Every pub in London has its stories, but some pubs are woven into the rich tapestry of London’s great history. Combining unique tales reaching back through the centuries with quirky charm and a decent pint, here are a few of London’s quirkiest pubs which boast an unparalleled atmosphere in which to enjoy a good drink or two.
The Dove, Hammersmith
Dating from the 17th century, this gorgeous little pub does an excellent trade due to its charming surroundings and excellent food and drink. One reason for its fame is its claim to having the smallest bar in Britain, verified by the Guinness Book of Records, which measures a minute 4ft. 2ins by 7ft. 10ins (1.27m x 2.39m). Proving size doesn’t matter; the bar drew the likes of literary giants Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene to its quaint charms. A popular story has Charles II and his famous lover Nell Gwyn holding illicit meetings there and The Dove remains a perfect setting for any kind of rendezvous.
The Lamb & Flag, Covent Garden
Originally licensed in 1623, the Lamb & Flag is the oldest in Covent Garden. Earning the moniker ‘Bucket of Blood’ because of the bare-knuckle fights held there in its chequered past, the pub has a more refined clientele these days. A range of beverages as strong as its sense of history has made the Lamb & Flag a popular stop off point for a drink. An upstairs bar is named the Dryden Room, after the famous poet John Dryden who regularly drank there, and who on a night to forget in 1679 was beaten by hired thugs in the alleyway beside the pub. Charles Dickens also reaped material for his books from observations made over a glass or two at the bar.
The Spaniards Inn, Golders Green
A pub both famous and notorious, the building itself was built in 1585 to house the Spanish ambassador. Dick Turpin’s father was landlord of The Spaniards Inn and legend holds that the roguish highwayman was born there 21 September 1705. Not only is the pub mentioned in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, but the seats in the beautiful beer garden were once warmed by the Romantic poets Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. Steeped in fame and infamy, it truly is a pub with character.
The Prospect of Whitby, Wapping
Credit: Fin Fahey
One of the oldest riverside taverns on the banks of the Thames, dating from 1520, The Prospect of Whitby once had such a terrible reputation as the meeting place for smugglers and cutthroats, that it was affectionately known as the Devil’s Tavern. The original 400 year old stone floor remains and who knows how much blood and drink soiled it in its seedy past. The great artists John Turner and James Whistler sketched from the pub, while Charles Dickens, who seems to have enjoyed many a pub crawl, also drank there. A pub truly filled with a buccaneer atmosphere.
Hawley Arms, Camden
If you want more contemporary quirkiness, where you’ll find the current movers and shakers, then the fantastic Hawley Arms in Camden is the spot for you. A favourite haunt of impossibly thin rock stars and celebs, it is one of two places you are most likely to see Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty, the other being Westminster Magistrates Court. Gutted by a fire, the refurbishment has restored its popular features, which include a great juke box, rear walled garden and a lovely roof terrace. If you do spot a celeb, play it cool, remember where you are.
This article was produced on behalf of Home Leisure Direct – suppliers of pub entertainment for the home, including cheap pool tables, jukeboxes and arcade machines.