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Spirit of the Age

Argyll Arms, Oxford Circusthe-argyll-arms

Built in 1742 close to Oxford Circus, parts of the Argyll are scarcely changed from late Victorian times. Look out for its impressively large mirrors, which miraculously survived the Blitz, and discover the little-altered layout with its separate drinking areas speaking of the social divides of the time: the snug areas were designed to separate the upper and lower classes. There is also spectacular wood and glasswork, rare surviving original fittings from the turn of the century.

Flying Horse (formerly the Tottenham), Oxford Street

One of the best-preserved pubs in London, the Grade II-listed Flying Horse is the last remaining watering hole on the busy shopping mecca of Oxford Street. The pub itself dates back to at least 1790, but the current building was rebuilt in 1893 by the big-spending Baker Brothers, London’s most extravagant pub entrepreneurs of the late Victorian age, and renamed the Tottenham (it has only recently reverted to its original name).

Back then it was near a popular music hall, the influence of which can still be seen in its design. The Flemish Renaissance style exterior leads to a highly ornate interior with fine painted ceiling bosses and elaborate murals of voluptuous nymphs by Felix de Jong, the leading musical hall decorative artist of the times.

Viaduct Tavern, Holborn (featured photo)

People travel far and wide to see this stunning pub. The Viaduct opened in 1869 near St Paul’s and still has the whiff of a gin palace about it thanks to an interior remodelling carried out between 1898 and 1900 and overseen by Arthur Dixon, a leading light in the Arts and Crafts movement. Elegantly curving around a busy corner, the interior is packed with etched glass panels and a series of large portraits representing agriculture, banking and the arts, an original Lincrusta ceiling and a cashier’s booth, where tokens would have been exchanged to buy gin or ale because the bar staff were not trusted with cash.

Princess Louise, Holbornprincess-louise

Possibly the most beautiful pub in London and a rich example of a Victorian public house interior from 1872, the Princess Louise was built by the top craftsmen of the day and has been recreated with outstanding authenticity. Brightly coloured fruit-shaped tiles, glasswork and gilt mirrors abound, while the original layout includes a rare example of a cubicle for private drinking at the bar. Gents should pay a visit to the splendid basement lavatory, Grade II-listed in its own right, to see the original tiled walls and fittings.

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