What Is London's Oldest Building?

By Sian Meades Last edited 84 months ago

Last Updated 05 June 2017

What Is London's Oldest Building?

'London’s oldest…' is a statement that gets thrown around an awful lot in this city. And there are certainly a lot of old buildings to choose from (we’ll save the ruins around the city for another time). Here are some of the buildings that reckon they have a claim to the title of 'London’s oldest'.

The oldest house in the city. Photo: Matt Brown.

The oldest house in the city

The only house in the City of London to survive to our own times from before the Great Fire in 1666, 41 Cloth Fair was built between 1597 and 1614, making it the oldest house in the city. The Landmark Trust owns the house next door, if you fancy an overnight stay with a slice a history.

The upstairs bar at London's oldest restaurant. Photo: Rules

Breaking the Rules

Rules declares itself to be the oldest restaurant in London, established in 1768. It's only been owned by three different families throughout that time. We're fond of Rules, despite its old fashioned ways. Sneak upstairs to the bar for one of the best London cocktails and avoid the theatre crowds at the same time.

The White Tower. Photo: tezzer57.

Towers of torture

The White Tower is the oldest part of the famed Tower of London, and it's actually the oldest intact building in London. It was the first bit of the tower to be built by William the Conqueror, partly to subdue Londoners. It's said that Guy Fawkes was interrogated in the basement.

Berry Bros & Rudd. Photo: ARBurial

The oldest place to buy wine?

Berry Bros & Rudd is the oldest wine and spirit merchant in London. It's been trading from the same premises since 1698.

If you're looking for even older places to have a glass of wine, crowd-pleaser Gordon’s on Villiers Street touts itself as London’s oldest wine bar, said to date back to 1890. However we’re tempted to call fibs here — The Olde Wine Shades on Martin Lane is definitely much older. It was built in 1663 and survived the Great Fire of London. Its current small plates menu probably doesn't date back that far.

The passageway to the Lamb & Flag. Photo: Matt Brown

Spaniards, Lions, Lambs and Flags

London's oldest pub is a lot harder to call, largely because lots of London's pubs have been demolished and remodelled over the centuries. Some that could have a fair crack at the title include The Spaniards Inn, which used to have a pistol (supposedly) fired by highwayman Dick Turpin above the bar, was said to be built as a toll inn in 1585, but the entire pub is shrouded in so many myths and stories it's hard to know what to believe. Be very suspicious of claims that Dick Turpin's dad was the landlord at one point. And, of course, it’s haunted.

The Lamb & Flag on Rose Street is in a building that dates back to before the Great Fire, but the first mention of a pub on the site — The Cooper's Arms — was in 1772, and it didn't get its current name until 1833.

One of the many Red Lions in London, there's been a pub in the spot on Parliament Street since 1434, when it was known as the Hopping Hall. The current building only dates back to 1733.

Is St Paul's the oldest church in London? Photo: Shando.

How many ways can you patch up an old church?

We've already given you the pick of London’s oldest churches, and it's hard to unravel which is the definitive on that list because some of them have been knocked down and rebuilt, or have parts that date back further than the rest. St Bartholomew-the-Great in Smithfield might be the oldest intact continuous place of worship, dating back to 1123. Some parts of the original building remain, but is that enough to call it the oldest church?

All Hallows in east London dates back to 625, but very little of the original structure remains. St Paul's Cathedral is much the same story: sure, the site is old and there’s been a church on the site since 604, St Paul’s is thought to be the fourth, but the current version surrounded by selfie sticks and wedding magazine photographers wasn’t finished by Wren until 1711.

So what is the oldest building in London? Does a cobbled together piece of history count, or do you need your buildings fully intact before it can qualify?