Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is an old public house in the City of London, England, located at 145 Fleet Street, on Wine Office Court.


Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of a number of pubs in London to have been rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. There has been a pub at this location since 1538. While there are several older pubs which have survived because they were beyond the reach of the fire, or like The Tipperary on the opposite side of Fleet Street because they were made of stone, this pub continues to attract interest due to the curious lack of natural lighting inside which generates its own gloomy charm.

Some of the interior wood panelling is nineteenth century, some older, perhaps original. The vaulted cellars are thought to belong to a 13th century Carmelite Monastery which once occupied the site. The entrance to this London pub is situated in a narrow alleyway and is very unassuming, yet once inside visitors will realise that the pub occupies a lot of floor space and has numerous bars and gloomy rooms. In winter, an open fireplace is used to keep the interior warm.

In the bar room are posted plaques showing famous people who were regulars. The pub is also the place where the FDC, a society formed by pupils of Culford School, a public school in Suffolk, first met in the 1930s. This society is a closed group, open only to male prefects who are invited and initiated.

The pub was the original meeting place of The '07 Club, founded in 1907 by officers of the London County Council. Despite the abolition of the Council, and of its successor, the Greater London Council, the Club continues in existence, and celebrated its centenary there with an enthusiastically-attended luncheon on 19 April 2007 when a message of best wishes from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was received.

The pub is currently operated by and tied to the Samuel Smith Brewery.

Literary associations

There are several famous literary figures associated with the place: Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton as well as Dr. Samuel Johnson are all said to have been 'regulars'. However, there is no recorded evidence that Dr Johnson ever visited the pub, only that he lived close by, at 17 Gough Square. At The Johnson Club supper, December 13 1892, 'an eloquent gentleman, present, an Irish Ex MP, pointed out that when Dr Johnson acted on his famous suggestion "let us take a walk down Fleet Street" the Cheshire Cheese must of necessity have been included among his places of call.'

Charles Dickens had been known to use the establishment frequently, and due to the pub's gloomy charm it is easy to imagine that Dickens modelled some of his darker characters there. The Cheshire Cheese Pub is famously alluded to in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities: following Charles Darnay’s acquittal on charges of high treason, Sydney Carton invites him to dine, "drawing his arm through his own" Sydney leads him to Fleet Street "up a covered way, into a tavern … where Charles Darnay was soon recruiting his strength with a good plain dinner and good wine".

The Rhymers' Club was a group of London-based poets, founded in 1890 by W. B. Yeats and Ernest Rhys. Originally not much more than a dining club, it produced anthologies of poetry in 1892 and 1894. They met at the London pub ‘Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese’ in Fleet Street and in the 'Domino Room' of the Café Royal.

According to the Betty Crocker cookbook, both Dickens and Ben Jonson dined on Welsh rarebit at this pub, despite the fact that the latter died almost a century before the dish is first known to have existed.

Boris Pilnyak, a prominent Soviet writer, visited this pub during his stay in London in 1923. He later wrote a story entitled "Staryi syr," ("old cheese" in Russian) a part of which takes place in the Cheshire Cheese Pub. There is a chapter devoted to the Cheshire Cheese and the 'companions of the Cheese' (W.B Yeats' poem 'The Grey Rock'1914) in 'That Irishman: The Life and Times of John O'Connor Power' by Jane Stanford.

A 1680 broadside ballad called A New Ballad of the Midwives Ghost tells a fantastical story of how a midwife haunted the house where she died until she was able to induce the new residents there to dig up the bones of some bastard children she had made away with and buried there. The final lines of the ballad insist upon the veracity of the tale and even that the children's bones may be seen for proof displayed at the Cheshire Cheese.