Alternative Pub Crawls: The Blue Posts

M@
By M@ Last edited 108 months ago
Alternative Pub Crawls: The Blue Posts
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Ever noticed the West End preponderance of drinking dens called 'The Blue Posts'? There are three in Soho alone, plus one in St James and one in Fitzrovia. A sixth on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Hanway Street closed down about 10 years ago. Historical records also point to a pub of similar name (the Two Blue Posts) on Old Bond Street

Two schools of thought seek to explain this nominative plenitude. Blue posts once demarcated the boundary of a royal hunting ground, claims the first. The theory is alluring—we all know that Soho takes its name from an old hunting cry—but it begins to look a little shaky when the pubs are plotted on a map (see below). This is a somewhat irregular space in which to hunt, and pays no heed to any of the ancient lanes that bordered the area. The second explanation has blue posts as the forerunners of taxi ranks. Sedan chairs could be hired from locations sporting azure bollards.

To find out more, and as an excuse to drink ourselves blue with booze, we set out on a pub crawl around the five remaining pubs to bear the name.

81 Newman street

This Blue Posts is often full of blue posties, thanks to its proximity to a mail depot (or is it the US Embassy?). It's a quaint place, with the usual charm and low prices of the Sam Smith's chain. On our Saturday visit, the place was so empty that the staff were playing darts. They knew nothing about the history of the name, but remained cheerful even when the only other customer ordered naught save a glass of water while keeping the fruit machine company for over half an hour. In busier times, the burgundy ceiling, cosy seating and wooden panelling offer atmospheric surroundings in which to enjoy a cheap ale.

22 Berwick street

This tiny pub in the duodenum of Soho is what lazy reviewers might call 'a good-old-fashioned boozer'. Blue number two is pokey, bathed in hazy red lighting and—a bit like that smelly 'aunt' who you don't like very much as a kid—sports a collection of wall-mounted plates from the Sunday supplements. It feels welcoming and local in an Eastenders kind of way. All tables are taken, so we stand at the bar to sample the Adnams and Directors. At one point, we catch the ear of the ageing landlord. He's encountered both explanations for the name of his pub but is unsure which is correct. It's looking doubtful that we'll solve the riddle if this wizened yeoman of the bar cannot enlighten us.

28 Rupert street

A short belch down the road brings us to our third installment. Soho is easing in to the Saturday night swing, and the painfully kitschy downstairs bar is crowded. We find a table upstairs in a comfortable space where photographs of London deck the walls. With the regrettable exception of our group, the room seems to be reserved for discreet snogging. By the time we remember to ask the staff about the Blue Posts legend, the downstairs bar is so crowded we decide to leave in ignorance.

18 Kingly Street

Carnaby Street might be more famous, but its parallel sibling is a much better stocked with booze. We've visited this branch of the Blue Posts non-franchise more than any other, and always find a table no matter how bustling the rest of Soho might be. Tonight is no exception, and we readily find space in the upstairs bar, nursing our Abbott (the ale, not the monastic dude; we lost him to the bawds of Rupert Street with whom he's now busy spoonerising Friar Tuck). Again, the staff could offer little insight and we settled in for a quiet if unremarkable pint. By this point, we're more than a little tipsy, and scrupulous note taking is replaced by painful hiccups. We even forget to take a photo. Hic.

6 Bennet Street

And so we reach the last Posts. And there's a pleasant surprise awaiting us. The pub sign hanging above this St James hostelry features a sedan chair and two brilliant-blue bollards. Is the enigma solved thanks to a hanging sign? Further inquiry bears fruit, possibly a blueberry. An information plaque on the entrance reads:

Although the existing “Blue Posts” replaces one which was destroyed during World War II, a pub of this name, on this site, was mentioned by the Restoration dramatist George Etheredge as early as 1667.The poet Lord Byron lived next door in 1813. The “Blue Posts” (two azure painted poles) once stood in the tavern’s forecourt and served as an advertisement for a fleet of sedan chairs which used to ply for hire in Bennet Street.

Bingo. We have confirmation of the sedan story as well as a source reference. Case closed, we head inside for a final drink. Of all tonight's bars, this is the most bland and Wetherspoons-esque, without the impressive premises or selection of ales (indeed, all bitter is off tonight). For a lacklustre pub in a side street behind the Ritz, the place is surprisingly busy, and we conclude our evening huddled around a wooden post (brown, alas) inside. There's a final hint of blue as we make our way home through the chilly November streets. Someone call us a sedan chair.

Previous alternative pubcrawls:

Science

Station pubs

Last Updated 05 December 2008

cakehole

Loved this post, sounds like you had fun. I may have to follow in your footsteps. Good work!

M@

Cheers Cakehole. It was indeed much fun. If anyone has ideas for future alternative pub crawls, leave a comment.

paulcox

Great coverage. I think you caught all the nuances.

At some point in the evening were discussing a full chromatic crawl: the Orange Tree, Red Lion, Black Cap, Purple Turtle, White Swan, Old Blue Last (or one of the Posts), Brown Bear, Green Man... but then we got hung up on yellow.

SallyB2

Well, in South London (and I suspect on a lot of radial roads) there is a whole string of pubs which reflect the route of the drovers in to town to go to market: The Drovers Arms, The Red Cow etc.
Londonist should do a trading routes pub crawl from the outskirts in...

M@

Great ideas, Paul and Sally. I don't know any pubs with Yellow in the title, but Quinn's in Kentish Town is the most yellow object in the northern hemisphere.

And I like your idea, Sally. Could be rather a lengthy crawl, but at least we'd end up central, in Smithfield.

teflon

Shame you didn't enjoy the Rupert Street Posts - it's one of my favourite pubs in London. Try it on a Sunday for a lovely roast followed by increasingly drunken jazz.

Bo

Sound like you had a blast. @ Paul a chromatic crawl sounds kind of wild now that would have been epic.

-Bo

Jayess

Fine post, interesting thread.

If people have had time to try out the chromatic crawl, how about next narrowing further still for a slightly more bijou session - the chromatic lion crawl?  

Red Lions are never a problem, I would guess 'White', and perhaps 'Black', next most common.  There is then the odd 'Golden', particularly in London, or so it seems.  I am guessing 'Blue' may be the rarest, unless anyone knows others.  

Anyway, building around the Blue Lion on Gray's Inn Road, a stroll towards the West End in can take you via almost any Red Lion (perhaps the 'Old' one on the corner of, appropriately, Red Lion Street and Holborn).  You could then drop into the White Lion down from Covent Garden tube, before moving onto the Golden Lion in Soho.  Alas, since I believe the somewhat 'unpubby' black Lion and French horn has since closed, it would seem to mean a fair hike 9perhaps a bus ride) out to Bayswater for the closest Black Lion.

Anyone know better, or able to improve on this in any location?

Rocky

The Blue Posts in Bennet Street appears to be closed (January 2013), which is a pity, not withstanding your review. Not a great area for pubs alas.

wageslave1

Very entertaining tour of these pubs. I am going to one of them tomorrow night, but currently seeking clarification as to which. I will report back!

wageslave1

So it was the one in Berwick Street. Fabulous pub - get there early and grab a seat and you'll have a terrific evening.