February 27, 2017
This Fitzrovia pub, famous for its literary connections (more about those in a moment), takes its name from a popular 18th century military hero.
John Manners, the Marquis of Granby, played a key role for Britain during the Seven Years War – between Britain and her allies and France and hers – and, thanks to his popularity among the soldiers who served under his command, had numerous pubs named for him (he apparently also had a hand in setting up many old soldiers as publicans).
In his most famous battlefield exploit, while leading a series of cavalry charges at the Battle of Warburg in 1760 (in actions which saved the day), he apparently lost his hat and wig and was forced to salute his commander, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, without them.
All of which explains why the pub sign doesn’t show him wearing a hat and why soldiers from his former regiment, the Blues and Royals, have the unique privilege in being able to salute while not wearing headwear. The fact Manners was bald also apparently led to the coining of the phrase, “going at it bald-headed” – a reference to his fearlessness.
The pub, located at 2 Rathbone Street (on the corner with Percy Street – the address was formerly known as 38 Percy Street), is famous for its literary clientele during the years between the two World Wars – among those who drank here were writers Dylan Thomas and TS Eliot. They apparently shared the space with some low-level gangland figures.
October 3, 2016
One story, mentioned on the pub’s website, says the name comes from the legend that the pub occupies the space which once contained the coal cellar for the Savoy Hotel – not a great leap given its location on the corner of Carting Lane and the Strand, with the Savoy Hotel just behind.
The other is that it takes its name from the “coal heavers” – men who moved coal – who worked nearby on the River Thames. Again, not too much of a stretch.
Which-ever is true (or maybe both), the current Grade II-listed building at 91-92 Strand dates from just after the turn of the 19th century and, according to a plaque on the property, was apparently briefly known as as the New Strand Wine Lodge.
During Edwardian times it was apparently a ‘song and supper’ club where patrons were encouraged to sing (something like the karaoke bars of today).
Gilbert and Sullivan apparently regularly performed here regularly during Edwardian times and the great Shakespearean thespian, Edmund Keane, apparently started the Wolf Club – ostensibly “for oppressed husbands forbidden to sing in the bath” but apparently as a pretence for considerably more debauched activities – in the basement.
Now part of the Nicholson’s chain. For more, see www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/london/thecoalholestrandlondon
PICTURE: Ewan Munro/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0/Cropped
September 5, 2016
Rather it apparently takes its name from the fact that during the 18th century, this site served as a gathering – assembly – point for travellers heading further to the north – to places such as Hampstead Heath – in the belief that safety in numbers could protect them from highwaymen.
There has been a public house on the site since at least the end 18th century (it’s suggested it was at one stage named the Bull), the current capacious, Grade II listed pub, was built in 1898 and, designed in the French chateau-style, features a corner turret.
Inside there are still many original features including a circular glass dome, brilliant cut mirrors and elaborate wrought-iron screening.
The pub can also apparently be seen in the 1971 Richard Burton film, The Villain.
For more on the pub, which is located at 292-294 Kentish Town Road, see www.assemblyhouse.co.uk.
August 8, 2016
This popular Covent Garden pub lies in the heart of London’s Theatreland and is noted for its popularity with actors.
Located at 90 St Martin’s Lane, the pub was built in the late 1800s on the site of an earlier public house which had been known under various different names including The Coach & Horses and Ben Caunt’s head (the latter after the famed bare knuckle fighter when the pub apparently hosted such bouts).
It was first named the Salisbury Stores – an ‘SS’ motif can still be seen in some of the glasswork, with the origins of the name coming from the fact that the site was leased from Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, who was thrice PM in the late 19th and early 20th century, in about 1899.
The Cecil family’s coat-of-arms can be seen above the door on the corner of St Martin’s Lane and St Martin’s Court (Cecil Court is located nearby).
The now Grade II-listed Taylor Walker pub, which dropped the ‘Stores’ off its name in the 1960s, was restored in the mid-20th century and again at the end. It features original etched glass, hand-carved mahogany woodwork and art nouveau candelabra.
The pub, which, as well as its association with actors, has also long had an association with the gay community in London, has appeared in numerous films including Dirk Bogarde vehicle Victim and Travels With My Aunt as well as, in more recent times, The Boat That Rocked.
For more, see www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub/salisbury-covent-garden/c3111/.
July 4, 2016
The origins of the name of this pub apparently lie in something of a mistake (well, sort of).
Located at 10 Bridge Street on the corner of Canon Row – just across the road from the clock tower at the north end of the Houses of Parliament, its name apparently lies in mistaken belief that the tower was named St Stephen’s Tower.
It never was, at least not officially. Prior to recently being renamed the Elizabeth Tower – in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne, the tower, which contains the bell known as Big Ben, was simply known as the Clock Tower (another common error has been to call the tower itself Big Ben).
The name St Stephen’s Tower apparently was the fault of Victorian journalists. They had the habit of referring to stories relating to the goings-on in the House of Commons as “news from St Stephen’s” because MPs, prior to the destructive fire of 1834, used to sit in St Stephen’s Hall (the entrance to the hall can be found down the road opposite Westminster Abbey).
Hence we have St Stephen’s Tavern, a favoured watering hole of many politicians – including apparently PMs Stanley Baldwin, Winston Churchill and Harold MacMillan.
The pub has been around since at least Victorian times – it was demolished in 1868 when Westminster tube station being built and rebuilt a few years later. In 1924, the pub was expanded to take over the Queen’s Head next door.
It closed in the late 1980s but was reopened in 2003 with many of the original fittings restored. These include one of only 200 parliamentary division bells, located above the bar, which calls MPs back to parliament when it’s time for them to vote (tourists apparently often think it’s a fire alarm and flee when it goes off).
For more, see www.ststephenstavern.co.uk.
PICTURE: Ewan Munro/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0 (image cropped)
April 25, 2016
This Fleet Street institution was originally known as The Crown & Sugarloaf, but took on the name Punch thanks to its connection with the famous satirical magazine (and not, despite the sign, the notorious thug, Mr Punch).
The now defunct Punch magazine – its name apparently comes from a comment at the first meeting of staff that a magazine should be like a good punch mixture – was apparently founded in 1841 at the Edinburgh Castle Tavern in the Strand, just up the road.
Following its launch, the staff apparently began to meet at The Crown & Sugarloaf and it was this fact which apparently led the to the name change.
While there has apparently been a pub here since the 17th century, in 1890s, the property at 99 Fleet Street was rebuilt and the pub, under the guidance of architects Saville and Martin, was transformed into a gin palace.
Now located in a Grade II listed building, the pub has retained much of its original Victorian character – with etched mirrors, a marble bar, dark oak panelling, banquette seating and a series of original Punch and Judy paintings dating from 1897.
The pub is now owned by Punch Taverns – the company took its name from this famous pub.
Incidentally, the name The Crown & Sugarloaf lives on just around the corner in Bride Lane – this small pub, which has a rather complicated history but is now part of the Samuel Smith chain, was once connected to the Punch Tavern.
For more, see www.punchtavern.com.
September 7, 2015
This curiously named Chiswick institution, one of few pubs in England with two names, owes its existence to the brewery located next to the terraces in Mawson Row.
The Grade II*-listed building in which the pub is located dates from about 1715 when the terrace of five houses was constructed for Mawson.
The 18th century poet Alexander Pope was among residents at number 110 (between 1716-1719, when he published his translation of The Iliad and his first collected works). A function room in the pub now bears his name and there’s a blue plaque mentioning his stay on the outside.
While there had long been a pub here called the Fox and Hounds, in the late 19th century, the old pub was extended into the corner building and gained its second name, The Mawson Arms.
The pub, only a short walk away from the Thames, now serves as the starting point for a tour of the brewery. It’s traditionally been a favoured watering hole of brewery workers.
For more, see www.mawsonarmschiswick.co.uk.
August 10, 2015
OK, the first thing to note here is that despite the name of this pub, located in St Katharine Docks, it has nothing to do with the famous 19th century novelist Charles Dickens. Well, not directly, at least.
That said, it still has an interesting history – dating back to at least the turn of the 19th century (although there is the suggestion it may be older), it is thought to have formerly been used as a brewery building or a tea warehouse and stood on a site about 70 metres east of its current location.
A brick ‘skin’ was built over the top of the timber building in the 1820s to bring it up to modern standards. It survived the Blitz but was slated to be demolished in the 1970s when the site was to be redeveloped.
But help was at hand and in 1976 the building was saved when it was painstakingly moved to its current site. The building was reconstructed to resemble what the inn’s owners called a “three storey balconied inn of the 18th century” (although there is something doubt whether such buildings ever existed like this in the 18th century).
Ah, and to Dickens. While the writer himself is not known to have visited the building, he did know the area well and its likely he would have frequently passed by it during his lifetime (in fact, when his grandson, Cedric Charles Dickens, formally opened the inn in May, 1976, he is quoted on the inn’s website as saying that: “My Great Grandfather would have loved this inn”.)
Spread over three levels with balconies on the upper two, the inn originally featured a sawdust covered floor and candlelit dining on the balconies. Both practices have since come to an end but the building does offer some great views of the dock and nowadays contains several different facilities including a tavern, pizzeria and restaurant called The Grill. There’s also a suite of function rooms.
Among the famous the establishment claims as visitors in more recent times are the late Joan Rivers and singer Katie Melua.
For more information, see www.dickensinn.co.uk.
May 18, 2015
We’ve mentioned this Covent Garden pub, redolent with history as it is, before but we thought it worth a second look.
There’s not much mystery surrounding the origins of the name – the Christian symbolism of the sign is fairly obvious and the symbol, which was used by the Templars and is also that of the Middle Temple, was apparently a reasonably common one for pubs. But the Lamb & Flag hasn’t always been its name.
While there’s been a pub on the site dating as far as back as the 17th century (the building was survivor of the Great Fire of 1666), it was apparently only named the Lamb & Flag in 1833.
Prior to that it was apparently known as the Cooper’s Arms (in what we assume was a reference to barrel-makers) and at one time in its long history was nick-named the ‘Bucket of Blood’ thanks to the location being used for prizefights.
The core of the present, Grade II-listed, building at 33 Rose Street is said to date from 1772, but the brick facade is 20th century. A narrow passageway known as Lazenby Court, which dates from the late 17th century and connects Rose Street to Floral Street, runs alongside it.
Regular patrons have included author Charles Dickens (one of the many London pubs he apparently attended not infrequently) and other famous associations include the poet John Dryden – he is famously associated with Rose Street thanks to the fact he was beaten up there twice in 1679 after upsetting people with his satires (the pub’s upstairs room is named after him).
For more on the pub, see www.lambandflagcoventgarden.co.uk.
March 23, 2015
There’s been a pub on the site of this Soho institution since before the 1700s, although the current building at 7 Greek Street is believed to date from the start of the 20th century.
The pub’s name is an ancient one – it refers to two landmarks, the Rock of Gibraltar on the north side and Mount Hacho or Jebel Musa on the south side (there is apparently some dispute over which), that mark the entrance to the Mediterranean and are together known as the Pillars of Hercules. The name apparently comes from a legend that Hercules created the Strait of Gibraltar between them when pushed the two pillars apart apart and so separated Europe from Africa.
There’s been several pubs in London which have borne this name although this particular premises does get a mention in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (a street which runs under the pub’s archway is named after one of its characters, Dr Manette). There was apparently a similarly named tavern on the site of what is now Apsley House at Hyde Park Corner (that one gets a mention in Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling).
According to a sign on the pub, this Pillars of Hercules was also frequented by nineteenth century poet and cricket lower Francis Thompson, author of the poet The Hound of Heaven.
The current half-timbered pub – located just to the south of Soho Square – has apparently continued as a favoured locale for literary types. Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan are among more recent writers who have visited (along with Clive James who referred to it in the title of his collections of literary criticism, At the Pillars of Hercules).