A guide to pubs in the capital city; discover unusual facts and secrets about some of London’s most historical pubs.
London is well known for its traditional pubs and beer taverns. If you are fanatical about history or just love a good story, we’ve put together a list of the most unusual and historical pubs in London. We have included some quirky and interesting facts that even born and bred Londoners might not know. Here are our insider secrets that will leave you wishing that you were already at the pub…
The Lamb and Flag
Acclaimed as one of London’s greatest pubs and perhaps Covent Garden’s most historical tavern, the Lamb and Flag dates back to the 18th century, when it was known as The Cooper Arms. Back in the day, the pub was notorious for staging bare-knuckle fights, earning the nickname ‘The Bucket of Blood’. Much-loved writers and poets regularly frequented the pub. In fact, this was the location of an attempted murder on 17th century poet John Dryden. Don’t let this put you off from visiting, staff say the pub is a much more friendly establishment today!
The Dog and Duck
Situated in the heart of Soho, The Dog and Duck has welcomed a number of historical figures since it opened its doors in 1734 including major literary greats George Orwell, John Constable and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Recently re-opened after an extensive refurbishment, the Grade-II listed building possesses an ornate Victorian interior including tiled walls, grand mirrors and original light fixtures.
Ye Olde Watling
Just a stone’s throw away from St. Paul’s Cathedral is Ye Olde Watling, said to be built from old ships’ timbers by Sir Christopher Wren. The highly acclaimed English architect used one of the pub’s upstairs rooms as a drawing office during the building of St Paul’s (find out more on our History of Drinking and Pubs Tour).
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Possibly the oldest pub in London, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was rebuilt not long after the Great Fire of 1666. Another pub with literary connections, this warren-like pub off Fleet Street attracted the likes of Charles Dickens and PG Wodehouse. In the 1960s, a series of pornographic fireplace tiles which date back to the 18th Century were uncovered after a fire. They were deemed too graphic to be exhibited, however, they were part of the Museum of London’s Valentine’s Day event. Due to the nature of the display, the event was only open to over-18s!
The Rising Sun
Re-built and designed in 1897 by famous Victorian architects Treadwell & Martin, the Rising Sun features a magnificent nouveau-gothic four-storey façade. In the 1980s, the pub changed its name to Presleys and became an Elvis Presley themed-bar. Thankfully, the pub has reverted back to its historical roots and retained its Victorian charm.
The Cat & Mutton
The 18th century Cat & Mutton is in a very hip part of town, on the corner of Hackney’s Broadway Market and London Fields. This Georgian watering hole offered respite to farmers as they drove their herds of sheep to the Smithfield Meat Market for slaughter. As you go up a spiral staircase, you’ll find opulent cocktail bar Pearl’s – a relatively new addition to the venue and a nod to a previous landlady.
Go south of the river and you’ll discover the Anchor, situated on one of the most famous reaches of the Thames. There are many different stories about the history of this pub. Official records state that the Anchor existed from 1822, although it may have existed long before this and even Shakespeare is thought to have enjoyed a pint of ale or two here after opening nights at the Globe. On the other hand, alternative records claim the site where the pub now lies was used for plague pits during 1603. Another rumour states that it was this pub that famous diarist Samuel Pepys is said to have been in while witnessing the colossal destruction caused by the Great Fire of London.
Thirsty for more? Book yourself onto Insider London’s History of Drinking and Pubs Tour and delve deeper into the history of some of London’s most unusual pubs. Remember to grab yourself a drink in each pub along the way.