London Pub Signs – The Hoop and Grapes, Farringdon…

This historic pub in Farringdon bears a common enough name (and it’s not to be confused with the Hoop and Grapes located in Aldgate which we’ll look at in an upcoming post).

PICTURE: Edwardx (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The hoop in the name refers to the metal bands binding together barrels staves and the grapes are obviously a reference to wine. But the ‘hoop’ could be a corruption of hops with the sign possibly once featuring a garland of hops and a bunch of grapes.

The pub, the current sign of which depicts grapes wrapped around a hoop (pictured below), is located in a four storey building first constructed for a vintner in about 1720 as a terraced house and converted to a pub more than a century later in the early 1830s.

Located on ground which one formed part of the St Bride’s Burial Ground, the brick vaults underneath are said to pre-date the rest of the building, having been built as warehouse vaults in the 17th century.

Its location on 80 Farringdon Street means it stood near the Fleet River (now covered) and close by to the former Fleet Prison (largely used as a debtor’s prison before its demolition in 1864).

As a result, it has been claimed that it was one of a number of pubs which hosted so-called ‘Fleet Marriages’, secret ceremonies performed by dodgy clergymen – for a fee – and without an official marriage license. But, as has been pointed out to us, the timing of the passing of the Marriage Act in 1753 outlawing such activities – and this only becoming a pub, according to its Historic England listing, much later – does make this seem unlikely (we’d welcome any further information on this claim).

The location also meant it was popular with printers who worked in nearby Fleet Street (in fact, it was apparently given a special licence to serve such customers at night or in the early morning).

The pub was scheduled for demolition in the early 1990s but saved with a Grade II-listing in 1991.

A rare survivor from an earlier time among the street’s more modern buildings, it is now part of the Shepherd Neame chain and it’s during renovations held after this purchase that burials were uncovered (the remains were moved into the British Museum). This has apparently led to rumours that the pub is haunted.

For more, see www.hoopandgrapes.co.uk.

Sorry for the confusion – We’ve corrected references to grapes in the second paragraph (and amended our comments on the current sign). And we’ve also clarified comments that the pub was used for Fleet Marriages given the timing discrepancy.

London Pub Signs – The Sun and 13 Cantons…

This unusually named Soho pub dates from the late 19th century although there is said to have been a pub here in the corner of Great Pulteney and Beak Streets since at least 1756.

The name relates to the fact that a significant Swiss population was once based in the area.

The pub was previously known as The Sun but that was destroyed by fire. When the rebuilt premises opened in 1882, ’13 Cantons’ was added to the name as a tribute to its many Swiss patrons (the Old Swiss Confederacy consisted of 13 cantons, although the number had grown past that in the early 19th century).

During the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, the now Grade II-listed pub became associated with the film and television industry which had made Soho its home – among those said to have patronised it were directors like Alan Parker and Ridley Scott as well as actors like Oliver Reed, Peter O’Toole and, more recently, Jude Law, Ewan McGregor, Russell Crowe and Gemma Arterton.

The pub has also hosted DJ nights in the basement bar in the late Nineties – Carl Cox and the Dust Brothers (which became the Chemical Brothers) were among those who worked their magic here.

The pub, which has recently undergone a refurbishment, is now part of the Fullers Group. For more, see www.sunand13cantons.co.uk.

PICTURES: Jim Linwood (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

London Pub Signs – The Sir John Oldcastle…

This Farringdon pub is named after a previous tavern which stood in what had been the grounds of Sir John Oldcastle’s nearby mansion and dated back at least to the mid 17th century. 

Sir John, thought to have been the model for the Shakespearean character Sir John Falstaff, was a leader of the Lollards in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

A trusted friend of Henry, Prince of Wales (later King Henry V), he accompanied the Prince on a military expedition to France 1411 but on returning to England was accused of heresy for his Lollard beliefs and eventually prosecuted.

Imprisoned in the Tower of London, Oldcastle escaped and launched a rebellion against the King but after the rebellion was put down was forced to live in hiding until he was eventually, in 1417, captured and subsequently executed in London.

Housed in a modern building, the pub at 29-35 Farringdon Road, which has a wealth of historical information about the area adorning its walls, is part of the Wetherspoons chain. For more, see www.jdwetherspoon.com/pubs/all-pubs/england/london/the-sir-john-oldcastle-farringdon.

London Pub Signs – The Market Porter, Borough…

Located at 9 Stoney Street (on the corner with Park Street) in Borough, overlooking Borough Market, this establishment is the latest incarnation of the pubs which have occupied this site since the early part of the 17th century.

Previously called The Harrow, the current name, which dates from the 1890s, no doubt owes at least part of its story to the proximity to the market and the patronage of the porters that worked there.

It may also have something to do with being the site of the killing of market porter Alfred Howe. He was slain by Edward Lamb outside the pub on 15th February, 1890, when he plunged an umbrella into Howe’s eye during an altercation. Lamb, indicted on manslaughter charges, was subsequently acquitted.

It’s been suggested the subsequent name change might have been due to the notoriety the incident attracted but, whatever the truth of the story behind the name, the pub is now famed for its ales as well as for doubling as the location for the ‘Third Hand Book Emporium’ in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The pub is part of the Market Taverns group. For more, see www.themarketporter.co.uk.

PICTURES: Top – Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0); Right – Google Maps

London pub signs – The Sugar Loaf…

The name of this City of London establishment relates directly to the trade that once existed in nearby environs – namely in sugar.

Located at 65 Cannon Street, the area to the south of the pub was once a centre of the city’s sugar refinement industry.

There were several small sugar refineries there – where raw sugar was taken and transformed into cone-shaped sugar loaves – but these were apparently destroyed when Southwark Bridge was built in the early 19th century.

The now Grade II-listed pub is said to date from the 1830s. More recently, it was part of the Charrington group before becoming one of the O’Neill’s Irish-themed pubs in the late 1990s. It became part of the Nicholson’s group a few years ago.

For more, see www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/london/thesugarloafcannonstreet.

PICTURE: Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

London Pub Signs – Williamson’s Tavern…

Located in the heart of the City of London (actually, according to a myth, it’s the exact centre of the Roman-era city), Williamson’s Tavern dates from the mid-18th century.

The tavern, located in Groveland Court, just off Bow Lane, owes its name to Robert Williamson who bought residence which once stood on the site – and happened to be the home of the Lord Mayor of London – in  the mid-1700s.

It was Williamson who turned the premises, which had been built soon after the Great Fire of 1666, into a hotel and tavern (the Lord Mayor, meanwhile, moved into the George Dance-designed Mansion House in 1752).

Said to be popular among merchants and seafarers, the hotel, meanwhile, remained in the family until 1914 when James Williamson died and the property was auctioned.  The hotel eventually disappeared but the tavern – now housed in a building dating from the early 1930s – lives on.

There is a remnant of its glorious past nearby – King William III and Queen Mary II, who were said to have dined at the previous Lord Mayor’s residence, presented the Lord Mayor with a gift in the form of now Grade II-listed wrought-iron gates with their monogram and they still stand at one end of Groveland Court.

The tavern, meanwhile, claims to have “probably…the oldest excise license in the City of London”. It also features a stone plaque in the floor which, so the story goes, marks the exact centre of London (although its apparently covered by carpet) and there are some Roman-era bricks or tiles incorporated into a fireplace which were discovered during the 1930s rebuild.

It’s also said to have a resident ghost – Martha (also the name of one of the pub’s dining rooms). According to the pub’s website, police dogs won’t go near the place as a result while longer serving members of staff say they have all seen a painting of her in various parts of the pub (of course, no such painting exists).

The tavern is now part of the Nicholson’s chain. For more, see www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/london/williamsonstaverngrovelandcourtlondon.

PICTURE: Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

London Pub Signs – The Windsor Castle, Kensington…

The story goes that this Kensington pub – which sits on the brow of Campden Hill – was given its name because on a clear day it was possible to see the crenellated towers and walls of that royal residence from the windows on the upper floor.

Whether or not that’s the case remains a matter of some speculation – perhaps the pub was simply named after the salubrious royal abode for its cachet.

The Grade II-listed pub, at 114 Campden Hill Road just to the east of Holland Park, dates from the 1820s when customers apparently included farmers taking their livestock to Hyde Park for market day.

It is said to have been remodelled in the 1930s but, according to its listed building entry “retains a substantial proportion original fabric” as well as, given the remodelling, “exemplifying the ‘Old English’ phase of inter-war pub design”.

The original features of the pub, which also has a walled garden, include wooden screens which separate what were the original bars – Campden, Private and Sherry (the name of the latter apparently comes from a drink once served here called the Hunter). The screens are fitted with small doors, the tiny size due to the fact they were originally intended only for use by bar staff.

There’s a story that the bones of philosopher and author Thomas Paine – he of Rights of Man fame – are buried in the cellar. The bones of Paine, who had died in America where he’d been one of the Founding Fathers, were apparently shipped back to his birthplace of England by MP and social reformer William Cobbett – he had intended to give them a fitting burial on his native soil but that never took place. Instead, when his son inherited them, he is said to have sold his skeleton to the landlord to settle his tab.

Not to be confused with other ‘Windsor Castles’ in London including one in East Finchley and another in Marylebone.

For more, see www.thewindsorcastlekensington.co.uk.

PICTURE: Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

London Pub Signs – The Alma, Wandsworth…

This mid-Victorian pub takes its name, like the nearby thoroughfare Alma Road, from the Battle of Alma, fought during the Crimean War.

Fought between allied – British, French and Turkish – forces and the Russians on 20th September, 1854, the battle was a victory, albeit a costly one, for the allies and took its name from the River Alma which lay near where it was fought.

The pub, at 499 Old York Road directly opposite the Wandsworth Town train station, opened in 1866, just 12 years later.

It still has numerous original features including its distinct green tiled exterior, three mosaic roundels bearing the pub’s name on the wall in the main bar, and a decorative frieze in the main dining room which was only rediscovered during a 1987 renovation.

The pub, one of a number which bear the name ‘Alma’ in London, is now part of the Young’s group and also serves as a bespoke 23 bedroom hotel.

For more, see www.almawandsworth.com.

PICTURE: The Alma in 2009 (Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0))

 

London Pub Signs – The Wenlock Arms…

Located just to the north of the City, The Wenlock Arms takes its name from the former Wenlock Brewery (the name was also given to the nearby Wenlock Basin which runs off Regent’s Canal).

Located at 26 Wenlock Road in Hoxton, the pub is said to have opened in 1836 as a tap for the nearby brewery and went on to become a rare survivor of the Blitz (for the area in which it’s located).

The pub has an interesting recent history – it was successfully saved from demolition several years ago following a campaign from locals and is now a protected building. Having undergone a bit of a spruce up since, it is highly regarded for both its ales and its live music.

It also featured as a location in the 2013 film, The World’s End, starring Simon Pegg.

For more, see http://wenlockarms.com.

PICTURE: Marcuswenlock (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

London Pub Signs – The Walrus and The Carpenter…

This rather oddly named pub can be found at 45 Monument Street in the City of London, just a short walk (you may have guessed) from The Monument itself.

There actually nothing terribly mysterious about the name – it comes from a nonsensical narrative poem by Lewis Carroll which he puts in the mouths of those rambunctious twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee in the book, Through The Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, published in 1871.

No, the real mystery here is why this particular pub, which sits on the corner with Lovat Lane (renamed from Love Lane in the early 20th century; no prizes for guessing what went on there previously), was given this name.

The pub – and there’s been one on the site since at least the early 19th century – was apparently previously known as The Cock and once served the porters from the nearby Billingsgate Market on Lower Thames Street (just across the road). But after Billingsgate moved out to Docklands in 1982, the pub changed its name.

Why remains a matter of conjecture – although in the poem the two main characters encounter a bed of oysters which they eventually eat (perhaps there’s a link here to the fact Billingsgate was formerly located nearby?).

The rooms inside include the, given the pub’s moniker, appropriately named Lewis Carroll Bar and Dining Room.

The pub is now part of the Nicholson chain, previously having been under the Charrington and Fuller’s umbrellas. For more, see www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/london/thewalrusandthecarpentermonumentlondon.

PICTURE: Chemical Engineer (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0).

 

London Pub Signs – Woodin’s Shades…

Located on Bishopsgate, Woodin’s Shades takes its name from wine merchant, William Woodin, while the ‘shades’ part apparently comes from an old word for a wine vault with a drinking bar.

Woodin acquired the site in 1863 – only 10 years later, in 1874, Liverpool Street Station opened opposite which was no doubt a boon for business.

The current red brick building dates from 1893.

The pub at 212 Bishopsgate, now part of the Nicholson’s chain, is popular with traders from the nearby Petticoat Lane and Spitalfields markets.

For more, see www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/london/thewoodinsshadesbishopsgatelondon.

PICTURE: Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

 

London pub signs – The Footman, Mayfair…

This Mayfair establishment dates from 1749 and was previously known as The Running Horse. 

It was popular among footmen in the service of the well-to-do of Mayfair at the time – their job was to run ahead or alongside their master’s coaches and ensure the path was clear as well as pay any tolls so the carriage could whisk through toll gates.

They also carried messages when required as well as other tasks and such was their reputation for speed that races were apparently run upon which their masters would gamble.

Anyway, so popular did this pub prove among them that one of them bought the property at 5 Charles Street, a stone’s throw from Berkeley Square, after retiring and renamed the pub after himself – I Am the Only Running Footman, a moniker which was at the time, one of the longest names for a pub in London.

That name has since been truncated to The Only Running Footman and now just The Footman.

For more, see www.thefootmanmayfair.com.

PICTURE: An image taken before the name was shortened. Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

London Pub Signs – The French House…

Opened in 1891 (albeit under a different name), this Soho institution was apparently founded by a German couple named Schmitt who ran it until the outbreak of World War I.

It was then sold to Belgian chef Victor Berlemont and it’s at this point that some say the name, previously said to have been the Wine House, was changed to the York Minister (although there seems to be a bit of confusion about when the name changed).

Its French associations, meanwhile. were given a big boost during World War II when General Charles de Gaulle and Free French Army officers, in London following the fall of France, made it their HQ. In fact, some say that it was in this pub that de Gaulle wrote his famous speech against the Vichy settlement.

While it was often informally called the “French pub” thereafter, the name didn’t officially change until it reopened after a fire in 1984.

M Berlemont’s son Gaston, meanwhile, had succeeded his father in running the pub many years earlier – there’s a story that when he walked into the pub after World War II, still dressed in his uniform, his father handed over the keys and left him to it. A well-loved Soho identity, the moustachioed Gaston remained at the helm until 1989 when the pub passed into the hands of some French House regulars.

Located at 49 Dean Street, The French House is known for its Bohemian links, particularly with the literary and artistic set. Dylan Thomas is said to have accidentally left his handwritten manuscript Under Milk Wood here while others associated with the pub include Irish poet and playwright Brendan Behan, artists Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, writer John Mortimer (of Rumpole fame) and actor Tom Baker (of Dr Who fame).

For more, see www.frenchhousesoho.com.

PICTURE: Tom (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

London Pub Signs – The Victoria, Paddington…

No prizes here for guessing that this pub owes its name to the long serving 19th century monarch, Queen Victoria.

There’s apparently a story that the Queen stopped off here on her way to Paddington Station and that, as a result, the pub was named in her honour.

Whatever the truth of that, the now Grade II-listed pub – located at 10a Strathearn Place (on the corner with Surrey Place) – was apparently built in 1838 – the first year if Victoria’s reign (and possibly a more valid reason for its name) and remodelled around the turn of the 20th century.

It features a luxuriously decorated interior with fireplaces, mirrors, and an original counter as well as paintings of the Queen, Prince Albert and their family.

The upstairs Theatre Bar features decorative elements taken from the former Gaiety Theatre which were installed in the late 1950s.

The pub, which was apparently patronised by the likes of author Charles Dickens (he is said to have written some of Our Mutual Friend here), Sir Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin as well as David Bowie – who did a live performance when launching an EP here in the 1960s.

It’s also been associated with more recent celebs like musicians Ronnie Wood and Liam Gallagher, artist Damien First and actor Keira Knightley.

There’s also a story that in 1960s one of the paintings on the walls was found to be a valuable portrait of a member of the Royal Family. It’s now apparently in the Royal Collection.

The pub is now part of the Fuller’s group – and has twice won their ‘Pub of the Year’ award. For more, see www.victoriapaddington.co.uk.

PICTURE: Ewan Munro (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

London Pub Signs – The Argyll Arms…

This Grade II*-listed pub originally dates from the early 18th century but the current building was constructed in the 1860s and still retains many features dating from that period.

The name for this pub, located at 18 Argyll Street just south-west of Oxford Circus, comes from John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, one of the Duke of Marlborough’s leading generals and the owner of the land on which the street (and pub) now stands.

The London mansion of the dukes was located where the London Palladium now stands and there is a legend that there was a tunnel between the house, which was eventually demolished in 1864, and the pub.

While the pub has undergone some alterations since it was built, mid-19th century features inside include etched glass separating the booths and an ornate plaster ceiling.

The pub is now part of the Nicholson chain. For more, head here.

PICTURES: Top – Russell Davies/Flickr/; Right – Michael Flynn/Flickr/(CC BY-NC 2.0)

London Pub Signs – The Ship & Shovell…

The Ship & Shovell just off the western end of the Strand takes its name from Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell who lived nearby in May Street.

Shovell (1650-1707), like the more famous seaman Horatio Nelson, was a rare achiever – he joined the navy at the age of 13 as a cabin boy and rose to earn a commission, an unusual accomplishment at a time when most were purchased.

Described as the “best officer of his age”, he was eventually made Commander in Chief of the English Fleet having taken part in the capture of Gibraltar as well as Barcelona, but was killed after a disastrous shipwreck off the Isles of Scilly in 1707.

The story goes that when his flagship, the Association, foundered, he had washed up on St Mary’s Island and was killed by a woman for the emerald ring he was wearing – she apparently later confessed (we’ll take a longer look at Sir Cloudesley’s fascinating life in an upcoming Famous Londoners).

The pub itself, located at 1-3 Craven Passage close to Charing Cross and Embankment, originally dates from around 1740 but has been updated several times since, most latterly after, having been left derelict for more than 15 years, it was restored and reopened in 1996.

Another part of the pub was opened across the street a couple of years later, making this a rather unique set-up in that it’s apparently the only London pub with two sections facing each other from either sides of the laneway.

Part of the Hall & Woodhouse group. For more on the pub, see http://shipandshovell.co.uk.

PICTURE: Andrew Bowden/CC BY-SA 2.0

London Pub Signs – The Hand & Shears, Smithfield…

This Smithfield institution owes its sign to its close association with the cloth fair once held nearby.

The current Grade II-listed pub at the corner of Middle and Kinghorn Streets dates from the early 19th century but there has apparently been a succession of taverns on the site since the 12th century (the sign on the pub proclaims the date 1532).

Thanks to its location within the precincts of St Bartholomew’s Priory, it became a focal point for the cloth fair which was held nearby between the 12th century and 1855 (the street Cloth Fair is named for it).

As well as being a favoured location for those attending the fair to obtain refreshment, it was also the location of a ‘Court of Pie Powder’ (from French pied poudreux for ‘dusty feet’ ) relating to travelling traders.

The pub’s name, meanwhile, is said to be a reference to the Lord Mayor of London’s practice of officially declaring the fair open by using shears to cut a piece of cloth on the tavern’s doorstep.

The pub also has some association with executions and, legend has it, was a popular spot for people to seek refreshment as they made their way to Newgate Prison where, between 1783 and 1868, executions were held outside the walls in the thoroughfare now known as Old Bailey.

For more, see the pub’s Facebook page.

PICTURE: Google Maps

London Pub Signs – The Albert…

the-albert2This pub’s name isn’t too mysterious – it is, of course, named after Albert, Prince Consort to Queen Victoria, and given the date on which the building that now occupies the site was built – between 1862 and 1867, nor is the motivation to name it so – Prince Albert died on 14th December, 1861, leaving a bereft queen and a nation in mourning.

There had been a pub on this site at 52 Victoria Street prior to the current building – it was called The Blue Coat Boy and named after the nearby Blue Coat school – but in the mid-19th century the Artillery Brewery, which was located next door, bought the premises and renamed it.

The four storey building, which is now Grade II-listed (and dwarfed by the glass towers surrounding it), survived the Blitz and is the only building remaining from the first phase of the development of Victoria Street (and redevelopment of the area which had been a slum known as Devil’s Acre), only a stone’s throw from Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.

Inside, the Victorian features include ornate ceilings and hand-etched frosted windows and wrought iron balconies. Also of note is the Prime Minister’s gallery – including some who were patrons here – as well as memorabilia including a House of Commons Division Bell and one of Queen Victoria’s napkins.

For more, see www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub/albert-victoria/c6737/.

PICTURE: Patche99z/Wikimedia

London Pub Signs – The Seven Stars, Holborn…

seven-starsLocated at 53 Carey Street in Holborn, this rather plain looking pub boasts a heritage apparently dating back to before the Great Fire of London.

Said to date from 1602, the Grade II-listed pub was apparently built as an alehouse, though the facade is 19th century as is much of the interior. Its location, just to the west of Temple Bar, meant it survived the Great Fire of London – though only just.

The name apparently relates to an appeal to Dutch sailors – it is said to have been so named in reference to the Seven United Provinces of The Netherlands (it’s also been said that the pub’s location is in the midst of an area of London in which Dutch settlers lived during the period).

It was apparently formerly known as The Log and Seven Stars or The Leg and Seven Stars, although it’s been speculated these are simply a corruption of The League and Seven Stars – a story which might make sense given the origins of the pub’s name (‘league’ referring to the union of the seven provinces).

The pub these days lies in the heart of the city’s legal community – the Royal Courts of Justice lies just to the south and Lincoln’s Inn, one of the four inns of court, to the north.

For more, see www.thesevenstars1602.co.uk.

PICTURE: Mike Quinn/CC BY-SA 2.0

London Pub Signs – The Bricklayer’s Arms, Putney…

OK, so it doesn’t look like the most historic of pubs but the Bricklayer’s Arms in Putney does boast an interesting history (as well as a much accoladed menu ales).

The-Bricklayer's-ArmsThe Waterman Street pub is apparently the oldest in the south-western riverside district, dating back to 1826 when it was constructed on the site of a former coaching house and blacksmith’s forge.

Then named the Waterman’s Arms, thanks no doubt to its Thames proximity and the fact that, as a result, most of the clientele were freeman and lightermen working on the river, it changed its name to the Bricklayer’s Arms around the turn of the 20th century when, thanks to the extension of the District line railway, there was a sizeable amount of construction going on in the area.

It was briefly known as the Putney Brick before the current owners – actress Becky Newman and her husband John – took over the pub just over 10 years ago, during which time it has won a swag of awards including being named one of the top 10 English pubs by National Geographic and winning the CAMRA National Pub of the Year Award in 2007 and 2009.

For more on the pub (and the plans to extend it), check out www.bricklayers-arms.co.uk.

PICTURE: Ewan Munro-Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0 (image has been cropped and brightened)