History of The Punch Tavern, Fleet Street
The first recorded appearance of Mr Punch in England was in 16 May 1662. The core dramatis personae of any given Punch and Judy show remained unchanged since their debut with additional characters coming in and out of fashion to suit contemporary satire and political climates over the years.
Punch, the satirical magazine, was founded in 1841 at the Edinburgh Castle Tavern on the Strand, just up the road from where you are sitting. However as the entire magazine’s staff began to meet at this pub, the proprietor changed its name from the Crown and Sugar Loaf to the Punch Tavern.
Although there has been a pub on this site since the 17th century (mentioned in Samuel Pepys diaries), it was re-fitted as a Gin Palace by the famously big spending Baker Brothers (they also owned the Tottenham on Oxford St which was done at the same time) in 1893-97. It was finished at the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, when she drove past on her way to St Paul’s
A gin palace is an English name originally for a lavish bar selling gin, later transferred by association to late Victorian pubs designed in a similar style. In the 18th century, gin shops or 'dram shops' were just small shops (often originally chemist's shops as gin originally had medicinal associations) that sold gin mostly to take away, or to drink standing up. As the legislation changed establishments generally became larger; they also had to be licensed to sell ale or wine. In the late 1820s the first 'Gin Palaces' were built, They were based on the new fashionable shops being built at the time, fitted out at great expense and lit by gas lights. They were thought to be vulgar at the time, although hugely popular. Charles Dickens described them as "perfectly dazzling when contrasted with the darkness and dirt we have just left”.
The design hugely influenced all aspects of the design of later Victorian pubs, even after gin had declined in importance as a drink; the bar in pubs is based on the shop counter of the gin palace, designed for swift service and ideal for attaching beer pumps; the ornate mirrors and etched glass of the late 19th century. The term has survived for any pub in the late 19th century style; as this was the peak of pub building in Britain the style has become associated with the pub, and few of the original gin palaces survive. We are very please with the resurgence of gin as a drink and have gone back to our roots so we currently sell over 40 gins. GIN IS IN
This is a well preserved example of the late 19th century style. The extravagance starts with the glazed tiled entrance and continues inside with a barrel vaulted skylight, 10 6ft etched mirrors, banquette seating (you can tell that they are original as in those days we use to be 5ft tall), a marble bar, dark oak panelling, ornate fireplace and a series of original Punch & Judy themed paintings all painted in 1897(both in the entrance and in the back room)
All of these original features remain today (they survived the war) and the pub is a Grade II listed building.