The Twelve Pubs of Christmas (a walk around the Monopoly Board…)

How did it start? The way things tend to start in Chez Tracey – someone said something which then triggered a thought which grew into an idea and then, before you know it, we had ourselves a plan. 

In this case it was a comment over a Saturday dinner some weeks before our recent stay in London, something like, ‘how cool would it be to take a photo of every square on the monopoly board?’ which moved into, ‘how cool would it be if we found a pub at every square of the monopoly board?’ which moved into, ‘okay, maybe that would be pushing it, but what about if we found at least one pub for every colour?’, which moved into, ‘what about if we found twelve pubs, so instead of having the twelve days of Christmas, we had the twelve pubs of Christmas?’

What followed was a quick Facebook chat with my bestie in NZ to make sure that she and her hubby (who were joining us in London and The Cotswolds) would be up for it and then Sarah and I sat down with a map of London, a bottle of Baileys, the monopoly board and a laptop. 

It quickly became obvious that this wasn’t an original idea. There are entire websites out there dedicated to both walking the Monopoly board (there’s one here and here) and drinking the monopoly board. (In fact, a couple of pubs on the outlying squares actually open early on Saturdays for that very reason.) There’s even google maps out there with all squares clearly marked – including the Tower of London for Go To Jail. If you’re interested, you’ll find it hereThis post is also great.

We decided that in the interests of time, energy and responsible drinking we would:

  • Not visit the outlying board colours. The light blue squares – Euston Rd, The Angel, Islington, Pentonville Rd; and the dark purple squares – Whitechapel Rd, Old Kent Rd – are out of the way. (As an aside, Old Kent Rd is the only one on the south side of the river.)
  • Keep our walk to Central London. Also out of play were the utilities and stations.
  • Choose twelve pubs along the way with each pub tying into a Monopoly square. Where possible, we’d find something interesting about each pub.
  • Have no drinking rules. We weren’t obliged to drink at every pub – indeed, towards the end, some pubs were so busy we couldn’t get into the front door. Also, again in the name of moderation (we’re such responsible and mature adults), we paced ourselves with half-pints, soft drinks, water, coffee. This wasn’t so much about the booze as walking our way around London and seeing places and things we might not have seen before.
  • Walk the course with the Tube permitted only once the last pub was completed.

Some other things that you should know:

  • Bond Street is really New Bond Street or even Old Bond Street. There did used to be a Bond Street, but by the 1700s there was a New Bond Street so Bond Street became Old Bond Street…or something like that.
  • The Angel, Islington was a (now long gone) famous old coaching inn. There is, however, another pub trading under that name.
  • Marlborough Street is properly called Great Marlborough Street.
  • Vine Street is now a tiny little dead-end street.

So, without further ado, and with thanks to H for some of the photos, here we go….

The Start

Our starting point was our hotel in Pimlico. Here we all are ready and raring to go.

Given that the pubs didn’t open until 11am, we decided to go via The Royal Mews Shop attached to Buckingham Palace so Sarah could buy a crown keyring (the one she bought for £5 back in 2015 lost its gold colour within months – who would have thought?) and I wanted a Buckingham Palace wooden spoon (as you do).

While in the area we hung about and watched the changing of the guard.

Then we set off through Green Park for our first pub.

Pub No. 1. The Rose & Crown, 2 Old Park Lane, Mayfair

This pub dates back over 400 years and was apparently used by Oliver Cromwell’s entourage – specifically, his bodyguards – in the mid 1600’s. The cellars were used as a jail for unfortunates waiting execution at nearby Tyburn. 

It’s after this that the history gets a tad contradictory. Some things I read had it being known as The Oliver Cromwell until changing its name to The Rose & Crown in 1678. Other blurbs had it being licensed in 1743 as the Greyhound at no. 1 Old Park Lane (next door) and rebuilt on the present site in 1751, with the present name in use by 1763 and the pub rebuilt in 1889.

It was also referred to as Number 1 because of its proximity to Aspley House just across the corner. The home of the Duke of Wellington, in those days Aspley House was known as No. 1 London because it was pretty much the first place you came across when you arrived in London – where the countryside ended, and London began.

Monopoly Ref: Park Lane and Mayfair

From here we wandered through Mayfair into Berkeley Square for a look at Annabel’s, the private club for the famous, well-heeled and best-dressed. All of that is a bit whatever for me, but it’s also one of the seasonally best decorated and Instagram worthy sites in London. During spring the club (and the minders out the front) are decked out in flowers. At Christmas it was…well, I’ll show you.

Our route to the next pub took us past New Bond Street, Saville Row and all the poshest shops in town. Names, dahling, names.

Pub No. 2. The Argyll Arms, 18 Argyll Street

The name comes from the original landowner – the Duke of Argyll – whose main claim to fame is being instrumental in the Act of Union that brought Scotland and England together.

After this the history is sketchy. Wikipedia has it being built in 1868, other sources say it was a tad later, in 1742. Whatever. The decoration inside, however, with its mirrored walls and intricately nobbly ceilings, is pure late Victorian.

The highlight in here are the “snob screens” – ornate partitions with frosted glass that were designed to separate the better class of drinker from the hoi polloi. The screens were, however, mostly removed under magistrate’s order when it transpired that the cosy nooks were being used for other types of entertainment. I’ll leave that one right there. These days there are still some partitions, but they open straight to the bar.

Monopoly Ref: Oxford Street

Pub No. 3 Shakespeare’s Head, 29 Great Marlborough Street, Soho

There’s a sign outside this one that claims the pub was originally built in 1735 (this building is, however, late nineteenth century) by two brothers who claimed to be relatives of the famous playwright – who appears to be (vaguely zombie-like in my humble opinion) surveying the Carnaby Street scene from above.

Everything that’s written on signs isn’t necessarily true, though, and this claim probably isn’t either. The likelihood is that Tom and John Shakespeare most likely had no connection at all to the more famous Bill, but hey, it was probably great marketing back in the day. 

We were going to stop for food here, but it was the middle of pre-Christmas Carnaby Street and as busy as. I did, however, duck over to the Mac shop and buy a little something to put under the tree for Sarah.

Monopoly Ref: Marlborough Street

Pub No. 4 The Warwick, 1-3 Warwick Street, Soho

Right in the heart of the West End, there was really nothing of interest that I could find about this pub – other than the fact that it does a mighty fine macaroni cheese topped with crispy onions.

And food was what we needed by this stage…

Monopoly Ref: Regent Street

Pub No. 5 Three Crowns, 19 Babmaes Street, Picadilly

A nice pub down a lane, the name is in reference to the martyred St Edmund who was at one time Patron Saint of England – although what that has to do with this pub is beyond me.

Monopoly Ref: Picadilly

Pub No. 6 The Red Lion, Crown Passage

This cute pub located down a tiny alley off Pall Mall has some fascinating stories about it. Reputed to be London’s second oldest licensed pub (don’t ask me who holds the oldest license), it dates back about 400 years.

Legend has it that there was a tunnel beneath the pub that lead to St James’ Palace just across the road – although plenty of people have had a dig around the cellars and haven’t found any trace of the tunnel. Back then St James’ Palace was where the king lived and it’s said that Charles II would use this tunnel to meet with his long-term mistress Nell Gwyn – although it appears that most of London knew about Charlie and Nell, an orange-seller slash actress and the mother of two of his illegitimate children, so one wonders why they’d need a tunnel to sneak around in.

Regardless of the truth behind the story, this is a cute pub down a cute alley with shops that sell things like hats under royal warrant.

Monopoly Ref: Pall Mall

Next week: Part 2…

Author: Jo

I write, I bake, I chase sunrises.

25 thoughts

    1. We had so much fun planning this – and the walk took us through some parts of town that were new even to our travel companions who had spent a lot of time in London.

  1. What a fantastic idea! Love the English pubs (not that I’ve been to any) and loved your photos and snippets of info & history of course! I used to sing at a red lion bar in Brisbane … now there’s a story and a half. #TeamLovinLife

  2. What a wonderful game! I like it way better than regular Monopoly on a board. Maybe I could get some friends to play our own version of Monopoly here. It sounds like it took some advance planning.

    1. I’m not a board game fan (low boredom threshold)…and yes, this did take some advance planning but it was absolutely worth it. Lots of fun.

  3. Back in the day we used to do a Circle Line pub crawl – so much fun and so much beer! I don’t think I’d have the stomach for it now, Maybe you can add that to the list for next time! I’ve spent many a night in the Argyll Arms and last time I was in London, I dined upstairs in the restaurant – they make a delicious pie 🙂

    1. Now there’s one for next time. We didn’t eat at the Argyll Arms but I recall looking at the menu…maybe next time…there’s always going to be a next time.

  4. Doing it during the festive season was a bonus. Wonderful idea. I noted the further along you were on your trail, the smile on your face was wider 🙂

  5. I love your title, Jo, and how it all evolved. This walking the Monopoly board is a new concept for me. Although, like you say, entire websites out there. I have never been to London. Your posts with the amazing photos definitely make me want to visit. London does seem synonymous with pubs. Now I see why. You and your friend(s) look like you are having a great deal of fun. And, if I didn’t see a picture of food, Jo, I would worry about you. Amazing post! I look forward to Week 2.

    1. Haha re the picture of food – I wouldn’t want to disappoint you! I love London – and think I could keep going back and finding new places to see (and pubs to try)…

  6. Cannot wait for part 2. What great fun. Did you imbibe at each pub? Your descriptions are colorful and interesting and humorous. So much so that I am thinking I need to play the lottery so I can experience Great Britain soon. SOON. Or maybe at Christmas?

    Love the nobbly ceilings, the wood bars, the bric a brac and all the wonderful stories/histories!!

    1. It’s the stories I love the most – so much history. It really makes me wonder what conversations were had and plots were formed in those pubs…

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