A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: II145 Fleet Street
Although much altered and extended, this celebrated pub has two exceptional historic rooms either side of the entrance. The small bar on the right contains what seems to be original panelling, simple bench seating, a huge fireplace and Victorian bar; over the entrance a sign reads “Gentlemen only served in this bar”. To the left is the “Chop Room”, a panelled eating area which recreates the atmosphere of an old tavern. The frontage in the alley has unusual screens which can be rolled up and down to protect the windows. Hugely busy so best visited mid-afternoon.
Rebuilt 1667. This is a celebrated old establishment in the annals of London pub history but its fame is such that it's best visited at quieter times such as mid-afternoon. After many years of private ownership it was acquired by Yorkshire brewer, Samuel Smith, in the early 1990s and serves their one and only real ale. It is hidden away up an alley off Fleet Street and is the result of a post-Great Fire rebuilding in the late 17th century. The frontage in the alley has reconstructed screens which can be rolled up and down to protect the windows. Note the 'fly-screens' behind the windows with the lettering 'OCC'.
Originally there was a newsagents and offices on the Fleet Street side. Until 1992 the pub consisted of 4 rooms on three floors and the cellars where there was a small bar. The building was extended to the east to create a new bar on the ground floor and above this the original rooms on the second and third rooms were made into two part rooms i.e. doubling their original size. A new bar was created out of the offices on the front side of the first floor; also a room on the third floor has been brought into use making at least 9 drinking areas altogether.
The two original rooms that are in regular use and accessible at all times are situated either side of the entrance passage. The one on the right is a small bar with what might be original panelling from the rebuilding, simple bench seating, a huge fireplace and Victorian counter. Over the entrance a notice from less egalitarian days, 'Gentlemen only served in this bar'. Under the adjacent glazed screen similar lettering 'Waiter service'. The waiters in question would no doubt have been those servicing the room to the left of the entrance.
This is the 'Chop Room', a panelled eating area which recreates the atmosphere of many an eating area in an old tavern. The fielded panelled dado has wall bench seating and as you enter is a 'cosy corner' formed by a four-sided bare benches around a table and which has curtains that can be closed for privacy. This room has an old marble fireplace. It also has a bare wood floor and like the public bar and passage still has sawdust spread over it every day – one of the last pubs to continue the tradition.
Another original room is the Williams Room on the first floor with a figure '3' over the door but this is currently only available for functions. It has a bare wood floor, 1930s fielded panelling on the walls and a good wood surround fireplace with an old fireback. The fixed seating near the door is a series of storage cupboards, there is another loose cupboard acting as seating, some fixed seating on the window side and pews. Although the room on the left appears to have been in pub use since the 1930s, through a doorway is another room created in 1992 also with a bare wood floor and fielded panels which are a copy of the 1930s ones.
The final original room is the Johnson Room on the second floor and acts as an overspill restaurant open lunchtimes only. This is another bare wood floor two part room with the original part being on the left. It has more 1930s fielded panelling on the walls and high backed seating of fielded panelling in bays with bare bench seating attached to them – note the numbers '1', '2' and '3' on the ends of what was historically referred to as ‘traps’. There has been some changes to this room – the tiny front right area was used by waiters and the front left seating bay was originally a kitchen entrance and so the seating here is modern work – take a look at the legs to confirm this. Again, there is a doorway to the second part of the room which was created in 1992 and has a bare wood floor and fielded panels which are a copy of the 1930s ones.
A staircase near the two original ground floor rooms leads down to a small room and a two-part cellar all of which were in use prior to Samuel Smiths ownership. However, in the first small room, which has a replacement flagstone floor, there was up to 1992 a small servery. Beyond the room is a narrow barrel vaulted area like a wine cellar. On a much lower level is a large room with a three bay barrel vaulted ceiling and where the bar fittings were added in 1992.
On the ground floor there is a new bar created by Samuel Smiths in the early 1990s in the rear right area of the building. On the first floor is the Johnson Bar consisting of two rooms that were converted into a bar by Samuel Smiths in the early 1990s with new bar fittings in the first part and a small room on the Fleet Street frontage. There is a private dining room on the third floor with no old fittings.