Hassrale Trips: High Holborn

Date: Wednesday 9th July 2003

After the unconfined success of the previous trip on the 28th May, to this area (five attendees!), the trial committee decided to take up from where they had left off and continued perusing pubs in the vicinity. Consequently we shall start from the final pub of that trip which is fairly close to Holborn tube station (Central & Piccadilly lines). This is on Kingsway of course so it is readily accessible by numerous buses as well. According to the map this is technically High Holborn, but the boundary between this and just plain Holborn is somewhat indistinct. It appears to be around the junction with Grays Inn Road or maybe by Holborn Circus, so the route is indeed High Holborn.

Approximate leaving times are shown in [ ].

1. The Shakespeare's Head - 64/78 Kingsway WC2B 6BG [18:30]
Courage Directors; Greene King Abbot; Shepherd Neame Spitfire+ various guest beers (Oakham White Dwarf; Coach House Summer Sizzler; Mordue Workie Ticket)

Above is a more accurate list of beers in lieu of rehashing the whole description from the trip in May. Nothing has materially changed so the previous description has been reproduced. "Traditional Wetherspoon's conversion last visited by HASSRALE in May 2003" (OK, so I lied), "situated on the ground floor of Africa House. Very long pub which stretches all the way from Kingsway, where the main entrance is, to LittleTurnstile. You can walk the length of the pub along Twyford Place. Fairly busy on our visit, but we still managed to get seats at the back in the no-smoking area. As with all Wetherspoon's, very strong on food. Nice black and white tiling for most of the length of the bar which turns to carpeting at the end section. Toilets on the ground level (for once)".

Leave by the side door onto Twyford Place then continue left and left again towards Little Turnstile where on the corner is …

2. The Ship Tavern - Little Turnstile [19:15]
Beers: Greene King Old Speckled Hen; Charles Wells Bombardier; Youngs Bitter (Ordinary as was).

This was built on the site of the original establishment of 1549. A blue plaque outside proclaims that in those days it became a secret bolt-hole for Roman Catholic priests and sympathisers. Richard Penderel who helped King Charles to escape (this was the monarch who hid in an oak tree, see pub number six) used to visit and also someone called Smeaton who built the first Eddystone lighthouse which has been relocated (no longer operational) to Mutley Plain in Plymouth. Ironically with its religious background it has also been a Freemason's meeting house at some time. Well so much for the history, this is actually a small one-bar pub with traditional dark wood interior, banquette (padded bench) seating and a few tables. Alternatively there is a (yes, just one) plastic table with three chairs outside. This is on the corner of Gate Street which is just a busy pedestrian thoroughfare leading to Kingsway.

Now continue along Little Turnstile, turn left at the junction with High Holborn then cross towards Procter St. Continue up on the right until you encounter ...

3. The Square Pig - Procter Street WC2 [20:00]
Beers: Fullers London Pride and Honeydew; Adnams Bitter.

This is on what is now officially designated "Midtown's most exciting street" according to the grossly oversized spoof street-sign, displayed opposite. It seemed vaguely reminiscent, but previously it wasn't a bar, it used to be Pontis Italian restaurant. Street corner establishment adjoining Red Lion Square and it still looks more like a wine-bar than a pub. Seating is a mixture of bar-stools, benches, pews and leather sofas! Yet another football match on TV dominated proceedings at the time, but unfortunately the outside tables were all occupied on the evening of the trial. However this could be a promising opportunity to visit the place in the brief period until the start of the next football season.

On leaving, retrace your steps down Procter St until the turning into Eagle St. Take this and down on the left on the corner of Dane St is ...

4. Overdraughts - Dane Street [20:30]
Beers: Marstons Pedigree; Youngs Ordinary (alright then, Bitter!)

This used to be called The Crown (and was on Eagle Street, so they must have moved the front door) as visited many years ago by HASSRALE. The main bar area is at ground floor level and is not all that large, but reasonable comfortable. Downstairs there is a capacious two-roomed area which does not seem to have a servery. Formerly this used to be a wine-bar/disco which was accessible by stairs on the Dane Street side (Eagle Street runs in front). Now the stairs are to the right of the two bars, but the internal layout has been changed somewhat.

Now continue to the left to the junction with Red Lion St and turn right down towards High Holborn, on the corner of which is ....

5. The Old Red Lion - 72 High Holborn [21:15]
Beers: Greene King Abbot and IPA.

It would seem that this pub was last visited in June 1994 on a trip with the uninviting name of The State House Hole which was based around the demolished site of State House formerly occupied by DoH and DSS employees. The description from that earlier trip was done by guesswork since on the trial run the place was still undergoing refurbishment, having been closed for a while. However it proved surprisingly accurate and nothing seems to have changed since. It is a narrow one-bar hostelry with accommodation comprising bar stools along the counter and also in niches by the windows. There is also an upstairs room available for functions. It can appear fairly busy, mainly due to its size (or lack of it). Prior to the 1994 renovation it was referred to as The Red Lion, although at the time of the 1979 Real Beer In London's publication it was Old (and still is)! Today the view across Red Lion Street is of a massive chrome and glass office building with a sushi bar at ground level, in sharp contrast to the blue hoardings surrounding "The Hole" 9 years ago.

Now cross over Red Lion St and continue to the left along High Holborn. Use the pedestrian lights to cross over towards Great Turnstile, on the corner of which is ...

6. Penderel's Oak - 283-287 High Holborn WC1V 7PF [22:00 or whenever]
Beers: Courage Directors, Theakstons Best, Fullers London Pride, Hopback Summer Lightning + various guest beers.

A Wetherspoons conversion to a large pub with lots of stripped pine. Another extensive modification of a non-pub set of premises that snakes through from Great Turnstile to a pseudo hotel reception area in the no-smoking area to the rear on the left. This building used to be Penderel House formerly occupied by the Inland Revenue and also by the London Weather Centre and as mentioned above the pub is named after Richard Penderel and the oak tree utilised to hide King Charles. The acorn theme constantly recurs in the pub decor. Downstairs there is a large cellar bar which is often hired out for private parties. As with a number of JDW establishments the toilets are made into a feature (in the Gents the urinals are arranged round a central, illuminated column).

Well that finishes proceedings for tonight. On emerging from here onto High Holborn there a various bus routes, Chancery Lane (Central Line) tube station is a couple of minutes to the right and Holborn tube is back along the road to the left. Have a safe journey.

Trial details: Edmund & James Featherstone, John Wright on Wednesday 11th June 2003.

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