Did you know that there’s a quaint old corner of Cambridgeshire that’s tucked away in the heart of the City of London?
When you pass the security barrier and guard post into Ely Place from Charterhouse Street, no one will tell you that you’re technically no longer in London. However, it technically isn’t London! And what’s even better is that inside Ely Place, there is the quaintest little pub in all the City of London, Ye Olde Mitre.
Ye Olde Mitre, originally called The Mitre Tavern, was built for servants of Queen Elizabeth I. Then, in 1576 she commandeered a gatehouse and a portion of the Palace grounds for her court favourite Sir Christopher Hatton, and regularly came visiting. After stints as a prison and a Civil War hospital, the Palace reverted back to the Crown in Georgian times and was demolished. Then it was rebuilt as a pub with a cherry tree, preserved in the corner of the cosy panelled front bar.
According to the pub’s manager, the pub used to close at 10:00pm, unlike the rest of London, which closed at 11:00pm. It did this because when the gates of Ely Place shut at 10:00pm the pub should shut as well. However, that’s changed: Ye Olde Mitre is open from 11:00am to 11:00pm Monday to Friday – it’s closed on Saturday and Sunday. However, there are some things that haven’t changed: the remains of the cherry tree, the toy-size furniture in the crooked little front bar, the settles, the skylight and ‘Ye Closet’ micro-snug area in the back.
Even the street itself, Ely Place, remains more or less unchanged since then, and it is quite literally a law unto itself, not being a part of London. ‘Robbers run here from nearby Hatton Gardens,’ the pub manger recalls fondly. ‘They know the City police don’t have the right to follow them. The only thing the police can do is seal all the exits and call the Cambridgeshire force, then wait around ‘till they jump in their cars and get down here’.
I don’t’ know if the pub manager was pulling my leg or not. But for now, I’ll content myself by soaking in the history of the place and drinking a lovely pint at the quaintest pub in the City of London!