Some history of the Spaniards' Inn at Hampstead Heath in London.

Home

The Spaniards' Inn is located on the edge of Hampstead Heath, the building standing on the boundary of Finchley. I am going to cut to the chase and state that there is so much twaddle written about this building. The myths and legends associated with this tavern are everywhere, from books and guides to almost every platform on the Internet. Some of it may actually be true but some stories are simply ridiculous. As an occasional visitor to London, I am going to leave somebody living close to the places where archive material can be examined to pick through the bones and get to the facts. This is partly a lack of motivation as our experience of the pub was dreadful and I cannot imagine stepping inside the building again.

London : Edward Stanford map extract showing the location of the Spaniard's Tavern [1866]
© Reproduced with kind permission of the National Library of Scotland under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

In the early-mid 19th century, the building is generally marked on maps as the Spaniards' Tavern. Earlier maps, particularly those surveyed by the French-born cartographer, Jean Rocque, label the boundary as Spaniards' Gate. Does this suggest that the building was not licensed during this period? Some suggest that, although the building is of some antiquity, it was not originally a tavern.

Dick Turpin surprised at the sight of a gibbet : Copper plate engraving published by J. L. Marks of 97 Long Lane, Smithfield [1836]
Dick Turpin surprised at the sight of a gibbet : Copper plate engraving published in 1836 by J. L. Marks of 97 Long Lane, Smithfield, London. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

A chalkboard-style sign in the beer garden boldly states "Stand and Deliver!! Birthplace of the notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin." The official website for the Spaniards' Inn states that it was "Built in 1585 as a tollgate on the Finchley boundary, The Spaniards has more than a few tales to tell. This characterful inn was named after the Spanish Ambassador to James I of England and rumour has it highwayman Dick Turpin was born there, whilst his father was landlord in the early 1700s." Wow! It does not state built around or circa, but a makes a bold claim that the building was erected in 1585. However, the official list entry on the Historic England website states that the brick structure, with some timber-framing and weatherboarding, dates from the 17th century.¹ Was there an earlier building, or is the claim made by the pub's operators a false assertion?

As for the tale of Dick Turpin, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that the notorious highwayman was born at the Blue Bell Inn, a tavern later known as the Rose and Crown, in Hempstead, Essex. What's in a letter eh? His father, John Turpin, a butcher by trade, kept the Blue Bell Inn with his wife, Mary Elizabeth Parmenter.

Extract from pages 30-1 of "The Taverns Of London" by H. E. Popham, published by Cecil Palmer of London in 1927.
Extract from pages 30-1 of "The Taverns Of London" by H. E. Popham, published by Cecil Palmer of London in 1927.

This is a good example of how legends are compounded and enriched. It is interesting to note, however, that the author suggested that the tavern dated from the middle of the eighteenth century. Writing in 1927, he lists the relics on display, supposedly the belongings of Dick Turpin. Probably overcome by the romance of the place, Popham was gullible enough to write that the pub also displayed the leg-irons which the highwayman wore when executed at Newgate. Surely, even in 1927, it was relatively easy to research that Turpin was hanged at Knavesmire outside the city walls of York. Moreover, the Bow Street Runners were not founded until ten years after Turpin's execution. Who makes this stuff up? But the pub continues to dine out on this nonsense.

Extract from page 144 of "The English Inn" by Thomas Burke, published by Longman, Green and Co., of London in 1931.
Extract from page 144 of "The English Inn" by Thomas Burke, published by Longman, Green and Co., of London in 1931.

Four years later, in 1931, Thomas Burke told the tale of the rioters who, on their way to destroy the country residence of Lord Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice, were duped by the landlord when he offered them free hospitality whilst somebody went for the militia. Painting a picture of merry revelry, the author's account is rather romantic but a number of the sozzled rabble-rousers were arrested and received harsh treatment and punishment. If the accounts are true, and there seems to be strong evidence for these, then the Spaniards' Tavern was trading by 1780.

The tavern garden, mentioned in the above extract, was a key attraction for patrons and was mentioned in "The Pickwick Papers." One would hope that Dickens, when conducting research for his novel, imbibed within the grounds. The artist Joshua Reynolds is supposed to have patronised the tavern, and there are tales that Byron and Keats doodled in their notebooks whilst enjoying a tipple at the Spaniards' Inn.

So, after highlighting some of the legends surrounding the Spaniards' Inn, along with debunking some of the myths, I am including a few bits and bobs that actually did happen.

Extract from page 3 of "The Morning Post" published on Tuesday June 4th, 1822
Extract from page 3 of "The Morning Post" published on Tuesday June 4th, 1822.

The Spaniards' Inn, along with the celebrated Jack Straw's Castle, some 500 metres to the south-west, were evidently popular venues for pedestrianism, or foot races, in the early 19th century. For some events, the two houses formed the start and finish line. Judging from the above article that appeared in The Morning Post, Moses Joseph was going to head towards both hostelries on many occasions as he attempted a 100-mile endurance event, his bid being undertaken after failing by just three minutes to complete a similar feat when walking to Colchester and back. The Captain Barclay mentioned in the article was the Scottish-born pedestrian, Robert Barclay Allardice, famous for walking 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours for 1,000 guineas in 1809.³

Pedestrianism, the forerunner of race-walking, along with running, was a popular spectator sport in the 19th century. High stakes were often involved and there could be a frenzy of side-betting. And where money was involved, dirty tactics came into play. For example, in October 1825 a runner named Barry was shoved over not far from the finishing line outside the Spaniards' Inn when it seemed certain he was going to beat the heavily-backed opponent.

Hampstead Heath : Notice of the marriage of Thomas Ayres and Elizabeth Taylor of the Spaniards' Inn [1829]
Extract from page 3 of the "Englishman" published on Sunday December 20th, 1829.

The above notice announced the marriage of Thomas Ayres, of Finchley, to Miss Elizabeth Taylor, of the Spaniards' Tavern, the ceremony taking place on the 9th of December, 1829. Elizabeth Taylor had been a beneficiary in the will of John Norbury, publican of Spaniards' Tavern, who died in January 1826.⁴ Elizabeth Taylor hailed from Northallerton in Yorkshire, her husband being born at Ratcliffe in Buckinghamshire. After their spell at the Spaniards', the couple would move the short distance to Jack Straw's Castle where Thomas Ayres also operated livery stables.

The Spanish Ambassador theory has been challenged by some writers, their theory being that the tavern was formerly run by two Spanish brothers, Francesco and Juan Porero, or Perrero, who both fell head over heels in love with the same woman. According to this legend, they settled the matter by a duel, the result being that Juan was killed. Some guide books and websites that write silly stuff about haunted inns, claim that his ghost still inhabits the building. The official website for the pub even states that the house was built in 1585 by these two Spanish brothers. I only point out this silliness because I stumbled upon a report of a duel that was supposed to take place near the tavern in the spring of 1837. Hugh Fraser, a solicitor and co-founder of Fraser's Magazine, did indeed turn up at the Spaniards' Inn where he was arrested by two officers from Bow Street, charged with "having been about to commit a breach of the peace by fighting a duel." The officers waited at the tavern for his opponent but the gentleman did not show up. Paying expensive sureties, the solicitor was bound over to keep the peace for six months.⁵ I guess he could at least claim the moral high ground over his adversary.

William Maginn, a contributor to Fraser's Magazine, possibly the other co-founder, was known to ruffle feathers with his articles. In the previous year, he had apparently offended Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley, a member of Parliament, the two men meeting in a field near the Edgware Road, for a duel. Maginn was attended by the aforementioned Hugh Fraser. It would appear that neither men were keen shots as they fired at each other three times before withdrawing, "no explanation or apology having been required or tendered."

It would seem that the Spaniards' Tavern was a favoured place in which to seek some Dutch courage prior to a meeting on the heath. There was another duel here in May 1837 in which a military colonel was shot.

Moving two years earlier, in 1839 Thomas and Elizabeth Ayres were listed at Jack Straw's Castle within the Hampstead pages of Pigot's Directory for Middlesex. During this year John Chapman was listed as publican of the Spaniards' Tavern.

Extract from page 1 of the "Morning Advertiser" published on July 26th, 1837
Extract from page 1 of the "Morning Advertiser" published on July 26th, 1837.

John Chapman probably succeeded Thomas Ayres as licensee of the Spaniards' Tavern. He and his wife Sarah were recorded in the 1841 census, the survey showing that they employed a small army of servants to provide service to patrons of the hostelry. John Chapman was born at the beginning of the 19th century at Portsea in Hampshire. His wife, Sarah, hailed from Winterborne Houghton, near Blandford Forum in Dorset.⁷

Extract from page 1 of "The Satirist; or, the Censor of the Times" published on June 6th, 1847
Extract from page 1 of "The Satirist; or, the Censor of the Times" published on June 6th, 1847.

John and Sarah Chapman invested in improvements to the Spaniards' Inn during 1847 and paid for a long run of advertisements in the newspapers to ensure that their efforts to enhance the tavern did not go unmissed. There were probably a number of changes to the tavern known by Charles Dickens when he prepared his notes for "The Pickwick Papers" during the previous decade.

During the early-mid 19th century Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson, eighth baronet, devoted much of his time seeking to pass a bill in Parliament that would allow him to build on Hampstead Heath. Fortunately, provisions in his father's will prevented the sale of land or the granting of long leases that would facilitate such development. A country clergyman, visiting the open space in August 1854, was so enraged by the donkey races staged between the Spaniards' Inn and Jack Straw's Castle, that he wrote to the London Daily News stating that the sooner the land was developed the better. He regarded the scenes along what is now called Spaniards' Road as so 'abominable,' in which 'openly-practiced barbarity' was commonplace. In his letter to the editor, the clergyman stated that the local inhabitants did not deserve their heath.⁸

The Chapman's remained in charge of the Spaniards' Inn for two decades before retiring to Kennington.⁹ A member of the Yeomanry Guard, John Chapman died in December 1866, aged 66, at Isleworth.¹⁰

John and Sarah Chapman were succeeded at the Spaniards' Inn by Philip and Caroline Connell, the licence of the tavern was transferred to Philip Connell in January 1859. Born in Camberwell in 1812, he was working as a hairdresser when he married Caroline Chisnall in April 1844. She was the daughter of a publican. The couple moved from Camberwell Green to Dulwich where, in addition to cutting hair, Philip Connell was also a tobacconist.¹¹ They entered the licensed trade in the 1850s. In 1854 they were running the Old Change on Bread Street in the City of London. In the following year they kept the Neptune Inn at Rotherhithe. Philip Connell's time at the Spaniards' Inn was brief for he died in July 1861, the licence passing to his wife.

Widow Caroline Connell was still the landlady in 1866 for in January of that year she was recorded as such when appearing as prosecutrix in a case against 27-year-old Ann Baker, a servant in her employ. The defendant was charged with stealing a box, a bird cage, two silk dresses, and other articles, belonging to Caroline Connell. The servant left the house without notice, and on being apprehended on another charge by the University Marshal at the Champion public-house, some of the articles were found in her boxes. She had pawned the other items. Having been convicted, Ann Baker was further charged with stealing items belonging to the Rev. O. Ogle, in St. Gile's, Oxford. She was sentenced to 18 months' further imprisonment.¹²

Thomas Bishop Southgate, a professor of music living in Highgate, was possibly a patron of the Spaniards' Inn. Whatever, his path as an organist crossed with that of landlady, Caroline Connell. They were married in September 1866 at St. John Horsleydown in Bermondsey. The licence of the tavern was transferred to the professor in January 1867.¹³ However, Caroline was a widow again when her husband died in the following year. As an annuitant, Caroline died in 1888 and was buried with her sister at West Norwood Cemetery.

In 1868 the licence of the Spaniards' Inn was held by Charles Everard. He may have been supported by his older brother Thomas. Certainly his sibling, formerly the publican of the Fish and Bell on Charles Street in Soho, was living on the premises. However, he died in December 1868, and Charles Everard moved on. The licence of the Spaniards' was tranferred to Thomas Clegg in July 1869.¹⁴

Extract from page 1 of "The North Londoner" published on November 6th, 1869
Extract from page 1 of "The North Londoner" published on November 6th, 1869.

As can be seen from the above notice advert published over several weeks in 1869, the building was known at the Old Spaniards' Hotel and Tavern. Hailing from Lancashire, Thomas Clegg, a former cheesemonger, was quite an entrepreneur and focused on the sporting facilities offered at the hostelry.

Hampstead Heath : Drawing of the Spaniards' Hotel that appeared on Page 4 in the "Illustrated London News" published on Saturday September 23rd, 1871
Drawing of the Spaniards' Hotel from Page 4 in the "Illustrated London News" published on Saturday September 23rd, 1871.

This drawing of the Spaniards' Hotel appeared in the "Illustrated London News" published in September 1871. It provides a sense of how the hostelry looked in the mid-Victorian period. Note the large sign for Charrington & Head Co., a trading name that first appeared in 1833 when Charrington's acquired Steward & Head. The 'Head' element of the name disappeared in 1880. I assume, but do not know for certain, that Charrington's were operating the Spaniards' Hotel when this illustration was published. Although described as the proprietor, I imagine that Thomas Clegg was a tenant of the brewery.

Hampstead Heath : Drawing of Whit Monday holiday crowds that appeared on Page 12 in the "Illustrated London News" published on Saturday May 25th, 1872
Drawing of Whit Monday holiday crowds on Hamstead Heath from Page 12 in the "Illustrated London News" published on Saturday May 25th, 1872.

As can be seen from this illustration published in 1872, there was good business to be had on holidays such as Whit Monday when thousands of London folk flocked to Hampstead Heath for amusement. At this time, the Metropolitan Board of Works had not long secured the Heath for public use. The "Illustrated London News" estimated that around 10,000 could be seen on Hampstead Heath on Whit Monday 1872. The tea garden of the Spaniards' Hotel would be rammed. It was reported that the upper heath, between the Spaniards' and Jack Straw's Castle, was a "congregation of working-class Londoners, everywhere swarming in multitudinous clusters, like flies upon batch of cakes in a baker's sunny shop window." ¹⁵

Hampstead Heath : Advertisement for the Spaniards' Hotel that appeared on Page 4 in the "Hampstead & Highgate Express" published on Saturday August 28th, 1875
Advertisement that appeared on Page 4 in the "Hampstead & Highgate Express" published on Saturday August 28th, 1875.

Dating from August 1875, the above advertisement suggests that Thomas Clegg, along with his wife Rose, were always looking to improve the facilities offered at the hotel. The couple had a young family living with them on the premises. Not long after this advertisement was published they moved to the Cardinal Wolsey Inn at Hampton Court. In the early 1890s the couple took over the neighbouring premises and operated it as a temperance hotel known as Clegg's. Tom Clegg, as he was generally known, was a trainer of many noted greyhounds and a good all-round sportsman.¹⁶

Hampstead Heath : Advertisement for the Spaniards' Hotel and Tea Gardens that appeared on Page 1 in the "Hampstead & Highgate Express" published on Saturday May 5th, 1877
Advertisement that appeared on Page 1 in the "Hampstead & Highgate Express" published on Saturday May 5th, 1877.

Charrington & Co.'s Ales could be enjoyed whilst playing bowls or quoits during fair weather months. Alternatively, a billiard room was available for patrons on soggy days. Most of this was a legacy of Tom Clegg. As a keen sportsman he had provided facilities to the Hampstead Harriers who were headquarted at the Spaniards' Hotel. This advertisement shows that John Rawlings White was the proprietor in the spring of 1877. His career path was rather singular. Born around 1821 in Kingswood near Wootton-under-Edge, he was imprisoned for assault when a young man. However, he was to become a leading figure and much respected in Wootton-under-Edge. He had succeeded his father as a wool dyer and was employing 28 men by 1871.¹⁷ He had married Mary Ann, or Marianne Wane, eldest daughter of William Wane, Esq., of Cirencester, the ceremony taking place at his local Baptist Chapel where his father served as a senior church-warden.¹⁸ His wife died 20 years later. The wool dyer was a respectable gentlemen of Wootton-under-Edge and became secretary of the local horticultural society. He also took a deep interest in the Freehold Land Society. Possibly through visiting his brother, William, in Liverpool, his path crossed with Jane Osborne, daughter of Joseph Osborne, of North Coates in Lincolnshire. They were married at Myrtle Street Chapel at Liverpool in August 1872.¹⁹ The couple had three children all born at Wootton-under-Edge during the early-mid 1870s. This started a long family connection with the Spaniards' Hotel that continued to the inter-war years.

How John and Jane White ended up at the Spaniards' Hotel is a puzzle, though the wool dyer was quite wealthy by the 1870s. However, he fell ill soon after moving to Hampstead Heath and have to undergo some painful operations. He died in his 56th year at the end of January 1878. Through his will the pub [or its lease] may have been left not only to his wife, along with his brother William, a draper of Liverpool, but also to Joseph Osborne living in Cumberland, and John Foxwell, a tailor with a business at St. Pancras. However, the licence of the Spaniards' Hotel was transferred to his widow, Jane.

Jane Rawlings White re-married in May 1880 to Warwick-born William James Hudson. The licence of the Spaniards' Hotel was probably transferred to him. The 1881 census shows that the building was also occupied by Jane's elderly mother, along with her sister, Fanny, who worked as a barmaid.²⁰

In the late 1880s the neighbouring Spaniards' Farm was occupied by Arthur Bourne. In December 1886 he was charged on a summons by the Metropolitan Board of Works with unlawfully riding at a rate exceeding eight miles an hour on part of Hampstead Heath set apart for equestrians. Heath constable, John Plunkett, deposed that he saw Bourne riding a grey pony on the West Heath ride at a rate of about fourteen miles an hour. He stated that "Bourne came round a sharp turning from the Bull and Bush, thrashing the pony as hard as he could." The farmer was fined at the Petty Sessions.²¹ A couple of years later two men, who worked on the farm, suffered a dreadful experience during their lunch break. On June 14th 1888 a thunderstorm passed over the farm and the Spaniards' Hotel. At the time the two men were eating their dinner under a tree. The events were printed in many newspapers across the country when it was reported that "One of them was rendered senseless, and appeared as though he were dead. The other heard a tremendous thunderclap, and was quite stunned for some minutes, but felt no pain. He then found that his trousers were smouldering, that his knife had been knocked out of his hand, and that his steel buckles had been torn off his legs. He succeeded in quenching the fire in his trousers, and managed to crawl to the road, shouting for assistance. After a time they were both conveyed to the infirmary. Their features were ghastly blue, with a dull yellowish white showing through the leaden colour. The elder one was almost pulseless, but after a time became slightly conscious. He had burns on his right side from the shoulder to the feet." ²²

Hampstead Heath : Newspaper article on the licence transfer for the Spaniards' Hotel that appeared on Page 2 in the "Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press" published on Saturday August 25th, 1894
Extract from Page 2 in the "Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press" published on Saturday August 25th, 1894.

I am not certain what happened to William Hudson but the licence of the Spaniards' Hotel was being held by Jane White until her death in July 1894. The subsequent sessions at the Highgate Police Court was such that the article was networked and published across the UK. Thank goodness for the solicitor named Ricketts who stood up for the young woman and convinced the Bench to grant the licence to Sarah Elizabeth White, daughter of John Rawlings White and Jane Hudson.

One Sunday evening in May 1895, the Spaniards' Hotel was the scene of great excitement when the flooring in the tap-room gave way, resulting in thirteen patrons falling into the cellar. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.²³ Back in the late Victorian era the customers toddled off home. These days they would be making a YouTube video before filing claim forms.

From the census information collected over the years I noted that the number of servants living at the Spaniards' Hotel slowly decreased, suggesting a decline in trade from its heyday. However, the crowds that arrived for bank holidays helped to boost takings no end. It was reported in April 1896 that on Easter Bank Holiday Monday the total number of visitors on Hampstead Heath was in the region of 150,000. There was a particularly high concentration of people along Spaniards' Road, the scene being filled with refreshment stalls, show booths, coconut shies, swings, conjurors, pony and donkey rides.²⁴

London : The Spaniards' at Hampstead Heath [c.1904]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

The magistrates did not have to fret too long over the issue of a single woman running the Spaniards'. The young landlady married Irish-born Herbert Greer on June 30th, 1898, at St. Mary's Church in Hampstead. The notice that appeared in newspapers referred to the publican as Lily. Trade directories listed Sarah Greer at the Spaniards' Inn rather than her husband so it would appear that she retained the licence of the house. The above image shows the building during the early years of their marriage. Note the signage simply states The Spaniards' rather than the Spaniards' Hotel.

Hampstead Heath : Advertisement for the Spaniards' Hotel that appeared on Page 8 in the "The American Register" published on Sunday November 26th, 1905
Advertisement from Page 8 in "The American Register" published on Sunday November 26th, 1905.

It would appear that the Greer's kept up the Dick Turpin legend at the Spaniards'. They even added a bit of age to the building, suggesting it dated back to the late 15th century or early 16th century! There was seemingly no limit to the creative embellishment to lure gullible tourists into the building. One newspaper report stated that : "some grim relics of Dick Turpin are to be seen just now at The Spaniards', Hampstead Heath. One is the sword with which the highwayman killed his last victim. "Observe," the label says, "the bloodstains on the blade." There is also a piece of the tree on which Turpin is said to have hanged Joe Webster." ²⁵

Evidently, even thieves regarded the memorabilia on display inside the Spaniards' as junk. There was a burglary in July 1909 when robbers effected an entry one Thursday night by cutting a hole in a pane of glass on the garden side of the bar parlour and then lifting the catch. From the bar parlour the thieves forced the door leading to the bar. Some empty whisky bottles found in the bar showed that the intruders had helped themselves pretty freely, and they must have gone away otherwise heavily laden, for amongst other articles missed were fifteen bottles of whisky, one each of brandy and port wine, two boxes of cigars, and a quantity of loose ones. The change known to have been in the tills was also taken. The thieves left by the back door, which was found open. The thieves left the Dick Turpin exhibits untouched.²⁶

London : The Spaniards' at Hampstead Heath [c.1910]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

The 1911 census shows that only two women were hired as live-inn servants - Alice Woolston as cook, and Grace Smith as barmaid, again indicating perhaps a lower level of trade. There were no occupants of the rooms, suggesting that accommodation was no longer offered at the house. Herbert Greer fell ill after the First World War and died, aged 51, at the end of June 1919. Once again, the pub was left to a widow to run.

The myth of Dick Turpin was perpetuated in the Edwardian period by the actor and quick-change artist, Richard Arthur Roberts, who took a production of the highwayman's links to the Spaniards's Inn around UK theatres. There was no such sentiment at the Spaniards's in January 1934 when the building in which it was claimed that Turpin stabled his trusty steed, Black Bess, was demolished. Perhaps the brewery felt that the economic gain of tourism had been exhausted and it was no longer an asset.²⁷

In the following year, on June 27th, 1935, two young speedway riders, Arthur Atkinson and Rol Stobart, rather than choosing the Epping Forest, set out from the site of the old stable in a bid to break a record - Dick Turpin's record ride to York. The event was apparentely to settle an argument as to which of the two was the better horseman. Before they set off, they were served ham and eggs for breakfast, the publican assuring them this was what Turpin munched on before his legendary ride! ²⁸ In the end, the riders did not reach Peterborough. The horse ridden by Arthur Atkinson picked up a stone and developed lameness so he decided at once to retire, having covered 80 miles. Rol Stobart, who was half-a-mile behind, came up and sportingly refused to carry on. And that is where the adventure finished.²⁹

The licensee serving breakfast to the two speedway riders was Charles Spencer who, together with his wife Florence, had been mine hosts since the mid-1920s. The couple had earlier been grocers and provision dealers at Romford. Their daughter Muriel worked as a barmaid. The Spencer family were still running the place in the early 1950s.

London : The Spaniards' at Hampstead Heath [c.1947]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

Licensees of the Spaniards' Inn

1826 - John Norbury
1834 - Thomas Ayres
1839 - John Chapman
1861 - Philip Hinds Connell
1862 - 1867 Caroline Ann Connell
1867 - 1868 Thomas Bishop Southgate
1868 - 1869 Charles Everard
1869 - Thomas Clegg
1877 - John Rawlings White
1878 - Jane Rawlings White
1880 - William James Hudson
1893 - Jane Hudson
1894 - 1898 Sarah Elizabeth Rawlings White
1898 - Sarah Elizabeth Rawlings Greer
1924 - Alfred Dooley
1924 - Frederick Samuel Williams
1926 - Charles Edward Spencer
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub. The dates of early licensees are sourced from trade directories, census data, electoral rolls, rate books and newspaper articles. Names taken from trade directories may be slightly inaccurate as there is some slippage from publication dates and the actual movement of people.

Advertisement for Concord Port at the Spaniards' Inn at Hampstead Heath [1922]

I guess I ought to report on my visit to the Spaniards' Inn during May 2024. I am not sure why it took me so long to call into this old pub. Too busy visiting other old pubs I guess. Anyway, we had said for years that we should visit Highgate Cemetery and we finally got our act together in 2024 and booked some accommodation at trendy Belsize Park for a couple of nights.

We had a plan, cooked up over a coffee. We could put a dent in our cash by purchasing some salad boxes at Kavanagh's on Haverstock Hill. This is a mouth-watering emporium in which a weekly shop would break the bank for the vast majority of the nation. The price labels are no doubt modest for the trendy set of Belsize Park. We bumped into Adrian Dunbar on the steps of the former town hall. We did not wreck his afternoon by asking for a selfie though it was tempting to walk up to him and utter "Fuck off with the Ian Buckells shit, you were fucking H, you bent copper."

Line Of Duty : Ian Buckles Shit

Armed with our boxes, we headed towards Hampstead Heath. The wild garden at Saint Stephen's Church was enjoyable. Unfortunately, the church was closed. Incredibly, it was almost demolished to create a car park but was saved and converted into an events space. Check out online photographs of the interior for it is a beautiful place designed by Samuel Sanders Teulon, the high priest of Gothic design.

It is almost impossible to walk any distance in London without seeing at least half a dozen blue plaques. Sometimes you simply lose count. However, we purposely headed towards Parliament Hill to check out the oval plaque for George Orwell unveiled by the former leader of the Labour Party, Michael Foot. Actually, Eric Arthur Blair only lived at No.77 for six months, during which time he worked in a nearby second-hand bookshop whilst penning "Keep The Aspidistra Flying."

Billed as the best possible view of the London skyline, we lingered at Parliament Hill. I am a bit of a tree hugger so would not wish to see the loppers being deployed. However, the vantage point is somewhat obscured by the mature trees on the slopes. Having said that, the London skyline is not so wonderful these days. When looking across to St. Paul's, the view is dominated by The Shard. The most visible clusterfuck is that of Canary Wharf. Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby would struggle to pick out the Houses of Parliament these days. Legend has it that the pair planned to view the destruction of the older house in 1605 from this hill.

From Parliament Hill we wandered to the bathing ponds where we tucked into our salad boxes watching the evening joggers plodding along the paths. No pigeons, but a brave crow hung around hopeful of scraps. The soundscape, however, is dominated by the parakeets thought to be descendants of the pair released by Jimi Hendrix in swinging Carnaby Street. So the story goes at any rate.

There are countless pages devoted to the aforementioned Kenwood House, the 17th-century country residence of the Earls of Mansfield, so I won't waffle on here too much. However, there is a good paragraph related to this place written by Ivor Brown in 1960. He remarked that : "Since it was two Scots, Adam and Murray, who created Ken Wood and an Irishman who passed it on to the public, London should here, as for many other things, be thankful to its immigrants." ³⁰

London : Spaniards' Inn and Toll House at Hampstead Heath [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 14th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

We emerged close to the Spaniards' Inn and Toll House, the latter bearing a plaque stating that "the eighteenth century building was used to collect tolls from those passing through the western entrance to the estates of the Bishop's of London." Due to the building's proximity to the Spaniards' Inn, there is a constant bottleneck of traffic, one half waiting in a queue whilst a few others dart through quickly. A zebra crossing is some distance away so it is a nightmare trying to cross the road to the pub. And then there is the noise of the traffic, the complete antithesis to the scene when, allegedly, Keats penned his "Ode to a Nightingale" in 1819. It was a different kind of traffic in 1901 when Finchley District Council conducted a census of persons and vehicles passing near the Spaniards' Inn. Between six in the morning of one Saturday, to 6 o'clock on the morning of the following Tuesday, 2,811 bicycles rolled past the pub, along with 73 prams, 1,063 horse-drawn vehicles and 10,597 pedestrians. Oh, and a few sheep and cattle. Only 22 motors trundled through the narrow gap. On the evening we visited it was all cars and not a bicycle to be seen. We were the only pedestrians. The toll house has been under threat on many occasions but has been saved by various local campaign groups. Although it was still hell to cross the road, the toll house is arguably the best traffic-calming measure on London's busy roads.

London : Sham Pump Clips at the Spaniards' Inn at Hampstead Heath [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 14th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

For some odd reason a notice instructs patrons not to use the front door and to walk around to the side entrance. Stepping through the porch, one can read some of the historical nonsense outlined above. Aside from the historical nature of the building, we checked beforehand that we would be able to drink something palatable. So we logged onto What Pub?, the CAMRA online pub guide, which stated that the Spaniards' Inn serves 2 regular beers, Fuller's London Pride and Timothy Taylor Landlord. The guide also states that the pub has two changing beers, sometimes a brew from Dark Star or Titanic. So, things were looking promising. We also checked the official website of the pub which highlight ELEVEN craft beers, including Brixton Reliance, North Lost Cosmonauts and Signal Turbo Joost. As a result we were looking forward to enjoying a few drinks in this famous old tavern. Wandering up to the servery we were greeted by the above sight.

London : Beer On Tap Policy at the Spaniards' Inn at Hampstead Heath [2024]

I am including this extract of the pub's menu here so readers can see the beer on tap policy of the Spaniards' Inn, or at least the policy of the operators, Mitchell's & Butler's PLC [I will reinsert the missing apostrophes for them]. If it is too small to read, it states : "We pride ourselves on having an ever-changing range of draught beers available on our bar for you to enjoy." I point this out because when I ordered two glasses of draught beer the young woman behind the servery casually remarked "we don't have any of those for sale." I questioned why the pump clips were on display and not turned around to indicate non-availability. She ignored me and turned to a woman who was returning her glass of Peroni as it was off. Indeed, it did look completely dead to me. Rather than apologising to the customer and offering something different, the woman behind the servery held it up to the light and said she would have to consult the manager, but in a rather churlish manner. How does a pub fuck up a Peroni anyway? I jumped in with my enquiry why there was no draught beer, the curmudgeonly worker remarking they had none in the cellar and were waiting for a delivery. Well, I know a little about logistics, and also cellar management, and there is absolutely NO EXCUSE for allowing a cellar to run dry of every drop of ale. It is nothing short of a disgrace and the manner in which they brushed it off was deplorable.

London : Dining Room at the Spaniards' Inn at Hampstead Heath [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 14th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

There were some punters in the garden but, despite the pub being almost empty, we could not sit where we liked inside the Spaniards' Inn as much of the interior is devoted to dining. Many of the tables were fully laid out. A nice-looking small room at the front was also unavailable as a reserved sign was placed on the table. Indeed, the What Pub? site states that "Drinkers may be relegated to the heated garden if tables inside are booked for food." We did find somewhere to park in an empty room at the rear. The lack of patronage resulted in a pub devoid of atmosphere. The old character has been stripped out in order to maximise the food takings. The frames on the wall did not convey the old legends associated with this tavern, many being generic prints. Although I have been critical of the exhibits once displayed in the Spaniards', I would rather have some of the old tat than bare spaces. On the plus side there was a nice watercolour in this room [see below] but the name is not visible so I cannot provide a full credit. I could make out Peter ...

Watercolour of the Spaniards' Inn at Hampstead Heath

Before you think it is just us that had a bad experience here, there are pages of one-star reviews for this place on Trip Advisor, many complaining about the terrible service and rude staff. Plenty state that the food is disgusting and overpriced. Oh, and the dirty toilets. Some people wanted to leave zero stars but the site does not allow for that. It is all very sad for this should be a highlight of the London pub scene. We supped up the tasteless keg beer and departed. I was so disappointed that the reputation of the Spaniards' Inn has been allowed to sink so low.

Genealogy Connections

Click here to share your story or memories OR to send a genealogy query

Related Newspaper Articles

"Monday was appointed for the decision of the match between Goodwin and Barry, to run 500 yards, for 30/. a-side. The ground chosen was between Jack Straw's Castle, on Hampstead Heath, and the Spaniards', near to Caen Wood. Goodwin, who is a snip, has been celebrated as a runner of a short distance, and has beaten Defoe and others. Barry is a novice, introduced to the sporting world by Jack Randall, and said to be best at a long distance. In a recent match with the Chicken-butcher, for 200 yards, he was beaten. On the present occasion Goodwin was the favourite, although he admitted himself that he had been taken by surprise, and that the match had been made without his knowledge. The parties arrived on Hampstead Heath soon after four, and the ground was immediately measured. An umpire was mutually chosen between the backers, and that gentleman, on accepting the office, protested against anything like jostling or unfair collusion - a protest which was acceded to on all sides. The start took place from that end of the road next to Jack Straw's Castle, and the men ran with great fairness to within about twelve yards of the goal. Up to this point Goodwin had the lead in a trifling degree, but it was then perceptible that Barry was getting a-head. In fact, he actually shot forward about a yard, and would have inevitably won, but that some person behind shoved Goodwin forward against him. The consequence of this was, that Barry fell, and Goodwin at the same moment fell over him. All was now confusion; the crowd pressed in, and Barry having been lifted up by the arm, ran in and passed the goal first. Goodwin was unable to get up in time to contest the point, and a great deal of clamour took place to know the decision of the umpire. The umpire declared on the spot that he had no hesitation in believing that Barry would have won the race but for the unfair manner in which he had been pushed down; nevertheless, as he had been assisted up, and had been, as it were, forced forward to the goal, the inclination of his opinion was that it was not a fair race, nor run according to the rules of running. He, however, declined giving a decided opinion till a future day, and until then the matter remains in doubt. The general feeling, however, is, that the match must be run again; and if so, care must be taken, by means of ropes, to prevent the interference of any person whatever with the competitors. Had this been the case in the present instance, we have no hesitation in saying that Barry would have won. The distance was evidently too long for Goodwin, who was much very much distressed, and who had had no training."
"Foot Race : Goodwin and Barry"
British Press : October 5th 1825 Page 3

"A duel look place on Thursday morning, in a field adjoining the Spaniards', Hampstead Heath, between Colonel Harro Harring, a native of Denmark, and another gentleman whose name has been kept secret. The Colonel arrived in England about six months since, having been expelled from Switzerland at the request of Russia, in whose Life Guards he had served. The two gentlemen, attended by seconds, and having been placed ten paces distance, discharged their pistols at the same instant, when the Colonel received the ball of his antagonist in the abdomen. He was instantly removed to the North London Hospital, but his wound is not considered dangerous. It was stated that the quarrel originated in gaming-house, but this is officially contradicted."
"Duel"
County Chronicle, Surrey Herald and Weekly Advertiser for Kent : May 16th 1837 Page 4

"Between seven and eight o'clock on Sunday evening, the neighbourhood of Hampstead was much alarmed in consequence of a report that Hampstead Heath had been set on fire. The furze at the rear of the Spaniards' Tavern, and facing the Earl of Mansfield's, was in flames to the extent of between thirty and forty yards, and it was with considerable difficulty that it was extinguished. Notwithstanding the exertions of the police, the incendiaries have not been traced."
"Firing Of Hampstead Heath"
Tablet : June 15th 1844 Page 11

"Eugene M'Carthey and Cornelius Connor, costermongers, were charged with uttering a counterfeit coin at the Spaniards' Tavern, Hampstead. William Rudd, waiter at the Spaniards', stated that about three o'clock on Saturday afternoon, the prisoner M'Carthey came in front of the bar, and asked for a pint of porter. The other prisoner was in his company. He drew a pint when he [M'Carthey] handed witness a shilling, which he laid upon the bar. John Chapman, his [witness's] employer, took up the shilling, which he instantly saw was a counterfeit. M'Carthey denied that it was, when his companion, Connor, observed that he could pay for the beer. Mr. Chapman remarked that he should not have it back, and he directed witness to go for a policeman. The prisoners, upon hearing that, ran away. Witness then went to the station-house, and gave information to the police. The evidence of Sergeant Kell, S34, and two other constables of the division was then taken, from which it appeared that they went in pursuit of the prisoners, who were overtaken near Highgate. Upon approaching the prisoners Kell saw M'Carthey take a shilling out of his pocket, which he put in his mouth and swallowed, before the sergeant could prevent him. Connor was subsequently searched, upon whom 3s. 4d. in silver, and 2s. 8d. in copper, were found in his pockets. searching M'Carthey another counterfeit shilling was taken from the pocket from which he pulled out the shilling he swallowed. The Chairman told the prisoners that he should commit them, when Connor asked for the money that had been taken from him by the police. Inspector Barker observed that the money would be evidence against the prisoners, showing that they could have paid for the beer without tendering the base coin. The depositions were then taken against the prisoners for their committal."
"Highgate Petty Sessions"
Morning Advertiser : October 8th 1850 Page 4

"The 4th Middlesex [Islington] Rifle Volunteers, accompanied by the 7th [Islington], under the command of the Right Hon. Lord Truro, assembled on Saturday afternoon, at the parade-ground of the former, and marched to Hampstead, headed by a detachment the Metropolitan Hussars, and their respective bands. They proceeded along Islington, Holloway Road, and through Highgate, to the Spaniards', on Hampstead Heath, where, after a "fall out" for refreshment, they were formed into two companies, and commenced skirmishing, which lasted for about two hours, and performed in a thorough soldierly manner. The firing was remarkably good. A great number of persons were present. The inhabitants of Islington cannot give too much praise to Lord Truro for the zeal and attention he had given in bringing the 4th Middlesex to its present state of efficiency."
"The 4th Middlesex [Islington] Rifle Volunteers"
Morning Advertiser : June 25th 1861 Page 4

"Two young men named George Briggs and John Martin were finally examined, charged with having garrotted and robbed Mr. James Butler, of Chapel Place, Cavendish Square, of a watch and other articles, his property, at Belsize Lane, Hampstead, on the night of the 7th instant. The prosecutor had spent some, hours at the Spaniards' Tavern on Monday, the 7th instant, at Hampstead, and had visited several other houses, and fell in with the prisoners, The last house was the Belsize Tavern, and soon afterwards he was garrotted and robbed, He was rendered insensible, and still felt the pain in his back by a knee being forced against him; his dog's collar had been taken, and when he recovered his senses his dog was licking his face. Several witnesses were examined in order to trace the prisoners. The prosecutor's watch was pledged the day after the robbery, and Briggs was believed to be the person who pledged it. The prosecutor was the worse for liquor on the occasion. On the night of the robbery the prisoner Briggs met a girl at Hampstead, and showed her a collar, which he said was the champion's belt, and that he had been to Nat Langham's public-house. The witnesses spoke to having seen the gentleman with the prisoners. After the last remand the prisoner admitted to his father, in the presence of Mr. Inspector Ayliffe, that he had taken the dog's collar and stamped it to pieces. Briggs said today before the magistrates [Mr. Marshall and Mr. Prance] that he was only guilty of having the dog's collar. Martin said he was not guilty. Both prisoners were committed for trial at the Central Criminal Court."
"Committal For A Desperate Garrotte Robbery At Belsize Park"
London Morning Herald : May 31st 1866 Page 8

"On Saturday a curious accident happened to a single-horse open carriage belonging to Mr. Baker, of the Avenue, Brondesbury. The carriage, containing Mr. Baker and two ladies, was being driven by the coachman, George Grover, along the Sandy Road on Hampstead Heath near the Spaniards' Hotel, when it swerved and slipped down embankment. The carriage collided with a tree, and the coachman was thrown from the box. He sustained a fracture of the left leg and was considerably bruised. He was removed to the Hampstead Hospital, where his injuries were attended to by Dr. Collingwood Andrews. The shafts of the carriage and the footboard were broken, but the occupants escaped uninjured."
"Firing Of Hampstead Heath"
Hampstead & Highgate Express : June 19th 1897 Page 6

"On Tuesday morning, as Miss Fuller, of Watersville Road, Hornsey Rise, was riding a bicycle along the Spaniards' Road in company with another lady, whose hand she held, the bicycle slipped and she fell to the ground with the bicycle upon her. Mrs. Cook, wife of Dr. A. H. Cook, who was passing in her carriage at the time, conveyed the injured lady to the Hampstead Workhouse Infirmary, where it was found that her left arm was badly fractured. Dr. Cook dressed her injuries, and she was afterwards removed to her home."
"Bicycle Accident"
Hampstead & Highgate Express : July 3rd 1897 Page 7

"A collision occurred in the narrow road outside the Spaniards' Hotel, Hampstead Heath, on Saturday afternoon between a single-horsed van and a motor-car. One side of the car was completely smashed, and the occupant, Mrs. E. Peronet Sells, of Sarnesfield, Highgate, was thrown out and seriously injured. She was carried into the hotel, where she received every attention from the landlord and his wife. Later some of the lady's friends arrived and conveyed her home in a brougham, and she was placed under medical care. The road at this spot is dengerously narrow."
"Motor Smash At Hampstead"
Finchley Press : November 12th 1909 Page 5


References
1. "The Spaniard's Inn, Spaniard's Road NW3" within Historic England <https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1064863?section=official-list-entry>, Accessed May 23rd, 2024.
2. Barlow, Derek [2004] "Turpin, Richard [Dick] [bapt. 1705, d. 1739]" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
3. Radford, Peter [2001] "The Celebrated Captain Barclay : Sport, Money and Fame In Regency Britain" Headline Book Publishing Limited.
4. "Died" : London Packet and New Lloyd's Evening Post; January 27th, 1826. p.1.
5. "Duel Prevented" : The Champion; March 19th, 1837. p.26.
6. "Assault On Mr. Fraser - Duel" : True Sun; August 6th, 1836. p.3.
7. 1851 England Census HO 107/1701 : Middlesex > Finchley > Holy Trinity > District 2e, Page 45.
8. "Brutalities On Hampstead Heath" : London Daily News; August 24th, 1854. p.2.
9. 1861 England Census RG 9/344 : Surrey > Newington St. Mary > St. Paul > District 1, Page 20.
10. "Died" : The Globe; December 20th, 1866. p.4.
11. "1851 Post Office Directory of Surrey" : W. Kelly & Co.; 1851. p.618.
12. "Prisoners" : Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette; January 6th, 1866. p.2.
13. "Transfer Of Licenses" : London Daily Chronicle; January 28th, 1867. p.2.
14. "Hampstead" : North Londoner; July 10th, 1869. p.4.
15. "Hampstead Heath On Whit Monday" : Illustrated London News; May 25th, 1872. p.13.
16. "Tom Clegg's Estate" : The Morning Leader; May 17th, 1911. p.3.
17. 1861 England Census RG 10/2591 : Gloucestershire > Wootton-under-Edge > Wootton-under-Edge > District 5, Page 7.
18. "Marriages" : Standard Of Freedom; March 17th, 1849. p.16.
19. "Marriages" : The Nonconformist; August 14th, 1872. p.19.
20. 1881 England Census RG 11/1371 Folio 124 : Middlesex > Barnet > Finchley > District 4, Page 35.
21. "Furious Riding And Alleged Cruelty On Hampstead Heath" : Hampstead & Highgate Express; January 8th, 1887. p.6.
22. "Scientific Notes : Thunder And Thunderstorms" : Buckinghamshire Examiner; August 21st, 1889. p.3.
23. "Hampstead Heath" : Oxfordshire Weekly News; May 29th, 1895. p.5.
24. "Bank Holiday On The Heath" : Hampstead & Highgate Express; April 11th, 1896. p.3.
25. "No Title" : Exeter and Plymouth Gazette; April 4th, 1904. p.4.
26. "Burglary" : Finchley Press; July 23rd, 1909. p.8.
27. "Black Bess's Stable" : Sunday Mirror; January 7th, 1934. p.9.
28. "Speedway Riders After Highwayman's Record" : Hull Daily Mail; June 27th, 1935. p.10.
29. "London To York Ride" : Peterborough Standard; July 5th, 1935. p.21.
30. Brown, Ivor [1960] "London" London : Newnes; p.147.


Click here for information on Charrington & Co. Ltd. of London and Burton-on-Trent

Click here for information on Charrington & Co. Ltd. of London and Burton-on-Trent

Click or tap here for more information

Click here to visit the W3C Markup Validation Service