Thanks to the Great Fire of 1666, you’ll find that most of London’s oldest pubs date back to the 17th century and later. Some of them have retained the features of what public houses were like in London’s previous centuries – minus the casual spitting, hitting and bar room ditties.
Each a delightful sight to see with pint in hand, here are some of the favourites that get us flittering between the centuries.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Dating back to 1538 and originally named The Horn Tavern, the premises transformed into the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese some years later. Step back in time in this Fleet Street institution that comes straight out of a Dickens novel. Dark corridors lead to secluded booths, wooden panels cover every inch and a smattering of sawdust still covers the floor – although don’t expect to be congratulated having ejected spittle to the ground in a peak of historical method-drinking. Some things should just remain forgotten - like bum bags. Sam Smith ales and lagers hit a healthy price point at the bar, which is always nice.
The George Inn
When you’re drinking in an old pub you don’t want facts and figures spelling out its age while the smug front of a Smeg fridge celebrates its umpteenth modern refit. What you want are original fixtures and fittings that scream AGE in your FACE! Well, The George Inn practically looks like it’s falling down, which is why we like it. This one’s ancient and the creaking beams and wonky woodwork are worth a visit alone. Being just off Borough High Street, it’s not the quietest pub to drink in, but if you want quiet go here
Ye Olde Mitre
While we’re not in the habit of being biased towards a particular venue, the Ye Olde Mitre always makes us feel warm and special when we think about it. It’s just got that je nais se quoi
that comes with age – about 450 years of it. One of London’s most difficult pubs to find, it lies at the end of an alleyway in Hatton Gardens.
Inside, it champions the splendour of wooden paneling and rails against the unnecessary additions that ‘the future’ has bestowed on pubs. So no gaming machines, music or TVs here, just the sweet sound of the general hubbub at its finest. It serves good beers but really it’s all about the history and the architecture – this is a pub that people get serious about. As a side note, St Ethedra’s Chapel - the oldest Catholic church in Britain - sits just around the corner.
The Spaniards Inn? But why Spaniards you ask? Well, that would be the fact it was built for the Spanish ambassador in 1585, to become a pub one hundred years later. Since then it has amassed a sizable stock of myths, mysteries and tall tales to entertain the people of Hampstead.
Highwayman Dick Turpin was a regular allegedly, and a pistol ball bearing he once shot into a wall there is framed above the bar. William Blake, Mary Shelley and Charles Dickens are other notable associates of the place, but if the idea of visiting with a page turning classic tempts you, just make sure to head there on a weekday evening. Weekends are busy and the history of the place gets lost a little as the crowds swarm.
An honourable mention goes to the Lamb Tavern
, not quite as old as the rest but its Victorian era exterior and interior are shockingly sweet.