Taverns in Town #3: The Red Lion Tavern, Red Lion Court EC4

I had wondered how long it would take me to come across my first Tavern in Town that was no more. Not long, it turned out.

‘Red Lion Court lies off the north side of Fleet Street, the second alleyway from Fetter Lane travelling east. Hidden away up this narrow thoroughfare is another delightful City pub, THE RED LION TAVERN, after which the court itself is named and which, in a different outward guise, was certainly in existence as early as 1571.’

The book goes on to explain that there may have been literary connections with Dr. Johnson and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but that these days (1973) the Red Lion is the favourite retreat of newspaper journalists from Fleet Street.

Sketch in the book, street sign, City dragon

Sketch in the book, street sign, City dragon

This was my first clue as to the closure of the pub. Fleet Street declined during the 1980s when News International moved their operations to a new, modern facility in Wapping. Could the Red Lion have been a victim? There are plenty of other pubs still trading in the area, so perhaps it was the tucked away location that did for the Red Lion.

A quick web search was pretty fruitless and I couldn’t identify the location from the pen and ink drawing in the book. All that the Lost Pubs Project could tell me was that the publican in the 1930s and 1940s was one William Lewis.

One website suggested that the pub for which the court was named was destroyed in the Great Fire. This is probably true, however, Taverns in Town tells me that 1970s Red Lion was a 19th Century brick structure.

Another website tells me that a pub stood here until the 1960s, but gave no more detail. Not helpful. Could the pub and its history simply have been wiped clean from the records?

These days Red Lion Court is a mix of office space and extremely expensive apartments. I could locate no sign of the pub and, even more frustratingly, very little of its history remains online.

Did you ever visit this pub? Can you fill me in on its demise?

FOOTNOTE: Please see the comments below from an excellent sleuth, who has discovered the sad fate of this pub. And for history geeks there are some fascinating maps.

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4 thoughts on “Taverns in Town #3: The Red Lion Tavern, Red Lion Court EC4

  1. The map at http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=19&lat=51.51496&lon=-0.1086&layers=173 (date 1951 – http://maps.nls.uk/view/102904582) shows the pub’s exact location (as does this – http://britishlibrary.georeferencer.com/map/U7Fv4r46Nil8nj4kNBRkkt/201404241301-pBmfa4/visualize – rather splendid 1886 insurance map, which gives the uses of the surrounding properties, giving a sense of the area’s past as the home of the printing/publishing trade). You can see the building itself in a 1969 photo at http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/collage/app?service=external/Item&sp=Zred+lion+court&sp=51118&sp=X (in terms of placing this location, the buildings either side of the dog-leg are still extant).
    Sadly, it’s now buried beneath a modern office block (15 Fetter Lane). A planning application to redevelop the site was submitted in 1976, by which point it seems to have already been ‘cleared’ (http://www.planning2.cityoflondon.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=ZZZZZKFHXE050 – not sure whether this link will work).

  2. Delighted to read about the Red Lion.I worked in Fleet St in the mid sixties and this was a favourite with
    me and my workmates. Does anyone remember the delightfully eccentric landlord, Wally?.The pub featured a teleprinter printing all the British and world news world news.It clattered away so that imbibing hacks could keep an eye on what was happening in case a quick sprint back to the office was called for.I believe there was a Chinese restaurant upstairs although, strangely, I never remember any of us eating there.
    Brian Sweeny, IPC Business Press, 161-166 Fleet St in the sixties.

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