Historic Pubs of London (The City)
London is a city full of history and some of the best places walk back in time are in its pubs. When the museums and major sightseeing attractions have closed simply head to one of these places to relive a certain period of London’s history, picture famous people drinking there years before and even relax with a cool beer or glass of wine.
1. The Black Friar (174 Queen Victoria Street, EC4V 4EG) Blackfriars Tube
My personal favourite. It is an interesting wedge shaped building but must be visited for its magnificent art noveau interior which is a work on art in its own right. It is more like a church than a pub. It contains more than 50 types of marble and there is a great amount of details to examine throughout. There are bas-relief bronze monks on friezes in copper and plaster play and sing while offering pearls of wisdom such as “don’t advertise, tell a gossip”, “ a good thing is soon snatched up” and “finery is foolery”.
Built on the site of a Domenican friary which survived from 1279 until Henry VIII’s Reformation in 1539 and it was this order with their black habits which gave the pub and this area of London its name.
It is supposedly on this site that Henry VIII met the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the Papal Legate in 1532 to discuss the dissolution of his marriage from Catherine of Aragon.
Famous Patrons of this London Pub: this pub was actually saved from demolition by a campaign led by former poet laureate Sir John Betjeman
2. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (145 Fleet Street, EC4A 2BU) Blackfriars Tube
One of London’s most famous historic pubs. The sign outside informs visitors that Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was rebuilt in 1667 and history buffs will obviously know that this was due to the Great Fire of London in 1666 which destroyed most of The City. However, the vaulted cellars are believed to date back to the 13th century and a Carmelite Monastery which occupied the site.
Inside the pub has a warren of small rooms without natural lighting which gives it a gloomy, old world charm to it.
Famous Patrons of this London Pub: numerous famous people are reported to have drunk in this establishment. Most famously Dr. Samuel Johnson who lived nearby. However, artist Sir Joshua Reynolds, writers and poets such as Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Edward Gibbon, Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, GK Chesterton and WB Yeats to name just a few.
3. Cittie of York (22 High Holborn, WC1V 6BN) Chancery Lane Tube
Not one of the oldest pubs in London, although there has supposedly been an inn on the site since 1430 and the Gray's Inn Coffee Shop was built here in 1695, it is certainly one of London’s most unusual. Built in the early 20th Century, it is has the feel of a medieval banqueting hall. The Victorian style cubicles on the right as you walk in are more like compartments on an old train. These “confessionals” were used by lawyers looking for a more private place to discuss business with clients.
There are impressive wine casks on display which are said to be able to hold up to 1000 gallons each.
4. Ye Olde Mitre Tavern (1 Ely Court, Ely Place, EC1N 6SJ) Chancery Lane Tube
Established in 1546 this is an genuine historic pub. It is also one of the best hidden. Even with the exact address and directions it’s difficult to find. Ely Place gets its name from the fact that it became the town residence of the Bishops of Ely during the early 1300s.
In the front bar of the pub there is a post made out of a cherry tree that Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) is supposed to have used as a maypole to dance around.
5. The Viaduct Tavern (126 Newgate Street, EC1A 7AA) St. Pauls Tube
One of the best examples of a Victorian pub in London. On one wall there are three beautiful paintings of maidens that represent Agriculture, Banking and Arts. Unfortunately the Arts painting was reportedly shot by a drunken soldier celebrating the end of the First World War.
Originally founded as a gin palace. It is reported that the cellars of the pub were initially the prison cells of nearby debtors prison connected to the infamous Newgate Prison, renowned for its public hangings which took place until May 1868 (the last public execution in Great Britain).
Famous Patrons of this London Pub: Oscar Wilde drank here during his trial at the Old Bailey.
Best Pubs in London Part 2 (6-10) to follow