The Retirees go Abroad – the Hidden Pubs of Ole London Town

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We met Andy at Temple Tube Station along with 6 other hardy souls as it was still drizzling with rain and the moon was hidden by rain cloud. Andy is a young actor waiting for the big break and doing these guided tours to make some cash whilst studying.

We headed off east toward Middle Temple and our first stop was outside 2 Temple Street the former house of William Astor the American millionaire. The building was built by John Loughborough Pearson for William Waldorf Astor, in 1895. It is now some sort of reception house and is maintained by, managed and preserved by Bulldog Trust, a charitable organization, and is hired out for functions. It opened to the public as a gallery in October 2011. An image of the bulldog appears outside the Temple St. frontage.

Oh there are famous sights, but to get to them we have to walk through a maze of lanes of the Inner and Middle Temple. In fact we retraced our steps from that afternoon visiting Temple Church, Middle Temple the Great Hall and the Square before landing in our first pub; the Deveraux. The Devereux is located in the back alleys near Fleet Street. We sampled a pint; my choice being Hobgoblen to match the haunted atmosphere said to exist at the hotel. The weather was becoming more and more miserable so we were disappointed when Andy said we must press on.

Andy took us to Gough Square and the former house of Dr. Johnson, claimed to be the author of the first English Dictionary and other literary works. Johnson had a cat called “Hodge” and the only real trace of Johnson today is the statue of his cat outside his house at 17 Gough Square London. By this time we were both huddling under an umbrella and the last thing I was concerned with was taking anymore photos promising that we would come back tomorrow in the sunshine.

We set our course for the most famous London inn of all – Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Grade II listed public house at 145 Fleet Street, on Wine Office Court, City of London. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of a number of pubs in London to have been rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. According to Andy, there has been a pub at this location since 1538.

The vaulted cellars in the basement are thought to belong to a 13th-century Carmelite monastery which once occupied the site. The entrance to this pub is situated in a narrow alleyway and is very unassuming, yet once inside you soon realise that the pub occupies a lot of floor space and has numerous bars and gloomy rooms. In fact you find yourself getting lost in the maze.

For around 40 years, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was associated with an African Grey parrot named Polly. The fame of the parrot was its ability to swear and imitate corks popping and it was world famous such that on its death in 1926 around 200 newspapers across the world wrote an obituary, and a copy of these are posted on the walls along with the stuffed parrot. They have new parrot but he is a bit shy and doesn’t say a word.

From the Cheese we journeyed back along Fleet Street until we dived into a small alley through another alley and before we knew it we had popped out down near Blackfriars and a pub called St Brides Tavern beside the church of the same name. Just across from this landmark (down another alley) is the London Distillery a modern remake of a London gin distillery and around the corner is our last pub Punch Tavern.

Well that was it. Andy shot through and we had to make our way to Blackfriars Tube Station and home. Andy had promised to show us cheek-by-jowl, higgledy-piggledy, brooding back-alleys, secluded courtyards and tortuous zigzag passages; quintessential London. Well we saw plenty back alleys and had no chance of finding our way around again. Apart from the dismal weather we enjoyed our search for the hidden pubs of London.

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