The Viaduct Tavern is an amazing pub right down the street from the plump Golden Boy of Pye Corner. It has Fuller’s ales on pull, and is quite popular with the city folk, particularly those working in the law courts. Originally built during 1870s, and remodeled at the turn of the 19th c, it was known to house an opium den upstairs, and was a prosperous gin joint in its Victorian heyday. Inside there is a triptych of paintings echoing the statues found on the Holborn Viaduct bridge, a 5 minute walk down the road. The paintings in the pub and the statues on the bridge represent different facets of the Victorian era: agriculture, commerce, science, and the fine arts. Imperialism was suspiciously left out. One of the paintings has a rip in it, which was either the result of a bullet wound or a bayonet from a WW1 solder. The gilded glass work and mirrors are spectacularly well cared for, and the bar with its dark woods is just awesome. The beers on offer are those of Fullers, including their range of bitters (if getting an ale go for the ESB if available). Beyond that your staple continental range (Guinness…) is offered. Having just walked past their today, I would recommend also to go for the Fuller’s Porter is available. I have yet to do a review for that, but it is wonderful.
The second cool part about this place is the basement. Built on top of the former Newgate prison (a prison from 1188-1902 where the Central Criminal Courts now reside – also known as the Old Bailey), you can go downstairs with a courteous request to a staff member to check out the cells (now used as part of the beer cellar) that once housed the debtors and other criminals thrown into the hold of Newgate. As the prisons were privately run by unscrupulous gaolers, people had to pay for their food while in jail (this being while locked in a room with no running water or toilet AND up to 20 men where the stench was so bad it could ‘have choked a horse’). If you didn’t or couldn’t pay, then the unfortunate souls incarcerated there might be lucky enough to be dropped some food from street level where there was a pipe leading down to the from the basement cell. These enterprising gaolers also could charge for such luxuries as taking off irons and the entrance to the prison itself. Check out the Proceedings of the Old Bailey for ‘largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court’.
For a local flare for my fellow Philadelphians, William Penn (the city’s founder) was once incarcerated at Newgate.
For the best opportunity to see the pub, try an off-peak time so you can fully appreciate the place for its Victorian grandeur. Grab a bitter, and raise a cheers to lady justice.
Open MF 11:00-23:00 (closed SA-SU)