London Pubs No.8 The Old Bell Tavern



Built in the 1670’s for the workmen and masons who were rebuilding St. Brides Church (designed by Sir Christopher Wren), after it was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Old Bell has been a boozer for more than 300 years. It has a long association with Fleet Street’s printers. Caxton’s apprentice, Wynkyn de Worde, moved his printing press here in 1500. Fleet Street became synonymous, of course, with printing and newspapers. Most of Britain’s dailies were printed here until the 1970’s.
Hacks and printers drank together in the Old Bell. Newspapers were born in the coffee shops of the mid seventeenth century; comment and gossip was written down and passed around, until it developed into a printed newsletter.
Although the printers have left, the Old Bell is still popular. The worn wooden floor undulates and customers perch on the triangular oak stools. The pub’s back door leads into the tranquility of St. Brides Church courtyard. St. Brides is still the spiritual home of British journalism, and its spire is said to have been the inspiration for the tiered wedding cake. Wynkin de Worde was buried here in 1535.
I’m taking a break from pubs for a while…for further reading, check out the excellent site here.

3 comments on “London Pubs No.8 The Old Bell Tavern”

  1. Colin Stanton says:

    Thanks for the excellent series, planning a pub crawl around a few of these in your honour!

  2. Helen Martin says:

    And surely the tour guides are offering a Victoria Vanishes pub walking tour? It would end with either reeling or crawling, I suppose. In The VV there was a comment that this pub was once called the Seven Bells. Was it? I am certainly looking forward to visiting at least a couple of these pubs in Sept.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    St. Bride’s Church has a very nice website where you can read about the many re-buildings and see a photo of a group of newspaper editors (The Times, The Spectator, etc.) posed with copies of their papers in the choir stalls. Mention of the quick work done due to the nearness of the pub. The logic of that eludes me. The crypts are fascinating, too.

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