London’s Historic Pubs, Part II
The five London pubs described in this blog have all been sampled by my family, and all can be found within a two-mile radius.
Ye Olde Mitre Tavern
Ye Olde Mitre Tavern is said to be the most difficult pub to find in London. According to legend, one man worked around the corner for six years without finding it. Nowadays, it’s easy to find with the GPS on your smart phone. It’s located close to the Holburn Circus, not far from the Chancery Lane tube stop on High Holburn. Still, the guys in my family walked right by its entrance, but I was looking for a little alleyway. And do I mean little!
We’re so glad we found it! It’s one of the most memorable of all the London pubs we’ve patronized. You enter through a narrow pedestrian way that has likely been unchanged in centuries. The pub’s interior is comprised of tiny, low-ceilinged rooms. It’s very popular with the locals who can drink a pint near the fire on a winter’s night. Those desiring to imbibe outdoors gather around tall upside-down barrels that serve as bar tables.
Ye Olde Mitre Tavern has been on this site since 1546, but the current building was constructed in 1772. It’s said Queen Elizabeth I visited here and danced around a cherry tree that is still there. Ye Olde Mitre was originally a tavern for the servants of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely, which was once based here.
Red Lion in Westminster
Because of its prime location between Number 10 Downing Street and Parliament, The Red Lion is your best chance of seeing a real M.P. (Member of Parliament). Until Edward Heath (British Prime Minister from 1970-1974) every prime minister had visited the Red Lion.
A tavern has been at this location since 1434. A young Charles Dickens visited the Red Lion regularly. The current structure was built in 1890.
The inside is more upscale traditional with dark woods and higher ceilings. Its corner location has become popular for those who take their pints outside. You’ll see lots of people in suits grabbing an after-work pint.
The Cross Keys
Those with OCD may go a little crazy in the interior of The Cross Keys, opened in 1848. Its small interior is crammed with all manner of memorabilia—and clutter. Among the bric-a-brac there’s said to be a napkin signed by Elvis.
This Covent Garden pub’s claim to fame is attributed to the aforementioned plethora of memorabilia and to its unique facade which is a jumble of lovely greenery and flowers. It’s probably Coven Garden’s most distinctive building.
The Lamb and Flag
Also in Covent Garden, The Lamb and Flag claims to be Covent Garden’s most historic watering hole. It’s located on an L-shaped alleyway (not nearly as narrow as the alleyw
ay to Ye Olde Mitre Tavern) that used to be famous for its bare-knuckled fighting.
Charles Dickens (That guy really liked his beer!) was a regular here, and a couple of centuries earlier the poet John Dryden hung out here. Up a very narrow, steep stairway is another room—this one named for Dryden, who was almost murdered nearby.
The Old Bell Tavern
Just down Fleet Street from St. Paul’s in The City, The Old Bell Tavern was built by St. Paul’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren, for his stonemason’s who were building St. Bride’s Church after the Great Fire.
Inside, it’s cozy with a small fireplace, an attractive curved-wood bar, and great pub grub.—Cheryl Bolen, whose third Brazen Brides book, Oh What a (Wedding) Night, releases in April and can be preordered everywhere now.