Thursday, 14 February 2013

Where are Mr Pickwick's other pubs?

Since my recent visit to 'The Leather Bottle' in Cobham, Kent, I've been researching some other Pickwickian inns featuring in Charles Dickens famous novel “The Pickwick Papers”. Many English pubs have been closing recently, due to people preferring the cheaper entertainment of the internet. So had they all vanished? I was pleased to find that many are still flourishing even though the days of stage coaches have long since disappeared.

This research is inspired by “Inn and Taverns of Pickwick” by B W Matz, a book written in the 1920s. Since then, one Pickwickian pub has reverted to its old name, one has stopped being a pub, and one pub has become a very private house. One wonders whether the list will be similar in another 90 years?

The Pickwick Papers, one of the most famous of Dickens’ novels, set in the late 1820's, is based on his own tours round the southern half of the country during his days reporting on Parliamentary by-elections working. The novel imagines Mr Pickwick, and his fellow travellers dining together in London, and touring southern England by stage coach.

Pickwickian Inns which are still operating as hotels and/or pubs
The George and Vulture, Lombard Street - the famous headquarters of the Pickwick Club
Spaniards Inn, Hampstead It is still very much in use, smart and cherished, being in a fashionable and artistic area of North London.

The Leather Bottle in Cobham (above) is still as it was in Dickens Day and its food is renowned for its quality. A blog with more internal photos from our visit is here.

Bull Hotel, Rochester to which Dickens took friends on his tours of his home country. It seems to have lost its glamour since Queen Victoria and her mother stayed there on their way from Dover when it added the name 'Victoria' to its title. Will it survive?
The Royal Hop Pole, Tewkesbury - this appears just as appealing externally as it probably always was.
Saracens Head, Towcester . In the 1920s, it was renamed 'The Promfret Arms' but today, I am pleased to find it been renamed the Pickwickian 'Saracens Head'. The lovely bow fronted window on the pavement (seen in prints) has not altered.
The Angel, Bury St Edmunds - this hotel seems to have gone up in the world, since its plain frontage was covered with lush greenery
Waggon and Horses, Beckhampton - this is disguised in the novel but still today it is a very picturesque watering hole.

Vanished or demolished Pickwickian inns
White Hart Hotel - Bath - as this link explains, this famous Inn was also the Inn featuring in Jane Austen's "Persuasion", opposite the famous Pump Rooms in Bath. The proprietor in Dickens' day was called "Mr Pickwick".
The Rose and Crown Sudbury - (its name was disguised in the novel). Though not named, this is the only pub which fits a fictional name. It was burnt down in 1922, but a photo of its lovely inner courtyard is on the link.
The Golden Cross in Charing Cross was demolished to make way for Trafalgar Square. It was familiar to the boy Dickens. It was where he would have arrived at London from Rochester. As you can see, in the linked print, it was just behind the statue of Charles 1st, probably where the statue of Nelson now stands. In its heyday, 40 coaches went daily to Brighton, clearly arriving the same day.
White Hart Inn - in The Borough, Southwark London was demolished just after this photo was taken in 1889. It figures both in Shakespeare’s play 'Henry VI' and in Dickens novel. Shakespeare lived in Southwark for a time and probably frequented this inn. Elizabethan plays were often performed in these galleried inns, some of which were almost permanent theatres.

Pickwickian Inns no longer operating as pubs or inns but still in existence:
Great White Horse - Ipswich - this appears to have recently lost its status as a public house.
The Bell, Berkely Heath close to Bristol. It was still a pub in the 1920s, but as an inn, it has now vanished. Finally, by studying the print (see footnote) and using Google Maps, I can see that it is a private house, well hidden behind tall trees back from the road. Pickwick and friends had lunch here at 11.30am.

Fictional Pickwickian Inns
Blue Boar - Leadenhall Market. Unidentified Inn but Leadenhall Market still exists in all its glory.
Tavern on Shooters Hill.

"The Inns and Taverns of Pickwick" by B W Matz (read online with prints)

1 comment:

  1. Hello
    I have been searching for Pickwick-enthusiasts online, and I was delighted to discover your page about Pickwickian pubs! Although, in bygone days, lots of people would seek out pubs associated with Pickwick, it is much rarer nowadays, and few modern people even know of Matz’s book.
    I thought you, and other people who are interested in The Pickwick Papers, might like to hear a piece of Pickwick-news: I have actually written a novel about the origins and afterlife of Pickwick. It’s called Death and Mr Pickwick, and it will be published in May by Random House (in the UK) and in June by Farrar, Straus & Giroux (in the USA). I have set scenes in quite a few of the Pickwickian pubs you mention - including The Leather Bottle, The George and Vulture, The Angel, The Waggon and Horses and more. I do hope you will take a look at my novel, if you get an opportunity. You’ll also find in my novel some pubs which are not mentioned in the pages of Pickwick, but nonetheless play a part in telling the story of Pickwick’s creation. You’ll find out more at:
    Oh, and if you wish to find out more about the pubs of Pickwick, you might like to visit the Dickens Museum in London - in their library, you’ll find a scrapbook compiled by an enthusiast, which goes beyond Matz, and seeks to identify unnamed pubs in Pickwick by the locational clues in the text.
    And I agree with you about the food at the Leather Bottle - it was wonderful. I think I had liver and bacon, and it was the best example of that dish I have ever tasted! Excellent staff and customer service, too.
    Best wishes
    Stephen Jarvis