London pubs with unusual customs and bizarre attractions

Ye old watling picFound in the Haining Archive are these pages of handwritten notes on unusual old London pubs, possibly from a book by London topographer Royston Wells, who may have written the notes himself.

“The Wrestlers”, North Hill, Highgate

Original pub 1547. New one built 1921 around enormous Jacobean fire grate. Ancient custom of “ swearing on the horns “ still performed.

Original fire grate still there, but no mention of swearing on the horns on Website.

“ Lamb and Flag”, Covent Garden,

Covent Garden’s oldest pub, outside which Dryden was set on and nearly murdered. On 19th December glasses of mulled drinks given away to regulars to celebrate the fact that Dryden was not actually killed.

Blue plaque commemorates attack on Dryden

“Crown and Greyhound”, Dulwich Village.

HQ of Dulwich Village Perpetuation Society, who keep up Dickens’ traditions and meet here regularly in Dickensian gear.

Dickens did meet members of Dulwich Society at Greyhound, but no mention on website of present day members dressing up.

“Ye Olde White Tavern”, Ely Place, Hatton Garden.

Built by Bishop Goodrich for Ely Palace town residence of Bishops of Ely from 1290, for their servants. The date 1546 depicted on ornamental mitre in pub. Also cherry tree trunk can be seen in pub which marked Palace ground’s boundary with that of Sir Christopher Hatton ( hence Hatton Garden ).

A tiny annexe of Cambridgeshire in central London. Cherry tree is a popular attraction.

“Tiger Tavern”, Tower Hill.

Original “Tiger” established about 1500 . Present pub opened 14/12/65. Story goes that Princess Elizabeth when confined to the Tower often visited the “Tiger” through a secret tunnel to play with the cat. Cats and rats are on show in the pub.

The sixties pub remains popular with City types. Apparently, the alleged entrance to the tunnel can still be seen. Not sure about the cats ’n’ rats.

“Ye Olde Watling”, Watling Street.

Wren probably stayed here during the rebuilding of St Paul’s. Ancient plane tree outside once used as a whipping post.

Legend persists of Wren using upper rooms as drawing office.

“The Cogers”, Salisbury Square,EC.

Oldest tavern debating society founded here 1775 and still going strong, but at new HQ ( owing to fire regulations), “Crown and Anchor”, Wine Office Court, Interesting tales of famous Grand Cogers.

No longer exists.

“Nell Gwynne Tavern”, Bull Inn Court, Strand.

Still has its original façade (1731). Savage Club once had its HQ here—annual rent £20 !—mementoes of Nell Gwynne here.

Pub still crammed with images of Miss Gwynne.

“The Mayflower”, Rotherhithe.

“Mayflower” actually moored to the pub in 1620. In Settlers Bar are 17th century agricultural tools of the type used by the Pilgrim Fathers. Brunel used pub as HQ when working on Thames Tunnel, which is still in use.

Still there and a very popular watering hole for the many hipsters around these parts.

Can’t vouch for the agricultural tools. Nearby Thames Tunnel museum is worth a look.

“Hoop and Grapes”, Farringdon Street, E.C.4.

The only remaining tavern connected with the irregular Fleet Marriages.

Boasts of being a survivor of Great Fire of London.

Henekey’s Holborn.

Rare wooden stalls and three grated triangular fire places ( still to be sat on and seen) came from Gray’s Inn refectory after it was destroyed by fire. Now known at Cittie of Yorke.

Fire places remain. In 2014 a poem written by Dylan Thomas about the pub was discovered among some papers.

“City Pride”, Bishopsgate.

A genuine 1934 railway coach provides seating accommodation. Closed down.

“The Cockpit”, St Andrew’s Hill E.C.4

Previously known as “The Three Castles “, once a cock-fighting pit, pub is shaped and fitted out like a cock pit, one part being lower than the other.

Still there.

“ The Olde Load of Hay”, Hendon.

Actually built round an ancient vine which decorated the building about 400 years ago, when two old ladies ran it. Still bears fruit every year and it climbs over and around the patio outside the main entrance to the bars inside.

Vine appears to have gone.

To be continued… [RH]


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