London Pub Signs – The Dove, Hammersmith…

While many establishments have been temporarily forced to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we publish this piece in the hope you’ll be able to visit soon…

The Dove, Hammersmith, seen from the Thames. PICTURE: Tarquin Binary (public domain)

This storied Thames-side pub in London’s west apparently has associations with everyone from King Charles II to Arts and Crafts designer William Morris and author Graham Greene and is known as a prime site to watch the annual Boat Race between Cambridge and Oxford universities.

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The Dove, Hammersmith. PICTURE: Michael Gwyther-Jones (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

The establishment, now Grade II-listed, at 19 Upper Mall is said to have a history dating back to the late mid 18th century and was originally founded as a coffee house.

The rooms within are fittingly small given the building’s age; in fact, the bar was once listed by Guinness World Records as the smallest bar room in the world.

The pub’s name apparently comes from the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark in which a dove is sent out after the great flood to find dry land and returns with an olive leaf in its beak indicating the receding waters (it’s also interesting to note that the pub was known for almost 100 years as ‘The Doves’ for many years – it has been said this was due to a sign-writer’s error which was only corrected in the last 1940s).

King Charles II is said to have met his mistress Nell Gwyn at this riverside location prior to its current incarnation. Others who have come to be associated with the pub itself – Morris and Greene aside – include American author Ernest Hemingway, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and Scottish poet, playwright and lyricist James Thompson who is said to have written the words for his 1740 song, Rule, Britannia!, here.

Another association comes from Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, founder of the Doves Bindery and the Doves Press, both of which he named after this pub. It’s also mentioned in the pages of Sir Alan Herbert’s 1930 popular novel, The Water Gipsies.

Now part of the Fuller’s chain. For more information, see www.dovehammersmith.co.uk.

Around London – Giant screens for the Royal Wedding; Graham Greene plaque; and, getting down and dirty at the Wellcome Collection…

• The Royal Wedding will be broadcast live on giant screens at Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park under plans announced by the Department for Media, Culture & Sport, the Mayor of London and The Royal Parks. The live coverage will be free to watch from 7am on 29th April and guests are advised to get there early. A “celebration wheel” has also been set up in Hyde Park – fees apply. See www.london.gov.uk/royalwedding.

• A blue plaque has been unveiled at the house where novelist Graham Greene wrote Brighton Rock. Greene, who died in 1991, lived at 14 Clapham Common North Side in London from 1935 to 1940 and while here wrote several works – these also included the Cannes’ winning collaboration with Carol Reed, The Third Man, and The Power and the Glory – before he joined the forerunner to intellgience service MI6 in 1941. Graham moved out of the house at Clapham Common after it was hit by a bomb in October 1940 (the Queen Anne-style property has since been rebuilt). No-one was in the house at the time – Greene’s wife Vivien and his children had been evacuated to Sussex while Greene himself was staying in Bloomsbury with his lover Dorothy Glover when the bomb hit. The English Heritage plaque was unveiled by Greene’s daughter, Caroline Bourget.

• On Now: Dirt, the Filthy Reality of Everyday Life. Get down amongst it at the Wellcome Collection where they’re running an innovative exhibition on dirt and humanity’s at times desperate efforts to keep it under control. The exhibition features 200 artefacts including visual art, scientific artefacts, film and literature with highlights including the earliest sketches of bacteria, John Snow’s ‘ghost map’ showing the spread of cholera in London in the 1850s, and a bejewelled broom. The exhibition features six different locations – from a street in Victorian London to a New York landfill site in 2030 – from where to begin the exhibition. Runs until 31st August. See www.wellcomecollection.org.

Where’s London’s oldest…restaurant?

For a city packed with restaurants of all shapes and sizes catering to all sorts of tastes, this title remains apparently undisputed with Rules in Covent Garden generally agreed to be London’s oldest restaurant.

Founded in 1798 by Thomas Rule, the restaurant has only been owned by three families – the Rules, the Bell family and that of the current owner, John Mayhew, who purchased the restaurant in 1984.

Those who have dined there include literary luminaries such as HG Wells, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Graham Greene (it features in his novel, The End of the Affair – only one of a number of books in which the restaurant makes an appearance), John Le Carre, and poet John Betjeman, actors including Clark Gable, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman and Joan Collins, politicians including Michael Heseltine, John Prescott and William Hague, and even royalty – Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, was known to meet his mistress Lillie Langtry here.

Originally opened as an ‘oyster bar’, the restaurant at 35 Maiden Lane is these days known for its game dishes.

For more information, see www.rules.co.uk.