Who could resist discovering London’s rich history by relaxing in one of its many superb and aged watering holes? Can you really do that, you may ask? Why, yes. It’s difficult to gauge just how many London pubs there actually are, as so many of them open, change management and rebrand regularly (the number must run into the thousands), but some of these fantastic places of respite, conversation and, yes, beverages (until they close around 11.30pm each night; 10.30pm on Sundays; ho-hum) are genuine examples of ‘living history’.
That’s right; London’s most historic pubs gloriously offer up stories of often fascinating, sometimes scandalous events that played out in the city across recent centuries. Not surprising, in fact, as some have been going since the 17th Century or even further back (as, you can imagine, many like to claim they’re the city’s oldest). So, should you be making use of London hotel loyalty programmes like premier hotel membership, why not pop into one of the following, grab a stool at the bar and ask the bartender all about their history – or just educate yourself by reading the following…
A charismatic riverside inn, perfect for enjoying the Thames at Hammersmith on a wonderfully warm summer’s day, it was a preferred meeting place for the one-time king and his lower-class thespian lover, namely the legendary King Charles II and the equally iconic Nell Gwynn. It’s also been a favourite of many a major scribe – the likes of Graham Greene, Dylan Thomas and even Ernest Hemingway – while, who knows, its fine, exposed ceiling and beams may well have charmed the revolutionary interior designer William Morris, whom called next door home.
The French House
A beacon for bohemian sorts for decades and decades, this fixture of the eclectic and electric Soho district has been a must-visit (and must-drink-in) for everyone from Lucian Freud to Sylvia Plath to Dylan Thomas (again). Moreover, during the Second World War, it enjoyed something of a significant role, being the London HQ of Charles De Gaulle and his ‘Free French’ followers – hence its modern-day name.
The Lamb and Flag
Tucked away from the teeming tourists who like nothing more than to buzz around the colour and vibrancy of Covent Garden and the area’s London hotels and London Executive Rooms, the tiny Lamb and Flag oozes charm (mostly due to its size, admittedly), but is blessed with a history revolving around 19th Century bare-knuckle brawling, while about a century earlier, a far less famous poet hired a bunch of ne’er-do-wells to beat up the legend that’s John Dryden. The latter, with his literary legacy, had the last laugh, though.
Finally, this ‘boozer’ is famed among locals for being located just steps away from where the ship that was The Mayflower (yes, *that* Mayflower) set sail with the United States’ ‘Founding Fathers’ aboard… well, that is before it docked in Southampton and then properly got going for the New World. Still, it was the favourite watering hole of that ship’s captain for many years before his hop across the pond and today, to mark its past, it actually sells usable US stamps.