Explore the Rich History of Westminster’s Pubs
Westminster has been home to the drinking holes of Prime Ministers, MPs and famous faces throughout the ages. From political gossips to smugglers and highwaymen, where can you find glimpses into this iconic location’s past?
Deep in the depths of London’s political history lies the Blue Boar pub. Minutes away from the site of many of Emmeline Pankhurst’s protests and the home to its very own House of Commons Division Bell, it is now a well-loved local contemporary pub, boasting a luxury menu from Chef Sally Abé. Reflecting the best of traditional British Pub dining, the establishment is still strongly rooted in Westminster’s pub history.
HOUSE OF COMMONS DIVISION BELL
There were once as many as four hundred Division Bells in the pubs and restaurants of Westminster, summoning MPs back to parliament to vote, but unfortunately there are now only a handful left. The Blue Boar is one such Division Bell pub, with its own House of Commons Division Bell. Only certified establishments in the immediate neighbourhood from the Houses of Parliament have a division bell. The bell will sound to alert members of the House of Commons that the Speaker has cleared the chamber for a division and there are eight minutes to return to parliament to vote.
The Serjeant at Arms gave special permission for Blue Boar Bar to feature a Division Bell at the request of a group of sitting MPs, and you can still see it for yourself now at the establishment.
A JOURNEY THROUGH QUEEN ANNE’S CHAMBER
The historic Queen Anne’s Chambers was originally available to rent for those who needed to be near the seat of power, and it became a war-time location for lobbyists and civil servants whose industries were to be seriously impacted by the onset of war and goods rationing. One of the earliest tenants of note was The Brewers’ Society, who between 1909 and 1917 took premises in Queen Anne’s Chambers to engage government with its growing concern over the output of beer and imposed limits on the use of sugar in brewing at a time of rationing. This was one of the reasons the Blue Boar Bar was chosen for this location within the hotel. In later years, the Treasury Solicitor was based at Queen Anne’s Chambers.
STELLA LADY READING’S BLUE PLAQUE
The London Blue Plaque scheme was started in 1866 and is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the world. The famous blue plaques link the people of the past with the buildings of the present. One such plaque commemorating Stella Lady Reading (1894-1971) is placed just above the entrance to Blue Boar Bar on Tothill Street. Lady Reading was honoured on Tuesday 4 July 2017 to celebrate her role as founder of the Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS and now known as the Royal Voluntary Service) whose headquarters were located where the plaque sits.
The event was attended by the ambassador to the Royal Voluntary Services, Dame Patricia Routledge as the WVS provided much-needed aid in the UK during the Second World War. The organisation set up by Reading was so successful that by the end of August 1939, over 300,000 women and more than 1,200 WVS centres had joined the organization.