The Olde Cheshire Cheese

The last in the series on historic secular buildings of London …

Fleet Street, first recorded in 1188, is named after the River Fleet, which used to debouch into the  Thames south of Ludgate Circus (but which was culverted and built over in the eighteenth century),  and thus ultimately from the  Old English “fleot”, meaning, in this context, a tidal? inlet navigable by boat.  The first printing press was set up in Fleet Street  in 1500, by the wonderfully named Wynkyn de Worde, and a plaque on the wall of the Stationers’ Hall commemorates the event.  The street was also the home of a number of legendary drinking establishments, haunted by Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, and, a little later, Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens.   These included the “Olde Cheshire Cheese”, dating back to 1584, the “Mitre”, dating back to at least 1603, and the “Devil”, or “Devil and St Dunstan”, dating back to at  least 1608, all of which burned down in the Great Fire and were later rebuilt. 

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The “Olde Cheshire Cheese”, rebuilt in 1667, survives to this day, and retains much of its late seventeenth-century character. What are purported to be parts of the Medieval Whitefriars Priory can be seen in the cellar.

The “Chop Room” in the “Cheese” is famed the world over for its “marvellous rump-steak pudding”, and “the alactrity with which … edibles are supplied … is unmatched in the metropolis”.

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