Despite Boak being a Londoner, despite having lived and worked there for years, and despite our compulsive acquisition of books about the capital, we’d somehow never come across this nugget before:
Not everyone realises there are some excellent drinking places on the London Tube known as buffet bars, which have all the advantages of a small well-run pub. Most of them are kept single-handed by capable and friendly middle-aged manageresses, who may have been there anything up to some twenty or more years… These buffet bars are ideal spots to sit back and enjoy a quiet drink in pleasant company and surroundings, and let the commuter hoard rush by.
That’s from The Evening Standard Guide to London Pubs (1973 edn.) by Martin Green and Tony White, which has a special appendix listing all of London Underground’s licensed establishments.
Most seem to have been near the ticket barriers, where these days you would find newsagents, sandwich shops and sushi bars, but a handful were actually on platforms, like the ‘Hole in the Wall’ on the westbound platform at Sloane Square: ‘If you’re not in transit, it can be reached by the purchase of a 2p platform ticket, unless you can some to some arrangement with the ticket-collector.’
According to a 1949 article in The Times, ‘the Hole’ was an original feature installed when the station was built in 1868, and seems to have closed in 1985. How did these die out? Was there a concerted effort by Transport for London to do so? Or did they go with Truman’s who seem to have owned most of them?
UPDATE: There’s now a quite comprehensive piece on these pubs by Ian Mansfield at Ian Visits.