London is home to an overwhelming number of pubs, many of which have been around for centuries. With age comes history, and with history comes some truly bizarre pub names. From comical to reflective of the neighborhood’s past, each pub has a unique story to tell.
In this article, readers will be given a guide to the history behind some of London’s weirdest pub names. Additionally, practical tips for exploring these pubs will be provided, ensuring a memorable experience for those brave enough to venture into the world of London’s strangest drinking establishments.
- London is home to a vast number of pubs, many of which have been around for centuries.
- Each pub has a unique story to tell, with some of the weirdest pub names reflecting the neighborhood’s past.
- Practical tips for exploring London’s weirdest pubs will be provided.
Weird Pub Names in London
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a pub in the City of London that may claim to be London’s oldest pub. It has been standing at the same site since 1538, though it was rebuilt after the Great Fire. Many notable writers and newspapermen, including Mark Twain and Orwell, frequented this pub. It is also one of the few remaining 17th-century chop houses in London.
The World’s End
The World’s End is a pub in Camden with a literary history and a peculiar name. It has been around in various forms for several hundred years and is known to have been frequented by Dickens. The pub’s modern offerings include a massive underground music venue that in the 80s was home to some pretty poppin’ parties. It is said that the loud music disturbed ghosts of the pub’s past, and there were several accounts of actual hauntings.
Tapping the Admiral
Tapping the Admiral is a pub in Kentish Town that gets its name from an act of drinking brandy that’s been soaking a dead body. The body in question is that of Admiral Horatio Nelson. After Ad. Nelson was killed at Trafalgar, sailors put his body in a barrel of brandy to preserve it until it got back to England for a proper funeral. During the voyage home, these sick sailors would tap the barrel – as in make a small hole – and drink the brandy. They even had the humor to refer to this as ‘toasting the admiral.’
George and Vulture
George and Vulture is a pub in Hoxton that has had the tallest pub in London since 1870. It is a pretty modern pub that puts on regular music nights, hosts pub quizzes and Eurovision parties, and does a decent selection of sourdough pizza. It is not entirely clear how the pub got its name. One theory has it that a landlady here once owned a vicious parrot that was given the name ‘the Vulture’ as it would attack the George’s patrons. Another story puts it that the next-door building was leased to a wine merchant who used a live vulture outside his store as some sort of proto-capitalist marketing scheme. This bird would also attack patrons of the George, and so the landlord agreed to absorb the Vulture into the pub’s name if the wine merchant released the bird into the wild.
Mad Bishop and Bear
Mad Bishop and Bear is a pub in Paddington that is part of a train station. It is not too different from the Prets and Yo Sushis that it shares the station with. The Mad Bishop and Bear makes it into the guide because of its ridiculous name and the story behind it. The land around Paddington Station used to belong to the Abbey of Westminster. Until one day, a genuinely mad bishop sold it to the railway companies on the cheap. But what about the bear? Well, the station they built on the Abbey’s land went on to name one of the most famous bears in fiction.
The Salmon and Ball
The Salmon and Ball is a pub in Bethnal Green that has been around for nearly 300 years. No one knows for sure where the Salmon and Ball got its name. One theory is that the salmon is a reference to the Billingsgate fish market, and the ball is to do with Bethnal Green’s 18th-century silk trade – as in a ball of string. Another theory puts it that it was never the Salmon and Ball at all, more like the Salmon and Sphere – a nod to the coat of arms of a local dignitary. One more theory: the ball is the universal symbol of silk traders, and the salmon is there because they could be caught in the Thames. Whatever the history of the name, this place is a true east London boozer filled with cockneys, gamblers, and daytime drinkers.
Defector’s Weld is a pub in Shepherd’s Bush with possibly the strangest name. This pub used to be the meeting place of the Cambridge Five – a spy ring that used to pass information to the Soviets during the Cold War. Today, the Defector’s pops off at the weekends. DJs play to a young crowd of drinkers and party types with the pub staying open until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Famous Cock
The Famous Cock is a pub in Islington that used to be known as the Old Cock until the blitz wiped most of the buildings on its block off the map, and The Old Cock was the only one that stood erect. After the bombing, the pub had a pretty sizable reputation, and its name got changed in the 50s to reflect that. Today, the crowd tends to be a mix of hipsters and locals, drinking cocktails or pints of craft beer, chowing down on the
Practical Tips for Exploring London’s Strangest Pubs
- Ask the landlord about the pub’s name and history.
- Look out for hidden entrances and secret rooms.
- Be open to trying new and unusual drinks.
- Engage in conversation with the locals and regulars.
- Don’t be afraid to embrace the quirky atmosphere.
More London Pub Guides
For those looking for a unique drinking experience in London, there are plenty of options to choose from. Check out the “20 Fabulous Gin Bars in London” or the “16 Quirky Bars in London for Totally Out There Drinks” for a one-of-a-kind night out. If you’re in the Shoreditch area, be sure to visit “The Best Shoreditch Pubs: Old School Boozers and Cool Drinking Holes For a Cheeky Drink.” And for those in East London, “The Best Pubs in East London: Brilliant Boozers to Sink a Pint In” are worth a visit.