The following list excludes the countless pubs commemorating kings, queens, lords, dukes, admirals and marquises. We’ve also left out any places with super-famous dedicatees such as the two pubs named after Charles Dickens and The Alexander Fleming. Still, the list is far from exhaustive, and we welcome additions in the comments below.
Henry Addington (Canary Wharf): Addington (1757-1844) was Prime Minister in the early 19th Century. Largely forgotten these days, he was responsible for building the Martello towers around Britain’s coast, to ward off Napoleonic invasion.
Betjeman Arms (King’s Cross): Perhaps the most famous person on the list, John Betjeman (1906-1984) was Poet Laureate and a campaigner to save historic buildings…such as St Pancras Station, where his pub and statue can be found.
Sir Michael Balcon (Ealing): Film maker Michael Balcon (1896-1977) was head honcho at Ealing Studios during its golden era, overseeing films such as Passport to Pimlico and The Lavender Hill Mob. He’s commemorated in the name of the local Wetherspoons.
Jeremy Bentham (Bloomsbury): Bentham (1748-1832) was a noted philosopher and social reformer, famous for his hub and spoke prisons and his belief that the needs of the many outweigh those of the individual. He’s also the only incumbent on this list whose body is preserved nearby — you can see his physical remains (minus the head) inside UCL’s main building.
Thomas Cubitt (Belgravia): Cubitt (1788-1855) developed much of the posh housing stock in 19th Century London, with large estates in Bloomsbury and Belgravia, where his statue and pub can now be found.
William Webb Ellis (Twickenham): The location should give it away, even for those who don’t follow rugby. Ellis (1806-1872) was a clergyman credited with inventing the sport, when (according to tradition if not verifiable fact) he picked up and ran with a football while a pupil at Rugby School.
Alfred Herring (Palmers Green): Named after a local soldier who fought an heroic counter-attack and defence during a battle at Montagne Bridge, France in 1918. He subsequently won the Victoria Cross, and the even greater prestige of having a Wetherspoons dedicated to him.
Charles Lamb (Angel): This lovely Islington pub carries the name of the writer (1775-1834) who, with his sister Mary, penned the much celebrated Tales From Shakespeare for children. Lamb lived on nearby Colebrooke Row, and Mary was detained in a local psychiatric hospital. Their tragic story is told in Peter Ackroyd’s novel The Lambs of London.
Sir John Oldcastle (Farringdon): This unremarkable Wetherspoons pub is named for the very remarkable John Oldcastle (died 1417) who challenged religious authority, rebelled against the king, escaped from the Tower of London, was recaptured and executed, then became the character of Falstaff in three of Shakespeare’s history plays. He probably deserves to have a pub named after him, and probably a better one than this.
Sir Richard Steele (Belsize Park): This much-loved pub, halfway between Belsize Park and Chalk Farm, and the local area, sometimes known as Steeles Village, are named after writer and politician Richard Steele (1672-1729), who co-founded the Spectator and lived in a famous house on the site of the pub.
John Snow (Soho): The good doctor (1813-1858) discovered that cholera is a water-borne disease, by plotting incidents on a map. Most sufferers clustered around a tainted water pump on Broadwick Street. A replica of the pump can still be seen, and Dr Snow’s practice is marked by the pub named after the teetotal physician.
Holland Tringham (Streatham): Another Wetherspoons commemorating a local notable. Tringham (1861-1908) was a Streatham artist known for his illustrations of south London, some of which hang within the pub.
Betsey Trotwood (Farringdon): The only non-existent dedicatee on our list was the great aunt and guardian of David Copperfield in the Dickens novel. We’re not entirely sure why the pub took this name in 1983…any thoughts welcome in the comments below.
Edgar Wallace (Fleet Street): Wallace (1875-1932) was one of the most famous writers of his day, penning 175 novels and many plays. Despite this vast oeuvre, his only work that’s maintained significant popular appreciation is King Kong. A plaque on Fleet Street records his early career as a journalist for the Daily Mail.