The Oldest Pub in London


John Hawkins, August 2010

There seems to be considerable disagreement over which is the oldest pub in London, so this site is an attempt to try and collate some of this information together, and clarify where possible. I'm not going to pretend this is entirely objective either - I've come up with some rules for what I consider make the dating of the pub valid:
  • It's the building, not the site. It's common for pubs to have been destroyed by fire (or have been demolished) and rebuilt from scratch. In those cases I'm dating it from the most recent rebuild.
  • Partial rebuilds or extensions are OK as long as 50% or more of the original structure survives.
  • It has to have been a pub originally. A four hundred year old building which has only been a pub for the last century is only a century old pub in my opinion.
  • I'm applying the same 50% rule to pubs which have operated on and off as pubs throughout their history.
  • As for location, I'm considering anywhere with a modern London postcode as being in London.
Only a few pubs seemed to predate the Great Fire of London in 1666. Some (like the George and the Anchor) survived by virtue of being in Southwark - South of the river. Rather unfortunately though Southwark was then swept by fire a decade later.

So, the table below is in order of what I consider to be the effective date, based on the rules above. It's not an exhaustive list of all pubs within this date range, but it is a list of places that have been mentioned in various writings about London's oldest pub at some time or other. I'm pretty sure I've got most of the pubs from the 1600s in here, and I'm also pretty sure there aren't any older than that (again, according to the above rules).


Pub  Previous name(s)  Location  Date  Date became pub  Date Rebuilt  References / Notes
 Seven Stars Leg and Seven Stars 
League of Seven Stars
 Carey Street  1602     Both pubs.com and "London's Historic Inn's and Taverns" cite this as dating to 1602, and I've found no mention of any complete rebuilds, and several references to it having survived the Great Fire.
http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=207

From Nathan Silver, who runs the pub along with Roxy Beaujolais: "Publican Roxy Beaujolais and I can't prove that The Seven Stars has been continuously operating as a pub since 1602-- no one can absolutely vouch for a building's useage over 400 years-- but the signs strongly indicate as much.". It seems like there's a reasonable chance this could pass the 50% rule for use as a pub.
http://www.timeout.com/london/bars/features/272/londons-oldest-pub.html

It definitely seems to have records (post office directory and census) of having been used as a pub as far back as 1839, which gets it pretty close to the 50% rule:
http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/ClementsDanes/SevenStars.shtml

Camden council's listed building details cite this as "Perhaps C17 in origins (dated 1602) with later additions and origins". It seems the frontage and some of the current internal features are from the 1800s, but there still seems like a good chance the overall structure passes the 50% rule.
http://mycamden.camden.gov.uk/gdw/T/ListedBuildingDetail?LbNo=175&xsl=ListedBuildingDetail.xsl

Some other interesting mentions:
http://www.theaa.com/pubs/london-the-seven-stars-375419

 Olde Wine Shades    Martin Lane  1663      http://www.elvino.co.uk/wine_bars.htm
"London's Historic Inn's and Taverns"

Arguably it's not actually a pub, it's a wine bar.
 Bell    Bush Lane  1660s?     http://www.citypubs.co.uk/pubs/thebell.html 
http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=28

Several sources list it as a (partial) Great Fire of London survivor, but can't find an exact date anywhere.
 Old Cheshire Cheese  Horn Tavern  Fleet Street  1538    1667  http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=154
http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/HolyTrinityLess/OldCheshireCheese.shtml
"London's Historic Inn's and Taverns" mentions parts of this pub survived the Great Fire of London, so it may actually be older than the 1670s.
 Old Bell    Fleet Street      1670s?  http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/StBrides/OldBell.shtml
http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=153

 George Inn  St. George  Borough High Street  1400s    1676  http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=92
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-georgeinn
 Anchor    Southwark  1500s?    1676  http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=21
 Lamb & Flag
 Rose Street  1500s?    late 1600s?  http://www.deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/CoventGarden/LambFlag.shtml
http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=136
According to "London's Historic Inn's and Taverns" there has been a pub on this site since the time of Queen Elizabeth I.
 Grapes  Bunch of Grapes  Narrow Street 1500s     1720  http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=97
http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/Limehouse/NarrowSt76.shtml
 Guinea  Bruton Place    1400s    1720s  http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=104
 Spaniard's Inn     built 1585

 c 1750    http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=219
http://thespaniardshampstead.co.uk/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaniards_Inn

 Ye Old Mitre    Ely Court  1546    1772 http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/Holborn/Mitre.shtml
http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=165

 Mayflower Shippe 
Spread Eagle
 Rotherhithe Street  1550    1780 http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/Rotherhithe/SpreadEagle.shtml
http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=145
http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1521141
"London's Historic Inn's and Taverns"
http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/london/hi/people_and_places/nature/newsid_8078000/8078602.stm
 Dove  Doves  Upper Mall, Hammersmith  c 1740  c 1790    "London's Historic Inn's and Taverns"
http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=66
Above sources describe this as 17th century, however:
http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/Hammersmith/Doves.shtml
cites it has having become  pub by 1790

 Prospect of Whitby The Pelican 
Devil's Tavern
Whitby Town
 Wapping Wall 1520 / 1543    early 1800s http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=183
http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/Shadwell/ProspectWhitby.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prospect_of_Whitby

The stone flagged floor is still from the original building - but as this constitutes less than 50% of the overall original building I'm not letting it count!

 Hand and Shears    Middle Street  1123(!)    1849  http://www.deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/StBart/MiddleSt1.shtml
http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=105

References to the pub being over 400 years old probably refer to when it first took the name Hand and Shears. An "alehouse" has apparently been on this site since 1123 but I haven't found the original name anywhere.

 Jamaica Wine House    St. Michael's Alley  1652    1862  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaica_Wine_House
"London's Historic Inn's and Taverns"
 Hoop and Grapes  Castle
Angel
Crown
Christopher Hills
 Aldgate High Street  1598  late 1800s    http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=110
"London's Historic Inn's and Taverns"
 Tiperrary  Boar's Head  Fleet Street  1605    1895 http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/StDunstanInWest/BoarsHead.shtml
http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=232

 The White Hart    Drury Lane  1216(!)  1912   Claims to be the "oldest licensed premises in London". 
http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/StGiles/WhiteHartDrury.shtml
http://www.whitehartdrurylane.co.uk/
 The Cittie of Yorke Gray's Inn Coffee Shop
Queen's Head 
Henekey's
 High Holborn 1420 / 1430(!)
1695
   1924 http://deadpubs.co.uk/LondonPubs/Holborn/QueensHeadHolborn.shtml 
http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=44
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cittie_of_Yorke
             
             


Oldest Pubs in London



References:

http://www.pubs.com

http://www.deadpubs.co.uk

"London's Historic Inn's and Taverns", 
Donald Stuart
Breedon Books
ISBN: 1 85982 398 5