London-based documentary and portrait photographer Horst A. Friedrichs this week releases a stunning new photography book titled Great Pubs of England.
Featuring exquisite photography of 33 of the country’s most notable pubs, with over 10 of the top picks being in London, this new book – with words by me – charts the history of England’s illustrious pub culture, delving into what makes pubs so inviting.
The spotlighted boozers include the likes of The Boleyn Tavern in Barking, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street, Mayfair’s The Guinea Grill, The Golden Heart in Spitalfields, Holborn’s Princess Louise, the eccentric The Blackfriar and Beavertown Corner Pin in Tottenham, amongst others. Here’s an exclusive extract of the entry on the timeless Dublin Castle.
“The Dublin Castle opened in 1856 to serve the Irish community of “navvies” who were building the nearby railway (the English, Welsh and Scots labourers all had their own venues, in an effort to prevent sectarian skirmishes). The pub’s music tradition grew out of its original patrons’ weekend ceilidhs; the Madness connection meant it ended up catering to the ska-punk contingent among Camden’s many musical tribes.
“It’s very difficult to get barred from here, but it can get quite interesting at times,” says landlord Henry Conlon. He recalls the night that a trench-coated couple came in, removed their outerwear to reveal their naked bodies, and clambered onto one of the bar tabletops to indulge in a short but energetic bout of congress (“everyone else just carried on drinking – I mean what else could you do?”).
Or the time when Amy Winehouse, who lived nearby and treated the pub as her local, was accosted at the jukebox by a somewhat inebriated man celebrating his stag party, and, irritated by his attentions, “smacked him in the chops.”
Or the time when thrash core band Cradle of Filth carried a coffin through the pub, out of which popped a topless woman who sprayed the audience with fake blood. On such occasions, says Conlon, his octogenarian mother Peggy, who still lives above the premises, has the perfect response: “She gets her holy water out and starts spraying the place, saying her Hail Marys.”
The Dublin Castle may be hallowed ground, in many senses, but it’s not resting on its laurels; Conlon points out that it’s now holding queer nights like Club Smiler and Sunday afternoon “ska dances” alongside the gigs. “We’re not everyone’s cup of tea,” he concedes. “But when the juke box is going, the vibe’s rocking, and the Guinness is flowing, it’s good times here.”
As Madness themselves said, apropos of ‘Our House’ but with equal relevance to the pub that remains their alma mater: “There’s always something happening, and it’s usually quite loud.”
Words: Stuart Husband. Main image: The Dublin Castle pub in Camden Town, London , England. © Horst A. Friedrichs / Great Pubs of England / Prestel Publishing