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.