Some pubs in Festival of Britain London and the same pubs seventy years on

imageThe Prospect of Whitby


1951 Here ‘ we can sit on a balcony built over  the edge of the Thames and watch the barges slip down on the tide and the big ships come and go  while we drink beer and sample the cooking for which this pub is famed. It’s not what you call smart and elegant, but it is old established and generally crowded.


  1. It has survived and now boasts of being the oldest pub in London ( est. 1520), though there are other contenders. Customers can still sit out over the Thames, though with the Docks having closed, most of the craft are tourist boats going to and from Greenwich. The food is hardly noteworthy, being mainly homely steak and ale pies, chicken pies and roasts. There are few veggie options, according to one customer, but there wouldn’t have been any in 1951!


The Eagle, City Road


  1. The public house, once run by the Salvation Army and immortalised in the ditty:

‘Up and down the City Road,

In and out ‘The Eagle’

That’s the way the money goes.

Pop goes the weasel’.

The pub still dispenses ‘ good cheer , excellent draught ‘Worthington’ beer, to be exact. City Road used to be the centre of the tailoring trade, and towards the end of a week the little tailors often found it necessary to put their pressing iron—or “ weasel”—into pawn with the Salvation Army publicans until pay day. You can see a “ weasel“ on show in the bar to this day.


  1. It’s still there, but rather more glamorous than it was in the fifties. Its website doesn’t mention its colourful past, so one must go to Know Your London for its history, which includes spells as a Music Hall, where Marie Lloyd performed. Earlier on in its life, the Eagle was mentioned by Dickens in his Sketches by Boz.


The George, Borough.


  1. Just down from London Bridge station, with its’ waterfront façade of warehouses, behind which lie rows of mean streets and little homes which suffered heavily in the Nazi blitz bombing of London’, is the Borough. On the left going southwards can be found a ‘historic gem’ of an inn, the George, once ‘a terminus for stage coaches’. As we enter the coachyard we really do jump back a century. It’s not mere a question of the setting …Who is this Sam Wellerish figure, a real ostler ? And bless my heart, there’s Mr Pickwick himself about to take coach to Dingley Dell. All right, it’s no hallucination. We just happen to have arrived when the admirers of Charles Dickens use the coachyard as a stage to act scenes from his works ‘


  1. Now leased by the National Trust, the George is, thankfully, architecturally unchanged since 1951, but has swapped its rather homely image of twenty years ago, when its menu included very long sausages, for one as an upmarket gastropub with piped music.


The Old Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street.


1951…’ The Cheshire Cheese, quaint, cramped, low ceilinged, the pub traditionally associated with the great lexicographer, Dr Johnson and his equally famous biographer James Boswell. For years visitors from overseas have flocked to climb those old stairs and gaze at the chair in which the acid-tongued Doctor used to sit. The newspapermen who crowd the bar downstairs have longed ceased to notice the invasion.


  1. This remains the most atmospheric pub in London by far and doesn’t seem to have changed much since the 1890s. One can venture up narrow creaking stairs to panelled rooms where one can imagine William Cobbett, William Hone or Charles Lamb eating a pork chop. Calling up Dr Johnson might require a little more imagination, however. An open fire in the cosy ground floor bar still burns in winter, but the newspapermen from Fleet Street are most of them gone, which is a pity.


The Intrepid Fox, Wardour Street.


1951.‘ As you stand at the bar some quiet night, in the lull before “ Reg” the barman “ Last orders “  , please gentlemen, you may hear…the soft swish of silken skirts. Perhaps it is the Duchess of Devonshire passing by.

Ask “ Reg” to let you see the eighteenth century picture, rather a daub, which shows Sam House, landlord of the original tavern on this site, serving “ porter “ in the bar of the ” Intrepid Fox  nearly 200 years ago.“

Sam, a bald-headed, tough-looking individual in top boots did not name his establishment after any particular brave, russet coloured quadruped, but in honour of the famous Whig statesman, orator and gambler, Charles James Fox, whose leonine head in bronze high relief stands over the big fireplace in the bar today ‘.

As for the Duchess of Devonshire, she was devoted to Fox and rumour has it that she ‘quaffed …porter at the “ Intrepid Fox “ and even added to her indiscretion with a kiss or two’


  1. Alas, this famous watering hole closed in 2006 and is now mainly ‘desirable’ apartments. In the last part of the twentieth century it was the favourite haunt of the late Malcolm McClaren and ‘ Lemmy ‘ from Motorhead, and is rumoured to be the place where Mick Jagger persuaded Ronnie Wood to join the Stones. It was also a ‘Goth Pub ‘. There is no mention of the ‘ daub ‘ among the historical details available online. Perhaps it was chucked out when the building ceased to be a pub.

[R.M.Healey] To be continued (perhaps).



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