HASSRALE - FLEET STREET TRIP Thursday 6th June 1990
Yes, it has been done before, but this area does sport a varied range of beers. Also with the demise of the famous "Street of Shame" allied with the recent propensity for pubs to burn down and British Rail's initiative in knocking down property which was licensed I think that revisiting Fleet St. and its environs will prove to be an education to many Hassrale members. Having said that, the trip begins at Blackfriars and in particular near the BR and tube stations.
Emerge from the mainline station and cross Queen Victoria St. or take the Blackfriars Rd/Queen Victoria St. exit from the tube and directly in front of you on the corner is ...
1. The Blackfriar - 174 Queen Victoria Street [18.15]
Bass Bitter; Adnams; Boddingtons; Tetleys Bitter.
A Nicholson's Inn with a different range to some of the others in the group. This is a large establishment with one main bar and two further seating areas leading from it. Built in 1875, it sports elaborate wall and ceiling designs and apparently nursery rhymes in the Grotto bar. Boasts a large drinking area outside and is rather popular with the local pseudo-city fraternity. Probably seats for those that arrive promptly, but don't despair there will be chances to sit later on! From here turn right along New Bridge Street and cross at the first set of lights and head down the side street to the left governed by these lights. In 50 yards on the right you will find ...
2. The St. Brides Tavern - 5 Bridewell Place [19.00]
Ruddles County & Best Bitter; Websters Yorkshire Bitter.
A pleasant and quiet pub tucked away from the usual hubbub. Certainly a good chance of seats. Wood pannelled and aslo has an upstairs bar, but there seemed no reason to investigate. Definitely a contrast to the previous establishment. However, onwards; turn left back to the main road then turn left. Note the devastation on the opposite side, mind you at least St Pauls is more visible. A little further along just before Ludgate Circus is ...
3. The Albion - 2 New Bridge Street [19.45]
Ind Coope Burton, Taylor Walker Bitter, Tetley Bitter; Youngs Special.
A traditional pub that has escaped the zealous attempts at re-furbishment perpetrated by the breweries on some other local inns. Single bar with only a few seats unless one chooses the "restaurant end". Not sure if any is food likely to be available even though there is the distinct aroma of fish. Beer in good condition as ever. From here turn left and at the lights cross to the North side of Fleet Street and then walk along past the now empty "Black Lubjanka", the former home of Express newspapers until on the right we come to ...
4. The Poppinjay - 118 Fleet Street [20.30]
Charrington IPA and Bass.
Supposedly named after the crest of Cirencester Abbey which owned a town house nearby in the 14th Century! Rather tenuous connection, however this is a comfortable one bar pub with plenty of seating. Spirits drinkers can indulge in 1/5 gill measures (presumably not at enhanced prices).Note also the tropical plants bearing fire-extinguishers as fruit. From here one should turn right along Fleet Street and pass the now defunct Daily Telegraph building noting the also defunct King and Keys, which mysteriously caught fire a few days after the Cock Tavern further up the road. At the pedestrian lights cross over and there is ...
5. The Tipperary - 66 Fleet Street [21.15]
Greene King Abbot and IPA.
No it's not a leg-pull. Those with long memories may remember going to the final night at this pub before the block was to be closed for re-development. Not only has the Boars Head frontage been retained, but somehow the entire pub has reappeared in its original form. A splendid narrow bar with extensive use of wood and mirrors. Also has an upstairs bar with more seating, but no handpumps so take your beer from downstairs. The original perilous staircase at the back has been modernised and widened. Only open again after less than a month this is one of Greene King's few London pubs and well worth a visit. may shut before our designated leaving time so improvisation could be necessary. Turn right back towards Ludgate Circus past Reuters and to ...
6. The Old Bell - 95 Fleet Street [20.00]
Marstons Pedigree; Adnams; Boddingtons andTetley Bitters.
By the way we missed this on the way earlier because of the odd closing times in the area. This hopefully does not shut until 10pm. A pleasant single-bar Nicholson's Inn with a front seating area which used to be an off-licence until about 5 years ago. Well appointed but has bare floor boards that slope dramatically downhill (honestly), so watch your beer if using the tables at the end by St. Brides church. The pub is run by the former landlady of the Queens Head in Blackfriars Lane which is in danger of demolition due to the re-development behind New Bridge St. mentioned earlier. Originally I intended to end up near Temple, but I suggest one of two pubs now (both should be open until 11pm). Cross the road, turn left past the closed Poppinjay cross over Shoe Lane and turn right up the narrow courtyard to ..
7a. Ye Old Cheshire Cheese - Wine Office Court [23.00?+]
Sam Smiths Museum Ale and Old Brewery Bitter.
Formerly Marstons only pub in the London area, but with increasing availability through free-houses they sold out to Samuel Smiths. Probably one of the most famous pubs in London it was built in 1667 to replace the one destroyed in the Great Fire the year before. Suitably old looking inside, I hope that the vast amount of wood i.e. bare boards, beams, steep staircases etc does not attract Fleet St. pyromania! Quite busy but has a number of bars and rooms so there should be somewhere to sit or perch. Alternatively (or for some stalwarts perhaps, as well) if you leave the Old Bell by either the front or the back (into Bride Lane to see the floodlit St Brides church) and head east, in 20 yards time you find ...
7b. The Punch Tavern - 99 Fleet Street [23.00?+]
Marstons Pedigree; Adnams, Tetley and Boddington bitters.
I make no apologies for how busy this may be, but unfortunately as nearly all the others close early this splendid pub attracts quite a few people sometimes. Yet another Nicholson's hostelry, this has a single very large oval shaped bar. The combination of subdued lighting, extensive wood-panelling and use of mirrors gives the impression of a cosy Edwardian establishment (or even a railway carriage!). Used to be popular with print-workers before the migration of the presses from the area. Darts still played though, also several quiz and fruit machines.
Well that's it, despite two trial runs in the last week I could still just be caught out by the closing times, but I know that the Cheshire Cheese at 5, Little Essex Street on the way to Temple tube stays open! For those heading north to Kings Cross or further, buses run along New Bridge Street. Liverpool Street and the City are reached using buses along Fleet Street or for those heading back towards Blackfriars tube, look out for the now- closed Old King Lud (half-demolished) or the completely demolished Ludgate Cellars. Where will it all end?
Survey team(s): Deborah Kirkwood, Edmund Featherstone, John Wright; Paul Gillett, John (glutton-for-punishment) Wright.
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