London's great literary pubs

Tread in the steps of greatness

You can imagine them: Byron or Shelley in a big billowy shirt, quaffing gin by the pint as they recite incantations of love and loss to a crowded bar room...

No idea if that ever actually happened, but it's what we imagine anyway. Maybe we've been on the gin ourselves...

Some of London's most historic pubs have a rich literary heritage with past patrons who include the likes of Charles Dickens, Orson Welles, Dylan Thomas, Lenin and even... Madonna; well she did do that black and white book where she got her norks out.

So re-tread in their great steps, sup a pint and maybe jot down some prose of your own. Should probably keep your norks covered though.

The Lamb & Flag
24 James Street W1U 1EL
Region: Marylebone
Nearest Station: Bond Street

AIL Says: Poet John Dryden was a regular back around the time when people still called it the Bucket of Blood – a name it was given due to all the bare-knuckle fights that would take place here. Dickens also liked top pop by for an ale or two.

  • USERS 7/10
The French House
49 Dean Street W1D 5BG
Region: London Chinatown
Nearest Station: Leicester Square (0.1 miles)

AIL Says: Artists, writers and poets could regularly be found in the French House back in the post-war years. Dylan Thomas was known to have once left behind his hand-written manuscript of Under Milk Wood here in 1953. It was found and promptly sold. What goes around comes around.

  • OUR REVIEW 10/10
The Dove
19 Upper Mall W6 9TA
Region: Hammersmith
Nearest Station: Ravenscourt Park (0.3 miles)

AIL Says: Ernest Hemingway was a fan when he was in town (who would have thought he ever tore himself away from the mojitos of Palm Springs) and Graham Green also appreciated the Dove’s riverside spot in Hammersmith.

  • OUR REVIEW 7/10
  • USERS 3/10
Fitzroy Tavern
16 Charlotte Street W1T 2NA
Region: Fitzrovia
Nearest Station: Goodge Street (0.1 miles)

AIL Says: Orwell and Dylan Thomas used to work at the nearby BBC and Virginia Woolf would also stop in on occasions. The pub was a melting pot of literary talent then, not so much anymore.

  • USERS 9/10
The Duke Of York
47 Rathbone Street W1T 1NW
Region: Fitzrovia
Nearest Station: Goodge Street (0.1 miles)

AIL Says: Apparently, the writer Anthony Burgess was in the Duke of York for a quiet drink with his wife on one occasion when he had an altercation with a criminal razor gang. What was said we don’t know but we can only imagine it inspired the ultra violence of A Clockwork Orange.

    Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
    145 Fleet Street EC4A 2BU
    Region: The City
    Nearest Station: City Thameslink (0.1 miles)

    AIL Says: Oscar Wilde often frequented this famous journalist’s boozer. Dark, traditional and slightly dingy now, it was probably much the same back then. The poet Lionel Johnson is also said to have drunk here… and died, after falling off his stool.

      The Dog & Duck
      18 Bateman Street W1D 3AJ
      Region: Soho
      Nearest Station: Tottenham Court Road (0.1 miles)

      AIL Says: Soho’s Dog and Duck has had an array of famous visitors over the years. Madonna was known to pop in when she was in town and going further back, it was also a favourite of John Constable and George Orwell.

      • OUR REVIEW 7/10
      The Wheatsheaf
      25 Rathbone Place W1T 1JB
      Region: Fitzrovia
      Nearest Station: Tottenham Court Road (0.1 miles)

      AIL Says: The Wheatsheaf is the only pub on the list to have helped in the matchmaking of a famous literary figure. It was here that the great Dylan Thomas met his wife Catlin. If you’re looking for a first date venue and an opening conversation topic… you’re welcome.

        The Crown Tavern
        43 Clerkenwell Green EC1R 0EB
        Region: Clerkenwell
        Nearest Station: Farringdon (0.2 miles)

        AIL Says: Before WWII, The Crown in Clerkenwell was on one occasion a meeting point for two of Russia’s most famous political figures and theorists, Lenin and Stalin. We hope that they met here to discuss politics and ideology, but it was more likely that they came to drink.

        • OUR REVIEW 8/10
        • USERS 7/10
        The Lamb
        94-98 Lambs Conduit Street WC1N 3LZ
        Region: Bloomsbury
        Nearest Station: Russell Square (0.2 miles)

        AIL Says: The Lamb was Charles Dickens’s favourite pub and still remains right around the corner from the museum that bears his name. Still a lovely old pub, this one might even give you an idea of what drinking houses were like back in the Dickensian era when writers seemed to spend more time drinking than writing.

        • OUR REVIEW 8/10

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