Public houses, which are better known as pubs , have been a way of life in London and throughout the United Kingdom for many centuries. Not all of these pubs are old and not all of them have the kind of character that accumulates over centuries of drinking, smoking and eating.
However, dozens and dozens of these pubs date back anywhere from a century to more than 400 years. Each of these places has some special story, history or association attached to it. Most of them were places where great celebrities would take their time to relax and have meals as well as drinks. All these pubs are open at the regular pub hours, that is; Monday to Saturday, 11.00 a.m to 11.30 p.m. Some of them are open on Sunday noon to 10.30 p.m. Since 2007, smoking is no longer permitted in any of them. Below are Ten Historical Pubs found in London today;
The Coal Hole
It was opened in the early 19th century at 91 The Strand, WC2 (Tube: Covenant Gardenand) and got its name from the coal haulers who unloaded their cargo on the Thames nearby. Being one of Central London’s larger pubs, the Coal Hole has many theatrical connections because of its West End location.The great Shakespearean actor of the mid-19th-century, Edmud Kean, would hire hooligans, get them very drunk at this pub and then send them off to heckle his competitors in other theaters.
This pub has a nice riverside terrace and has existed since the eighteenth century, located at 34 Park Street, SE1 (Tube: Southwark). People such as Samuel Johnson, who produced the first Dictionary of the English Language, playwright Oliver Goldsmith, whose most famous work is She Stoops to Conquer and Painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy frequented the Anchor.
The King’s Head and Eight Bells
This pub, which can be termed as Chelsea’s intimate, opened more than 400 years ago, around 1580 at 50 Cheyne Walk (Tube: Sloane Square) which was a rural area. Henry VIII’s country house stood nearby. Later, celebrated artists and writers such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Thomas Caryle, Oscar Wilde, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh made their homes in Chelsea. Today, Chelsia is one of the prettiest and most expensive parts of London. The neighborhood is still filled with many other luminaries. In case you stop in here, you need to keep your eyes open – you never know who may pop in.
Ye Olde Watling
The Ye Olde Watling, located at 29 Watling St., EC4 (Tube: Mansion House), is a 17th-century pub that the great architect Sir Christopher Wren used as an office when St. Paul’s Cathedral was been constructed. The pub was built from timber taken from dismantled sailing ships.
In the George Inn Yard off Borough High Street, SE1 (Tube: Borough), you can find one of the city’s most historically important pubs. It’s the last remaining example in London of an old-style coaching inn , with balconies (called galleries) around the inner court.The George existed during the reign of Henry VIII and some claim that it actually dates back to Chaucer’s era.
Red Lion Public House
Most civil servants and Members of Parliament (MPs) frequent this pub, 48 Parliament ST., SW1 (Tube: Westminster). So many MPs stop in here that the pub rings a special bell before a vote is taken, allowing the lawmakers to get back time. Charles Dickens stopped in once for a pint of beer while he was 11 years old – back the, life was different.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
It was established in 1667 at Wine Office Court, 145 Fleet St., EC4 (Tube: Blackfriars) though there was a tavern that was on this same site in 1590. The earlier lodge was destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666 and was immediately rebuilt. After the fire, the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese became the first to re-open. You are able to see at downstairs the charred wooden timber which witness to the enormous fire that ruined a huge part of London. Charles Dickens’s would hang out here and he was used to sit at a table which was to the right of the fireplace on the first floor.
I am partial to Salisbury, 90 St. Martin’s Lane, WC2 (Tube: Leicester Square), because i used to hang out there. The pub sits in the heart of the West End theater district. It dates from 1852 and has a beautifully Art Nouveau interior with marble fittings, cut glass mirrors and brass statuettes. Like the Lamb & Flag noted earlier, the Salisbury was once famous for bare-knuckle prizefights. However, that was long before my time.
Williamson’s Tavern, in Groveland Court, off Bow Lane, EC4 (Tube: St.Paul’s), was the residence of the lord mayor of the City of London before the nearby Mansion House was built. It stands behind a 17th-century gate presented to the lord mayor by William and Mary. The building later served as an inn. Inside, you can have a drink and one of its famous steak sandwiches.
Lamb & Flag
The pub, which is located at 33 Rose St., WC2 (Tube: Leicester Square), was once known by the dreadful name “Bucket of Blood” . This is because prize fighters battered one another into a bloody pulp during matches held for betting customers. It is a rare survivor of the famous 1666’s Great Fire and thus, has a couple of literary associations to offset its unsavory past. In the 19th century, this place was one of the Charles Dickens’s favorite taverns. A couple of centuries earlier, poet John Dryden was attacked and beaten just outside, probably because of a lampoon that he directed at the earl of Rochester. Every year on December 16, the pub commemorates the anniversary of the attack with a Dryden Night.
We have seen how the historical pubs in London have continued to reign despite a number of years passing by. These are places that anyone would drop by and feel at home with the warmth of their service. You are encouraged to visit one or more of them and have the feeling of what it is to be in such pubs which have endured the passage of time.