Old London inns and taverns connected to famous figures from history
The capital of the United Kingdom attracts many visitors on account of its heritage sites. But few realise how many of London’s pubs are truly historic in their own right. So, here’s a selection of old inns where you could have a pint with Pepys, a half with Hogarth or a dram with Dickens...
The Anchor.Southwark SE1 9EF. Samuel Pepys made for “a little alehouse on Bankside” during the Great Fire of London in 1666. This was it - although admittedly much of it was rebuilt around a decade after.
The Bull & Bush.Golders Green, North Hampstead. NW3 7HE. William Hogarth is known to have visited this famous old inn. Indeed, evidence suggests he drank here while working on his well-known piece The Rake’s Progress.
The Dove.19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith W6 9TA. Legend has it that Charles II used The Dove to meet with his mistress, Nell Gwynne. It’s also said that Rule Britannia! was written in the bar.
The Fitzroy Tavern.Fitzrovia, W1T 2NA. Popular with the Bloomsbury Set, Dylan Thomas was a regular, and it’s also said that Virginia Woolf partook of a tipple or two in the Fitzroy.
The Gatehouse. North Road, Highgate. N6 4BD. Some say there was an inn on the site as far back as the early 1300‘s. The present building, however, is purported to have been frequented by Lord Byron and Charles Dickens.
The George.Borough High Street, Southwark. SE1 1NH. London’s last remaining galleried coaching inn and popular with Charles Dickens (mention of the building is said to have been made in Little Dorrit). The property is owned by the National Trust.
The Grapes.Limehouse. E14 8BP. Some say that Charles Dickens based the ‘Six Jolly Fellowship Porters’ pub in Our Mutual Friend on this very inn. Indeed, the man himself would almost certainly recognise it today.
The Gun.Coldharbour, Docklands. E14 9NS. Over 200 years old, it was rumoured that The Gun was at one time a secret meeting place for Lord Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton.
The Mayflower. Rotherhithe. SE16 4NF. Once known as “The Shippe”, it is said that the captain of The Mayflower was here when he received orders to carry the Pilgrim Fathers to America (the vessel set sail from a nearby quay). Indeed, at one time the inn itself contained timbers from the ship.
The Museum Tavern.Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury. WC1B 3BA. Karl Marx was a notable former customer, as indeed was the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.Fleet Street, EC4A 2BU. Few inns can claim to have been so popular with literary types as Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Dr Johnson, William Makepeace Thackeray, G K Chesterton, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle all frequented the famous tavern. Charles Dickens even uses its name in A Tale of Two Cities.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street
The George Inn, Southwark
The Prospect of Whitby, Wapping Wall
The Prospect of Whitby. Wapping Wall, E1W 3SH. Dating back to the early sixteenth century, this old inn was formerly known as the Devils Tavern and once popular with less savoury characters. Famous past regulars include Samuel Pepys, Charles Dickens, Judge Jeffreys (who lived nearby), and it is even suggested that Captain William Bligh and Fletcher Christian drank here in 1787 before their ill-fated journey together on The Bounty (also see ‘The Town of Ramsgate’, below).
The Spaniards Inn.Hampstead Heath, NW3 7JJ. Probably the most infamous highwayman of all, Dick Turpin, is said to have used the inn as hide-out. Moreover, it is believed that his father may have been the landlord during the early 1700‘s and that the notorious outlaw might have even been born here.
The Ten Bells. Commercial Street. Whitechapel. E1 6LY. Did Jack The Ripper frequent this old inn? Quite probably - some of his victims did on the nights of their murders.
The Town of Ramsgate.Wapping High Street. E1W 2PN. Undoubtedly one of the oldest pubs in the whole of London, his 16th century inn has a couple of historic claims-to-fame. First, legend has it that Captain William Bligh and Fletcher Christian drank here before sailing on HMS Bounty, and, second, that the infamous Judge Jeffries was arrested in the property as he attempted to flee the country.
The White Hart.Drury Lane, Holborn. WC2B 5QD. This is possibly the oldest licensed premises in London (1216) although the existing building is, of course, not of such incredible age. That said, it was reputedly here that Dick Turpin drank, much as one or two other ne’r-do-wells of London did in years gone by.
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