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The best London pubs of 1850

If your unreliable TARDIS dumped you in London in 1850, where would you go for a pint?

We’ve come across an old guide book that, for once, gives a straight answer.

Peter Cunningham’s Handbook of London was first published in two volumes in 1849, then condensed into a single volume in 1850.

First, it recommends hotels, including:

“…among the old inns, the Golden Cross, at Charing-cross, and Gerard’s Hall Inn, Bread-street, Cheapside.”

The beer and wine vaults at Gerard’s Hall via the Yale Center for British Art.

Gerard’s Hall Inn sounds fascinating – might we, through 21st century eyes, think of it as a pub?

It doesn’t quite feel like it from what we’ve been able to read. But you certainly get a pint there.

What really interested us was a section titled ‘Breweries and Beer in London’.

First, the author first lists great breweries:

  • Barclay Perkins, Southwark 
  • Meux, Tottenham Court Road 
  • Combe Delafield, Long Acre
  • Whitbread, Chiswell Street
  • Truman, Hanbury & Buxton, Brick Lane
  • Goding, Lambeth
  • Reid, Liquorpond Street (!)
  • Calvert, Upper Thames Street
  • Elliot, Pimlico

He adds this suggestion:

“The visitor should exert his influence among his friends to obtain an order of admission to any one of the largest I have named.”

Brewers, how would you feel about a bunch of top-hatted toffs turning up at your premises for a nose around?

Then, finally, we get a list of four pubs.

Two are suggested for the “best London porter and stout in draught”:

  • Cock Tavern, Fleet Street
  • The Rainbow Tavern, opposite

And two more are those which “Judges of ale recommend”:

  • John O’Groats, Rupert Street
  • The Edinburgh Castle, Strand

The latter was famous as the founding place of Punch magazine.

Of the four, only The Cock survives.

You could go there for a pint this weekend if you wanted, although whether you’ll find any draught porter is hard to say.

4 replies on “The best London pubs of 1850”

“Of the four, only The Cock survives.

You could go there for a pint this weekend if you wanted, although whether you’ll find any draught porter is hard to say.”

A Greene King pub now, so the odds not good. However it does occasional guests with Portobello among the more frequent to show up, so possible its Market Porter is on once in a blue moon.

Wasn’t the Cock Tavern rebuilt? A quick Wikipedia check suggests it was moved across the road from its original location in the 1880s (and the interior was damaged by fire in the 1990s).

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