Sunday, June 11, 2023

'The Black Friar'

London The Unfinished City
The Black Friar public house.

On the odd occasion that I fancy a drink, when walking around London, I never stop at one of those pubs that has no character, preferring to find a pub with a bit of history.

So it was while walking westward along the River Thames that I spotted this odd shaped building, across the road from Blackfriars station. 

London The Unfinished City
The wedge shaped Black Friar pub.

As I approached I realised that it was a pub and, so, headed in. And what a place it is.

London The Unfinished City
Some of the bronze relief around the top of the bar.

The pub is remarkably deceptive as, when viewed from the outside, it looks long and narrow, but, once inside, the pub opens up with a substantial bar area, for pub this small, that contains booths, tables and areas to just stand. 

London The Unfinished City
Scenes from the life of a monk.

Signs indicated a dining area, which I didn't visit on this occasion, where people waited to be seated.

London The Unfinished City
A day in the life of a monk.

Around the tops of the walls bronze reliefs showed Dominican Friars going about there daily tasks, while a stained glass window allowed a rainbow of light to filter into the room.

London The Unfinished City
Stained Glass Window.

There was obviously some serious history to this pub, so I bought a pint of ale and sat outside at one of the tables. 

It was from here that I noticed the quirky carvings that adorn the outside of the building.

London The Unfinished City
The sculptors had fun with these two.

With my thirst suitably quenched I returned my empty glass to the bar and continued westward, vowing to return to this place again.

Brief History

This building stands adjacent to the site of a monastery that was built in 1180. As was the norm for monasteries at the time at the time the monks were allowed to brew beer and open an inn.

From the beginning of the 13th century the monks had an inn that remained open for 300 years. It was the Black Friar's Inn attached to the Black Friars monastery.

London The Unfinished City
Jolly Friars.

The building that the pub now inhabits was built in 1875 on the site of the medieval Dominican friary.

Refurbishments took place in 1905 and 1917, spearheaded by the architect Herbert Fuller-Clark. Much of the interior design was completed by the sculptors Frederick T. Callcott and Henry Poole.

The bronze reliefs, inside the bar area, show scenes from the daily lives of the monks.

London The Unfinished City
Some of the carvings and mosaic above one of the entrances.

During the 1960s the poet Sir John Betjeman led a campaign to save the pub, when the area was to be demolished as part of redevelopment plans. 

The building became Grade II listed in 1972.

Oh, and the building has a ghost that opens and closes doors and moves objects.

The pub is owned by Nicholson's Pubs and was one of their first pubs to open.

In 2023 Nicholson's celebrates 150 years of operation.