Chris Guest's picture

This full story is available to premium subscribers.

Login / Subscribe
Subscription options for $2, $15 and $25.


 

Four Historic London Pubs

London is a city heavy with millennia of history, the development of Western civilization, the rise and fall of empires, and of course, good drink. In this story, I detail my experiences at four historic London pubs, including their delectable brews and the fascinating backstories held therein.

A sprawling megalopolis, the London of today is almost unrecognizable from its appearance even 20 years ago, as multiple new landmarks grace the city’s skyline, such as the London Eyethe Shard, City Hall, 20 Fenchurch (the Walkie Talkie) and The Gherkin (named for its singular pickle-like appearance).

One area in which the city has not changed is its adoration of public houses and the high-quality lagers and ales they serve. Citizens of England and the United Kingdom are known for their ability to quaff pints with the best of them, and many of those pints are imbibed on the premises of the some of the most historic and characterful pubs in the world.



London is a city heavy with millennia of history, the development of Western civilization, the rise and fall of empires, and of course, good drink.


During a recent visit to London, I made a point to soak up the ambiance and wares at four unique pubs, all of which were within walking distance of one another… that is, if you don’t mind strolling over one of the most picturesque and elegantly designed public footbridges in the world.

The Millennium Bridge, which links St. Paul’s Cathedral with the Tate Modern Gallery, provides plenty of spots for windswept selfies and touristy snapshots of the River Thames, although that is not where our tale began.

After stepping off the platform at St. Paul’s Station on the London Underground’s Central Line, I ambled off to my first stop on this mini-pub crawl: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese at 145 Fleet Street.

A mere 8-minute walk from the evocative dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Grade II Listed public house, making it only slightly less historically significant than landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge (showing that places to imbibe delectable brews in the city are clearly of high importance to Londoners).



Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Grade II Listed public house, making it only slightly less historically significant than landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge.


First erected nearly 600 years ago in 1538 and rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is housed in a surprisingly narrow building down an inconspicuous side street – so inconspicuous, in fact, that I almost missed the small round sign jutting out into Fleet Street that bore the pub’s name.

Upon facing the façade of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, one is greeted to an unassuming brown building with a plain black-and-white sign. To the right of that sign is a list of the monarchs that have reigned during the pub’s existence, a stunningly simple but effective way of exposing the incredible amount of time that this plain-looking pub has been in existence.

Upon entering, there is a small side room with a few taps and even fewer tables, which is where I ordered a Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter to quench my thirst. The wooden bar and floorboards were worn to a smooth veneer, evidence of the generations of patrons who have entered the bar to enjoy its vices.

I was confused at first, thinking: “Is this it?” Further exploring the building, I discovered a small stairway that led downstairs to a dimly lit, underground beer crypt where the majority of the seating (and another bar with far more taps) was located.

After hunching down and barely squeezing through one of the narrowest stairwells in existence, which was built for the “minuscule 16th-century patrons,” according to an amused pubgoer walking in front of me, the area below the top of the pub was more inviting and interesting than I could have ever imagined.

The dark timber-lined room I found at the bottom of the stairs was dimly lit with yellow bulbs and featured multiple chairs, tables and cozy booths. This downstairs “dungeon” at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese truly felt as if one had traveled back to the days when writers and luminaries such as Charles Dickens, W.B. Yeats, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Mark Twain all drank and dined at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

It’s an amazing feeling, and one that made me feel truly connected to the city of London. The deliciously earthy and easy-drinking Sam Smith’s beer didn’t hurt on that count, either. The Old Brewery Bitter is brewed with hard water drawn from a well dating to 1758 in Yorkshire and featured evocatively malty and toffee-like aromas with a creamy smoothness throughout.



Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Bitter is brewed with hard water drawn from a well dating to 1758 in Yorkshire and featured evocatively malty and toffee-like aromas with a creamy smoothness throughout.


Though I was loath to leave the Cheshire Cheese, there was another pub that started with “Ye Olde” that was only a 3-minute walk away. Ye Olde Cock Tavern was built in the late 1600s but was later taken down and rebuilt on the other side of the road in the 1880s.

Sadly, many of original furnishings and ornaments were destroyed in a fire in the 1990s. Since then, it has been restored and rejuvenated – making this historic London pub look more modern and seem much newer than it actually is.


Finish reading this article by becoming a premium subscriber.
Visit the store now. Options start for only $2.00!

Comments

eBrucks's picture
Going to London at the end of the month- will check these places out, thanks! Cheers!
Editorial Dept.'s picture
Cheers! Enjoy your trip!

Comments

eBrucks's picture
Going to London at the end of the month- will check these places out, thanks! Cheers!
Editorial Dept.'s picture
Cheers! Enjoy your trip!

Advertisement

Table of Contents