29 Watling Street, EC4M 9BR
Nearest tubes: St Paul’s, Bank
Here we have yet another black-timbered, leaded-lighted, plant-festooned pub that is hard to walk by without thinking….hmm, yes actually I DO fancy a pint.
EST: 1668. Monarch: Charles II
Ye Olde Watling is located in Watling Street, one of Britain’s most famous Roman roads. It is also a stone’s throw away from St Paul’s Cathedral and is said to have been built by Sir Christopher Wren himself. Apparently, brine-sodden timbers gleaned from old ships were sold cheaply to builders in the 17th century and these were used in the construction of the building. The reason why Wren broke off from the far more important task of building St Paul’s to throw up a quick pub was apparently to provide accommodation for the men working on the cathedral project, with the inn’s upstairs rooms being used as the drawing offices. This is not Sir Christopher’s only hostelry, it appears – he is also said to have built the Old Bell Tavern in nearby Fleet Street to house the masons rebuilding St Bride’s Church after the 1666 fire.
In fact, the Great Fire of London turned out to be exceedingly good for business for Sir Christopher. However, he had actually been involved in repairing St Paul’s since 1661 – five years before the fire occurred. He came up with his first design for a dome in the spring of 1666 and it was accepted just a week before fire had turned two-thirds of the City into ash, St Paul’s included. So it was back to the drawing board for Sir Christopher who worked on the project for years – 36 of them to be precise. A job of that scale would be enough to drive any self-respecting architect to build their own pub.
This is a typically cosy, wooded, black-beamed interior – just as you would expect from such a historical boozer.
The other stuff
Open: Every day, closes at 5pm on Sundays
Food: Served from lunchtime
Besides the usual pies, fish and chips and Sunday roasts you can pop into Ye Olde Watling for a full English (Scottish?) breakfast, or join in the Gin Festival in the summer.