Four of us, myself (Tony), Charlie, Diana and Peter, managed to get together last night at, "The Ship and Shovell," next to Charing Cross Station. We had a great time and a few beers were downed.
The Ship & Shovell was a great choice of venue by Charlie. It is unusual in that it has two bars, one on one side of an alleyway and the other on the opposite side. They are joined underneath by the pub’s beer cellar. Unless you’re pub staff, to get from one bar to the next you have to go outside in the rain, wind, snow, sunshine or a bleak dark night like last night.
Established around 1740, The Ship & Shovell is an ideal tour guide spot, surrounded by history – but then all of London is, isn’t it?
At the end of the alleyway from the pub, about 20 yards away, is the only house still in existence that Benjamin Franklin lived in while in London. He stayed with a common-law wife for about sixteen years in Craven Street. Here he performed science experiments, wrote political and philosophical pamphlets and produced a newspaper on the premises.
If you turn right out of The Ship & Shovell and walk under the railway arches you come to Villiers Street. Rudyard Kipling lived in a flat in Villiers Street for a year after returning from India. But even better for fans of literary history, the Embankment tube station next to Charing Cross is the site of Hungerford Steps, where the blacking factory was that Charles Dickens worked in. His father went bankrupt and any money was welcome into the household. The place where Dickens published many of his famous novels and the magazine “All the Year Round” is also just down the road from the pub. There is a lovely story about Dickens being recognized by (then aspiring novelist) Thomas Hardy in a Lyons Coffee house on The Strand about three hundred yards from The Ship & Shovell. Hardy was a young man and new to London. He walked into the coffee house, recognized Charles Dickens and was about to go over and say hello when Dickens started shouting at the waiter about his bill. Hardy retreated and left the shop. And so the two greatest 19th century novelists nearly met, but not quite.
Then there is the house nearby that Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick) stayed in for a short while on his travels. Virginia Woolf wrote in her diaries about walking across Hungerford Bridge next to the pub. Trafalgar Square is a mere few hundred yards away and Whitehall is within spitting distance.
Anyway the four of us were in the heart of London drinking Badger beer, a lovely local beer from Dorset no less, and thinking of all the folks at ToursByLocals.