Cannon Street

Cannon Street Station is at the heart of the City of London. It first opened in 1884 on the snappily named Metropolitan Inner Circle Completion Railway, with services at the time run by both the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways, after the two had clashed over the completion of what is now known as the Circle Line. It’s now served by both the District and Circle Lines.

The station itself was rebuilt in the 1960s alongside the British Rail Station which was sadly yet another victim of what passed for ‘design’ at the time.

The architect behind the grim 1960s rebuild,  John Poulson, was later found to have exploited a friendship he had with a British Rail surveyor to win numerous contracts. Poulson’s murky world of corruption extended far beyond British Rail,  his connections went right to the top of 1970s Britain and the then Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, who had to resign at the height of the scandal in 1972.

Thankfully Cannon Street Underground Station was extensively refurbished as part of the redevelopment of the main line station which has just taken place. Prior to that, it was pretty bleak as this website shows!

The Pub: London Stone, 109 Cannon Street, EC4N 5AD

The London Stone is right opposite the main station, making it an ideal venue for commuters after a long day in the office.  On our visit on a sunny Thursday in September, it was certainly attracting the post work crowd.   However the setting is slightly different than you’d expect from your typical pub in this kind of area.

It’s themed as a ghostly, haunted pub.  The company in question that runs it is even called the Eerie Pub Co.  There are three others across the country, including one in Aberdeen, Slains Castle, which my friend who was with me had visited before and said was very similar!  The pub’s name is said to come from a Stone that was from where the Romans measured all distances in Britain, known also apparently as ‘The Stone of Brutus.’

The Stone’s decor includes various Goblin type statues, lights styled like flickering candles and imposing gothic-esque seating booths. The cocktails are even themed around the Seven Deadly Sins…   To counter that, we went for one of the ales on tap – The Reverend James.. At the weekend it is more of a bar/club venue only opens at 10pm on a Saturday for the themed night they have on.

I was pretty taken with the London Stone.   I honestly don’t know why someone thought a goth themed pub would be a hit by Cannon Street.  But the office workers still come in their droves and seeing them having a pint in what looks like the set of an 80s Alice Cooper video just adds to the appeal.  Well worth a visit!

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Whitechapel

As areas of London go, Whitechapel is right up there for historical infamy.  It was the location of the Jack the Ripper Murders in the late 19th Century.The area also has plenty of connections to the criminal underworld, as the pub we visited demonstrated.

Whitechapel Station first opened on the Metropolitan District Railway in October 1884.   Services to the station had first started in 1876 as part of the East London Railway.  These days it is served by the District and Hammersmith and City Lines.   It is also served by a section of the London Overground that was formerly part of the Underground network as the East London Line.

The station building itself feels fairly historic, with the wooden covered walkway from the platforms to the building itself. The building at street level appears to have some curious modern additions in the shape of leaf shaped canopies.

The Pub: The Blind Beggar, 337 Whitechapel Road, E1 1BU

It’s safe to say The Blind Beggar will be one of the most famous pubs I’ll visit on the crawl.  I’ll bet few others will have a wikipedia page dedicated to them.  Without wanting to go into too much detail here, it’s major claim to fame is as where Ronnie Kray shot dead George Cornell of rival East End gang the Richardsons. On the other side of the historic spectrum,  William Booth’s lecture that led to the establishment of what became the Salvation Army was delivered outside the pub in 1866.

Back to the here and now, the pub itself unsurprisingly has a traditional looking exterior.  The interior itself is also fairly traditional and with plenty of free floor space.  Given how pubs these days can cram in so many seats in you can barely move, I found the more uncluttered approach welcome. I’m also always a big fan of traditional chandeliers in pubs. There are a few references to the Krays on the wall, but I wouldn’t say the place milks it.

While it still does retain the character and atmosphere of a traditional pub,  on our visit it was evident it is clearly now also frequented by a younger, more trendy clientele you might associate more with Shoreditch and other areas of East London.  The pub had its own ale, the aptly titled ‘Beggars Belief’, which was a good solid pint.

The pub doesn’t do hot food but they did offer us a cheese board. I’m not quite sure if the Krays would have gone for that?  There is also a sizeable beer garden with some rather funky fibre optic lights on the back walls.

The Blind Beggar doesn’t rely on its historic backstory to get by, it’s a really decent boozer in its own right and well worth a visit!

(The pub’s website is currently down at the time of writing!)  Follow them on Twitter

Hounslow West

By the time the Piccadilly Line arrives into Hounslow West, you really feel like Heathrow is a stones throw away.  The station itself began life as Hounslow Barracks on 21st July 1884, at the end of a short branch line of the Metropolitan District Line from Hounslow Town, now long since closed.

In 1925, the station gained its current name. In 1931, it was rebuilt along with many others on the Piccadilly/District Lines in this area and is another from Underground architect Stanley Heap working with Charles Holden.  I particularly liked the station building here, which is very similar to the equally impressive structure at Ealing Common.

There was further rebuilding to come. The Piccadilly Line was extended to Heathrow in 1975, this required resiting the platforms as their existing alignment would have resulted in a route requiring demolition of existing residential buildings in Hounslow.  That now means the station at platform level has a ’70s feel which continues until you reach the ’30s building at street level.

Earl Haig, 286 Bath Road,  TW4 7DN

You can’t escape Heathrow when you get off here. Planes seem to be buzzing overhead every minute, while all the buses heading westwards have it as their destination.  There also seemed to be a fair amount of airport staff at the station during our visit.

Our pub was very easy to find,  being right opposite the station.  I was a little concerned before we visited as the the website ‘beer in the evening’ had given the Earl Haig 1.9 out of 10 – the lowest score I’d ever seen on the site and a fair bit lower than other grim pubs I’d seen on my travels.

Given the proximity, we decided to give it a go.  It’s based in a quite non-descript modern building, but you can’t really hold that against it.   It’s got a fairly expansive exterior with a couple of pool tables at the back, as well as a couple of quiz and fruit machines.

It wasn’t really an ale place but our lager tasted fine.  It was quite quiet when we arrived and we didn’t have any problems.  The previous reviews on beer in the evening suggested it was the sort of place where ‘non-locals’ would get a frosty reception. Like I said, we didn’t experience that but perhaps that was because it was a quiet Thursday evening.

All in all, I don’t think this pub deserved a 1.9/10 rating! I do dread to think what a real 1.9/10 will look like, but I’m sure I will come across one soon..

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Osterley

By the time you reach Osterley on the Piccadilly Line, you really get the sense Heathrow Airport isn’t far away. The station itself first opened as Osterley and Spring Grove in 1883, located a short distance from the current station. That station building now lives on as a bookshop, and the platforms of the old station are easily visible from the tube.

It was resited and reopened in its current location in March 1934 around the same time the Piccadilly Line was extended out to Hounslow West.

Much like the other stations in this stretch, it’s another fine example of 1930s architecture.  Again, like Boston Manor, there is also a prominent tower which was glowing in the darkness when we arrived.

Before getting off at Osterley, I had high hopes.  Knowing there was a National Trust site, Osterley Park, nearby, I assumed some nice leafy surburbs.  That doesn’t quite match with the reality of when you leave the station. It is located on the edge of the busy Great West Road(A4), with several lanes of traffic speeding past.

The Pub: The Black Horse, 203 Lampton Road, TW3  4EZ

Given that it is only housing and the A4 in the immediate vicinity of the station, it was quite a walk to the nearest pub.  Walking along the edge of the busy A4, I felt a bit like Alan Partridge when he walks along a Dual Carriageway singing Goldfinger to relieve his boredom.  We all agreed we felt sorry for the people living by the road.  The houses themselves seem quite nice but the sound from the traffic must be relentless.

To further the Alan Partridge ethos, we passed a BP, complete with Wild Bean Cafe, en route to the pub.  The Black Horse is another standard local’s pub really.  It certainly appeared to have more life(and light!) than the Brogue. Despite it’s location in West London, it appeared to be a Liverpool supporters pub, with plenty of memorabilia on the walls and the Liverpool FC channel on the TV.

Given it’s proximity to Hounslow, the pub serves a selection of Indian food but I think that had wrapped up by the time we arrived.  The clientele was also mixed between the Indian community and the older, Irish types that were in the Brogue. The pub also has a garden, or ‘shisha lounge’ as I think it was advertised. There were no ales but the lager tasted fine.  In addition, the pub also had a pool table at the side room.

While the pub wasn’t awful,  it certainly isn’t worth a trip to Osterley or a pilgrimage along the A4 to get there!

Boston Manor

Boston Manor Station first opened as Boston Road on 1st May 1883 on the Metropolitan District Line. It gained its current name on 11th December 1941. Like other stations around this part of London, it was fully rebuilt as part of the Piccadilly Line’s extension to Hounslow West.

Following that rebuilding process, the station was served by both the District and the Piccadilly Line. Like South Ealing and indeed the rest of the Hounslow Branch, the District Line service was withdrawn permanently in October 1964.

The station building itself is another impressive entry from the exemplary portfolio of Charles Holden.  My favourite touch is the tower that looms out over the surrounding area.  It is said this was put in to help give the station profile and visibility throughout the surrounding suburban area.

The art-deco station building was recognised by Royal Mail on their series of stamps to mark the Tube’s 150th birthday –  the stamp depicts the imposing tower.

The Pub: The Brogue, 7 Boston Manor Road, W7 2DG

There was no question we were deep in suburbia by the time we reached Boston Manor.  Exiting the station,  we were greeted by a small parade of shops.   Nestling amongst them was The Brogue,  the only pub in the immediate vicinity of the station and therefore our only real choice for this stop.

As the name suggests, The Brogue is an Irish themed pub.  On our Thursday evening visit, it was fairly quiet bar a collection of locals.  It wasn’t unwelcoming in the sense that all the eyes followed us as we entered, but it clearly felt like somewhere only a small collection of people would visit.

The bar staff were friendly and the beer was fine, although there were no ales on tap.  In keeping with the Irish theme, there was plenty of Guinness memorabilia and Toucans on the wall.  The TV was showing some ‘hurling’, which I know is very popular in Ireland.

Sadly the overall vibe of the place wasn’t great. It just had an air of desolation really.  In that respect really it is the weakest of the pubs I’ve visited so far.  While I found The White Horse at Shepherd’s Bush Market to be closer to the ‘eyes following you the moment you walked in’ type of pub, at least the people there seemed to be having fun, playing pool etc.

To me, The Brogue just had an air of resigned despondency about it. That’s what has sadly made it for me the worst pub so far on the journey.

South Ealing

After a brief central sojourn at Tower Hill, the crawl has returned me in a Westerly direction, taking in the delights of the Piccadilly Line branch to Heathrow Airport.  South Ealing Station first opened on the Metropolitan District Railway on 1st March 1883 as part of their line to the now closed Hounslow Town Station.

When the Piccadilly Line itself was extended to Northfields and Hounslow in 1933,  its services initially ran non-stop through the station. They began stopping at South Ealing in 1935 and the station was served by both it and the District Line until 1964 when the latter services were withdrawn.

Building wise, the station is quite minimalist with some pleasant art-deco style shelters at platform level.   I rather like the totem-pole type structure on the top of the station building at street level too.

The Pub: The Ealing Park Tavern, 222 South Ealing Road, W5 4RL

The area immediately around the station is fairly suburban, plenty of takeaways and convenience stores.  The pub in question was a fair walk down South Ealing Road, to the junction with Carlyle Road to reach The Ealing Park Tavern.  The pub has a suitably impressive exterior,  reminiscent of a charming country house.

The interior also matches that traditional feel with plenty of wood panelling and no shortage of comfy seats and sofas. There are also traditional fireplaces which I’m sure go down a treat during the winter months.  The pub is definitely going for the high-end gastro market with its restaurant area.   I don’t know about the other items on the menu, but the Fish and Chips were certainly worth the money! The Ealing Park Tavern is also equipped with a fair sized back garden.

Adding to the pub’s welcoming vibe, a low key Jazz band were playing during our visit to the pub. Lounge jazz for lounge seating, you could argue.  It also scores well on the entertainment stakes.   Not only is there a quiz machine, it is also blessed with a pinball table, the latter of which are a real rarity in pubs these days.   There was also a fine selection of traditional board games for those who prefer Trivial Pursuit.

Unlike some pubs that go gastro and modernise at the expense of their traditional ambience, The Ealing Park Tavern has definitely got the balance right. If you find yourself in the Ealing area, it’s definitely worth a visit.

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