Tag Archives: City of London Pubs

Pubs of the City of London, July 2020 – Part 2

Welcome to part two of my walk to find the pubs of the City of London, as they were in July 2020. At the end of part one, I was at the Ship in Talbot Court. From here, I walked back to Gracechurch Street, then down to Cannon Street, looking for the:

The Bell – Bush Lane

Walk west along Cannon Street, and just before reaching Cannon Street Station, turn left into Bush Lane, and a short distance down is The Bell.

City of London Pubs

A pub has been at this location for many years, with the pub claiming 1660 as the year of the first business.

The pub is the smaller building in the terrace, and is Grade II listed. According to the listing record the current building dates from the mid 19th century.

Between the top two windows on the Bell is a rather nice plaster relief of a bell.

City of London Pubs

Apparently below the pub are the remains of Roman walls. The HMSO 1928 publication, Inventory of Roman London, mentions Roman walls and a tessellated pavement found in the area of The Bell and Bush Lane.

Back to Cannon Street, and continuing west, at the junction with Queen Street, is:

The Sugar Loaf – Cannon Street

Another Grade II listed pub is the Sugar Loaf, now back to its original name after a short stint as an O’Neills between 1996 and 2014.

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The Grade II listing dates the pub to early 19th century. The first records I could find date from the 1850s when the pub started appearing in newspaper reports.

One particularly tragic report from the 19th May 1868 is about a 30 year old servant, Emily Volenworth, at the Sugar Loaf who threw herself from an attic window of the pub, and died soon after. I wonder what circumstances led her to such an awful fate.

At the junction of Cannon Street and Queen Victoria Street, I turned south along Garlick Hill to find:

Three Cranes – Garlick Hill

The Three Cranes is a recent name change to an old pub that until a few years ago was the Hatchet.

City of London Pubs

The pub is now named after Three Cranes stairs, one of the Thames stairs to the south of the pub. The pub sign shows a map with Three Cranes stairs in the centre. It looks like a version of the Agas map, but is lacking in detail. The name Three Cranes comes from the three cranes along the river near the stairs, used for moving cargo between ship and shore.

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A good name for a pub, and a local reference, and I suspect was chosen to add some authenticity as a new name for the pub.

Ye Olde Watling – Watling Street

Back up to the Cannon Street / Queen Victoria Street junction, then up Bow Lane to the junction with Watling Street to find Ye Olde Watling:

City of London Pubs

The pub is named after the ancient street on which it stands (or the rough alignment of the original Watling Street). Built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1668, The Encyclopedia of London claims that the pub was used by Wren as an office whilst designing St Paul’s Cathedral.

A newspaper report from August 1948 states that the pub had recently been repaired following war time damage, and records that the pub was in danger of demolition. At the time it was called Ye Old Watling Restaurant.

Ye Old Watling in 1948 in a view that looks more like that of a market town, than the City of London. The tower in the background is that of the church of St Mary Aldermary.

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On a sunny lunchtime and evening, the space outside Ye Olde Watling would be crowded with drinkers, whilst other City workers and tourists walking up to St Paul’s Cathedral would squeeze past.

The pub sign emphasises the Roman connection with Watling Street:

City of London Pubs

A short distance further along Watling Street is:

The Pavilion End – Watling Street

With any pub, there is a need to differentiate, to show the pub is different to those in the local area and to attract a specific audience. The Pavilion End does this by being a themed sports / cricket pub and is relatively recent.

City of London Pubs

Whilst the Pavilion End is a perfect pub for a cricket enthusiast, the building is the more historic point of interest and is a rather nice mid 19th commercial building.

The building is Grade II listed and retains the iron columns used to support the structure of the building. Many of these can be seen on the facade facing Watling Street, now painted red. The pub also has some rather ornate decoration around the doors.

The Grade II listing was dated 1977, and was fortunate as the 1970s were the decade when many of these buildings were at risk. The LMA Collage archive includes a photo of the building in 1971.

City of London Pubs

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_027_71_9832

The above photo illustrates the risk to City buildings in the last decades of the 20th century as the buildings on either side of what is now the Pavilion End have both been replaced with later buildings.

From Watling Street, i walked up Bow Lane, and turned into Groveland Court to find:

Williamson’s Tavern – Groveland Court

Groveland Court is a narrow alley off Bow Lane, with the main attractions being the pubs at the end of the alley, as Groveland Court does not lead anywhere.

Williamson’s Tavern has a long history, which a sign on the front of the pub informs:

“Williamson’s Tavern dates back to the 17th century, built not long after the Great Fire of London in 1666. The site became the address of the new Mayor of London and the wrought iron gates a gift from William III and Mary II who are thought to have dined here. 

By 1739 the building was not thought to be grand enough an address for the Mayor and it was sold to Robert Williamson for conversion into a hotel. the hotel remained in the Williamson family until 1914 when James Williamson died and it was sold at auction”.

City of London Pubs

The pub also claims to hold the oldest excise licence in the City and to be haunted by a poltergeist called Martha, whose presence apparently causes Police Dogs to bark as they pass Groveland Court, and refuse to enter the narrow alley.

Oppsite Williamson’s Tavern is:

The Four Sisters – Groveland Court

The Four Sisters is not really a pub, rather a cocktail bar / restaurant and is styled as a Georgian townhouse. I have included the Four Sisters as externally it does look like a traditional pub and has a traditional pub sign handing outside the building.

City of London Pubs

The wrought iron gates to the left of the above photo were the gift from William III and Mary II, mentioned in the history of Williamson’s Tavern. The Groveland Court Four Sisters is an offshoot of the main establishment at Canonbury Lane, Islington. Although the Groveland Court establishment has been closed since March, I am not sure if it is reopening as it has disappeared from the company’s website.

City of London Pubs

From Groveland Court, I walked back down to Cannon Street, up to St Paul’s Churchyard, then down Peter’s Hill to:

The Centre Page – Knightrider Street

There is a long history of a pub on this site, possibly dating back to at least the 17th century, although the current name is recent, having changed in 2002 from the Horn Tavern.

City of London Pubs

Although the pub has changed name, the large lantern on the corner has been a long term feature, which my father photographed from Sermon Lane (the original lane that now sort of runs to the west of Peter’s Hill at the top of the steps). I wrote a post about the Horn Tavern here.

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From Peter’s Hill / Sermon Lane, I walked up to and along Carter Lane, to:

The Rising Sun – Carter Lane

The Rising Sun announces its location as you walk along Carter Lane, before you can see the actual pub:

City of London Pubs

Another Grade II listed, early / mid 19th century building, the Rising Sun is a typical City pub.

City of London Pubs

The Rising Sun is within the St Paul’s Cathedral Conservation Area, so as well as the Grade II listing for the pub, the surrounding area should be preserved as the narrow streets add to the pub’s character, although Creed Lane, the street I was standing in to take the above photo is currently closed off, with a large empty space where some new building work is underway. Hopefully whatever is planned will maintain the character of the area. Also looks like the facade in the distance has been retained.

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From Carter Lane, I walked down St Andrew’s Hill to find:

The Cockpit – St Andrews Hill

The Cockpit is a lovely Victorian triangular pub, with one side on St Andrew’s Hill and the other on Ireland Yard.

City of London Pubs

The Cockpit is a perfect example of the difficulty of finding the true history of places and the origins of names. Most references to the Cockpit pub link the name to cock fighting and a cock pit on the site. References also include a name change, for example the London Encyclopedia states that “After cockfighting was banned in 1849, the name was changed to the Three Castles”.

The Three Castles name was though being used almost 50 years earlier with a reference in the Morning Advertiser on Saturday July 2nd 1808: “The Members of the Benefit Society of Taylors  held at the Three Castles, St Andrew’s Hill, Blackfriars, are requested to meet at the above house on MONDAY the 11th July at Eight o’clock in the evening”.

St Andrew’s Hill was originally named Puddle Dock Hill as the street led down to Puddle Dock on the Thames. I cannot find a cock pit reference on any early maps, and books such as Old and New London make no reference to a cockpit being located here. The most common historical reference to the area is that Shakespeare bought a house in 1612 in the area around St Andrew’s Hill and Ireland Yard.

There may well have been a cockpit here, and a pub on the site before 1808 may have been called the Cockpit, but it was not the banning of the practice in 1808 that caused the name change, and I can find no firm evidence that there was.

It is though a lovely, friendly pub, and usually one of those that can be guaranteed to be open at the weekend.

My next stop was a pub that looks similar to the Cockpit, and was actually open.

The Blackfriar – Queen Victoria Street

The Blackfriar is a magnificent pub, sitting on a triangular plot of land which has resulted in the shape of the pub.

City of London Pubs

Named after the Dominican friary which has given its name to the local area and the nearby bridge over the River Thames, the Blackfriar was built around 1875, so not long after Queen Victoria Street opened. The pub was Grade II listed in 1972, which probably explains how the pub has survived the development of the surrounding area. The triangular shape of the building is down to an original street and the new Queen Victoria Street.

To the left of the pub is a short stub of a street leading to a dead-end. On maps this is currently named as Blackfriars Court, but was originally Water Lane. The plot of land originally extended further south to make a more rectangular plot, however Queen Victoria Street sliced through the lower part of this plot and created a triangular plot on which the Blackfriar was built.

Designed by the architect H. Fuller-Clark, with decorations by the artist Henry Poole, the Blackfriar is a unique pub, both inside and out, and was open by the time I reached the pub.

Socially distanced tables were outside, and despite being very well organised and feeling very safe, it was quiet, which highlights the challenges that City pubs may encounter in the coming months. It is not just about reopening – there need to be sufficient people in the City, willing and wanting to go to a pub, and feeling safe when they are there.

From the Blackfriar, I walked up New Bridge Street, and turned left into Bridewell Place:

St Bride’s Tavern – Bridewell Place

St Bride’s Tavern is a modern looking pub, with a large central set of bow windows on the first and second floors of the building. I suspect it would look better if the wall and windows on either side of the central section were symmetrical, however today there are six windows on the right, and one on the left.

City of London Pubs

The austere facade of the pub is broken up with lots of greenery, there is usually a large display of flowers across the building. At the very top of the bow window are some interesting gold painted decorations:

City of London Pubs

The St Bride’s Tavern, or indeed any pub, has not been at this location for a long time. The 1894 Ordnance Survey map shows that at the time, the same space was occupied by a Police Station of the 3rd Division.

The pub is named after the church of St Bride’s which is a short distance to the north west, and the pub sign displays the spire of the church above the surrounding rooftops:

City of London Pubs

It was to the edge of St Bride’s church that I headed to next:

The Old Bell – St Bride’s Avenue

St Bride’s Avenue runs along the northern edge of St Bride’s churchyard, and despite the use of Avenue in the name, it is a narrow alley leading up from Bride Lane. The narrow space also made photographing the Old Bell somewhat difficult.

City of London Pubs

The Old Bell is an old pub, claiming to have been built by Sir Christopher Wren in the 1670s for workmen and masons working on the church of St Bride’s. On a warn summer’s day, the alley would frequently be crowded with drinkers – but not today.

City of London Pubs

I have used St Bride’s Avenue as the address for the pub, however the main address is on Fleet Street, where the pub also has an entrance, however personally, I always prefer the St Bride’s Avenue entrance. The narrow alley is a much better way to enter a pub rather than from the bustle of Fleet Street.

City of London Pubs

The Old Bell has survived the loss of the newspaper industry around Fleet Street, as workers from the papers published and printed along the street once made up a significant proportion of the pub’s clientele. Hopefully the Old Bell will continue to prosper long into the future.

Before walking up to Fleet Street, there was one more pub to find in Bride Lane, opposite the steps leading up to the Old Bell:

Crown and Sugar Loaf – Bride Lane

The Crown and Sugar Loaf could be easy to miss as you walk along Bride Lane, as your attention probably wanders to the adjacent church and the Old Bell, but it is a pub worth visiting.

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A small pub, but with an interesting history. Although the space has been a pub for many years, it has only been the Crown and Sugar Loaf since 2004. The space now occupied by the Crown and Sugar Loaf was once part of the Punch Tavern, but this space was separated from the original pub when the Punch Tavern was sold, and a new pub opened in this smaller space.

The Crown and Sugar Loaf is an interesting name. Crown usually refers to some link or reference to Royalty. Sugar Loaf could either refer to the trade of the Grocer, or, Sugar Loaf was the name applied to a block of refined sugar, exported from the Caribbean.

The name is the original name for the pub that would be called the Punch Tavern, so the next pub was obviously the pub that was separated off from the Crown and Sugar Loaf, and was renamed as:

The Punch Tavern – Fleet Street

The Punch Tavern was originally the Crown and Sugar Loaf. It was renamed at some point in the 1840s. The first record I can find of the pub using the Punch name is from 1846.

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The original Crown and Sugar Loaf dates to the 18th century. A newspaper report from October 1790 reports on the ever present risks to London buildings when the Crown and Sugar Loaf was badly damaged by a fire which started in a gingerbread baker’s in New Bridge Street;

“The flames communicated from thence to the adjoining premises backwards and burnt through to Fleet-street, the Crown and Sugar Loaf and Mr Pridden’s, were also much damaged before the flames could be extinguished”.

The reason for the name change in the 1840s were the number of drinkers at the pub who worked in the nearby offices of Punch magazine. The current building dates from 1894.

A short distance west along Fleet Street is:

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – Fleet Street

I am always a bit dubious about places that put “Ye Olde” in front of their names, but the Cheshire Cheese is genuinely old. The pub is housed in the building to the right of the brick built pair in the centre of the following photo:

City of London Pubs

The pub dates from 1538 and the current building dates from 1667. There is no entrance to the pub from Fleet Street, you have to walk down Wine Office Court to the left of the Cheshire Cheese to gain access. Wine Office Court dates from at least 1676, and takes its name from the office that issued licences for selling wine that was located in the court.

City of London Pubs

Perhaps one of the strangest stories from a London pub is that of the parrot that lived at the Cheshire Cheese and the national publicity of its death in 1926. From the Devon and Exeter Gazette on November 1st 1926:

“A Great Bird: The death after a long illness of the Cheshire Cheese parrot has gloomed half of London. The news was broadcast last night from 2LO with due solemnity. So far as a grey and scarlet South African parrot can achieve greatness, that bird did. For 40 years it was the biggest personality in Fleet-street. No really illustrious visitor to this country failed to secure an audience, at which the parrot always took the honours. It was a gifted talker, even by the highest Army standards, and beside such wide-tricks as imitating perfectly all the sounds of a public bar not only swore like a cavalry S.M. but obviously knew the right time to do it. I once saw it drop a cigarette box it was perforating. It promptly exclaimed just what most ex-Service men would say if they dropped a half crown down a grid. Once Princess Mary insisted on being introduced to Polly. It had to be done, but it aged the manager. If anyone had mentioned the Kaiser the King’s daughter would have heard things not mentioned to a drunken cow-puncher”.

As well as the parrot, the Cheshire Cheese has also been frequented by lesser celebrities such as Charles Dickens.

The Cheshire Cheese likes to wear its history:

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Across the road from Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, is:

The Tipperary – Fleet Street

The Tipperary occupies a relatively thin building at 66 Fleet Street:

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A board at the front of the pub provides some detail as to the long history of the pub:

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Further west along the Strand, at number 22 is:

Ye Olde Cock Tavern – Fleet Street

Another tall and narrow pub, sandwiched between two later stone buildings, Ye Olde Cock Tavern has an entrance which covers the entire ground floor aspect to Fleet Street:

City of London Pubs

Ye Olde Cock Tavern is Grade II listed, and the listing provides some architectural details:

“1912 by Gilbert and Constandures. Painted roughcast. 4 storeys and attic; a single bay facade; ground floor entrance with wide 4 centred arch. Timber mullioned and transomed oriel window with leaded lights at 1st floor. Attic within half-timbered gable with plain bargeboards. Steep tiled roof. Hanging sign on wrought iron bracket. Contains a C17 chimneypiece of stone supported on plain brackets with an oak overmantel flanked by enriched terminal pilasters”.

The Historic England listing gives a date of 1912, however the pub is much older, but at a different location. A pub with the name may have been established as early as the 17th century, however it was on the opposite side of the street. The pub moved to its current position in 1887 when the construction of a bank resulted in the demolition of the original pub.

The move across Fleet Street seems to have been the catalyst for an addition to the name. The only references I can find to the full name of Ye Olde Cock Tavern date from the 1880s. The pub had previously been known simply as the Cock Tavern. I suspect that “Ye Olde” was added to the name at the time of the move across the street to perhaps ensure that although it was in a new location, it was seen as a continuation of a name which had been on Fleet Street for many years.

The original pub seems to have been known for oysters, for example from a newspaper report from the 1st December 1846 “The country visitor to the metropolis has been, for more years than we can remember, accustomed to take his first oysters and stout at the Cock Tavern, in Fleet Street; and we have occasionally, like other people, trespassed upon his well saw-dusted floor”.

The move of the pub must have been to an existing building, before the re-work of 1912, as the Grade II listing makes reference to 17th century features remaining in the building.

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Leaving Fleet Street behind, I walked north along Fetter Lane to find:

The White Swan – Fetter Lane

The White Swan in Fetter Lane is within a 1950s building, and now advertises as a Pub and Chophouse. Pubs have had to focus more on food over the years as there is more profit in food than there is in just the sale of beer and spirits at a bar.

City of London Pubs

Although the building is relatively recent, there has been a Swan on Fetter Lane since at least 1808, when the pub was used in an advert for a Chandlers Shop to let, with interested parties invited to ask for directions at the White Swan, Fetter Lane.

It is fascinating the different activities carried out within pubs, when they were far more of a community resource than today. I have written about many of the functions carried out within pubs along the river in east London, but interesting to see that many of these same functions were carried out at pubs in the City. For example pubs were a common place for inquests to be held, and on the 22nd November 1832, the Morning Post reported:

“Yesterday evening an Inquest was held at the White Swan, Fetter-lane, Fleet-street, on the body of a female named M. Cleallan, who committed suicide by cutting her throat with a razor. The Inquest was held before the City Coroner, J. SAYERS, Esq., and a very respectable jury. The Jury having viewed the body , and examined witnesses amongst whom was the husband of the deceased, unanimously returned the following verdict;- That the deceased committed the rash act in a fit of temporary derangement”.

The White Swan is within a rather nice brick building, with concrete surrounding the central windows. Between the first and second floors, the name “The White Swan” is carved on one of the concrete panels.

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From Fetter Lane, I turned off into Norwich Street, to the junction with Furnival Street, to find:

26 Furnival Street

Much like the White Swan, 26 Furnival Street (the name of the pub as well as the address) is a pub which now concentrates far more on food.

City of London Pubs

The name change is recent as this was a typical corner pub called the Castle.

The name comes from the original street name – Castle Yard, which changed to Furnival Street in the early 1890s. Norwich Street, the street that runs alongside the pub back to Fetter Lane was called Magpie Yard. The Castle Yard name was changed to commemorate Furnival’s Inn – not an Inn in the pub sense of the word, rather one of the Inns of Chancery. Founded by William de Furnival in 1383, and later part of Lincoln’s Inn.

The current pub building dates from 1901, but there has probably been a pub on the site for a few hundred years.

And with 26 Furnival Street, I have concluded part two of my walk to find the pubs of the City of London. I had intended to complete this walk in two posts, however with each post being over 4,000 words, and plenty of photos, I do not want to inflict too much on you, the reader.

Part three will be the final post, and will cover pubs from Holborn, Smithfield and Aldersgate Street.

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Pubs of the City of London, July 2020 – Part 1

I have been meaning to do this for some time, to take a walk to find all the pubs of the City of London and last Sunday I had the opportunity to do so. I wanted to do this for a number of reasons.

Working with my father’s photos, I am very aware that there was so much else that would have been fascinating to see recorded as a photo. The costs and limitations of film photography always restricted the number he could take as an amateur.

I like photographic themes and snapshots of a theme at a specific time. They tell the story of what life was like, what you could find on the streets of London, at a specific point in time. My first attempt was a couple of years ago when I photographed all the theatres in the West End. All closed now, but at the time a dynamic, cultural environment, attracting many thousands of people into London and supporting many jobs. Those posts are here and here.

I have also been thinking recently about the impact of the pandemic on the City of London. Is this one of those points in history which results in a significant change, or in five years time will everything be back to normal, the streets, offices, transport systems all crowded.

During the week the City is very quiet. So many companies are finding that it is perfectly possible to work remotely and the potential savings in office space costs are enormous, and for workers, saving both time and money by not having the crowded commute into London are significant benefits.

There will always be a need to have some working space in London, but it may be at considerably reduced levels to those we have at the moment, and whilst working at home offers significant benefits, there is a need for the type of interaction which can only be achieved face to face.

The question will be whether the number of those working in the city return to levels which can support the number of businesses which sell to city workers. All the coffee shops, retailers and pubs.

This may be an economic problem for the pubs of the City of London, so I decided to photograph as many as possible during a single day. I know many of these pubs, and also used the data made available on the Corporation of London website where you can map all the premises in the City with alcohol licenses. There are some basic filtering options to help separate out the many restaurants that also have alcohol licenses from the pubs, and I worked out a roughly circular route that took me to a total of 50 pubs.

I know there are some I missed, so will mop these up during a later walk.

Nearly every pub was closed, and the streets of the City were empty. No tourists, very few walkers and very few cars. The congestion charge now applies at weekends, which may also have an impact in reducing the numbers of visitors to the City.

Today’s post has the first batch of pubs, and a midweek post will cover the final batch. This second post will also include an interactive map of all the pub locations.

My walk started in the heart of the City, just north of Gresham Street, at:

The Old Doctor Butler’s Head – Masons Avenue

With an address in Masons Avenue, you might expect the Old Doctor Butler’s Head to be in a wide street, however you will find the pub in a narrow alley between Basinghall Street and Coleman Street.

Pubs of the City of London

The Old Doctor Butler’s Head is an old pub, with the building allegedly dating from just after the Great Fire.

On a summer’s evening, the alley is normally crowded with people having a drink after work.

It is named after Doctor William Butler, the court physician of King James I. Born in Suffolk in 1535, he lived until 1617, and during his life he used a number of bizarre treatments including firing pistols near the heads of his patients with epilepsy to scare the ailment from the patient.

His connection with pubs comes from his creation of a “purging ale” which he claimed had medicinal properties. There were a number of pubs with the name of Doctor Butler selling the ale, and the pub in Masons Avenue is the only one to remain.

The current building cannot date from Dr Butler’s time as it was built at some point after 1666, but there may have been an earlier pub on the same site.

Pubs of the City of London

Doctor Butler’s Head looking much the same in 1974:

Pubs of the City of London

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0975_74_12394

From Masons Avenue, it was a short walk up to the junction of London Wall and Moorgate, to find:

The Globe / Keats At The Globe – Moorgate

I have not been in either of these two pubs for many years, and as far as I can tell they are now effectively one pub.

Walking across London Wall to Moorgate, there is an entrance to the Keats at the Globe in the small space that has now been truncated by the building of Crossrail:

Pubs of the City of London

Walk around the corner, and facing Moorgate is a large Victorian pub – The Globe, with a mirror image of the above entrance to Keats at the Globe, alongside the Globe.

Pubs of the City of London

The Keats at the Globe was originally a separate pub called the John Keats, but appears to now be a bar associated with the larger corner pub. It make an interesting combination of buildings, with the Globe forming a typical corner pub, and the Keats running through the length of the block of buildings having an entrance at both ends.

The reason for the Keats name is given in a plaque on the Moorgate facing side of the Keats pub, claiming that John Keats was born in the Swan and Hoop which was originally on the site in 1795.

Pubs of the City of London

John Keats was the son of Thomas Keats, a west country stableman, who moved up to London to manage the Livery Stable at the Swan and Hoop. He married Francis Jennings, the daughter of the proprietor of the Swan and Hoop and the poet John Keats would be the result.

Heading further north along Moorgate, then into South Place and Eldon Street:

Red Lion – Eldon Street

The Red Lion is on the corner of Eldon Street and Wilson Street:

Pubs of the City of London

Etched onto the pub windows are signs saying that the pub has been a “Purveyor of Quality Cask Ales since 1799”. Until the large corner sign was redecorated, it was claiming to have been established in 1887. I suspect that is when the current building dates from, and there was probably an earlier pub on the same site.

Nothing to do with pubs, but the following photo illustrates how the City streets may well be changing over the coming year. When Eldon Street curves into Broad Street Place, there is a branch of T.M. Lewin, originally founded in Jermyn Street in 1898, For many years, T.M. Lewin branches across the City have been selling shirts and suits to City workers.

Pubs of the City of London

However, from now on they will be selling online only, and have announced that all their shops will close. The streets are potentially going to look very different.

From Eldon Street, it was a short walk to Liverpool Street station, and:

The Railway Tavern

On the corner of Liverpool Street and Old Broad Street is the Railway Tavern.

Pubs of the City of London

Works for Crossrail have occupied much of Liverpool Street opposite the pub, but now seem to be coming to a close, so hopefully the street will soon be opening up fully.

The Railway Tavern seems to have been built in the 1850s or early 1860s. The earliest record I can find for the pub is from 1864 when the pub was used as a mailing address in an advert.

The pub backs on to the railway lines of the Circle and Metropolitan lines, which are open to the surface just behind the pub.

The Railway Tavern was opposite the old Broad Street Station and is now diagonally opposite Liverpool Street Station, and followed the 19th / early 20th century approach of building a pub outside a railway station and naming it the Railway Tavern.

Pubs of the City of London

Broad Street Station has been replaced by office blocks, however the Railway Tavern continues to provide a place for London commuters to have a final pint before running to Liverpool Street for the train home.

The next pub was very close:

Lord Aberconway – Old Broad Street

A short distance from the Railway Tavern, in Old Broad Street is the Lord Aberconway.

Pubs of the City of London

The Lord Aberconway was originally named the Kings and Keys, but has not always been a pub. The 1894 Ordinance Survey map does not show a pub at the location. It has though been associated with the nearby stations as it was previously a Railway Buffet and Refreshment Rooms.

The pub is named after Lord Aberconway who was the last Chairman of the Metropolitan Railway.

Pubs of the City of London

Outside the pub is a plaque claiming that the Lord Aberconway is “purportedly haunted with the spirits of the Great Fire of London victims”. 

Then via Liverpool Street into Bishopsgate, and:

Dirty Dicks – Bishopsgate

In Bishopsgate, all shuttered up was Dirty Dicks:

Pubs of the City of London

The pub, originally called The Old Jerusalem, took the name from a character who owned a hardware business in Leadenhall Street.

Nathaniel Bentley was originally a well off, well dressed young gentleman and owned the hardware business in Leadenhall Street. He was engaged to be married, but on the morning of the marriage he received news that his fiance had died. The room where the wedding breakfast had been arranged was locked and he vowed never to open the room again. He changed his way of living, wearing rags, never cleaning the store and generally living in squalor.

Whether the story is true is open to question. There are a number of alternative stories for why Nathaniel Bentley became Dirty Dick. For example, the East London Observer on the 11th June 1870 also used the marriage as the reason, but in this story he was jilted on the morning of the wedding with his bride claiming the cause being that he had not washed his neck. As a result, he swore an oath that he would never again use a bar of soap, use a brush, or allow a woman to enter his doors again.

What ever the cause. his actions resulted in him acquiring the nickname of Dirty Dick.

He refused his landlord access to the building, but when the landlord finally had access: “He found pictures and looking glasses on the walls of the living-rooms so encrusted with dirt that they could only be distinguished from the walls at close quarters. A study was the breeding place of countless spiders. In a bedroom was an old coat lying on the floor – the mattress used by Dirty Dick when he lay down to sleep”.

When he finally left the shop, he took shop soiled goods with him worth £10,000, and moved to Shoreditch. He did not stay there for long, and went on a tour of the country and whilst at Haddington in Scotland, he was taken ill and died in 1819, being buried locally in Haddington.

The link between Nathaniel Bentley and Dirty Dicks is somewhat tenuous. A landlord of the pub is alleged to have removed the contents of Bentley’s rooms in Shoreditch to the pub. The pub was later rebuilt in 1870, and continued the reputation as it was certainly a unique history, and good selling point to get visitors to the pub.

Also on Bishopsgate was:

Woodin’s Shades – Bishopsgate

Almost opposite Dirty Dicks, and on the corner of Bishopsgate and Middlesex Street is Woodin’s Shades:

Pubs of the City of London

Woodin was one William Woodin and the word “Shades” refers to a wine cellar.

William Woodin owned wine cellars in Thames Street, and a newspaper report in the Globe on the 6th April 1882 reported on the closure and sale of the wine cellars: “OLD WOODIN SHADES CELLARS – Thames-street. Absolute and Unreserved SALE of about 4,000 dozens of WINES of various descriptions in consequence of the immediate demolition of the Premises by the Fishmongers’ Company”.

As well as the wine cellars in Thames Street, William Woodin was also the landlord of the  Woodin’s Shades pub in the 1860s. The current building dates from 1893.

The Woodin’s Shades pub in 1959:

Pubs of the City of London

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: M0029433CL

From Bishopsgate, down Middlesex Street with a very quiet Sunday morning market was:

The Astronomer – Middlesex Street

The Astronomer is a relatively recent name for this pub in Middlesex Street. Reopened in 2016 as the Astronomer, it was the Shooting Star, and before that, the Coach and Horses which opened in the middle of the 19th century.

Pubs of the City of London

It is a Fuller’s pub, and they claim the name Astronomer is because the building in which the pub is located is called Astral House. I would have thought the Shooting Star was also an astronomy related name, so no idea why pub companies sometimes change the name of pubs. Possibly to provide a clean break with any past issues, but I am not aware of any that would have resulted in a name change from Shooting Star.

From Middlesex Street, up north along Sandy’s Row to find:

The Kings Stores – Widegate Street

The Kings Stores is on the corner of Widegate Street and Sandy’s Row.

Pubs of the City of London

The current pub dates from 1902, when it was rebuilt as confirmed at the top of the building:

Pubs of the City of London

Before the rebuild and name change, there was a pub on the same site, but called the Hoop and Grapes. I suspect the name change was to give the pub a unique name, rather than being one of several Hoop and Grapes in the City, two of which we will be visiting in this journey around City pubs.

Pubs of the City of London

I always photograph graffiti and stickers when walking the streets of London. They are off their time and provide a record of different views of world events. There were several on my City walk. This was on a door opposite the Kings Stores.

Pubs of the City of London

Back down Sandy’s Row, then via Middlesex Street, Catherine Wheel Alley and Cock Hill, to:

The Magpie – New Street

The history of the Magpie should be straightforward, but is confused by the pub company’s own references to the pub where they state: “The site of our pub was an ambulance station at the beginning of the 20th Century, but its place in history was secured when one of the first electric ambulances was stationed here in 1909. At night time and Sundays this one vehicle served the entire city”. However, at the top of the pub is the year 1873, and the building does look purpose built as a pub.

Pubs of the City of London

Checking newspaper records for the beginning of the 20th century, and there is clearly a pub here. For example in 1902 a report of £1 being collected for charity at the Magpie Hotel, New Street, Bishopsgate, and in 1912 there was an advert for a Housemaid and assistant at the bar of the Magpie, New Street. The 1894 Ordnance Survey map also shows a Public House in the same location as the Magpie.

There was also a pub on the site prior to the year 1873, when I assume the current building was built.

I wonder if the confusion is down to the building directly behind the Magpie. Bishopsgate Police Station extends from where the front of the building is located on Bishopsgate, all the way back to New Street, where the street curves left past the Magpie. It may be that the ambulance was based there, at the rear of the pub rather than at the site of the pub, which from records was clearly a pub from 1873 to the current day.

Pubs of the City of London

One of the joys of wandering around London is finding things in the most unexpected places. New Street is a dead end for traffic, however at the end of the street Cock Hill provides a walking route down to Catherine Wheel Alley.

Cock Hill is a very quiet alley, but on the side of one of the buildings is a wonderful bit of art:

Pubs of the City of London

A large blue cockerel above an entrance to one of the buildings. The tile to lower right has the date 1991, and if I have interpreted correctly, the initials W.N.

Pubs of the City of London

I have not been able to find who created the work, and why it is here (apart from the obvious association with the name of the alley), but it brightens up an alley surrounded by tall buildings.

Then back to Middlesex Street, which I followed south to:

Hoop and Grapes – Aldgate High Street

My next pub is the first of two Hoop and Grapes in the City of London, and I suspect why the Kings Stores changed name from the original Hoop and Grapes. The original reason for pubs having such graphic names was to ensure people (many of whom were illiterate), knew where to go. If you said to someone “I will meet you at the Hoop and Grapes” you did not want any confusion as to which one.

Pubs of the City of London

The Hoop and Grapes has foundations going back to the 13th century. There are various dates for the main building with both the 16th and 17th Centuries being claimed. Pevsner provides a date of the late 17th century for the pub, however I suspect at that time, buildings were not often completely rebuilt, but use was made of any features worth keeping to keep costs down.

Pubs of the City of London

The Hoop and Grapes in 1961, when before or after a beer, you could also get your eyes tested at the adjacent optician and teeth at “Supreme Denture Service Ltd”.

Pubs of the City of London

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_001_61_4323

Then along Aldgate High Street, and cut through the alley of Little Somerset Street to find:

Still and Star – Little Somerset Street

The Still and Star is a perfect example of the continual threat to London pubs, and the challenges they face in operating an economic business. There was a threat to the pub from development in 2016, however the pub was listed as an asset of community value, which saved the pub from demolition.

Pubs of the City of London

The developers appealed and in 2018, the appeal was rejected, however the appeal document showed the potential challenge to the continual existence of the pub.

The appeal findings stated that from 1820 to the 2nd October 2017, the building had operated continuously as a pub, however in October 2017, the tenant vacated the premises leaving a number of unpaid bills. His reason was the lack of revenue, particularly outside the summer months.

I am not sure if the pub has been open since the end of 2017. There is a chalked sign up outside the pub stating that it is closed until late 2021. The Victorian Society had an article dated the 21st March 2019 stating that the Still and Star was again at risk.

Pubs of the City of London

The Still and Star is a historic pub, as it was not built as a pub, rather it is a converted house, turned into a pub when licensing was deregulated. The City of London Appeal Findings provide the following source for the name:

“It is believed that the name originates from the premises once containing a still for producing spirit, likely gin, in the hayloft, and the strong associations with the Jewish community around Aldgate and Spitalfields, the star referring to the Star of David”.

No idea what the future will be for the Still and Star. I suspect the reason that the previous tenant left sums up the problem for the pub. Whilst it may be an asset of community value, if it cannot generate enough revenue, who is going to cover the pub’s costs? The developer probably just needs to sit back and wait for time to prove that the pub cannot commercially survive.

Back to Aldgate High Street, and west to find the:

Three Tuns – Jewry Street

The Three Tuns was once a common name for City pubs, however as far as I am aware, this is the only Three Tuns remaining.

Pubs of the City of London

A pub has been on the site since the mid 18th century, and the present building dates from 1939. The pub had a brief name change to Hennessy’s in 2003, but fortunately the original name has returned.

The Three Tuns has a section of Roman wall in the cellar which is a very fortunate survival given how many times there must have been building on the site.

The three tuns, or barrels are on display between the first and second floors of the building, which managed to provide a reminder of the original name during the time the pub was Hennessy’s.

Pubs of the City of London

Back up to Aldagte High Street, and at the junction with Leadenhall Street, I took the southern branch to Fenchurch Street:

East India Arms – Fenchurch Street

The East India Arms takes its name from the East India Company, who had their offices in nearby Leadenhall Street.

Pubs of the City of London

The earliest records I can find of the pub date from 1830 when a meeting at the East India Arms Tavern in Fenchurch Street was mentioned in the London Evening Standard.

It is a lovely brick building which stands in contrast to the surrounding buildings.

The pub sign consists of the arms of the East India Company – which makes sense given the name:

Pubs of the City of London

The following photo provides a view along Fenchurch Street to the East India Arms in 1969, and gives an impression of the diversity of shops on London streets at the time.

Pubs of the City of London

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_010_69_3780

Back to Fenchurch Street and to Fenchurch Street Station, then south into the:

Ship – Hart Street

The Ship is a wonderfully ornate pub, which needs some better lighting conditions than on the day of my visit to do justice to the decoration facing the street.

Pubs of the City of London

The current building dates from 1887 and is Grade II listed, and as with the majority of City pubs, there was a pub on the site prior to the current building.

Just above the central ground floor window of the pub is a carved shell, with the words Jubilee Year and the date 1887. A reminder that the year the pub was built was also the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

Pubs of the City of London

The decoration on the pub is wonderful and fully justifies the Grade II listing.

Pubs of the City of London

A quick detour up New London Street from Hart Street:

The Windsor

My intention was to photograph what might be called the traditional pubs in the City, however I have included one very new pub, if only to show how some sites retain their use over very many years, despite the area changing considerably.

This is The Windsor in New London Street:

Pubs of the City of London

Just to the right of the top of the steps on the left of the photo is Fenchurch Street Station and a pub called the Railway Tavern was originally on the site of the Windsor.

The first references I can find to the Railway Tavern date back to 1854, so perhaps the pub was built as part of the rebuild of Fenchurch Street Station.

The Windsor occupies the lower floors of a modern office block. No idea why it is called the Windsor and has a picture of Windsor Castle on the pub sign. It is not as if trains from Fenchurch Street run to Windsor.

Back to Hart Street, and east to where the street turns into Crutched Friars, and:

The Crutched Friar – Crutched Friars

The Crutched Friar in the street of the same name, is a pub I have not been able to find too much about.

Pubs of the City of London

The name comes from the religious order that established a base near Tower Hill in the 13th century. One of the few City pubs that I have not been in – will have to investigate more once they open.

Keep walking east along Crutched Friars to the:

Cheshire Cheese – Crutched Friars

A short distance along from the Crutched Friar, and on the same street is the Cheshire Cheese which has been built under the railway viaduct of the railway into Fenchurch Street Station,

Pubs of the City of London

The railway was built in the 1850s, however a pub with the same name has been on the site for some years before the arrival of the railway. For example, a newspaper advert from the Morning Advertiser on the 4th July 1807: “Wanted for a respectable Public House, a stout active lad, with a good character from his last place. Apply at Mr Chipping’s, Cheshire Cheese, Crutched Friars”.

It is one of the more unusual locations for a City of London pub.

Back to Fenchurch Street, all the way west to Gracechurch Street, then south to:

The Ship – Talbot Court

The second Ship pub on the walk around the pubs of the City of London, but this Ship has a very different appearance. Located in Talbot Court which runs from Gracechurch Street to Eastcheap.

Pubs of the City of London

A sign on the front of the pub claims that the Ship was built after the previous pub on the site (The Talbot) was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The rebuilt pub was renamed the Ship after the dock workers and deckhands that used to drink at the pub.

On a summer’s day, a very different clientele spill out into the space in front of the pub, but on my walk, it was closed and silent.

Pubs of the City of London

Not a single pub was open. If you look at the windows of the pubs, the majority had notices on doors and windows stating they are closed, and that they look forward to welcoming customers back as soon as they can safely open.

The challenge will be whether in a post pandemic world, there are enough customers to keep them all open.

That concludes part one of my walk to find the pubs of the City of London. In part two I continue west and north.

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