It’s said that there are more than 100 haunted pubs in London, with ghosts, ghouls, poltergeists and spectres lurking in cellars, at bars and even in the bathrooms. From the Belgravia establishment said to be frequented by a young 19th century soldier called Cedric to the suspected remains of Jack the Ripper uncovered in the wall of a pub in Golders Green, these are 15 of the most haunted pubs in London.
The Ten Bells, Spitalfields
The Ten Bells, on the corner of Commercial Street and Fournier Street, has been serving pints of ale since 1666. The east end institution is steeped in history – you only need look at the Grade II-listed original tiles on the walls to appreciate that. There are plenty of cosy areas to settle into with a drink, from the cocktail bar to the intimate parlour tucked away on the second floor. All a far cry from the 19th century, when the Ten Bells was a regular for a handful of Jack the Ripper’s victims before they met their gruesome end, including Annie Chapman, who was murdered after a night drinking in the pub (indeed, the pub’s name was temporarily and rather misguidedly changed to Jack the Ripper in the 1970s to attract customers). But that’s not all. In an unrelated incident, one of the pub’s Victorian landlords was murdered with an axe and to this day, customers and staff claim to see his ghost wandering the upper floors.
84 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London E1 6LY
The World’s End, Camden
This pub has been a North London landmark for hundred of years. Though there are records of a tavern in the area as early as 1690, it wasn’t until the late 18th century that the Mother Red Cap (as the pub was formerly known) moved to its present location. The current building dates from 1875 but it has businessman Andrew Marler to thank for its present 1000-capacity guise and its 500-capacity subterranean Underworld Club venue. Over the years, numerous bands and artists have played here including Radiohead, Dave Stewart and The Cranberries. But it’s not just famous musicians you might hear at the bar. Legend has it that the pub is on the site of a cottage belonging to the witch Old Mother Red Cap (hence its former name). Known to practise black magic, it’s said that when she died, the devil entered her home and never left. Though no apparitions have been seen, shrieks have been heard from down below, though these could also be from the torture chambers and gallows allegedly once located in the basement.
174 Camden High Street, Camden Town, London NW1 0NE
The Grenadier, Belgravia
Tucked away on Belgrave Square, with its bright red front door and sentry box outside, The Grenadier is packed with character. Originally built in 1720 as the officers’ mess for the senior infantry regiment of the British army, it opened as a licensed premises in the early 19th century and was often frequented by officers. Legend has it that the pub is named after a young soldier called Cedric who, in 1818, was caught cheating at cards and subsequently beaten to death. He’s been haunting the pub ever since, with most paranormal activity in September, the month he died. To this day, customers hang money from the ceiling in an attempt to pay his debt. It may be home to a ghost, but it certainly hasn’t put off the punters, with everyone from the Duke of Wellington and King George to the Prince of Wales enjoying its cosy atmosphere and seasonal menu.
18 Wilton Row, Belgravia, London Sw1X 7NR
The Spaniards Inn, Hampstead
This storied inn was built in 1585 as a toll gate on the Finchley boundary. While some say it was named after the Spanish ambassador to James I of England, another theory is that it gets its moniker from two former fraternal Spanish landlords. The brothers, Juan and Francesco Porero, fell in love with the same woman, fighting a duel to win her affections. Juan was killed and haunts the pub to this day. As if that wasn’t enough spookiness, the ghost of Dick Turpin is also said to have taken up residence at The Spaniards Inn. The infamous highwayman was allegedly born here, later stabling his horse Black Bess and stashing his loot in the pub; and people have reported hearing neighs and hooves in the carpark. The apparition of a cruel moneylender called ‘Black Dick’ – who was run over by a horse and cart outside the inn – has also been known to tug on customers’ sleeves as they drink at the bar. All that said, the wood-panelled pub has a welcoming fire for wintry pints and a large garden for when the sun shines.
Spaniards Road, Hampstead, London NW3 7JJ
The Bow Bells, Bow
This family-run pub, in the heart of the east end, has been serving customers since 1860. With its cheerful bright orange facade and convivial atmosphere, you wouldn’t imagine it had a dark past – but it does. The story goes that a ghost inhabits the ladies’ bathroom and will flush the loo whenever it sees fit. Indeed, there’s a sign above the door warning visitors to “beware of the ghost”. There have also been reports of sightings of the spirit over the years, with one customer even claiming to have been “shaken from behind” by the ghost. In 1974, the landlord at the time held a seance to rid the pub of its phantom flusher – and the cubicle door swung open so violently it smashed the frosted glass. They tried again ten years ago, inviting a local priest to bless the pub but, unfortunately, it didn’t work. The current manager Dean Beard reports mysterious goings on to this day and bar staff refuse to work alone. In fact, the toilet cubicle where the ghost is thought to reside has caused a long list of unexplained problems no plumber has been able to solve.
116 Bow Road, Bow, London E3 3AA
The Viaduct Tavern, St Paul’s
Set right in the heart of London, The Viaduct Tavern is the capital’s last remaining example of a Victoria gin palace – think dark mahogany interiors, ornate ceilings and frescoes. What you might not realise when you visit, however, is that the pub – which is, incidentally, opposite the Old Bailey – is built on the foundations of a debtor’s prison, part of Newgate prison, the cells of which are accessible from the pub’s cellar. Staff have reported unexpected noises and unexplained temperature drops, with one former manager reporting that he’d been alone in the cellar when the door slammed shut and the lights went out for no apparent reason. He found himself locked in and couldn’t get out until his wife came to rescue him.
126 Newgate Street, St Paul’s, London EC1A 7AA
The Sutton Arms, Barbican
Set on a road that’s named after the former Carthusian monastery founded in 1371 by Sir Walter Manny, The Sutton Arms is a charming Victorian pub right in the heart of Clerkenwell and the City. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. It’s believed by many to be haunted by an elderly red-haired gentleman called Charlie. He’s harmless enough apparently, appearing fleetingly at his favourite table in the corner of the bar, flashing his famous grin before disappearing into thin air. Legend has it that he once popped up between two women who were having lunch there. Even if you don’t meet Charlie, The Sutton Arms does a first-rate cask ale and charcuterie platter.
6 Carthusian Street, Barbican, London EC1M 6EB
The Flask, Highgate
The Flask dates back to 1663 when Highgate was a small village on the outskirts of London. In fact, visitors can still see two 17th century horseboxes in situ, as well as the original shutter-window bar with its bullseye glass panels. Its name comes from the tradition of selling flasks from the pub, which were used to collect water from nearby springs and Hampstead Heath. This historic establishment has had many a famous patron including William Hogarth, Byron, Shelley and Keats. It also boasts not one but two ghosts: a Spanish barmaid who hanged herself in the pub’s cellar (now a seating area) over unrequited love, and a man in Cavalier uniform who likes to appear in the main bar every now and then. Staff and patrons have reported glasses moving of their own accord, lights swaying without explanation and temperature drops. To add to its grisly past, the pub’s Committee Room is said to have witnessed one of the first ever autopsies, performed during the days of grave-robbing from Highgate Cemetery.
77 Highgate West Hill, Highgate, London N6 6BU
The Volunteer, Marylebone
The Volunteer – just a few doors down from one of the world’s most famous addresses 221B Baker Street and a stone’s throw from Regent’s Park – is so named as it was once a recruiting station during the Second World War. But that’s not all it was. The current building is reputedly on the site of a large 17th century house, which once belonged to the aristocratic Rupert Neville and his wealthy family. In 1654, however, a fire tore through the mansion killing everyone inside. Only the cellars are believed to have survived, where the ghost of Rupert Neville is said to prowl. Even when it was a recruiting station, soldiers reported eerie sounds, with sightings of a well-dressed man in a surcoat and breeches around the building. Since becoming a pub, customers have seen Neville in the bar and heard his footsteps walk up to their table, and, occasionally, the lights mysteriously flicker on and off, especially when the pub is particularly bustling.
247 Baker Street, Marylebone London NW1 6XE
Hoop and Toy, Kensington
The Hoop and Toy is arguably the oldest tavern in Kensington, dating back some 500 years. Around 1760 it became a licenced establishment and was originally called The Hoop and Grapes but a few years later, the owner decided to open another public house down the road in Knightsbridge, naming the new one The Bunch of Grapes and renaming this one the Hoop and Toy. It went on to host several kings, as well as feature in the 1965 Roman Polanski film Repulsion. But that’s not all: this popular pub is believed to be haunted by clergy. When the nearby tube station was being built, while boring a tunnel, construction workers accidentally unearthed the pub’s cellar which was found to contain the bound bodies of several dead priests. It’s said they woke these souls and since that fateful day, phantom priests have been spotted around the pub, especially on the stairs, which they’re said to be using as an alternative route back to their places of worship.
34 Thurloe Place, South Kensington, London SW7 2HQ
Prospect of Whitby, Wapping
Built in 1520, the Prospect of Whitby can lay claim as being the oldest riverside tavern. The pub is named after a collier that transported coal from Newcastle and would moor beside the building whenever she was in London. Over the centuries, the pub has been frequented by people from every walk of life – from sailors and smugglers to movie stars and politicians, all of whom have walked across the pub’s 400-year-old stone floor. The pub was once known as the Devil’s Tavern, a name that doesn’t bode well. Legend states that it was where criminals were tied at low tide and left to drown on the banks of the river – and several employees have claimed to see the phantoms of these men and women around the pub. Perhaps they’re looking for ‘Hanging’ Judge Jeffreys, the man who sat in his former local watching those he’d condemned hang. To this day, some say they have seen a man sitting at a window, just as Jeffreys would have done all those years ago.
57 Wapping Wall, Wapping, London E1W 3SH
The George, Strand
With its black-and-white timbered exterior, this is a delightfully old-fashioned pub on the Strand, near the Temple. Originally a coffee house (though with foundations that are older), it’s all dark woods, red leather banquettes and carved fireplaces. Look out for the ghost of a moustachioed, uniformed Cavalier who is said to roam the pub, especially on the staircase. Indeed, in the 1970s, a petrified painter reported a sighting to the landlord who replied, “I shouldn’t worry about him… my wife sees him all the time”.
213 Strand, Holborn, London WC2R 1AP
Morpeth Arms, Westminster
Perched on the North Bank of the River Thames, a stone’s throw from Tate Britain is the Morpeth Arms. Built in 1845, it’s a handsome space inside and out. The bar is a lovely, cosy spot for whiling away an evening – they offer a good choice of cask ale and craft beers here, as well as an extensive wine list. The menu is seasonal British, and Sunday lunchtimes are a popular time to visit. For events or celebrations, you might want to book the Spying Room – an upstairs space with excellent views across the river to the famous MI6 building. As with any old building, there is a history and this one used to be a deportation facility. A tunnel system ran beneath the city streets to take convicts from the old Millbank prison to a holding area under the pub and it’s said that, to this day, the flagstone cellars are haunted by these POMs (Prisoners of Millbank). Indeed, the pub has a live feed of the cells at the bar, which asks punters: “Can you see the haunted prisoner?”
58 Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RW
The Rising Sun, Smithfield
The Rising Sun is a bustling little pub located in the City of London, close to Smithfield Meat Market. It dates back to the early 17th century, when it was originally called the Starre Tavern, but it wasn’t until around 200 years later that the pub got its grisly history. This was the time of ‘body-snatching’ when there was a market for fresh bodies for dissection and medical research. Once all the graves had been depleted, to fill the demand for bodies the body-snatchers turned their attention to real-life victims. People began disappearing from local taverns – where they were drugged and then later murdered – and it’s said that two men, John Bishop and Thomas Williams, earmarked innocent drinkers at the Rising Sun and other nearby pubs, perhaps due to their proximity to St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Indeed, the evil pair are said to have sold up to 1000 bodies to anatomists. Little surprise, therefore, that The Rising Sun is no stranger to the supernatural, with employees hearing the sound of running footsteps and feeling ghostly presences. While two employees who lived above the pub have said that a spirit would regularly pull the duvet off their bed, one former landlady felt an icy-cold hand run down her back when she was showering.
38 Cloth Fair, City of London, London EC1A 7JQ
The Old Bull & Bush, Golders Green
Set in the leafy neighbourhood of North Hampstead, The Old Bull & Bush is as popular with locals as it is visitors, who like to pop in for a cosy pint after walking on the Heath and in summer, it’s full of swimmers who come for a refreshment after a swim in the ponds. During a refurb in 1987, a skeleton was discovered behind one of the cellar walls, strangely surrounded by medical tools – rumours abound that it could have been that of Jack the Ripper who was hiding in the cellar when the wall was built. Whether you believe that or not, people have reported hearing unexplained knocks, footsteps and bangs – and a ghostly Victorian figure is said to move around the bar area.
North End Way, Golders Green, London NW3 7HE