Nine things you didn’t know about historic London pubs

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Revealed: the famous histories of London pubs
Revealed: the famous histories of London pubs

Related tags: Charles dickens

London’s pubs have played a part in the love affairs of Charles II, been the base for the 'great train robbers' to hatch their plans and were even used to hide the Crown Jewels during the First World War.

The capital’s rich history is entwined with that of pub life from the names of Tube stations to iconic English characters inspired by the drinking establishments they patronised.

The Morning Advertiser​ delves into the archives of City Hall to share nine lesser known facts about London and its pubs.

  • Charles II used to take his mistress Nell Gwynn for dinner at the Dove in Hammersmith.
  • The Old Bank of England pub, Fleet Street, still has the original vaults belonging to the Bank of England hidden in its cellar that held gold bullion and also the Crown Jewels during the First World War.
  • According to tradition, Pimlico is named after Ben Pimlico, a publican “famous for his nut brown ale”.
  • The upstairs room of the Star Tavern in Belgravia is where the great train robbers hatched their plans. Other patrons included Peter O’Toole and Diana Dors.
  • Famous highwayman Dick Turpin used to drink at the Spaniards in Hampstead and at the Flask in Highgate, as did the romantic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats. The Spaniards also features in Bram Stoker’s film Dracula ​while Turpin’s pistols were said to hang over the bar.
  • During the Second World War, the French House and De Hems in Soho were meeting places for the French Resistance, including Charles de Gaulle.
  • One of the greatest novelists of the Victorian era, Charles Dickens, patronised many pubs in London including the Lamb & Flag on Lamb's Conduit Street, the George & Vulture (mentioned in The Pickwick Papers​), ​the One Tun (the inspiration for a pub in Oliver Twist​), and the Grapes, which is now owned by Sir Ian McKellen.
  • Novelist George Orwell drank in the Dog & Duck in Soho, with the Newman House, Soho, being the inspiration for the underclass pub in George Orwell’s 1984.
  • Ye Olde Watling, in Watling Street, is reputed to have been built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1666 for people working on St Paul’s Cathedral and is constructed with wood from old ships timbers. He used one of upper rooms as his drawing office during the building of St Paul’s.

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