Local and Community History Month – Pubs

May is Local and Community History Month so get googling or pop down the library to research the history of your local area, you may find a few surprises. I bet your local pub has a hidden history beyond the tudor architecture and listed building status. Take a look at these historic London pubs associated with famous figures.

1. The Spaniard’s Inn

This historic 17th century pub on the Spaniard’s Road between Hampstead and Highgate was frequented by poets Lord Byron, Percy Shelly and his wife, Frankenstein novelist, Mary Shelley. It’s claimed John Keats wrote Ode to a Nightingale in the pub’s gardens. Certainly, he didn’t live too far way – Keats House stands today in Hampstead. Artists John Constable and William Blake also liked the odd pint here and the pub appears in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Charles Dicken’s Pickwick Papers. The Spaniard’s Road was also famous locally as a hanging spot for convicted highwaymen.

2. Red Lion (Whitechapel)

Talking of highwaymen, Dick Turpin was always popping up in pubs in London’s East End and was even involved in a few skirmishes in some of them. The history books say he preferred the boozers in Plaistow, East London but also turned up at this pub in Whitechapel. A feared horse rustler, he tethered a stolen horse outside the Red Lion and then slipped inside for a drink but the horse’s owner soon caught up with him and a shoot out followed.

3. The Pillar of Hercules

As ale house monikers go, it certainly beats your Dog and Duck or Slug and Lettuce doesn’t it! This Roman classic-sounding pub can be found on 7 Greek St and was frequented by none other than Charles Dickens, who mentioned it in A Tale of Two Cities.

4. The French House

The French House pub on 49 Dean St was once a magnet for artists and literati such as Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan. As local legend will have it, on one inebriated night Thomas left the sole copy of his original script for Under Milk Wood at the bar.

5. The Fitzroy Tavern

The Fitzroy Tavern on 16 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia is currently undergoing renovations and judging by these photos (below) they are changing the pub name too. Past regulars such as Dylan Thomas and George Orwell will turn in their graves. Dylan Thomas certainly knows his way around London pubs. His name and that of Dick Turpin turn up frequently in any search of London’s historic pubs. Penning poems and robbing locals can both be thirsty work!



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About the author /

Eddie Saint-Jean is a London writer and editor whose editorials cover arts, culture, entertainment, food/drink, local history and heritage.

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