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Pubs Of Wonderful London

February 27, 2023
by the gentle author

In these cold grey days at the end of winter, I get a powerful urge to seek refuge in a cosy corner of an old pub and settle down for the rest of the afternoon. 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

8 Responses leave one →
  1. February 27, 2023

    A very good idea — curl up in a cosy corner of your favourite pub and enjoy a GUINNESS or two. I finally have to do that again!

    Love & Peace

  2. Gee Farrow permalink
    February 27, 2023

    These records are absolutely priceless! Many thanks.

    Until recently I worked within a 5 minute walk of The Old Dr Butlers Head, and I’m happy to announce it’s still going strong and is well worth a visit.

  3. February 27, 2023

    A person could work up a real THIRST looking at these wonderful, atmospheric photos. I love the details — lettering, lighting fixtures and lanterns, architectural fripperies, etc. It’s only 9 AM here in the Hudson Valley, but “the bar is open” at our house, and I think I’ll have a Bloody Mary.

    Thanks for this coach tour of the various remarkable pubs. I feel windblown, but quite happy.
    One more round, if you please.

  4. Cherub permalink
    February 27, 2023

    I never knew of the existence of The George at Borough High St until a friend who lives in Southwark took me there one evening. Years ago a former boss of mine took me to The Anchor for lunch. I loved the bowed floor in the dining room and the lovely view of the Thames from the window.

  5. Christine Swan permalink
    February 27, 2023

    It’s good to see that some of these pubs have survived – but not many. We are fortunate to have two 450 year old pubs in Worcester – both still serving ale. The Cardinal’s Hat claims to be the oldest closely followed by King Charles House. Both are excellent and well worth a visit. Sadly a planning hatchet job in the 1970s destroyed many historic buildings here.
    You can’t get near nor by the George in Borough High St ( I know, I tried recently!), but I did visit the Cock Inn, Mare St, where my maternal grandparents both worked and met. Grandad then became bar manager of the Queen’s Head in Hackney Rd which is sadly gone. A great uncle managed the Connaught Inn close to the London Excel conference centre. Thanks GA, I feel thirsty now!

  6. Janet Matthews permalink
    February 27, 2023

    What about Dirty Dicks near Liverpool station. It’s been sanitised a little over time but worth a visit.

  7. Pence permalink
    February 27, 2023

    wonderful pictures. I love the cat.
    Are any of these pubs still in business?

  8. Christine Dalton permalink
    March 11, 2023

    Thoroughly enjoyed this post as we are drinkers and I’m always trying to find our old pubs to visit! I’m even more delighted as I have drank in ten of the pubs you have mentioned! Only regret I wish they looked like the photos when I visited! I think only the Grenidier and the Spaniard looks the same x

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