London has been around for a fair old while hasn’t it? We love that the city we live in has so much history and has areas that you can stand in and know that thousands and thousands of feet have stood in the same place over the years.
But what are the oldest places still standing in London? We started to wonder.
Oldest restaurant : Rules
Rules was founded back in 1798 and is still going strong today on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden. Thomas Rule opened the restaurant predominantly as an Oyster Bar to begin with but today Rules serves a predominately game inspired menu and has service to the highest standard. This would make sense as Rules owns it’s own estate to gather this game from, The Lartington Estate in the High Pennines.
The Rule family kept the restaurant until the First World War, when Charles Rule swapped businesses with Thomas Bell. Bell’s daughter then sold the restaurant to John Mayhew in 1984 who still owns it.
It’s not cheap but that’s to be expected when you receive real quality food and restaurant experience. The jeans and t-shirts of today that sometimes roll in however look a little out of place next to the original taxidermy on the walls, ethcings and red wine wall paper.
Oldest Pub : The George Inn/Ye Old Cheddar Cheese
There is a little bit of debate over the oldest pub in London as a few have been around for a similar while however there are only a couple that have been around since the 17th century, The George Inn, The Guinea in Mayfair, and Ye Old Cheddar Cheese on Fleet Street. We are going with the George Inn though because it’s looked after by the National Trust and is the last galleried pub still standing.
The George galleried coaching Inn is in Borough and when you drink there you can rest safe in the knowledge that 300 years worth of people have got sh*t faced in the very same spot before you did. Charles Dickens loved this place and even mentioned it in Little Dorrit. There are many different rooms and a large open courtyard which is lucky as the pub was as popular back in the day as it is now, once on the main route between Canterbury, England’s major centre of pilgrimage, and the main crossing over the Thames into London.
The galleries were there so that people could watch the plays that went on in the courtyard below in the summer months.
Oldest Theatre : Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Taking their gallery inspiration from the early pubs theaters popped up in the 16 hundreds. There have been four theaters on the Drury Lane plot since 1663 and for the first two centuries that it operated it had monopoly rights to the production of “legitimate” (meaning spoken plays, rather than opera, dance, concerts, or plays with music) therefore, as you can imagine, it did pretty well. The building that stands on the plot today was built in 1812 and is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Oldest Prison : Clink
The Clink Museum now sits on the site of Clink Prison, the oldest and most notorious medieval prison in London. The museum is a bit crap, it’s tiny and is basically the prison restored to show the old cells and contents but you pay to get in and find you get around it in about 20 minutes or less. The original prison was built in 1144 and owned by the Bishop of Winchester. The Clink Prison controlled the Southbank of London where most of London’s entertainment was in the day including bull-baiting, bear-baiting and some even naughtier options. Types of punishment allowed within the prison walls included scourging with rods, solitary confinement, and bread and water in silence.
Oldest Pie and Mash Shop : M Manze
M Manze was originally opened in 1902 by the present owners Grandfather. They serve tradition Pie and Mash and Eels, still using the same recipes as were used when it opened. The only thing that has been changed is a higher standard of meat.
The Oldest Tube Line : The Northern Line
The City & South London Railway was the first deep-level electrically operated railway in both London and the world. Today it makes up part of what we know as the Northern Line. It was opened in 1890 and ran between Stockwell and the now closed original terminus at King William Street.