HISTORIC PUB CRAWL – The Grenadier – aka The Most Haunted Pub in London



18 Wilton Row, London




The building that houses The Grenadier was originally built in 1720. It served as the officers’ mess for the senior infantry regiment of his His Majesty’s Army, the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards. The building was, in fact, located in the courtyard of their barracks. This particular regiment played an important role in the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. And after they defeated the emperor’s French Imperial Guard they felt the need to adapt the Imperial Guard’s bearskins as their regimental trademark and they changed their name to the Grenadier Guards. Apparently when one whoops the derrieres of Napoleon’s elite one can do that.

It is understandable then that when the building was repurposed as a tavern called The Guardsman in 1818 that many of its customers were members of the regiment still housed in the nearby barracks. In honor of their success at Waterloo it wasn’t long before the tavern changed its name to The Grenadier. Because of its rather out of the way location, the Duke of Wellington and even King George IV are said to have stopped by for a pint or two.



The upper rooms of the tavern were used by the more urbane customers. The common soldiers used the cellar as their personal haven to drink and wile away the hours playing cards. It is said on a September evening in 1818 a young Grenadier guard named Cedric was caught cheating at cards. His fellow card players punished him with a beating so brutal he died, right there in the cellar of The Grenadier.

And apparently, Cedric never left. Whilst his presence is felt in various ways throughout the year, for some reason the month of September still gets Cedric stirred up. During September a solemn, silent spectre is said to be seen moving slowly across the low-ceilinged rooms. Objects have been known to disappear or to be moved during the night. Unseen hands rattle tables and chairs. Footsteps have been heard in empty rooms. Low moans can sometimes be heard from the cellar when there is no one down there. At times rooms in the pub become icy cold and can remain so for hours, days, or even an entire month at the time.

A Chief Superintendent from New Scotland Yard was having a drink at The Grenadier one evening when he noticed puffs of smoke swirling around him. He reached out to try and detect the source of the smoke and snatched his hand back in pain. He’d been burned by a cigarette. The thing was, there was no one there.

Another even more recent event involved a barman who went down into the cellar to fetch some cigars for the bar. Cigarette breaks were hard to come by, especially when The Grenadier was busy. He stopped for a moment to have a cigarette. The landlord’s cat appeared in the cellar, an unusual event in and of itself as the cat wasn’t ever allowed out of the owner’s flat over the pub. Suddenly the cellar turned icy cold. The barman’s crystal ashtray flew across the room into the wall. The cat bowed up and sank his teeth and claws into the barman’s ankle. Needless to say the barman shook off the cat and shot up the stairs out of the cellar and back into the pub.

The Grenadier is still hard to find if you don’t know exactly where it is. The building is surrounded by lovely cottages and one must weave in and out of various cobblestone lanes and narrow private side streets to reach the beautiful Georgian building beneath the shade of a magnificent tree. The distinct red and blue accents against the whitewashed walls gives the pub a distinct pop.


The Grenadier is the typical old pub with random objects on the walls and sturdy wooden furniture. The Boot Room is where the general public imbibes as it has more of the common touch. Which includes a ceiling papered with pound notes. Why? To pay Cedric’s gambling debts, of course. If one doesn’t want to incur his wrath or have him light up a cigarette next to one it is best to do one’s part.





The Wellington room is a bit more elegant with ornate mirrors and leather Chesterfield seating. Which creates an atmosphere that has been called spooky. Be forewarned.






For a more personal visit to the most haunted pub in London, check out this post by our very own Kristine Hughes-Patrone and her travel companions!



THE COCKPIT                                                                                 


7 St. Andrew’s Hill





The first thing one might notice about The Cockpit is the odd shape of the building. It looks rather like the prow of a ship sailing up the alleyways at the juncture of Ireland Yard and St. Andrew’s Hill.


There has been an inn, tavern or pub on this site since as early as 1352 when the first mention of The Oakbourn Inn is recorded. This inn was actually situated on the eastern edge of Dominican friars, or Blackfriars, monastery.

Although Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1530, most of the buildings of the Blackfriars Monastery were left intact. Interestingly enough, in 1613 the gatehouse to the old monastery was purchased by a young actor and playwright and several of his acting friends for the sum of 140 pounds to be used as a theatre and makeshift lodging for members of the troupe. The actor’s name? William Shakespeare.                                              






Whilst the Blackfriars Gatehouse was eventually torn down a number of establishments were built on the site.  In 1787 a tavern called The Cockpit was recorded as opening there. The building was completely renovated in 1842, but the name remained.

As the name declares, the tavern was once one of the major venues for the “sport” of cockfighting in London. Two roosters, bred and cared for as athletes, were thrown into the ring together, sometimes with knives or spurs attached to their feet, and their natural aggression towards each other was allowed to play out while crowds of gentlemen bet and bayed for blood. The match was deemed over and a victor declared once one rooster was either dead or maimed to the point he could not carry on the fight.

19th century cockfighting

When one enters the pub today one is actually walking into the combat ring. Look up towards the eighteen foot ceilings and the original balustrades of the balcony denote where the spectators stood to observe the cockfights.

Interior The Cockpit
Balcony of The Cockpit


Fortunately, cockfighting was made illegal and banned in England and Wales in 1849. At some point the tavern was refurbished and renamed either The Three Kings of The Three Castles. Research sources diverge on this subject. It went through another refurbishment in 1865 and sometime between then and 1984 retained the name The Cockpit once more.

The decor of the present pub pays homage to the pub’s heritage with 19th century prints of fighting cocks and even a stuffed rooster to greet visitors at the door.







As with all tales of gambling and blood sports, it is rumored The Cockpit is visited from time to time by the ghost of a lady who is seen wringing her hands over her lack of money because of her husband’s gambling debts. The story is she made the mistake of following him to The Cockpit to prevent him from placing yet another bet. Unfortunately the man was in serious need of anger management. He supposedly beat her to death in the cellar of the pub or in the alley just outside the cellar doors and went back to the cockfight as if nothing had happened. On dark and quiet nights one is said to be able to hear their final confrontation and to catch the poor lady bemoaning her fate.

HISTORIC PUB CRAWL – I Am the Only Running Footman





5 Charles Street



And the award for the longest name for a pub goes to… These days it is known as The Running Footman or simply The Footman. One of the oldest pubs in London, it was originally called The Running Horse. In this guise it was frequented by the city’s footmen in service to the aristocratic houses in Mayfair.

In 17th and 18th century London there were footmen and then there were running footmen. Especially in the 17th century, the streets of London were narrow, overcrowded and apt to be blocked by carts, animals, pedestrians, and any number of other obstructions. It was the job of a running footman to run ahead of his master’s coach clearing the way and paying any tolls at bridges and toll gates ahead of the coach’s passage. At night the running footman might run head carrying a lamp to light the way.

In typical aristocratic fashion, the men who employed running footmen loved to pit theirs against those of other households in foot races upon which they would place ridiculously expensive wagers.

From the diary of Samuel Pepys:

3rd July, 1663

‘The town talk this day is of nothing but the great foot-race run this day on Banstead Downs, between Lee, the Duke of Richmond’s footman, and a Tyler, a famous runner. And Lee hath beat him; though the King and the Duke of York and all men almost did bet three or four to one upon the Tyler’s head.’

After the Great Fire (1666) the streets of London were widened and made clearer. Eventually the need for running footmen dwindled. Most households simply repurposed their running footmen to serve as carriage escorts and to run messages and letters from household to household. Everything from invitations to illicit love letters often pass through the hands of these footmen.

They did continue to congregate at The Running Horse where they commiserated about demanding employers, stingy tippers, and other travails of working in service. And, of course, every bit of gossip imaginable was passed around this haven for London’s footmen. Imagine the intrigue and news a man might acquire as he traveled from house to house in the erudite and aristocratic households of Mayfair. If those walls could talk now!





When the pub was put up for sale in 1749, one of the last men employed as an actual running footman retired and bought the establishment. He promptly renamed it after himself and catered to his fellow former runners and to the footmen employed in the wealthy houses of London. It served as a gathering place for these young men well into the early 20th century.

The pub is even memorialized in the title of one of Martha Grimes’s Richard Jury mysteries. Nothing like having the body of a murdered girl found outside a pub to attract mystery fans and the morbidly curious.


Today the pub is known for excellent cuisine and a more upper crust atmosphere. The Georgian bowed window remains and whilst the pub has been remodeled a few times since 1749 those brick walls have stood the test of time. As does the long moniker and perhaps the muttering voices of those young men who knew every little secret of London’s 18th and 19th century elite.


HISTORIC PUB CRAWL – The Jamaica Wine House



St. Michael’s Alley – London

Louisa Cornell

In 1652, a Dalmatian man named Pasqua Rosee brought Middle Eastern coffee to London. He established his shop on the spot now occupied by The Jamaica Wine House pub. If you think the name for this pub is problematic now, just imagine the fun the locals had at London’s very first coffee shop called Pasqua Rosee’s Head. Go ahead and giggle. I’ll wait.

It was a good thing people had fun with the name of the shop. With Oliver Cromwell in charge of England after the execution of King Charles I (30 January, 1649) there was not a great deal of fun to be had. Taverns and other establishments that served beer and liquor were shut down. As Cromwell considered coffee an appropriate and sobering drink the establishment of coffee houses similar to that of Mr. Rosee soon increased exponentially.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)
He looks like a real party animal, right?






It is generally believed Mr. Rosee’s establishment burned in the fire of 1666, but was quickly rebuilt in the same spot. At some point, either before or after the fire, the name was changed to The Jamaica Coffee House. This probably happened around 1655 after Cromwell and his forces conquered the island of Jamaica. The coffee house in St. Michael’s alley then became a meeting place for merchants and traders doing business in this new sugar colony. In fact it became such a hub for any business to do with trade in the Caribbean that many businessmen, merchants, importers, and sea captains used The Jamaica Coffee House as their business address.

A great many of these establishments sprang up in the area of St. Michael’s Alley, Newman’s Court, and Threadneedle Street because of the proximity to the London Exchange, Lloyd’s, and numerous banks. In the late 18th century The Jamaica Coffee House posted the latest news articles about insurrections in the Caribbean, notices of the ships sailing out of London and their cargoes, notices of the ships sailing into London and their cargoes, and various other pieces of information vital to the sugar trade and, as a consequence, the slave trade.

In fact, The Post Man and The Historical Account carried an advertisement in January of 1718 that a fifteen-year-old Black boy named James had run away and ‘whoever brings him back to the Jamaica Coffeehouse in Cornhill shall receive a ten shilling reward.’

A century later, some sources claim the descendants of The Jamaica Coffee House merchants met there to plot against the abolitionist movement and the work of William Wilburforce.

Coffee houses depended on subscribers to keep their businesses going, especially after the defeat of Cromwell and the return of taverns and pubs. The Jamaica Coffee House had anywhere from 250 to 350 subscribers in any given year. The subscription room in this establishment boasted the latest intelligence on trade in Madeira and the West Indies. The supplies of newspapers and shipping lists were said to be extensive. It was considered the most accurate place to acquire any information about mail packets or merchant ships heading to or coming from the West India station. Merchants and businessmen met here in the morning before they went to the Exchange or their counting offices or after their day’s work was done. Another perk offered to subscribers was food in the form of a sandwich bar, coffee, tea, wines, and other liquor.


Eventually The Jamaica Coffee House became The Jamaica Wine House, affectionately called The Jampot by the locals, which is also a bit of a misnomer. The first floor is a traditional pub set in the rooms that housed the coffee house. In the basement, which was in fact a wine cellar and storage area, is a wine bar. In the windows of the pub on the main floor ledgers of old transactions from the coffee house heyday are displayed in the windows. It is said Charles Dickens used The Jamaica Coffee House as the model for Ebenezer Scrooge’s office in A Christmas Carol. And, of course, the ghost of a woman in grey haunts the George and Vulture next door and has been known to accost those leaving The Jamaica Wine House by way of St. Michael’s Alley.

HISTORIC PUB CRAWL – The Spaniards Inn


HAMPSTEAD HEATH                              

Photo by: Jacob Surland,

Spaniards Road – London

Louisa Cornell




The Spaniards Inn was built around 1585. The tavern formed the entrance to the Bishop of London’s estate and there is even a boundary stone from 1755 that can still be seen in the pub’s garden. The toll house opposite the tavern was built in 1710. The lane between the two buildings forms the perfect toll road and it served as the last toll booth leading into London for hundreds of years.

The narrow lane between the Inn and toll keeper’s cottage funneled all traffic on the road into London. The present road is not any wider, but an effort to knock down the keeper’s cottage to widen the road met with widespread protest in 1961 so it remains a single lane.

Originally an inn in addition to a tavern, there are a few theories as to how the establishment got its name. One theory is that the inn was named after a Spanish ambassador reputed to have an almost hypnotic control over King James I. The ambassador is said to have stayed at the inn to avoid the plague in London during a number of years of James I’s reign.

The other popular theory about the inn’s name has to do with two of its earliest landlords, Spanish brothers Juan and Francesco Porero. There is an even more logical tie connecting the inn’s name to these two proprietors. Apparently Juan and Francesco both fell in love with the same woman. It ended badly, as these things so often do. The brothers fought a duel, which resulted in Juan’s burial in what is now the pub’s beer garden.

The Spaniards Inn was a two hours drive by coach from London. That drive was across Hampstead Heath, a lonely open area frequented by highwaymen. It is said the Spaniards Inn was the perfect place for these gentlemen of the road to watch out for wealthy travelers to rob. Records from Old Bailey show numerous arrests of men who plied the highwayman’s trade between the Spaniards Inn and London. On 16 October, 1751 one Samuel Bacon was indicted for robbery on the King’s Highway after he was caught less than two hundred yards from the inn. There was even a tree (gone now) at the end of the road where highwaymen were hanged and left as a warning to others of their ilk.

Of course the most famous highwayman associated with the Spaniards Inn is one Richard Turpin (1705 – 7 April, 1739.) His father was rumored to be the landlord at the Spaniards and many say Dick Turpin was born there, though it was more likely he was born in Essex. He did, however, spend a great deal of time at the inn, watching for coaches to rob. It is said he stabled his favorite horse, Black Bess, at the toll keeper’s cottage. There is still a horse trough at the cottage to this day.

The Spaniards Inn definitely played a part in saving Lord Mansfield’s Kenwood House during the Gordon Riots in 1780. Prior to 1780 the rights of Catholics to move freely or to participate in other aspects of British life, such as joining the army, were restricted. In 1780 these restrictions were relaxed. Protestants in Britain reacted badly to these new laws and showed their displeasure in the time-honored practice of riots and ransacking the homes of the wealthy.

Kenwood House is located across Hampstead Heath from the Spaniards Inn. When the rioters came for Lord Mansfield’s home, the inn’s landlord, Giles Thomas, thwarted their blood lust with a rather interesting tactic. He offered them free booze. He persuaded the mob to quench their thirsts before continuing their rampage and whilst they did he sent for the Horse Guards. The militia showed up and convinced the now inebriated mob to lay down their weapons and go back to London.

Interior Spaniards Inn

The Spaniards Inn was a popular spot for London’s creative artists during the nineteenth century. John Keats (1795-1821) is said to have enjoyed an ale or two in the inn’s gardens. Rumor has it he wrote Ode to a Nightingale there, although it is more likely he wrote it at his house a mere mile and a half away.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) frequented the tavern and sometimes stayed at the inn. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) is said to have visited the tavern with his friends, like Mary Shelley (1797-1851,) on his way to and from London. William Hogarth (1697-1764) stopped at the inn for food and drink when he visited the Heath. Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) and John Constable (1776-1837) spent time at the Spaniards after wandering the Heath and enjoying the inspiring views of London from the area.

Parliament Hill from Hampstead Heath

The Spaniards Inn also makes an appearance in Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers and in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In fact, Stoker is said to have pilfered one of the inn’s ghost stories for part of the plot of Dracula.

Ghost stories, you say?

Why yes, there are several associated with the Spaniards. One is cautioned not to walk across the Heath from Kenwood House to the inn, especially at night, as one might be overtaken by Dick Turpin and Black Bess as they race for their favorite safe house. Sometimes, if one stands in front of the inn late at night and listens carefully one will Black Bess’s hoof beats on the road. Some even claim to have seen her in the car park on moonlit nights. Of course, the ghost of Juan Porero, killed by his brother in a duel over a woman and buried in the inn’s garden, is said to haunt the tavern as well. The ghost of a devious local money lender named Black Dick, run down by a coach in the inn yard, is said to tug the sleeves of patrons drinking at the bar. And a woman in a flowing white gown is said to have been seen crossing Hampstead Heath to come to the inn in search of her lover, a highwayman who never arrived for their last assignation.




Today the interior of the Spaniards Inn is very much as it was in the days of Dick Turpin.

Interior The Spaniards Inn


The food is outstanding, especially the Sunday roast. But be forewarned, make reservations well ahead of your selected Sunday or you may be relegated to a table in the beer garden as Kristine Hughes Patrone, Andrea Stein, Sandra Mettler and I were one rainy Sunday afternoon. We saw no ghosts, but enjoyed a fantastic Sunday roast with all of the trimmings before going on to visit Kenwood House and to stop and gaze across Hampstead Heath at the view of London in the distance.



Next time we’ll venture out further onto the Heath in the hope of meeting a dashing highwayman or two. One never knows!