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Olde Mitre_detail

This pub is located in a tiny alleyway between Hatton Garden and Ely Place. For the entrance, turn from High Holborn into Hatton Garden and you will see the doorway between numbers 8 and 9 on your right-hand side.

Entrance between 8 and 9 Hatton Garden

Entrance between 8 and 9 Hatton Garden

Olde Mitre entrance

Look above the doorway and you will see the name of the pub and its foundation date 1546, although the correct phrase is probably ‘believed to have been established in 1546 by bishop Goodrich’. The original tavern was built for the servants of the Palace and built on land belonging to the Bishops of Ely. If you continue walking from Hatton Garden through the alley beyond the pub, you end up in Ely Place where the Bishop’s Palace used to stand. The site was technically not governed by the City of London, but by the Diocese of Ely (Cambridgeshire) and the police could only do their duties in the area if specifically invited to do so. The Bishop’s garden was known for its strawberries and Shakespeare makes mention of it in Richard III:

My Lord of Ely!
[…]
When I was last in Holborn,
I saw good strawberries in your garden there
I do beseech you send for some of them
(1)

Olde Mitre inn sign

The bishop’s land was more extensive than it is today, but Elizabeth I forced the bishops to relinquish some land to Christopher Hatton (1540-1591), one of her favourite courtiers (and even more if we are to believe the gossip of the period). The lease was reluctantly signed over to Hatton for £10, ten carts of hay and a red rose every year.(2) The preserved trunk of a cherry tree in the bar allegedly marks the boundary between the bishop’s land and that of Hatton and legend has it that Elizabeth I danced the maypole around it with Hatton. That is, when it still produced cherry blossom and was not yet preserved. I will only believe that when dendrochronology proves it is indeed possible that the tree was the cherry tree in the bishop’s garden. Hatton developed the site which still bears his name and it became known for its diamond and jewellery trade.

From E. Callow <em>Old London Taverns</em>, 1899

From E. Callow Old London Taverns, 1899

The palace and the tavern were demolished in 1772, but the pub was soon rebuilt. One of the stone mitres from the palace gatehouse was set in the wall. According to the Light and Lighting of 1915, the building “has lately been restored and particular care has been taken by the architect, Mr. W.F. Foster […] to retain the period. […] The lantern shown in the foreground was specially designed to the correct style”.(3) Well, maybe so, but someone must have changed his or her mind about this correct style as the elegant lantern we see today looks nothing like the cube-shaped one in the 1915 magazine. There are not many records to be found relating to the pub in the London archives, because its license came from the bishops and not from the London authorities, but perhaps I have nevertheless given you enough reasons to go and have a look yourself.

lantern from <em>Light and Lightning</em>

Lantern from Light and Lightning

Lantern as it is today

Lantern as it is today

Mitre glass

(1) Richard III, Act III, scene iv: Gloucester to Bishop of Ely.
(2) Ben Le Vay, Eccentric London: A Practical Guide to a Curious City, 2012, p. 239.
(3) Light and Lighting. The Illuminating Engineer, volume 8, 1915, pp. 322-323.

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