Hassrale Trips: Holborn Circus and Environs

Date: Wednesday 25th May 2005

HASSRALE'S Red Lion Street trip in February mentioned maintaining momentum, however apart from Maundy Thursday inertia would be a more appropriate term. So before May passes here is one that is almost contiguous in that it is still in the Holborn area. It straddles a few postal boundaries and covers a number of previously visited venues, but this is the first time that they appear in the same circular. We start rather farther east than Red Lion Street (February), but I would recommend using Chancery Lane tube (Holborn and Grays Inn Road exit) as still the nearest transport point. Walk east along Holborn (north side) to Holborn Circus then turn left up Hatton Garden on the right hand side. The entrance to Ely Court still has a (now defunct) gas lamp marking the route. Walk through then down a short way and you will find the first port of call. Leaving times are shown in [ ].

1. The Mitre Tavern - Ely Court EC1 [18:15]
Beers: Adnams Bitter and Broadside; Tetley Bitter.

Last visited in September 2001 completely unchanged over all the years that HASSRALE has been exploring the area. Two bars with separate exterior doors and no interconnection apart from the common bar counter in between. The rear bar also has a small room off to one side, all wood-panelled harking back over a long time. The Gents toilets are in the external courtyard area which has a variety of accomodation varying from plastic seating to standing room around old wooden barrels.

Return back to Hatton Gdn, left towards Holborn Circus and cross Holborn and walk westwards (to your right). Opposite the former Prudential building with its impressive red brickwork is ...

2. The Melton Mowbray - 18 Holborn EC1 2LE [19:00]
Beers: Fullers ESB, London Pride, Chiswick and Discovery (this year's summer beer).

A Fuller's Ale & Pie House which might imply some old-fashioned local, and despite being built on previously unlicenced premises this still comes across as a traditional pub - such is the ability of modern pub creators. However the food aspect is not exactly cheap (but neither is the beer!). There are black and white tiles on the floor, a plethora of wooden panels and a low ceiling at the far end where the majority of the seats are. This is covered by an upstairs “deck area” which is accessed via a narrow wooden staircase. Outside there is a small seating area with iron tables and chairs.

Exit to the left and turn left down Furnival St. On the next corner where the Castle pub appeared to be closed, but not derelict, turn left into Norwich St. Again staying on the left a little farther down opposite the Associated Press building is ...

3. Walkers of Holborn - Norwich Street EC4 [19:45]
Beers: Fullers London Pride; Tetley Bitter.

This had only recently opened prior to HASSRALE'S previous visit (30th Oct 1996), it is still in business after although any change of circumstance could surely not be attributable to us! The ground floor bar is narrow with a lengthy bar which is invariably busy. This is a euphemism for it being overcrowded and difficult to gain service. The downstairs bar is more capacious although there may not be a full servery in operation. There are plenty of seats including a group in a strange inglenook fireplace, which fortunately does not seem to suffer being put to use. Also in this lower bar there is a pool table (with a blue playing surface), bare floorboards and no apparent heating which meant that it was rather chilly on the trial run, hopfully not of consequence on our trip.

Now exit to the left, cross diagonally and either wend your way through the carpark/ courtyard to the rear entrance or turn right into Fetter Lane for the main entrance to ...

4. The Printer's Devil - 98 Fetter Lane EC4 20:30]
Beers: Greene King IPA; Charles Wells Bombardier.

This is a two-bar pub with the main one being a meandering bare-boarded area extending towards the counter. There is an adjacent pool room (red table covering) off to the left at the front with occasional bar stools. The other bar area is upstairs, has no servery and is more of a gallery. As to be expected there is a possibility of sports coverage (football no doubt) on the multiplicity of televisions, although the pool room has no speakers. Overall this is a former Whitbread establishment that in keeping with the area has hardly changed in 20 years in terms of accommodation, the difference being that the number of customers has increased due to the extra offices built in the area.

Now exit right and continue down Fetter Lane just a short distance to ...

5. The White Swan - 108 Fetter Lane [21:15]
Beers: Adnams Broadside and Bitter; Greene King IPA and Frulli Beer (Belgian).

One-bar pub that appears larger due to an enormous gilded mirror occupying much of one wall. Unlike in the 1980's, there are no carpets any more. Upstairs there is a small drinking area that overlooks the main bar in the manner of a minstrel’s gallery and there may still be a restaurant which doubles as a function room up there as well. Otherwise it has loads of closely packed seats and tables and weather permitting also there may be seating outside.

In the interests of of research the survey team continued down New Fetter Lane (Fetter Lane joins this a little farther along from the White Swan) and looked in The Hogshead, but this is now a very loud place dominated by TV screens. There are handpumps, but lager seems to be the preference! (If you wish for a late night drink, signs outside proclaim that it is open until midnight). So plough on down to Fleet St and turn right. Cross over at the traffic lights and along on the right is ...

6. Ye Olde Cock Tavern - 22 Fleet Street [22:00 or whenever]
Beers: Adnams Broadside and Bitter; Youngs Special and various others!

This establishment has not been visited by HASSRALE for several years, probably after it had to be rebuilt internally following a fire attributed to the gas-mantle lighting. Once again it appears to have undergone refurbishment involving the inclusion of a number of plushly appointed alcoves each of which is accessed by ascending a couple of steps. Changes to the bar-counter have smartened it up and inevitably resulted in the removal of the glasses rail above the bar. However the place retains some old-style wooden seating at either end of the bar and oddly enough the pub (in common with two others on this trip) boasts an upstairs gallery drinking area.

Well that's all for now, although this does position the trial team for a further contiguous trip, so watch this void. The nearest Underground stations are Temple and Chancery Lane. Mainline links are at Blackfriars or Charing Cross (round Aldwych and west along The Strand), otherwise buses abound.

Trial Run Details:
Date Wednesday 26th January 2005
Present: Edmund and James Featherstone, John Wright.

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