London has one of the richest histories of any city in the world. From monarchs to literary legends, from savagery to the riches of empire, London has had it all. There is only a small number of buildings that have had front row seats to all of it, the pubs of London. Here are 7 of London’s oldest and most interesting pub you have to visit next time you’re looking to quench your thirst in the capital as well as notable inventions they predate
The Grapes, Limehouse, Est 1583
Even for a pub that has stood in existence for over 400 years, The Grapes has developed a fantastic history, and continues to produce interesting stories. The Grapes sits on the Thames and it is documented that Sir Walter Raleigh’s third trip to the New World set sail from in front of The Grapes. The area is documented in the famous diary of Samuel Pepys and is mentioned in the Charles Dickens novel Our Mutual Friend.
The Grade II listed building has made recent history also and is now co-owned by national treasure, actor and knight of the realm Sir Ian McKellen, who regularly frequents his pub for the Monday night pub quiz. A fantastic tale of it exists here from Hex Jam.
Predates: The Revolver
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Wine Office Court Est. 1667
One of the most fantastically unusual pub names you are likely to come across, the grade II listed pub should actually be older than it is. The Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese has stood since 1667, but a pub existed on the same plot form 1538 before it was reduced to ash by the Great Fire of London.
Similarly, to the Grapes this boozer has some fantastic literary connections. Its thought that it was a favoured watering hole of Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, P.G. Woodhouse, Lord Tennyson and famous American author Mark Twain.
Predates: The Piano
The Prospect of Whitby, Wapping, Est. 1520
Originally called the Devils Tavern, the Prospect of Whitby has a dark history of murderous villains and law enforcement. It originally became known as a hangout for smugglers and pirates because of its location on the Thames. Later it became associated with the infamous George Jefferys in the late 1600s who was known as the Hanging Judge for his ruthless approach to law enforcement.
The drinkery has embraced its history in appearance and has parts of its structure build from ship masts and plenty of its interior created from wooden barrels.
Predates: Bottled Beer
The Spaniards Inn, Hampstead, Est. 1585
This 430 year old boozer is yet another in this list which somehow has incredible artistic connections. Because of its more upmarket location, it is said to have been the local of Byron, Keats, Robert Louis Stevenson and painter Joshua Reynolds.
It is thought Keats actually penned one of his most famous works Ode to a Nightingale in The Spaniard. The pub has also become immortalised by seemingly pub mad Charles Dickens by appearing in his book the Pickwick Papers.
The Spaniard has a darker history also and it is thought that infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was born in the pub and it is in this place in which he began plotting his villainous schemes.
Predates: The Telescope
The Seven Stars, Aldwych, Est. 1602
Unlike some of the pubs in this list, The Seven Stars managed to avoid the danger of being burned down during the great fire of London in 1666, and exists exactly as it was built in 1602.
It is located just behind the Royal Courts of Justice which have themselves stood since 1882 and since then it has become the favoured watering hole of lawyers and legal students who occupy the area on a daily basis.
Predates: The Barometer
The Guinea, Mayfair, Est. 1423
The oldest pub on the list dates back to the reign of Henry VI and has survived through The Bubonic Plague, the Great Fire of London and Two World Wars. Whilst we know Mayfair as a upper class part of town, for much of this boozers history it wasn’t. When it was erected in the 15th century it was largely farmland as London wasn’t the size we know it today, so the pub was mostly full of working class labourers.
Since 1952 the Guinea has become well known for more than its owner Young’s Brewery, its top quality steak. They developed a simple system where there was no menu or price list, you were simply shown a colossal hunk of beef and offered a knife, at which point you drew a line of how much you wanted, it would then be cooked as you liked. It since has become one of the most popular steak houses in London.
Predates: Flushing Toilets
The Mayflower, Rotherhithe, Est 1550
Sitting on the edge of the Thames, the Mayflower is every bit as nautical themed as you’d expect. It’s known as the oldest on the river Thames, though the Prospect of Whitby would argue its cause for that title too. It takes its name from the famous Mayflower ship which set sail to discover the New World in 1620 from just in front of the pub.
Before the great ship set sail the Mayflower had been called the Shippe, The Spread Eagle and The Crown. Unlike some of the pubs in this list the Mayflower still sticks to its historical roots, with fantastic looking wooden interior, tankard mugs and taxidermy features upon the walls.
Predates: The Thermometer
These pubs are all fantastic to visit if you find yourself nearby in the future with an unquenchable thirst for history as well as beer, so why not pop in.