St Stephen's Tavern

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Greater London South West - London

Two star - A pub interior of outstanding national historic interest

Listed Status: II

10 Bridge Street
London, Westminster

Tel: (020) 7925 2286




Real Ale: Yes

Lunchtime Meals: Yes

Evening Meals: Yes

Nearby Station: London Charing Cross

Station Distance: 800m

Public Transport: Near Railway Station (London Charing Cross) and Bus Stop

Bus: Yes

View on: Whatpub

An 1875 pub sited adjacent to the Houses of Parliament and with a resplendent interior full of impressive mirrors and woodwork.

 This grand five-storey building has the year 1875 helpfully engraved in stone on its exterior. Inside retains some exuberant fittings which may well date from that year or possibly a decade or two later. On entering, one is instantly impressed by the curvaceous bar counter and by the lofty ceiling which is decked out with ornately carved wooden panels. Then one notices the tall bar-back in which are five ornate mirrors, reflecting light from Victorian-style globular lamps which hang in front of them. Above these is a series of around fifteen mirror-fronted cupboards – so high up that it’s hard to imagine what they were once used for.

There are three sets of external double doors, each containing patterned glass and they bear the words ‘Bar’, ‘Public Bar’ and ‘Grill Room’.  This might suggest that there were once three ground floor rooms, not the current two. The glass in the doors is a combination of older panes and replacement ones.  On entering through the Bridge Street doors, a ‘blind’ window – also containing patterned glass – once looked out onto a covered arcade, but this has recently been sealed off.  

In the 1980s the pub closed down and did not re-open until 2003 when it was sympathetically restored by the brewery Hall and Woodhouse. A mezzanine floor, furnished in Victorian style, was installed at that time and it allows a close-up view of the elaborate ceiling.

High up on a ground floor wall is the Division Bell, which is regularly sounded so that members of parliament know they have eight minutes to finish their drinks and attend a vote in the Houses of Parliament over the road, and to which the bell is connected via a telephone wire. The bell originally dates from the late 19th century and was restored when the pub was re-opened in 2003.

Opposite the Palace of Westminster and so often busy with tourists, this is a pub to enjoy late-Victorian pub fittings at their grandest. It was built in 1875 and the fittings may well date from that time. Pride of place goes to the extraordinarily tall, eclectically decorated bar-back in the lofty main room. It has five panels of etched and gilded mirrors with swirly foliage, cornucopias and birds in flight: viewed closely the details are a little crude but the overall effect is exotic. High up, over the arched openings is a sequence of mirrored cupboards – it’s hard to imagine what they could have been used for. The bar counter is a curvaceous affair with recessed panels. The deeply coffered ceiling is an impressive feature in its own right.

In a subsidiary area behind is another Victorian bar-back, probably reset or brought in. There is some original glass in the doors. This pub was well restored by owners Hall & Woodhouse and reopened in 2003 after a long period of closure. Note the new brass lamps: those on the counter are based on glass spirits dispensers which graced some of the most upmarket Victorian pubs. There is a new mezzanine floor.

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