing. Thank you for reminding me (i especially like you presenting them in black and white – more atmospheric)

  8. Corvin permalink
    April 7, 2019

    Gentle Author, you are a paragon of responsible drinking, limiting yourself to six establishments and keeping a steady hand on the camera!

  9. Mike S permalink
    April 7, 2019

    The suggestion that the Rising Sun was the haunt of body snatchers was invented in the 1990s by a tour guide (still active) who used to visit there. He also invented – the victim of an overactive imagination and scant regard for the truth – the ghost in the upstairs bar and the ghost of a former landlord of the Old Red Cow in Long Lane. As the latter had only just shuffled of this mortal coila few years before it seemed slightly disrespectful to say the least.

    The Rising Sun does not date back far enough to be the preserve of resurrectionists. They were believe to have instead used the Fortune of War which stood opposite the hospital at Pye Corner in Giltspur Street.

    The moral of the story is never to believe tour guides unless blue badged. Otherwise treat them as being in the entertainment industry rather than historical sources.

  10. Pauline Taylor permalink
    April 7, 2019

    How clean and tidy these pubs look unlike times past when everything was covered with a yellow gunge from cigarette smoke and the smell was of stale beer and nicotine, they look much more inviting now.
    I agree with Mike S as well re tour guides, our premises are on a tourist route and guides (even blue badge ones) repeat the same misinformation over and over again. Queen Elizabeth came here to meet William Gilberd (she never did), this was the servant’s quarters (actually a separate parlour and solar for the family), William Gilberd invented electro magnetism (he wrote de Magnete and is responsible for the word electricity having carried out an experiment by rubbing a piece of amber on silk thus creating static and naming that electric from the Greek word for amber, but electro magnetism came much later). They are right that our premises and the parlour and solar were part of William Gilberd’s home but he was never knighted as they claim. Unfortunately visitors pay for these tours and the information that they are given should be correct but sadly that is not so. Rant over.

  11. Marcia Howard permalink
    April 7, 2019

    Amazing images. I loved every one of them, even if one or two of them had grim tales attached to them

  12. Martin Lawson permalink
    April 8, 2019

    Dear GA,
    You may be interested to know that two pubs in Seymour Place, W1 also lay claim to the “on the wagon” story. Allegedly the cellar of the Portman Arms was once a holding jail cell for those condemned to hang at Tyburn – then just across the road before the development of the western end of Oxford Street, and where the the Marble Arch now stands. The story suggests that those about to die were offered “one for the road” before boarding the wagon outside the Portman, or the Carpenter’s Arms nearby, to be taken the short distance to the gallows, and of course, never drink again….

  13. April 11, 2019

    PROPER pubs! A delight to see these photos.

  14. Georgina Briody permalink
    May 1, 2019

    With friends visited the Hand & Shears today and the Viaduct Tavern, the latter allowing us to view the cells beneath the pub…..both establishments well used. Had a wonderful day.

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