Hassrale Trips: Blackfriars & Fleet Street

Date: Tuesday 4th January 2005

This is a fairly compact trip with Ludgate Circus as its central point, but having the start and finish as per the title. It vaguely covers the route of the Ludgate III trip (7/7/1998). For those arriving by tube or mainline we start this trip by using exit 1 from the subway at Blackfriars underground station, which brings you very close to the front door of our first pub:

1. The Blackfriar - 174 Queen Victoria Street [18:00]
Beers: Fullers London Pride; Adnam's Bitter; Greene King IPA.

Famous Art Nouveau establishment, also visited at the start of the West Smithfield trip. This time the survey team were forced to use the external seating since a large leaving "do" was in progress. Hopefully on the main trip we will be indoors. The interior affords good views of the elaborate marble, alabaster and ceiling designs produced by H. Fuller Clark in 1903. Try the pointed seating area at the front to gain maximum ventilation, otherwise the backroom grotto should have some somewhat more gloomy seats (with nursery-rhyme themes).

Leaving here walk up New Bridge Street towards Ludgate Circus, but cross over at the junction with Bridewell Place (Apothecary St on your right is now truncated). It used to lead to the Ludgate Cellars, now demolished due to all the development when the railway link to Holborn Viaduct changed to Thameslink. Just down on the right of Bridewell Place we come to:

2. St Brides Tavern - Bridewell Place [18:45]
Beers: Greene King IPA; Hardy Hansons Bitter (guest).

This was definitely included on a former HASSRALE trip, possibly near a previous Christmas, but there is no electronic write-up and we can't place it as yet. Small wooden-panelled one-bar pub, down a non-descript side street. Rather cramped, but this is due to the disproportionate number of tables which luckily were not all occupied (on the trial run).

Now retrace your steps to Blackfriars Rd, turn left along Bridge St towards Ludgate Circus then cross over to Farringdon Street. A short walk north will take us to:

3. Hoop and Grapes - 80 Farringdon Street (opposite Old Fleet Lane) [19:30]
Beers: Shepherd Neame Spitfire and Late Red .

This used to be a Courage pub which was under threat of demolition along with the rest of the area. It has been preserved in another office block, but in common with the surrounding buildings it is an absolute mish-mash of architecture, although there is a splendid Dutch-style building dated 1886 diagonally opposite. Anyway since our last visit it has been relinquished by Hall & Woodhouse to the current "owners". It retains the rear courtyard seating area built on a former carpark, which in turn covered a 15th Century graveyard. Inside there is an L-shaped bar area with limited seating comprising tables and chairs plus the occasional "bird-table". The area at the back retains some sort of canvas covering, but may be rather chilly unless the Calor gas heaters are in action.

Once again it is time to double back down Farringdon St then turn west/right along Fleet St (having crossed the road). Just for the moment ignore the Punch Tavern and head round the corner into Bride Lane. Immediately on the left is ...

4. The Crown and Sugarloaf - Bride Lane [20:15]
Beers: Sams Smiths Old Brewery Bitter.

Recently re-opened after a long feud with the Punch Tavern next door (adjoining) the owners of which would not let Sam Smith use the toilet faclities, so it remained closed for several years. This and the Punch Tavern used to be one large establishment before the migration of "The Street of Shame" to Wapping. Fairly compact, comprising mainly seating around the bar although there are a few tables etc. Yes, it now has its own toilet facilities although these are down a flight of 14 stairs. One assumes that disabled access is provided, but possibly only through their old rivals next door!

As if you would need any directions, we now move to the pub next door ...

5. The Punch Tavern - 99 Fleet Street [21:00]
Beers: Timothy Taylors Landlord.

Previously visited on the Ludgate III trip (7th July 1998, fourth pub). An extract follows: "This old establishment is so called because the idea for the magazine Punch was conceived here. Recently re-opened after an acrimonious dispute over ownership of the premises which Bass/Nicholson’s seem to have won (in part)... The bar counter finishes just short of the wall built between the two pubs. The Bass half contains the downstairs toilets". The large area to the rear is now permanently open (used to be purely for dining). Food is served throughout the evening in all areas. At the front there is also a take-out bar which presumably is for local customers at lunchtime. Background music, fairly busy and rather a contrast to its former "other half".

Now turn left along Fleet St cross the top of Bride Lane to find on the left ...

6. The Old Bell - 97 Fleet Street [21:45 or whenever]
Beers: Timothy Taylors Landlord; Adnams Bitter.

A much-visited haunt for those that used to work at Ray House and New Court. This is another Nicholson’s Inn with a lengthy tradition of keeping reasonable beer. A previous landlady went to run the former Queens Head pub up near the Old Bailey, before she departed on her broomstick to pastures new (her nickname was the Old Witch). Many years ago the floor was carpeted accentuating its old and uneven surface, but now it is bare, but still exhibits the upward slope to the back door. Seating is limited, mainly church pews and odd cheese-segment shaped stools. At the rear is St Brides church separated by a narrow passageway which in warm weather would afford the option of standing outside. However this is unlikely to be an option on our visit.

Well that concludes a fairly compact trip. On emerging from the Old Bell, Ludgate Circus is down to your right and from there Blackfriars station is then down towards the bridge, but you've covered this route already! Safe journey home.

Trial Run Details:
Date Wednesday 22nd September 2004
Present: E Featherstone, J Featherstone, J Wright.

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