The Oldest Buildings In London
London is a city, which can be a bit of contrast. It is a modern vibrant city with countless monstrosities of council tower blocks, especially when you get away from the tourist areas and too many to mention multi storey office buildings that tower above the streets in Central London.
In stark contrast to the modern buildings in London, there are some of the oldest buildings you will find in not only in England, but in the entire world. It is both slightly surreal and amazing to see modern monsters of buildings sitting quite literally next door to buildings that are centuries old. I suppose that’s why London is such a cool city to wander around in.
It got me to thinking about what are the oldest building in London. The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed roughly 90% of the city, most of the buildings at the time were made from wood. I find it amazing that so much of the city burned to the ground yet only 6 people seemingly died, but that is open to debate.
Old Pubs In London: Always a good place to start is in the pub. So what is the oldest standing pub in London. And I don’t mean the pub with the oldest license, but the oldest actual pub in the same building. Well know one truly knows for sure, there are numerous places that lay claim to the crown.
You know how it goes you get countless pubs, because they are real fleapits that are filthy as hell, covered in dust and the toilets are a health hazard, as well as charging extortionate prices for crap lager, which they then use as an excuse for claiming to be the oldest. As opposed to just being a fleapit and they of course have no real basis for the claim of being one of London’s oldest pubs.
At the end of the day what is the oldest pub in London is almost a pointless question, but it can be used as legitimate reason for touring around old pubs drinking lots of beer in the aid of research. Well that is going to be my excuse anyway.
Spaniards Inn, at Hampstead Heath can trace its origins back to 1585, although it wasn’t recorded as pub until the early 18th century, which I assume means it never had license. I have drank in underground bars before, which haven’t had licenses, and in my mind they are still bars, whether they have a license or not.
Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, which is always high up there on any list of the oldest pubs in London. The current pub was built in 1677 and interestingly enough the cellar, which is the remains of an old monastery dates back to the 13th century. I’m sure the monks would have been brewing plenty of ale in-between there religious duties.
Prospect Of Whitby, this pub dates back to 1543 when it was called the Devils Tavern, This pub became notorious during the 17th century as a smugglers meeting place and for the numerous cut throats that frequented the place.
The Devils Tavern burnt down in a fire in the 18th century, when it was rebuilt it was renamed after a ship of the same name that was anchored nearby.
Ye Olde Mitre Tavern, the sign above the door says established in 1546, even though the present building wasn’t built until 1772, you have to give them credit for trying.
The Olde Wine Shades, this pub was built in 1663 and even survived the fire and has seemingly remained a licensed premises the whole time.
The George Inn, this place is one of London’s oldest pubs, situated in Southwark near London Bridge, The George Inn is the city’s only surviving galleried coaching inn. It was rebuilt in 1676 after being damaged in a destructive fire. The George Inn was fortunately saved from demolition and is now in the care of the National Trust.
Old Churches in London: In many cities the world over some of the oldest surviving buildings are the churches and cathedrals. I find it amazing how wealthy some of the religious orders were and the amount of money that they spent on building grand and opulent so called houses of God. I’m sure it was worth it and God would approve, that such grand buildings were more worthy than helping the poor and sick.
St Etheldreda’s Church, was the town chapel of the Bishops of Ely from about 1250 to 1570. It is the oldest Catholic church in England and one of only two remaining buildings in London from the reign of Edward I. In the late 1700’s an Act of Parliament allowed the Bishops to sell the Church to the Crown. It was bought by Charles Cole, who then demolished all the buildings on the site, apart from the Chapel and build Ely Palace. It was during its time once one of the most influential places in London with a palace of vast grounds.
All Hallows by the Tower, is the oldest church in the City of London and was founded in 675 AD, how much of the orginal church if any still exits, I couldn’t tell you. The place actually predates the Tower of London by almost 300 hundred years.
A wee bit of trivia for you, John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the USA, was married in All Hallows in 1797.
St Bartholomew the Great, was founded in 1123 by Rahere, a prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral and later an Augustinian canon, who is said to have erected the church in gratitude after recovering from a fever. Rahere’s miraculous recovery contributed to the church becoming known for its curative powers, with sick people filling its aisles each St Bartholomew’s Day (August 24).
Another wee piece of trivia, Lady Chapel at the east end of the church had previously been used for commercial purposes and it was there that Benjamin Franklin who was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, served a year as journeyman printer.
Southwark Cathedral, is the oldest Gothic Building in London and was built between 1220 and 1420. A church has been located on the site for over 1000 years.
I’m getting carried away with the trivia stuff , John Harvard was baptised in the Church and grew up in Southwark. He was an English Minister who immigrated to New England, America in 1637 and was the first benefactor of the world renowned Harvard University, which he is named after.
Temple Church, was built for and by the Knights Templers to be used as there English Headquarters, the building was completed in 1185, which was when the Templers moved in. The oldest parts of the building date from 1160-1185.
Oh no not more trivia, the Church was featured in “The Da Vinci Code”, book and the movie. Which as we all know is based not on truth but in fact Dan Browns very talented imagination and his shrewd marketing skills.
There is of course more to London than just old pubs and old Churches. There are many other notable old building kicking around that have nothing to do with religion and the devils brew.
Old Buildings In London:
Westminster Hall, which is the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, is one of the largest medieval halls in Europe. It was originally built in 1097 for William Rufus as an banqueting hall. It was remodelled 300 years later by Richard II in a perpendicular Gothic style, with its amazing hammer beam roof.
The Tower of London, was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror primarily as a fortress-stronghold.. The oldest and first part of the Tower to built was the White Tower. Throughout the centuries successive Monarchs added to the Tower and there are now 21 separate towers at the Tower of London.
London’s Oldest Terraced Houses, can be found at 52-55 Newington Green, N16 9PX. These splendid big houses are London’s oldest surviving brick terraced houses built in 1658, before the Great Fire and are, unsurprisingly, Grade I listed.
Bromley Hall, is an early Tudor period manor house in Bow, Tower Hamlets, London, which was built in the 1490’s and is believed to be the oldest brick house in London.
Theatre Royal In Drury Lane, is the oldest in use theatre building in London, the current building, which was built in 1812 is the fourth theatre to built on its present site, the first was in 1663.
Baker Street Underground Station, which was opened in 1863 is the oldest station on London Underground and the oldest underground station in the world.
There are plenty more old and historic buildings in London, which are worthy of a mention, but alas I have ran out of time…..