With the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’s birth in 2011, BarChick thought it would be the perfect excuse to go on an authentic pub crawl Dickensmania style, and educate herself whilst toasting his success (and getting smashed). And hey, with a birthday party this big we have no doubt you’ll want to celebrate it too, so check out the list below, get your party hat on and get your Dickens freak on.
NB definitely stay out all night, Dickens had insomnia and frequently went on ‘night walks’ so this will make your ‘education’ all the more original…
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and rebuilt a year later, this was one of Dickens’s preferred drinking dens, especially when he was working as a young reporter on Fleet Street. So duck beneath its low beamed ceilings, bagsy the table to the right of the restaurant’s fireplace (his spot of preference, they say), and get stuck in to ‘a good plain dinner and good wine’ like you’re Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities. Don’t forget to pay your respects to Polly the legendary stuffed parrot on the way out.
145 Fleet Street, City of London, EC4A 2BU.
It has been said that as a child the young Dickens was made to stand on a table and sing to all the other customers – don't knock it till you've tried it. BarChick did. Known to Dickens as the Bunch of Grapes, he based the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters on it in Our Mutual Friend. Get hammered the Dickens way and order a Purl, a Dog’s Nose and a Flip.
76 Narrow Street, Limehouse, E14 8BP
The George Inn
The Last of London’s galleried coaching inns like many described in The Pickwick Papers and Dickens’s also mentions it in Little Dorrit. A regular drinker in here, but the area was troubling for Dickens as his father was imprisoned up the road. Check out his insurance policy hanging on the wall, more interesting than most. (not hard)
77 Borough High Street, SE11NH
The One Tun
Dickens was a patron of this pub between 1833 and 1838 so it is a must visit. It is also rumored that it was the original of The Three Cripples pub in Oliver Twist, where it was the dangerous drinking den of Bill Sikes and Fagin’s gang of thieves, BarChick's kinda punters! However this claim is also staked by The Bleeding Heart Tavern where the courtyard was the Plomish family home in Little Dorrit. Better check them both out then!
125 Saffron Hill, EC1N 8QS
Bleeding Heart Yard, Greville Street, London, EC1N 8SJ
Ye Olde Watling
Said to be one of Dickens’s favourite haunts, it’s another pub that fell victim to the Great Fire and was rebuilt soon afterwards. Hidden in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral it’s another that lays claim to London’s oldest pub award. There’s no doubt it’s Dickensian, just try to ignore the lines of high street shops as you are chinking your tankards of ale.
29 Watling Street, London EC4M 9BR
George & Vulture
Mentioned at least 20 times in The Pickwick Papers, Dickens’s characters like Snodgrass and Winkle drank there a lot (BarChick's ancestors?), so bring along all your friends with ridiculous names and get stuck in…Dickens did ! Luckily it was saved from demolition by his great-grandson Cedric and is home to his ‘Dickens Pickwick Club.’ Sweet.
3 Castle Court, City of London EC3V 9DL
The Olde Wine Shades
This pub opened in 1663 just before the fire of London and it was one of the only ones to survive. Dickens used to drink here often, along with a smoke of his clay pipe…but don’t try this as you might get asked to leave, boring. Check out the old smuggler’s tunnel leading down to the river, very handy if you can’t pay your bill or bump into an ex and need to hide!
6 Martin Lane, Cannon Street, City of London EC4R 0DP
If you are feeling loved-up, p*ssed-up or just a little frisky then head here to write a gushing/ pile of cr*p love letter. This is the site of The Blue Boar Inn in The Pickwick Papers and is where Sam Weller attempted to woo his lover through his pen (non phallic, although if you've got writers block, a back up?).
Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 1LR
Cittie of Yorke
When David Copperfield returned to London he stopped here to inquire after his old friend, Tommy Traddles, so BarChick did too… although unlike Copperfield she didn't order a coffee. Also the cellars are where the rioters hid in Barnaby Rudge, so if you've got time on your hands, why not hide too?
22 High Holborn, WC1V 6BN
This is supposedly the original of the Magpie and Stump in The Pickwick Papers, where Jack Bramber told some bizarre and gruesome stories…so do the same and make some friends? The weirder the better. It also claimed to have 500,000 barrels of ‘double stout’ in the cellars; hopefully some are still there to tuck into.
28 Portugal Street, off Portsmouth Street, WC2 A2
Lamb and Flag
Sadly no longer known as the Bucket of Blood as it was in Dickens’s day, due to the large amount of bare-knuckle boxing that took place there (times have changed don’t try it). There is even a nearby plaque that commemorates his drinking here so get the camera out, and stick it on ya facebook/ send to Granny.
33 Rose Street, WC2 E9
Charles Dickens Pub
Named after the great man himself, Dickensian Southwalk it is the perfect place to wrap up the evenings antics. You are more than likely to be able to get a seat, so relax with a pint of one of their real ales and marvel at their paintings of Dickens characters through your blurry eyes.
160 Union Street, City of London SE1 0LH