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London's Oldest Pub: Unravelling the Mystery of the City's Most Historic Taverns and Inns

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Unveiling London's Oldest Pubs: A Journey Through Time and Tradition

Welcome to the captivating world of London's oldest pubs, where history, charm, and a friendly atmosphere await you. The title of "London's Oldest Pub" is often disputed, and with good reason. These storied establishments, steeped in tradition and folklore, have become iconic symbols of the city's rich past.

Enjoying a pint of beer in a Traditional London pub
Enjoying a Drink in a Traditional London pub

London's oldest pubs serve as living monuments to the city's vibrant history, with each holding a unique story of the generations that have passed through their doors. As you step inside, you'll be transported to a bygone era, where locals and travellers alike gathered to share news, laughter, and, of course, a fine pint of ale.

Pint of beer and food and drinks menu in a London pub
Many of London's Pubs serve Food and Drink

The popularity of these historic inns and taverns is no mystery. The sense of nostalgia and character they evoke, combined with their architectural beauty and often centuries-old artefacts, create a truly unique experience for visitors. As you delve into the tales of these legendary pubs, you'll understand why their claim to the title of "London's Oldest Pub" remains a subject of ongoing debate and fascination.

Ye Olde Mitre: A Hidden Gem with Rich History and Charm

Brief History of Ye Olde Mitre

Ye Olde Mitre, tucked away in a quiet corner of Holborn, is a treasure trove of history dating back to 1546. Originally built for the servants of the nearby Ely Palace, the pub has stood the test of time and witnessed the ever-changing landscape of London. Through the years, it has become a beloved destination for both locals and visitors alike.

Unique Features and Characteristics

What sets Ye Olde Mitre apart from other historic pubs are its unique features and charming atmosphere. The pub's exterior is adorned with a cherry tree, said to have been planted by none other than Queen Elizabeth I. Inside, you'll find a cozy, wood-paneled interior with narrow, winding passages and an eclectic mix of antique furnishings.

One of the pub's most curious features is the historic boundary line, which is still visible today. Ye Olde Mitre was once part of the Cambridgeshire county, making it a separate entity from London. This unique history is celebrated with a sign indicating the original county boundary inside the pub.

Famous Patrons and Stories

Over the centuries, Ye Olde Mitre has welcomed a diverse array of patrons, from everyday folk to notable figures in history. Among the most famous visitors was the English diarist Samuel Pepys, who frequented the pub and mentioned it in his writings. The pub has also been featured in several films, such as 'The Deep Blue Sea' and 'Revolver', further cementing its place in London's cultural landscape.

Stories and legends abound at Ye Olde Mitre, with tales of secret passages, hidden treasures, and even ghostly encounters. One such tale is that of the 'Mitre Ghost', a mysterious figure said to haunt the pub's upper rooms. Whether fact or fiction, these captivating stories only add to the allure of this historic gem.

The Spaniards Inn: A Historic Pub with Literary Connections and Rustic Charm

Brief History of The Spaniards Inn

Nestled on the edge of Hampstead Heath, The Spaniards Inn has been a fixture of London's pub scene since 1585. Steeped in history, it is believed to have been named after two Spanish brothers who were once landlords of the establishment. With its charming white facade, wooden beams, and cozy fireplaces, The Spaniards Inn offers a warm and inviting atmosphere that has attracted visitors for centuries.

Unique Features and Characteristics

The Spaniards Inn is known for its rustic charm and picturesque setting. One of the pub's standout features is its beautiful beer garden, where patrons can enjoy a refreshing drink while taking in the lush greenery of Hampstead Heath. Inside, the pub retains many of its original features, such as the exposed beams and open fireplaces, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere.

The pub is also famous for its literary connections, as it has been mentioned in several classic works of literature. Charles Dickens referenced The Spaniards Inn in his novel 'The Pickwick Papers', while Bram Stoker featured it in 'Dracula'. The pub's association with these iconic authors has made it a popular destination for literary enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Famous Patrons and Stories

Over the years, The Spaniards Inn has attracted a number of notable patrons, including the Romantic poets John Keats and Lord Byron, who are said to have been regular visitors. The infamous highwayman Dick Turpin is also believed to have frequented the pub, and according to legend, his father was once the landlord.

These famous figures, along with countless others, have contributed to the rich tapestry of stories and legends surrounding The Spaniards Inn. From ghostly apparitions to tales of secret tunnels, the pub is steeped in history and intrigue, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a true taste of historic London.

The Lamb & Flag: A Storied Covent Garden Pub with a Fascinating History

Brief History of The Lamb & Flag

Established in 1623, The Lamb & Flag is one of London's oldest pubs, situated in the heart of Covent Garden. Originally known as the 'Cooper's Arms', the pub changed its name to The Lamb & Flag in 1772. Throughout its long history, the establishment has survived the Great Fire of London, the Blitz, and numerous changes in ownership, making it a true testament to the resilience and charm of the city's historic pubs.

Exterior view of the historic Lamb and Flag Pub located in Covent Garden, London
The iconic Lamb and Flag Pub nestled in the heart of Covent Garden

Unique Features and Characteristics

The Lamb & Flag's enduring appeal lies in its unique blend of traditional pub charm and a lively atmosphere. With its narrow entrance and cozy rooms, the pub offers an intimate setting that is perfect for enjoying a pint with friends. The interior boasts original wooden paneling, a roaring fireplace, and an array of historical memorabilia, transporting patrons to a bygone era.

Group of people socializing and drinking outside the Lamb and Flag Pub in London
Patrons enjoying a drink outside the Lamb and Flag Pub in Covent Garden

The pub is also famous for its association with bare-knuckle boxing matches, which took place in the 18th century. Known as 'The Bucket of Blood' due to these brutal contests, The Lamb & Flag has since evolved into a more genteel establishment, but its fascinating history continues to captivate visitors.

Famous Patrons and Stories

The Lamb & Flag has attracted a number of famous patrons over the years, including English poet John Dryden, who was allegedly attacked by hired thugs in a nearby alleyway in 1679. The incident, which is thought to have been orchestrated by one of Dryden's literary rivals, only added to the pub's notorious reputation.

Today, The Lamb & Flag is a beloved destination for both tourists and locals, who are drawn to its historic charm, welcoming atmosphere, and storied past. With its rich history and unique character, The Lamb & Flag remains a quintessential example of London's iconic pub culture.

Traditional Lamb and Flag pub sign, representing the iconic London establishment
The distinctive Lamb and Flag London pub sign, a symbol of its rich history

The George Inn: London's Last Remaining Galleried Coaching Inn

Brief History of The George Inn

The George Inn, located in the bustling area of Southwark, is a historic pub that has been serving patrons since the 17th century. As London's last remaining galleried coaching inn, it offers visitors a rare glimpse into the past. First mentioned in historical records in 1677, the pub is believed to have been rebuilt after a fire destroyed the previous structure. The George Inn has been a Grade I listed building since 1950, ensuring its continued preservation and legacy.

Unique Features and Characteristics

One of the most distinctive features of The George Inn is its galleried design, which harkens back to the days of coaching inns that served as a hub for travelers and traders alike. The three-story timber-framed structure is a stunning example of traditional English architecture, with its picturesque balconies and charming courtyard. The inn has multiple bars and dining areas, each with its own distinct character, from the warm, welcoming atmosphere of The Middle Bar to the more intimate and historic setting of The Old Bar.

Famous Patrons and Stories

The George Inn has been frequented by a number of well-known figures throughout its history, most notably Charles Dickens, who mentions the pub in his novel 'Little Dorrit'. It is said that Shakespeare himself may have enjoyed a drink at The George, as the pub is located close to the site of the original Globe Theatre. William Makepeace Thackeray and Samuel Pepys are also believed to have been patrons of this historic establishment.

Today, The George Inn remains a popular destination for those looking to experience a true piece of London's history. With its rich heritage, unique architectural features, and storied past, The George Inn continues to enchant visitors from around the world.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese: A Timeless London Pub with a Rich Literary Legacy

Brief History of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, situated on Fleet Street in the heart of London, is a historic pub with a rich past dating back to 1667. Rebuilt after the Great Fire of London, the pub has welcomed visitors for centuries and remains one of London's most iconic establishments. This Grade II listed building has retained many of its original features, transporting visitors back in time as they enjoy a drink in its charming, atmospheric setting.

Unique Features and Characteristics

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is known for its maze-like interior, featuring narrow passages, hidden nooks, and a series of interconnected bars and dining rooms. The pub's unique layout is a reflection of its long history, with numerous additions and alterations made over the years. Its wood-paneled walls, low ceilings, and open fireplaces create an intimate and cozy atmosphere that is truly one of a kind.

One of the most striking features of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is its lack of natural light, which adds to the pub's mysterious allure. The dimly lit interior, illuminated by flickering candlelight, serves to enhance the timeless charm of this historic establishment.

Famous Patrons and Stories

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese has long been a favorite haunt of writers and journalists, given its close proximity to Fleet Street, once the center of London's newspaper industry. Literary greats such as Charles Dickens, Samuel Johnson, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were known to frequent the pub, and their presence can still be felt in the various rooms named in their honor.

The pub is also home to a long-standing tradition involving a series of resident pet parrots, the most famous of which, named Polly, was said to have been taught to recite poetry by the staff. Although Polly passed away in 1926, her spirit lives on, and the pub continues to be a favorite destination for both locals and tourists alike.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese's rich history, unique character, and literary legacy make it an essential stop for anyone looking to experience the best of London's historic pub culture.

The Prospect of Whitby: London's Legendary Riverside Pub with a Pirate Past

Brief History of The Prospect of Whitby

The Prospect of Whitby, located on the banks of the River Thames in Wapping, is a historic pub with a storied past dating back to 1520. Originally known as the Devil's Tavern, the pub was renamed in the late 18th century after a ship from the North Sea port of Whitby in Yorkshire. This riverside establishment has long been a favourite spot for sailors, smugglers, and pirates, and its rich history continues to captivate visitors today.

Unique Features and Characteristics

One of the most distinctive features of The Prospect of Whitby is its location along the Thames, offering stunning views of the river and the city skyline. The pub's outdoor terrace provides a picturesque setting for visitors to enjoy a drink and soak in the atmosphere. Inside, the pub boasts an array of historic relics, including a 400-year-old flagstone floor, wooden beams, and the original pewter-topped bar.

The Prospect of Whitby pirate noose
Views of The City of London Skyline from The Prospect of Whitby

The Prospect of Whitby is also home to a replica of the infamous "Hanging Judge" Jeffreys' noose, a chilling reminder of the pub's notorious past. Judge George Jeffreys, known for his brutal sentencing during the Monmouth Rebellion, was said to have frequented the pub, and the noose serves as a macabre tribute to his dark legacy.

The Prospect of Whitby Pub Bar
The Prospect of Whitby serving thirsty sailors and locals since 1520

Famous Patrons and Stories

The Prospect of Whitby has played host to a colourful cast of characters throughout its history. Notable patrons include the infamous pirate Captain Kidd, who was known to drink at the pub before his execution at the nearby Execution Dock. Other famous visitors include British painter J.M.W. Turner, who is said to have sketched the view from the pub's terrace, and renowned author Charles Dickens.

The Prospect of Whitby River Thames View
The Prospect of Whitby on the River Thames

Legend has it that the pub was also a popular meeting spot for smugglers and pirates, who would gather to plot their nefarious activities under the cover of darkness. This storied past only adds to the allure of The Prospect of Whitby, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a taste of London's maritime history.

The Prospect of Whitby Menu
The Pub Classics Food Menu at The Prospect of Whitby
Classic British Fish and Chips with mushy peas, curry sauce and bread and butter
Fish and Chips at The Prospect of Whitby Pub

The Prospect of Whitby's remarkable riverside setting and intriguing pirate past make it an unforgettable experience for anyone seeking to explore London's oldest and most storied pubs

The front street view of The Prospect of Whitby Pub London
The Prospect of Whitby is a Traditional Looking London Pub

The Seven Stars: A Hidden Gem with a Storied Past in the Heart of Legal London

Brief History of The Seven Stars

The Seven Stars is a charming and historic pub tucked away in the heart of London's legal district, near the Royal Courts of Justice. Established in 1602, this atmospheric pub has withstood the test of time, surviving the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the Blitz during World War II. The pub's rich history and warm atmosphere continue to attract locals and tourists alike.

Unique Features and Characteristics

Stepping into The Seven Stars is like stepping back in time, with its low ceilings, exposed wooden beams, and dimly lit interior. The pub's unique character is further enhanced by its eclectic collection of memorabilia and quirky décor, including antique mirrors, vintage photographs, and an array of unusual ornaments.

The Seven Stars is also known for its friendly and welcoming staff, who are always happy to share stories of the pub's storied past with curious visitors. The pub's resident cat, a fixture at the establishment, can often be found lounging by the fire or greeting patrons as they enter.

Famous Patrons and Stories

The Seven Stars has long been a favourite haunt of London's legal professionals, with its proximity to the Royal Courts of Justice making it a popular spot for lawyers and judges alike. The pub's walls are adorned with photographs and caricatures of some of its most famous patrons, including legendary barrister Sir Edward Marshall Hall, who was a regular visitor during the early 20th century.

The Seven Stars also has a reputation for hosting some unusual guests over the years, with stories of eccentric patrons and mysterious happenings adding to the pub's unique charm. One such tale involves a ghostly figure believed to be a former landlady, who has been spotted roaming the premises after closing time, her spirit seemingly unwilling to leave her beloved establishment.

The Seven Stars is a true hidden gem, offering a glimpse into London's historic past and a warm, welcoming atmosphere that keeps patrons coming back for more.

A Toast to London's Oldest Pubs: Preserving History and Creating Unforgettable Memories

In conclusion, our journey through London's oldest pubs has taken us on a fascinating trip back in time, revealing a rich tapestry of history, culture, and tradition that continues to thrive in these beloved establishments. From Ye Olde Mitre to The Seven Stars, each pub has its own unique story to tell, and together they provide a vivid snapshot of London's past.

Preserving the history and tradition of these establishments is of paramount importance, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the unique atmosphere and storied past of London's oldest pubs. By visiting and supporting these iconic watering holes, we play a part in keeping their legacy alive.

We encourage you to embark on your own journey to discover the magic of these historic pubs, and to share your experiences with fellow travellers and pub enthusiasts. Be sure to tag your photos and stories on social media using the hashtag #RobertsLondonPubs, or by tagging our Roberts London accounts. Raise a glass to the past, and to the memories yet to be made in these treasured institutions!

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