by Harley Nott
Four old (and famous) London pubs.
Pubs (short for “public houses”) are a British institution, there are over 7,000 of them in London. Here are details of four of the oldest and most famous.
Ye Ode Mitre
Built in 1546 for the servants of the Bishops of Ely, The Ye Olde Mitre is famous for having a cherry tree, (now supporting the front) that Queen Elizabeth I once danced around. Set in a part of London steeped in history, it’s near where William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered at Smithfield, along with martyrs and traitors who were also killed nearby. More details and here.
The Lamb and Flag
When the building now known as The Lamb and Flag was built, in the mid-17th Century, Covent Garden was a relatively new urban area – a smart and desirable address. But a century later, the gentry had moved away and the area had become a red-light district. Records from 1772 show that The Lamb and Flag – or Coopers Arms as it was known then – was trading successfully, but the clientele was drawn from the lower levels of society.
A century later, and the venue was a popular location for unlicensed bare-knuckle fights. Great London pubs don’t get more historic than this! More details.
The Prospect of Whitby
The Prospect Of Whitby in Wapping is London’s oldest riverside pub dating back to 1520. The pub has an illustrious history. Regular visitors included the writers Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys and Samuel Johnson – and the venue was known for its bare-knuckle and cock fights. It’s thought the pub’s strange name derives from the fact that a collier – a ship carrying coal – from Whitby in North Yorkshire used to moor regularly beside the pub. More details.
The pub’s name – The Flask – comes from the tradition of selling flasks from the pub, which were then used to collect water from the springs around Highgate and nearby Hampstead heath. A natural spring to the rear of the pub may also have been used for this purpose.
Every good historic pub should have a haunting or two, and The Flask is no exception. You might run into the ghost of a Spanish barmaid who hanged herself in the pub’s cellar (now a seating area), over an unrequited love for the publican. Look out also for a chap in Cavalier uniform occasionally seen crossing the room in the main bar and vanishing into a pillar. And while he doesn’t haunt the pub (as far as we know) Dick Turpin is reputed to have spent some time in our wine store while on the run from the authorities. More details
If you’re looking for a truly English experience and a chance to meet and get to know some locals – try The Coach House.