Unless you have thoroughly planned your London vacation from home, the first thing you do after checking in is go to a pub, order a pint of beer and start drafting a route. This article is going to help you experience local history right from the beginning, as you will discover some of the oldest pubs in London. I know you’re thirsty and want to find out if one of these pubs is nearby, so I’ll cut to the chase.
The Cittie Of Yorke (22 High Holborn, WC1). At present, you will find it in a building that has been built in the 1890s, but the site served as a location for pubs since 1430. Its large interior and high arched ceiling make it a very pleasant place to spend a few hours. The location is also great for conversations given there’s no disturbing noise from speakers. Samuel Smith's Old Brewery, founded in 1758 in Yorkshire owns the pub, so you will have a lot of Sammy Smith's lagers to indulge yourself.
The Lamb & Flag (33 Rose St, WC2) is said to go back to Tudor times, but the first mention of a pub on the site was in 1772 and it was called The Coopers Arms. In 1833 the name changed to The Lamb & Flag. In the early nineteenth century, the pub was known for organizing bare-knuckle prizefights. So, if after too many beers you feel like bringing back the old times, please don’t.
The Seven Stars (53 Carey St, WC2) was built in 1602 and is located behind the Royal Courts of Justice. Lawyers enjoying a drink after a hard day in court are now regular customers. The surrounding area was popular with the Dutch settlers and many taverns were named Seven Stars for marketing reasons as it referred to the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands. One of the most famous Seven Stars residents was Tom Paine, the pub’s eccentric cat that used to wear an Elizabethan-style ruff. Sadly, Tom passed away in September 2011, but Roxy Beaujolais, the Seven Stars landlady, worked hard to find a replacement worthy enough to carry on Mr. Paine’s legacy. Its name is Ray Brown. A beautiful cat that took on all Tom’s responsibilities from wearing the ruff to lazing in the laps of customers or posing in the window.
The White Hart (191 Drury Lane, WC2) is said to be the oldest licensed pub in London, the Old Bailey archives dating it back to 1216. Some say the evidence is insufficient, but the pub’s longevity is well known and The White Hart Public House name has been around since the 15th century. In the 18th century, Drury Lane had a rather bad reputation in London, being known for its nasty fights and drunkenness.
The George Inn (77 Borough High St, SE1) is the last galleried coaching inn in London and has been around since the 16thcentury. You can enjoy your drink into the various connected areas of the pub. You can choose The Parliament Bar, once a waiting room for passengers or The Middle Bar, which used to be The Coffee Room. Charles Dickens usually came here for a drink. He also mentioned the pub in Little Dorrit, a novel published in serial form between 1855 and 1857. Now, a restaurant is set up on the second floor, where The Bedrooms were. There you can find portraits of various personalities including Shakespeare, one of George Inn’s famous guests.
The Angel (101 Bermondsey Wall, SE16). An inn has been there since the 15th century, first built by the monks of Bermondsey Priory. The place is quiet, it’s located just on the Thames and the views over Tower Bridge and the river are great. One dark story says that a judge used to sit at The Angel pub’s current location and enjoy his beer while he watched those he condemned to death at the Execution Dock, on the other side of the river.
The Spaniards Inn (Spaniards Rd, NW3) Built in 1585, this pub is full of history and myths. Its gorgeous garden is known as one of the most beautiful pub gardens in London. Legend says the famous highwayman Richard "Dick" Turpin was a regular customer and he wasn’t the only one of his kind. It’s said that many highwaymen roamed the surrounding area and watched the road from the Inn to mug travellers. Spaniards Inn also had the honour to guest many famous people including Lord Byron, William Blake, John Keats and Mary Shelley. Bram Stoker mentioned the pub in “Dracula” and so did Charles Dickens in “The Pickwick Papers”.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (145 Fleet St, EC4). First, this was the location of a pub named Horn Tavern in 1538, but a year after The Great Fire (1666) it was rebuilt and renamed Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese . Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Gilbert Keith Chesterton were some of the famous figures known to visit the pub. At the ground level, there is a bar, but most of the space is underground. You descend by some narrow stairs to different levels. Above the doorway, you will notice one of the old rules, now a part of history: “Gentlemen only served in this bar “.
Ye Olde Watling (29 Watling St, EC4). Its history goes back to the 17th century, the pub being built from old ships’ timber by Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is located nearby. It is said that during the building of St. Paul’s, Wren had a drawing office at Ye Olde Watling’s upstairs rooms.