Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of a number of pubs in London to have been rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. There has been a pub at this location since 1538. While there are several older pubs which have survived because they were beyond the reach of the fire, or like The Tipperary on the opposite side of Fleet Street because they were made of stone, this pub continues to attract interest due to the curious lack of natural lighting inside which generates its own gloomy charm.
Some of the interior wood panelling is nineteenth century, some older, perhaps original. The vaulted cellars are thought to belong to a 13th-century Carmelite monastery which once occupied the site. The entrance to this pub is situated in a narrow alleyway and is very unassuming, yet once inside visitors will realise that the pub occupies a lot of floor space and has numerous bars and gloomy rooms. In winter, open fireplaces are used to keep the interior warm. In the bar room are posted plaques showing famous people who were regulars.
The pub is currently owned and operated by the Samuel Smith Brewery.
The literary figures Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, P. G. Wodehouse and Dr. Johnson are all said to have been 'regulars'. However, there is no recorded evidence that Dr Johnson ever visited the pub, only that he lived close by, at 17 Gough Square. At The Johnson Club supper, 13 December 1892, 'an eloquent gentleman, present, an Irish Ex MP, pointed out that when Dr Johnson acted on his famous suggestion "let us take a walk down Fleet Street" the Cheshire Cheese must of necessity have been included among his places of call.'
Charles Dickens had been known to use the establishment frequently, and due to the pub's gloomy charm it is easy to imagine that Dickens modelled some of his darker characters there. The pub is famously alluded to in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities: following Charles Darnay’s acquittal on charges of high treason, Sydney Carton invites him to dine, "drawing his arm through his own" Carton leads him to Fleet Street "up a covered way, into a tavern … where Charles Darnay was soon recruiting his strength with a good plain dinner and good wine". R.L.Stevenson mentions the Cheese in The Dynamiter (1885), 'a select society at the Cheshire Cheese engaged my evenings.' A Tale of Two Cities was in part the inspiration for the American children's book The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy, Randall Wright and Barry Moser, which is set in the pub.
The Cheshire Cheese pub appears in Anthony Trollope's novel "Ralph the Heir", where one of the characters, Ontario Moggs, is described as speaking "with vigor at the debating club at the Cheshire Cheese in support of unions and the rights of man . . . . ."
Wodehouse, though so many of his characters were members of posh London clubs, often preferred the homey intimacy of the pub. In a letter to a friend he wrote, "Yesterday, I looked in at the Garrick at lunchtime, took one glance of loathing at the mob, and went off to lunch by myself at the Cheshire Cheese." The pub is mentioned by name in some of his books as well.
The Rhymers' Club was a group of London-based poets, founded in 1890 by W. B. Yeats and Ernest Rhys. Originally not much more than a dining club, it produced anthologies of poetry in 1892 and 1894. They met at the Cheshire Cheese and in the 'Domino Room' of the Café Royal.
According to the Betty Crocker cookbook, both Dickens and Ben Jonson dined on Welsh rarebit at this pub, despite the fact that the latter died almost a century before the dish is first known to have been recorded.
The Soviet writer Boris Pilnyak visited this pub during his stay in London in 1923. He later wrote a story entitled "Staryi syr," ("old cheese" in Russian) a part of which takes place in the Cheshire Cheese Pub. There is a chapter devoted to the Cheshire Cheese and the 'Companions of the Cheshire Cheese' (W.B Yeats' poem 'The Grey Rock' 1914) in 'That Irishman: The Life and Times of John O'Connor Power' by Jane Stanford.
A 1680 broadside ballad called A New Ballad of the Midwives Ghost tells a fantastical story of how a midwife haunted the house where she died until she was able to induce the new residents there to dig up the bones of some bastard children she had made away with and buried there. The final lines of the ballad insist upon the veracity of the tale and even that the children's bones may be seen for proof displayed at the Cheshire Cheese.
Polly the Parrot
For around 40 years, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was associated with an African grey parrot named Polly. The fame of the parrot was such that on its death in 1926 around 200 newspapers across the world wrote an obituary, while the news was read out on 2LO.
In 1962, the pub gave the Museum of London a number of sexually explicit erotic plaster of paris tiles recovered from an upper room. These tiles strongly suggest that the room was used as a brothel in the mid-eighteenth century.
- "Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese public house". National Heritage List for England. English Heritage. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
- Brandwood, Geoff (2013). Britain's best real heritage pubs. St. Albans: CAMRA. pp. 64–65. ISBN 9781852493042.
- John O'Connor Power, orator and founding member and Prior of the Johnson Club (1888).
- http://www.cheshirecheesecat.com. Retrieved 2013-05-24. Missing or empty
- "Wodehouse: A Life". Retrieved 2015-01-29.
- Betty Crocker's Cookbook. Prentice Hall. 1989. p. 184.
- Oxford English Dictionary, volume W, Oxford University Press, 1928, and the Compact (micrographic) edition of 1971
- "English Broadside Ballad Archive". Ebba.english.ucsb.edu. Retrieved 2011-03-05.
- "The Rude Parrot of Fleet Street". Retrieved 3 February 2016.
- "An Erotic Relief Tile c.1714-1837". Retrieved 2013-05-24.
- Cruikshank, Dan (2009) . The Secret History of Georgian London. London: Random House. pp. 173–7. ISBN 9781847945372.
- Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), The Regional Inventory for London, Pub Interiors of Special Historic Interest. ISBN 1-85249-204-X
- Thomas Wilson Reid (1908). The book of the Cheese: being traits and stories of "Ye olde-Cheshire Cheese", Wine Office Court, Fleet Street, London, E. C. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.
- 'That Irishman: The Life and Times of John O'Connor Power', Part Three, 'At Large', Jane Stanford, The History Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84588-698-1
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Review by City Pubs
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Review by pubs.com
- Review by Party Earth