Tales from the bar – a tour of London’s ‘great pubs’ – BBC News

Image copyright Charlie Dailey

Giant oak wine barrels sit above the bar of the Cittie of Yorke in Holborn – which is more reminiscent of a great hall in a Tudor mansion than than a traditional tavern.

The jury is out as to whether or not the massive casks were ever used as genuine storage ships – or simply part of the inn’s Tudor makeover in the 1920 s.

The Cittie of Yorke features in a new book, Great Pubs of London, written by George Dailey and featuring photograph taken by his daughter Charlie.

The book examines the histories of 22 saloon. Take a look at some of them here.

The Nags Head


Image copyright Charlie Dailey

On a quiet street in the heart of one of London’s most exclusive neighborhoods, the Nags Head’s first clients would have been staff members of the mansions on neighbouring streets.

“The likelihood is that, because of its location, most of the early landowners were connected with horses, carriages and stabling, ” writes Dailey.

The pub’s main bar – with its 150 -year-old Chelsea pottery beer engine pump handles – is remarkably low, with short stools in front.

This is because floor of the bar servery is positioned midway between the main bar and the lower back bar to the rear, which was once possibly a stables or courtyard.

Image copyright Charlie Dailey

The Nags Head is also filled with dozens of playthings, penny arcade machines, posters and photos – and the current landlord’s collecting of military memorabilia.

The Blackfriar


Image copyright Charlie Dailey

The Blackfriar – built in 1875 – stands on the site of London’s Dominican friary in the parish of Ludgate.

The Dominicans were known as “the blackfriars” because of the black cloak they used to wear.

In the early 20 th Century the pub’s interior was remodelled by the sculptor Henry Poole, who generated a vision straight out of medieval England.

Image copyright Charlie Dailey

There is a sumptuous mosaic ceiling, with marble columns and copper clay friezes.

And black-cloaked friars can be spotted just about everywhere – all appearing to enjoy sins of overindulgence.

Image copyright Charlie Dailey

The French House


Image copyright Charlie Dailey

The interior of the French House seems more like a Parisian backstreet bar, than a traditional London pub – and it remains a favourite of artists, writers, actors and photographers,

George Dailey describes the inside as “a little tired, faintly bohemian – but with unmistakeable Gallic charm”.

For most of the 20 th Century the pub’s official name was The York Minster.

Its metamorphosis into “The French” started in 1914, when its German owner sold the business to a Belgian – but “The French voices more romantic”, tells Dailey.

The Prospect of Whitby


Image copyright Charlie Dailey

The inn on this site was first built in 1520 – on the north bank of the Thames to the east of the City.

It would have been a timber structure surrounded by gardens and marshland. It was rebuilt in the 18 th Century.

Image copyright Charlie Dailey

Regular guests included the writers Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys and Samuel Johnson – and the venue was known for its bare-knuckle and cock fights.

It’s supposed the pub’s strange name derives from the fact that a collier – a ship carrying coal – from Whitby in North Yorkshire used to moor regularly beside the pub.

Initially it was just called The Prospect.

Image copyright Charlie Dailey

The George Inn


Image copyright Charlie Dailey

For people heading to London from the south, Borough High Street in Southwark was a terminus.

The walled City of London was only a bridge away, but it was closed at night.

Latecomers were forced to take rooms at one of the local inns – including The George.

Image copyright Charlie Dailey

The George became a home for political debate and rumor – and Shakespeare’s plays were often performed in its courtyard.

According to Dailey: “There is no pub in London that can boast of having a completely untouched 18 th Century interior – but The George goes very close.”

The Grapes


Image copyright Charlie Dailey

The current house, which backs on to the shore of the Thames, dates from 1720 – built on the site of a previous tavern, which burned down in 1710.

In 1865, Charles Dickens is thought to have written about The Grapes – or The Bunch of Grapes, as it was then known.

He describes “a tavern of dropsical appearance … long settled down into a country of hale infirmity. It had outlived many a sprucer public house, indeed the whole home impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink, that he will never go in at all.”

The Ship Tavern


Image copyright Charlie Dailey

Although rebuilt in the 1920 s, there has probably been a tavern on the site of The Ship since the mid-1 6th Century – and in the very early incarnation it was known as a haven for persecuted Catholic.

The pub is now just behind a busy underground station, but initially it would have overlooked a rough region of grassland land – Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

The Dove


Image copyright Charlie Dailey

This narrow tavern on the Thames is one of the best places to watch the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race – if you can find a space to stand.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the Dove was actually a licensed pub as early as 1730 – when the green fields and orchards of 18th Century Hammersmith offered calmnes away from the City of London, which was then merely a two-hour coach-and-four ride away.

The Flask


Image copyright Charlie Dailey

With all the hallmarks of a village hostel, The Flask is very close to Highgate Cemetery – the burial place of Karl Marx.

It also claims to have two ghosts – a Spanish barmaid who took their own lives when the landowner repudiated her amorous advances, and a hapless man dressed as a cavalier who intersects the main bar and disappears into a wall.

The poets Byron, Shelley, Keats and Coleridge were regular drinkers here. Coleridge believed the clean air on the hill at Highgate was beneficial in his attempts to remedy himself of opium craving.

The Lamb and Flag

Covent Garden

Image copyright Charlie Dailey

When the building now known as The Lamb and Flag was built, in the mid-1 7th Century, Covent Garden was a relatively new urban area – a smart and desirable address.

But a century subsequently, the gentry had moved away and the region had become a red-light district. Records from 1772 show that The Lamb and Flag – or Coopers Limbs as it was known then – was trading successfully, but the clientele was drawn from the lower levels of society.

A century subsequently, and the venue was a popular location for unlicensed bare-knuckle fights.

All images copyright Charlie Dailey.

Great Pubs of London by George Dailey is published by Prestel .

Read more: www.bbc.co.uk

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