I don't think Sir Robert Peel was the sort of guy who popped into his local for a swift half after a taxing (all too literally!) day in the office. He's not the obvious choice to bestow his name to a pub.
But here he is on Bishopsgate just opposite Liverpool Street Station. The tiled frontage sees to date from the 1930s. It has survived the demise of the pub it advertised. That local historian par excellence, the Gentle Author, says in his 'dead pub crawl' that this boozer flourished from 1871 to 1957.
For political historians, Peel was the brave Conservative prime minister who repealed the Corn Laws in 1846. In so doing, he split his party - and it remained out of power for a generation.
For Londoners, Peel was the reforming home secretary who established the Metropolitan Police back in 1829. His name provided not one but two nicknames for the fledgling police force - the distinctly archaic Peelers, and the still current Bobbies. How many politicians can match that!
It can't be a coincidence that this former pub in Bishopsgate is just two doors down from what was, and remains, Bishopsgate nick (though just to add a layer of confusion, Bishopsgate police station is run by the City of London force not the Met).
The likeness on the pub tiles is clearly based on John Linnell's portait of Peel from 1838,
The Bishopsgate pub is a drinking den no longer, but there are other boozers which bear Peel's name -
This distinctly traditional street-corner local is at the junction of Queen's Crescent and Malden Road in NW5 (that's Kentish Town). It's just a pity the signboard doesn't show a portrait of the Peeler-in-chief.
North London is a great place for pubs named after Victorian politicians. I have often popped in to the Palmerston - there's also the Lord John Russell - and the Salisbury - and the Beaconsfield (the title Disraeli took when kicked upstairs into the Lords).
The one glaring absence - I can't think of a local Gladstone. He was, perhaps, too dour a figure to inspire brewers to name a pub after him, famously commenting of the Conservatives' election victory in 1874: "We have been borne down in a torrent of gin and beer!" He believed the Tories had capitalised on dissatsifaction over the 1872 Licensing Act - which restricted pub opening hours among other things - to win over voters.
But he was the People's William. And I notice that there are a couple of Gladstone Arms in South London. It sure makes a nice change from all the Queen Vics and King Charles's.
Finding pubs named after radical politicos is not easy - the only one that comes to mind is the Bradlaugh in Northampton. Any other offers, anyone?
UPDATE Dec 2020: The Charlotte Despard could still be brought back to life - there's a Crowdfunder page here to support this indie pub, please do give it your backing!
If you haven't raised a glass to Charlotte Despard in the Islington pub that bears her name, you've missed your chance. It's closed! Part of the winnowing out of London's pubs. A pity to lose it - not least because there aren't many pubs named after women suffragists, communists and republicans (not even in Islington).
The pub was on Archway Road, not all that far from the Whittington hospital and from Archway tube station. Its website gives the impression of business as usual - but I guess it shut quite a while ago. It looks as if (I hope I'm wrong here) a row of properties are destined for the bulldozer.
Charlotte French, born in 1844, married a wealthy Anglo-Irish banker, Maximilian Despard, who died at sea in 1890. It was only when a widow that Charlotte Despard got involved in politics.
She was an active opponent of the Boer War and at various times supported the Social Democratic Federation, the Independent Labour Party, the Women's Social and Political Union, the Women's Freedom League, Sinn Fein, the Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain.
She was a prominent suffragist and pacifist and remained active into her nineties. She died in 1939.
There are two London streets named after Despard - one in Battersea, and the other adjoining the Despard Arms in Archway. So it's reasonable to assume that the pub took its name from the street. Though it's just possible that the pub is a direct successor to the (alcohol free) Despard Arms in Cumberland Market, set up during the First World War in the building which had housed Mary Neal's Esperance Club (more details in Curious Camden Town).
The pub signboard captures something - something - of Charlotte Despard's toughness, though even by the modest standards of this art form, it's not exactly stand-out. Still, for a while at least she still gazes out onto Jeremy Corbyn's backyard.
The Boston Arms - that gothic monstrosity of a pub opposite Tufnell Park tube station - is having a makeover. And some of the signage from its heyday, engraved on wooden board, has come to light - probably for the last time.
The pub was then known as the Boston Hotel, and the grandeur of the signage - not just engraved, but the lettering highlighted in gold paint against a lilac backdrop - p0ints to just how splendid this local landmark once was.
Some of the wood on which the signage is painted seems to be rotten - and I suspect it is being removed as part of the renovation.
The Boston is, these days, a hard drinking, Hibernian, sports-on-big-screen sort of place. It has a leading music venue, The Dome, in premises adjoining which were once the Boston's own music rooms (and much earlier, I believe, were dance rooms known as the Tufnell Park Palais).
The pub has been at the heart of Tufnell Park - iconic, in a sense - since it was built well over a century ago. This vintage postcard, showing Junction Road with only cycles and horse-drawn transport - must date from shortly after the Boston Hotel opened in 1899.
The Boston Arms is grade 2 listed - and some of the signage has a wonderfully dated feel. Why would anyone advertise 'foreign wines'? Where would punters imagine the wine came from?
For these relics of the past - "time's up, ladies and gentlemen please!"
I had an hour to spare in Oxford one evening recently, and went for a walk round Jericho, an area I used to know well 35 years ago. I never had a Jericho address, but lived for a while not far away and patronised the area's pubs - much less gentrified then, a mix of local and student. I also did a volunteer project for Oxfordshire Museums about working class housing in Jericho - my first serious use of primary sources.
So strolling round Jericho at leisure for the first time in decades was quite a journey back in time. The streets have survived largely in tact - there's some unsympathetic modern infill which I don't remember from the '70s, some of it already derelict, but on the whole the area has done well. The daft idea of zoning the area "light industrial" - which is why the council bought so many properties here in the late '60s and early '70s and so provided deeds and other raw material for that research project - has long been buried.
But what's happened to the pubs? I remember with particular affection the 'Crown', the 'Globe' and the 'Carpenters'. Now, unless I've got my bearings wildly wrong, all three have gone. Not just renamed. They aren't pubs any more. The buildings are still there, but all are now private houses.
The 'Crown' was a schitzophrenic place - one bar local, the other acid-style with the ceiling and all walls in black. The 'Globe' was a very homely and successful mix of town and gown. And the 'Carpenters' was something else. An old style beershop, tiny, run by Ron and Else. The beer was from wooden casks. If there were more than about eight people in the place, it was crowded - and you would be ushered into the parlour, which looked as if it doubled up as the publicans' front room: settee, comfy chairs, and a huge old radiogram.
Ron and Else, already ancient in the mid-70s, moved on from the 'Carpenters' (on Nelson Street as I remember it) about 1976. The place was already changing, modernising, by the time I left Oxford a year later. And now it's been erased from the streetscape altogether.
St Barnabas - Kaihsu Tai, CC
Still there, happily, on Canal Street is the marvellous St. Barnabas, parish church of the Oxford Movement (it features in Hardy's Jude the Obscure). The church was closed when I called but from the porch there's a viewing window - I had forgotten just how wonderfully ornate the interior is. An unlikely Oxford jewel.
I ended my stroll at another church - disused this time. What was once St Paul's on Walton Street. Now a bar, still replete with stained glass windows and some of the church fittings. I recall that one of the seminal intellectual events of my youth was held here. A debate beteen E.P. Thompson and (I think) Richard Johnson on Althusser - which mattered a lot then, for reasons I can't quite summon up. I was in Oxford that evening, but didn't make it to the debate. I ended up at the pub instead. Can't remember if it was the 'Crown' or the 'Globe or the 'Carpenters'.
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