Princess Louise

208 High Holborn

This pub is not only a grade II* listed building, but it is also on CAMRA’s National Inventory and the description is as follows: “This is one of the must-visit historic pubs, remarkable both for its sumptuous late Victorian work and an extraordinary modern restoration. But let’s start back in 1872 and the then owners, W. and H.-H. Whale, who applied to expand their Holborn pub at no. 209 next door into no. 208. It is from this scheme that the florid iron columns and, no doubt, the swirly-patterned ceiling date. Then, in the 1890s, Henry Whale (son of H. H.) did what countless other pub owners were doing at the time and went for an ambitious upgrade. This work may have proceeded in two stages, the first around 1892 involving magnificent glass supplied by the Kennington firm of R. Morris & Son, who obligingly signed their work, and tiling by W. B. Simpson & Sons of St Martin’s Lane who may have been in overall charge under the otherwise unknown architect Arthur Chitty. The tiles and glass, ranged down the side walls, are among the best such displays anywhere. At the rear left and down the stairs are stained glass panels representing music, drama and painting. Then comes a plan from 1897 (copy on the stairs) signed by architects Bird & Walters, changed slightly on execution, showing small screened-off booths surrounding a peninsula-style stillion. The latter still survives with arches, shelves, a dumb waiter, four-sided clock and yet more tilework. But in the early/mid-20th century the screens came out and so things remained until 2007 when the present owners, Yorkshire brewers, Samuel Smith, under the architect Michael Drain, did a magnificent thing – they put them back. They have thus returned the ground floor to as close as possible to the way things were a century ago. The glass in the screens is modelled on the design of the one-remaining original door panel (on the right). The lovely mosaic floors in the corridors are from the 2007 scheme. Last but not least – the gents’. They are a piece of lavatorial magnificence only exceeded in a pub by the Philharmonic in Liverpool and are proudly signed by their makers, J. Tylor & Sons of London and (indeed) Sydney.

History in the area: Nearby Bloomsbury was developed in the 17th and 18th centuries and is the home of learning and science. The British Museum, University College London, Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College Hospital all reside in the area and in the early part of the 20th century it was frequented by the Bloomsbury Group, a set of friends who shared a love of literature and art. Among its members were Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey.”

The listing description is as follows: “Public house. Mid C19. Interior 1891 by William B Simpson and Sons who contracted out the work. Yellow brick with stone and terracotta dressings. EXTERIOR: 4 storeys 4 windows. Double-fronted public house ground floor facade of red granite columns and pilasters (with masks on the capitals), carrying entablature flanked by modified consoles. Central bow window with arched and lozenge lights flanked by wide entrances. Recessed sash windows with moulded stone heads, enriched impost bands, bracketed sills with cast-iron window guards to 2nd and 3rd floors. Entablature with dentil cornice and rosettes in frieze. Parapet. INTERIOR: good interior with decorative, polychrome tile work, gold embossed glass by R Morris & Son, stained glass and original mahogany bar fittings by WH Lascelles and Co. In centre of bar, 4 cast-iron Corinthian columns carrying patterned ceiling with moulded cornice and polychrome tile frieze decorated with urns and swags. Staircase with elaborate wrought-iron balustrade between ground and 1st floor. 1st floor bar with good fittings and Art Nouveau dado. Interesting contemporary gents WC in basement with marble urinals and retaining some tiled walls and fittings. Included II* as a rich example of a Victorian public house interior.”

The Princess Louise featured on the Evening Crawl of Bloomsbury and Holborn in August 2003, the Evening Crawl of Bloomsbury and Holborn in April 2008, and the Snobs' Night Out on the Tiles: Evening Crawl of Bloomsbury and Holborn in April 2015.