If you're heading for the Great British Beer
Festival in London do take the chance to explore some of the capital's
great historic pub interiors. One you might well put on the list
is the Old Mitre in Holborn - if you can find it that is (the secrets
are revealed later). Tucked away in a narrow alley, the pub has a
long history. It is said to have been founded in 1546 to minister
unto the needs of the servants of the Bishop of Ely who had his London
residence in the vicinity and whose headgear provides the name of the
pub. In the late 16th Century Elizabeth 1 obliged the bishop to
part with some of the site, so her chancellor, Sir Christopher Hatton,
could build himself a house. The story goes that the trunk in the
corner of the pub's front bar is the remnant of a cherry tree that
marked the boundary between Hatton's property and the bishop's.
Hatton House had
gone by 1720 and the link with the Diocese of Ely ceased in 1772 when
Ely Place came into the ownership of the Crown. (It is still Crown
property and, quirkily, outside the jurisdiction of the City of London).
The pub was probably rebuilt very soon afterwards as a three-storey
building. How the interior was laid out then and in the 19th
Century we do not know but the horizontal panels on the walls of the
staircase may well be original.
As we see it today, the interior is a
remodelling of around 1930 with lots of panelling in the, then
fashionable, Tudor style. There are two rooms either side of a
central servery. Confusingly, both are called "lounge bar" - a
small cosy one at the front and a bigger one at the back. Off the
latter is an intimate little snug, now named "Ye Closet". Upstairs
is a further room available for meetings, parties and the like known as
the Bishop's Room. This was fitted out in about 1990.
A couple of other quirky
things. The gents' can only be entered from the outside - how rare
is that in a London pub? Also, in common with so many City pubs,
the Old Mitre is closed at weekends but opens for just one in the
afternoon. Licensee, Eamon "Scotty" Scott opens the pub to
coincide with the GBBF every year.
So that brings me to how to find it.
50 metres up Hatton Garden (east side), is an entrance between numbers 8
and 9 with a pub sign over; opposite the direction - Ely Place - take
the unmarked entrance between numbers 9 and 10. Simple really.