london pubs

Incidental Lager, Pubs and Breweries in Photos of Edwardian London

Someone — we don’t know who — spent the week of 22-28 August 1908 visiting the capital of the British Empire and brought home as a souvenir a photo book called 350 Views of London.

They wrote the dates of their holiday on the inside cover in pencil. The book then spent at least some of the past century somewhere damp — an attic or shed — so that its cover buckled and the staples holding it together rusted away. That’s why we were able to by this relic for a couple of quid from the junk box in a secondhand bookshop in Bristol.

Among those 350 photos, some full-page, others fairly tiny, there are a handful that particularly grabbed our attention, for obvious reasons.

The Spaten Beer Restaurant, Piccadilly, c.1908.

This is one of the clearest, most detailed views we’ve seen of the Spaten Beer Restaurant at Piccadilly — a pioneering London lager outlet that we obsessed over during the writing of Gambrinus Waltz. We still desperately want to see a view of the interior but this is nice to have.

The King Lud, Ludgate Circus

The King Lud, Ludgate Circus

The book contains two views of one particular pub, The King Lud at Ludgate Circus. This is interesting to us because Jess drank in it fairly regularly in its final years when it was branded as part of the Hogshead chain. It is now a Leon restaurant, but recognisably the same building.

Omnibuses outside the Royal Exchange.

The beer connection in this shot of the Royal Exchange is a little less obvious: look at those two omnibuses in the centre — they’re advertising Tennent’s Lager, as distributed in London by Findlater & Co of London Bridge. This is a reminder that Germany and Austria-Hungary weren’t the only countries importing lager to London in the years before World War I.

Tottenham Court road from the south.

We haven’t seen this shot of Tottenham Court Road before, or any other from quite this angle. That’s Meux’s Horse Shoe brewery and the attached brewery tap to the right — the site of the famous beer flood. The sign above the brewery door advertises MEUX’S ORIGINAL LONDON STOUT. We’d like to know more about the Horse Shoe Hotel’s ‘American Bar’.

The Saracen's Head, Snow Hill.

The Saracen’s Head was on Snow Hill in the City of London. We can’t quite pin down the precise location, even after looking at contemporary maps, aerial photos and the comprehensive Pubs History website. An educated guess is that it was destroyed during the Blitz — if you know otherwise, or can tell us exactly where it was, do comment below.

10 replies on “Incidental Lager, Pubs and Breweries in Photos of Edwardian London”

The Saracens Head by Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby Ch IV, V

”.. just at that part of Snow Hill where omnibus horses going eastwards seriously think of falling down on purpose, and where horses in hackney cabriolets going westward not unfrequently fall by accident, is the Saracens Head Inn… When you walk up this yard you will see the booking office on your left and the tower of St Sepulchre’s church, darting abruptly into the sky on your right, and a gallery of bedrooms on both sides. Just before you, you will observe a large window with the words ‘Coffee-room’ legibly painted over it.”

Apologies for going in a non-beery direction which is prompted by the reference to “Findlater & Co of London Bridge”. Is this Findlater Mackie & Todd? I assume so, as the location fits although I did not know they did anything other than wine. I mention it as many years ago I used to buy wine on mail order from them and last night opened a half bottle of Chateau Thieuley 1988 which they supplied – see . And in another co-incidence I worked opposite Findlater’s corner for many years –

The most obvious American Bar that springs to mind is the one at the Savoy Hotel. According to their website (
“As transatlantic travel became more popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many American Bars opened throughout London. The term ‘American Bar’ refers to a bar serving mixed or ‘American’ style drinks, more commonly known as cocktails.”

If you already knew all that but were interested in this particular one then I can’t help you, though.

The King Lud was, of course, owned by Levy & Franks, pioneers of pub catering and founders of the Chef & Brewer chain, now, after several owners, in the hands of Greene King, and very probably our oldest pub restaurant brand. I really want to write something on Levy & Franks, but it’s about number six or seven on the ‘to do’ list …

The Saracens Head was on the corner of King St, Snow Hill and Cock La. It’s clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey Five feet to the mile, London, 1893-6 map. It’s only marked as P.H. but the outline matches the photo. I think it also says Cock La on the pub wall in the photo.

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