This Fleet Street pub has an intriguing history. Its name comes from the fact it is housed in what was, until 1975, the former Law Courts branch of the Bank of England.

Sold to a building society, it was transformed into a rather spectacular pub after it was purchased and refurbished by Fuller, Smith and Turner in 1994.

The-Old-Bank-of-EnglandGo further back to the 16th and 17th centuries and the site was occupied by two taverns, The Cock and The Haunch of Venison.

They were both demolished in 1888 to make room for the new bank branch, located, as the name suggests, just up the street from the Royal Courts of Justice.

While it’s been reworked to suit a pub instead of a bank, the remains of the opulent “High Victorian” interior of the bank can still be seen when you step through the doors – no more so than from the upstairs gallery which overlooks the pub.

It also plays a role in the story of legendary 18th century figure Sweeney Todd, the ‘demon barber’ of Fleet Street.

The site stands between Todd’s barber shop at number 186 Fleet Street and the pie shop on Bell Yard owned by his lover, Mrs (Margery) Lovett. As such, it’s said that it was in tunnels below the building on the site that the bodies of Todd’s victims were dismembered and used for pie filling before the pies were sold by Mrs Lovett.

The basement now contains what’s left of vaults which were formerly used to store gold bullion – they were also apparently briefly used to store the Crown Jewels during World War I.

The pub is located at 194 Fleet Street. For more on the pub – which also has an outdoor eating area, see www.oldbankofengland.co.uk.

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First up, apologies that we were unable to launch our new Wednesday series yesterday due to some technical difficulties (stayed tuned for next week). And now, on with the news…

Sarah_Bernhardt_by_Lafayette_Ltd_1899_c__Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London__William Shakespeare’s influence on successive generations of theatrical performance is the subject of a new exhibition at the V&A to mark the 450th anniversary of his birth on 23rd April. Shakespeare: Greatest Living Playwright centres on the Bard’s First Folio which, published in 1623, contains 36 plays including 18 works – Macbeth, The Tempest and Twelfth Night among them – which would be unknown without it. The display includes interviews, archive footage and photography and objects from the V&A collections as well as an audio-visual presentation by Fifty Nine Productions featuring interviews with contemporary theatre practitioners such as actors, directors and designers. Objects on display include a skull used by Sarah Bernhardt when playing Hamlet in 1899, an embroidered handkerchief used by Ellen Terry when playing Desdemona in 1881 at the Lyceum Theatre, and a pair of red boots worn by actor-manager Henry Irving in an 1887 production of Richard III. Runs in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Galleries until 21st September. Admission is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet, 1899, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

A skeletal horse and a giant hand giving a thumbs up will adorn the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square during 2015-16. Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse is derived from an etching by painter George Stubbs and, while being a comment on the equestrian statue of King William IV which was intended for the plinth, also features an electronic ribbon displaying a live ticker of the London Stock Exchange on its front leg. Meanwhile David Shrigley’s Really Good is a 10 metre high hand giving a thumbs up – sending a positive message to those who see it. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/priorities/arts-culture/fourth-plinth.

The impact of the car on England’s landscape and the listed buildings of motoring history are the focus of a new exhibition in Wellington Arch. Carscapes: How the Motor Car Reshaped England features archive photographs, historic advertising, cartoons and motoring magazines as well as a 1930s traffic light, a petrol pump and other accessories and memorabilia. Wellington Arch, which is managed by English Heritage, is a fitting location for the exhibition – it was moved to its current position due to increasing traffic back in 1883. Admission charge apply. For more, see www.english-heritage.co.uk.

A new exhibition exploring some of the true and not-so-true stories inspired by and produced in London opens at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden tomorrow. London Stories features the best entries from The Serco Prize for Illustration 2014 with more than 50 works of art on display depicting a well-known or obscure London narrative. The short-listed illustrations tackle everything from ghost buses to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show of 1887, a Pearly King and Queen, Lenin’s ‘Love letter to London’ and an escaped monkey jazz band. There’s also a host of musical and literary references – everything from Mary Poppins to Sweeney Todd and Oranges and Lemons. Tomorrow there will be a late opening of the exhibition complete with cash bar, DJ and story-telling for adults as well as the chance to create your own London story with illustration workshops and a photo-booth. Organised by London Transport Museum in partnership with the Association of Illustrators, it runs until 6th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk.

Send all items of interest for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

OK, so the debate may continue over whether Sweeney Todd was an actual person (according to author Peter Haining, the real Todd, born in Brick Lane, is supposed to have been hanged in 1802) or a fictional character, but, suspending that debate for the moment, we’re including the infamous Fleet Street barber in this list.

186-Fleet-StreetKnown as the “demon barber of Fleet Street”, Todd first appeared in literature as a murderer in the Victorian serial, The String of Pearls: A Romance, published in a weekly periodical, and soon became a staple of the Victorian theatre, later appearing in numerous plays and films including the 2007 Johnny Depp vehicle, Sweeney Todd.

His MO usually involved cutting his unsuspecting victim’s throat and then, using a specially constructed barber’s chair, dropping the body into the cellar. There, he and his associate, Mrs Lovett, would rob them (alternatively, other versions have him dropping the customers into the cellar first and then, if needed, finishing them off).

Mrs Lovett would then dispose of the remains by baking them into pies and selling them via her pie shop located nearby in Bell Yard. The story goes that the cellar was linked to nearby Bell Yard via tunnels.

Sweeney Todd was supposed to have terrorised London in the late 18th century and his barber shop was apparently located at 186 Fleet Street in London – right next to St Dunstan-in-the-West. The site is now occupied by a former newspaper office – that of the Dundee Courier (pictured above, left).

For Peter Haining’s book on Sweeney Todd, see Sweeney Todd: The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

PICTURE: 186 Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd’s (Des Blenkinsopp) / CC BY-SA 2.0