Post 27: Broadsides

The Age of Fighting Sail 1775 – 1815

Book CoverReleased by Nathan Miller way back in 2000, this book gives a general narrative history of one of the big eras in naval warfare – the kind of period populated by Horatio Nelson and Hornblower. I like to try to tie my reviews of different books together for a number of reasons – (selfishly) it might encourage people to read more of my posts, and (usefully) it provides a frame of reference for me to judge various aspects of the book. In this case, my reference point will be Pirates of Barbary by Adrian Tinniswood. That was a quick and exciting romp through some of the figures, places and events of the 17th century Barbary coast. This is a slightly more subdued (but still populist) trek through naval warfare at the turn of the 18th century.

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Historical Pubs: London

Obviously London is not short of drinking establishments, but many of these have been refurbished or rebuilt over the years so that it can be difficult to trace their true history. With that in mind, I thought I’d just give a short review of a few pubs with interesting histories.

The White Hart, Drury Lane (1216?)

The White Hart - there's little of the old pub left, but it is very comfortable.This has a fair claim to being London’s oldest pub – if you don’t mind it being refounded every few centuries. There’s very little of its age apparent in the modern pub, which is a mixture of traditional counters and low comfortable sofas, but it has been linked to some fairly high profile characters. In the 17th century Drury Lane was pretty fashionable and the likes of Nell Gwynne, The Marquis of Argyll or Oliver Cromwell may have stopped in for a drink at their local. Well … maybe not Oliver. By the 18th century things had went downhill for the area and it was now a slum of ill-repute, but this still had its own fame. The White Hart was commonly used for one last drink by condemned men before their hanging, and indeed Dick Turpin, the famous highwayman, drank here in 1739 before he went off to be hanged (it was the usual spot for condemned men). The area can also linked with The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay, and Jack Shepard (the inspiration for MacHeath) and Lavinia Fenton (Polly Peachum) may have also been regulars.

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