Ever wanted to drink in the same pubs as some of the greatest writers to grace the British Isles? Featuring endorsements from fine fellows of the English language including William Shakespeare, Dr Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens and George Orwell, here are 10 London pubs where authors drank their nights away – and sometimes their days, too.
Established in 1615, the Anchor Bankside occupies a beautiful spot in Bankside, on the south bank of the River Thames, just downriver from Shakespeare’s Globe. Famous patrons of the past include Bard of Avon William Shakespeare, diarist Samuel Pepys and Dr Samuel Johnson, author of the dictionary. There’s always a large crowd and a busy atmosphere in the summer – but don’t worry, there’s plenty of space to perch on the embankment and soak up the sun.
It’s alleged that one evening in 1943 Anthony Burgess and his wife Lynne visited the Duke of York only for the place to be trashed by a local razor gang. Lynne lamented the waste of beer as the gang emptied glasses out onto the floor and was subsequently challenged to drink a heady number of pints – which she did. The gang were so impressed that they paid for the beer and offered Lynne protection from the other local gangs. There is speculation that the events of this evening inspired the violence Burgess later employed in A Clockwork Orange.
The only galleried coaching inn left in London that the public can visit, the George Inn has a spacious courtyard ideal for drinks of a summer eve. Now owned by the National Trust, it was a favourite of William Shakespeare during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In the 18th century, Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor – he even mentions it in Little Dorrit, which has in turn lent its name to a nearby park in Borough.
A cosy little drinking spot on Soho’s Dean Street, The French House attracts a bohemian crowd which – no surprise here – tends to include a strong French presence. Charles de Gaulle, French general, president and leader of the French government in exile, used the pub as a base of operations in his efforts to fight Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Dylan Thomas also drank here, a pub where quirks include an emphasis on conversation, an impressive abundance of edgy wall art and only selling beer by the half pint.
A pub since 1538, it should come as no surprise that the fantastically named Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Grade II listed building. The pub has a homely open fire and a true traditional feel. Associations with authors abound, with patrons including Dr Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens, while the iron knocker on the door allegedly came from the home of Irish author Oliver Goldsmith.
Tracing its roots back to 1415, the Old Red Lion Theatre Pub is a popular socialist haunt that has welcomed the likes of Charles Dickens, Karl Marx and George Orwell through its doors. Fans of the stage can check out the upstairs theatre, which has premiered West End hits such as The Play That Goes Wrong, while there is also a beer garden for enjoying the sun in the summer months.
Every wondered where the famous Fitzrovia district of London got its fancy name? Believe it or not, it was an early 20th-century adaptation of the name of this pub, the Fitzroy Tavern. George Orwell and Dylan Thomas both drank here while working nearby at the BBC. Augustus John went as far to say: ‘The Fitzroy is like the Clapham Junction of the world, everyone goes in and comes out at some time or other.’
Contrary to the fashions of his era, Colonel John Manners is portrayed wigless on the signage of his namesake pubs – and this particular Marquis of Granby is no different. This is for the same reason that the Blues and Royals are the only regiment in the British Army allowed to salute without headdress – Manners lost his wig in a gallant charge during a battle of the Seven Years War, and was subsequently forced to salute his commanding officer bare-headed. TS Eliot drank here, as did Dylan Thomas, who is said to have sought fights with guardsmen cruising for homosexual partners.
Around since 1583, The Grapes in Limehouse was a drinking spot of Charles Dickens, who mentions the Grade II listed riverside pub in the opening chapter of Our Mutual Friend. Check out the complete set of Dickens’ works in the back parlour. The leasehold on the property is shared by actor Sir Ian McKellen, director Sean Mathias and media baron Evgeny Lebedev.
The Wheatsheaf was a stomping ground of the great and the good of literary London during the 1940s and 1950s. George Orwell and Anthony Burgess were counted among its patrons, while it was here that Augustus John introduced Dylan Thomas to his future wife, Caitlin Macnamara. Both X. Trapnel in Anthony Powell’s A Buyer’s Market and Dorian Scott-Crichton in Rayner Heppenstall’s The Lesser Infortune were based on the unique character of Julian Maclaren-Ross – novelist, heavy drinker and frequent debtor. All three authors drank at The Wheatsheaf.