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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.