Red Lion

Greater London South West - London

A historic pub interior of national importance

Listed Status: II

2 Duke of York Street
London, St James's

Tel: (020) 7321 0782




Real Ale: Yes

Lunchtime Meals: Yes

Nearby Station: London Charing Cross

Station Distance: 950m

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

Bus: Yes

View on: Whatpub

This is one of London’s most remarkable pubs. It was built in 1821 but its frontage was reworked in 1871 by architect W.H. Rawlings. In this frontage are three doorways which is a sure sign that it was subdivided internally with various separate spaces clustered round the central servery. Yet the trading area is tiny. The middle doorway led to the public bar (so named in the glazing) and the left-hand one accessed a smaller bar. On the right the entrance led into a small drinking area separated from the public bar by a screen (a scar can be seen where it joined the counter): here there is a glass panel from a doorway marked ‘private bar’. This area gives access to the great glory of the pub – a gorgeous, glittering room at the back lined with etched and cut mirrors which is a showcase of late Victorian pub-fitting. The counter at the front has drop-down panels for servicing the beer engines in former days (you can see the keyholes). Don’t be fooled by the gantry on top of the counter which is modern work (as with nearly all such features).

A national treasure – the Red Lion has one of the most spectacular late-Victorian pub interiors anywhere – small but beautifully formed! It is claimed there’s been a pub on the site since 1788. The present building went up in 1821 and was given a new pub front in 1871 by architect W. H. Rawlings though the fittings may be rather later. The actual trading area of the pub is tiny and surrounds a central serving area. Yet a century ago, small as it is, it would have been divided up into various separate areas – the three outside doorways are proof of that as are the names ‘public bar’ and ‘private bar’ in the door glass. The front part was probably divided up into three while the back area has always been a single space.

What makes the Red Lion so special are the superlative etched and cut mirrors lining two of the walls. They create brilliant, glittering reflections to conjure up a magical atmosphere far removed from the prosaic world of everyday life beyond the pub. The picture is completed by an ornamental ceiling and frieze in both areas. The bar counter at the front has drop-down panels for servicing beer engines in former times – you can see the remains of the keyholes. Don’t be fooled by the gantry fittings sitting on the counter top – like nearly all such features they are modern work (see how fresh the woodwork looks).

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