Tottenham Court Road Tube, exit 1
Guided by Andy
|2 April 2024
|7 May 2024
|4 June 2024
Short read; there are over sixty pubs and bars in the Covent Garden area alone; several of them are listed buildings, with some also on CAMRA‘s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. We take you on a historical journey through St Giles, The Seven Dials, Neal Street and Covent Garden once known as ‘The Garden of Venus’ to finish near Trafalgar Square.
Long Read; If only pubs could talk? Our pub walk features pubs in which the history of the building is as colourful as the people who once drank in them. And it goes without saying these are some of the oldest and most atmospheric in London. Take ‘The Angel’, it was said, ‘there was scarcely an execution …in which the culprit did not call at a public-house en route for a parting draught’, built next to the ‘Resurrection Gate’ of St Giles in the Fields, (it’s still there). It was here the condemned man would take his last draught of a ‘strong nutty ale.’ We hit that spot and it still serves up a strong ale! Centuries later and those other rebels The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, The Sex Pistols and many more all recorded here in London’s very own ‘Tin Pan Alley.’ Booze and rock ‘n’ roll – need I say more? Ok, since you insist, I will say more. Let’s hear it from our spokesman, the greatest novelist of them. ‘Where is there such another maze of streets, courts, lanes and alleys?’ asked Dickens.
The Seven Dials used to be a notorious slum, now it’s one of the liveliest, one of the most fashionable theatre and shopping districts of London. At one stage, each of the seven apex buildings facing the column housed a pub. We take our choice. How about a pub where The Monty Python team of Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam supped? They had their offices in Neal’s Yard, surely the most colourful courtyard in London?
Take note of the homeopathic remedies and delicious Monmouth Coffee, plus no Christmas is complete of course without Neal’s Yard Cheese! From there to Floral Street, and ‘The Lamb and Flag’ (circa 1623), probably the oldest in the area, bristling with character, so called in the nineteenth century ‘The Bucket of Blood’, after the bare knuckle prize fights once staged in the upstairs bar. The ancient alleyway next to the pub was the spot where the poet John Dryden was set upon by thugs hired by the rakish Earl of Rochester. Then perhaps, ‘The Marquis’, also known as ‘the hole in the wall’, where the romantic French highwayman Claude Duval was captured propping up the bar! Does it have a fire, of course it does, it’s seventeenth century! Today ‘The Marquis’ is a ‘record lover’s hot spot’, with a jukebox, a vast collection of vinyls, regular live music and recent cameo appearances in ‘Mary Poppins the Return’ and ‘Last Christmas’.
Then, there is the ‘The Harp’, if only all pubs were like ‘The Harp’? London Pub of the Year in 2008 by the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, National Pub of the Year by CAMRA in 2010, voted as the local CAMRA branch’s Pub of the Year in every even year, so good that they are not eligible to enter in odd years! And all that in view of Trafalgar Square and THAT tree.
So as Dickens says, ‘draw your chair nearer the blazing fire – fill the glass and send around the song.’
Yes, see you on the razzle, on Andy’s bussin’ Covent Garden pub walk: history is the new rock n roll!