To Feast or Not To Feast that is the question. Or is it really when it comes to celebrating the world’s greatest playwright? From his early comedies and histories to his Sonnets and popular tragedies, the “Matchless Bard” has enthralled the literary civilisation for over four centuries. Ben Johnson has most precisely described him as, “Not of an Age, But for all time”. On 23 April of this year the world of literature pays ode to 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and two days later it is his 452nd birthday. It is around this time in April each year when, Shakespeare’s ardent fans and the newbie of English literature alike find themselves rather fervent to visit his place of birth, the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford – Upon- Avon and his plays at The Globe Theatre in London. If you are one of his devotees or a curious traveller, a visit to Shakespeare’s England would be incomplete without visiting some of the pubs and inns that stood on the same land since the Tudor times. I have curated a list of pubs that are historical and popular among locals in Shakespeare’s towns.
The George Inn
As the Bard’s admirer, this should be on your must-visit places where the playwright would enjoy a meal or ale in the 16th and 17th century. Most visitors who visit the Inn come in expecting to inhale history and perhaps that is not an exaggeration. This coaching pub from the Tudor age has seen it all from the actors to the playwrights to the ebb and flow of life in Southwark. Not only is this the most visited Inn but for Shakespeare and history aficionados its gold. I really loved the George beef pie and the Red Hereford beef burger but of course there are specials as well and Sunday roasts if you choose that day to visit. You are expected to book a table and if 23 April is the day of your visit, it would be best you call in to confirm as well. For menu and other details please visit The George.
The Anchor Bankside
Another classic dating back to 1600s when it was a brewery and a store for the Navy supplies. During the time the locals called the pub ‘Thrales of Deadman’s Place” when thrales referred to as a brewery. It is also known to be the neighbour of the original Globe Theatre’s site and as stories suggests, Shakespeare would visit the brewery for an ale during his career as an actor and playwright in London. The Anchor hosted a lunch for literary greats such as David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith during the 18th century. It was also the spot where the Great Fire of London was witnessed and some took shelter in the brewery. That is a lot of history over a pint and pie but its well worth the visit if the Bard himself enjoyed it once upon a time on the Bankside. For menus and Craft Beer festivals please visit The Anchor Bankside
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
If there’s one pub I love in London apart from The George it is Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street near St Paul’s. Though its black wooden exterior may look grim and a passage way to London’s underbelly, the pub really is a network of doorways and passages leading to many bar rooms underground and on ground level. The atmosphere inside is stark contrast to the one just outside. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was obviously a popular haunt of the literary circuit especially Charles Dickens. The pub has been standing on the spot since mid 1500s though it was taken down by the notorious Great Fire of London in 1666. The Tudor aged pub was rebuilt entirely in the 1600s and retains its old world charm till date.
Stratford – Upon – Avon
Welcome to the hometown of the National Poet of England – Stratford – Upon – Avon. Being a tiny town, Stratford will surprise you as one of the most visited destinations in the UK thanks to the man who called it home. Some of the oldest and known taverns are not so far away from Shakespeare’s place of birth and are as old as him.
The Church Street Townhouse
The townhouse is a 400-year-old Grade II listed building opposite William Shakespeare’s school. Imagine the influence of the school and its neighbourhood on little William while growing up and the many times would he have passed by the townhouse. The tavern has rooms to stay over the night as well just in case you wish to soak a bit more in history and live the times when Shakespeare lived in this town. They have a pre – fixe menu for lunch and early evening as well as a la carte menu. For details on rooms or menu please visit The Church Street Townhouse.
Old Thatched Tavern
If you are visiting Shakespeare’s home on Henley Street this tavern is a shout away to the left of Henley Street. It dates back to 1470 now that’s old among the oldest taverns in England. Located in the Grade II listed and the only remaining thatched roof building in Stratford the tavern makes for a relaxing atmosphere within. Surely during Shakespeare’s time the writer would have visited or passed by the building owing to its proximity to his home. The menu has locally sourced produce and meat celebrating the traditional English fayre cuisine. Then there is the Sunday Roast which is my favourite. For more details on the menu please visit Old Thatched Tavern.