“Where’s the oldest pub in London?”

A text message from a friend. The query sounds simple enough but the truth is anything but clear unless the pedant’s answer, “London” is enough for you.

Google the phrase and the very first page turns up six candidates (The Old Cheshire Cheese; the Anchor Bankside; the Cittie of York; The Old Cock (Fleet St); The Lamb and Flag (Covent Garden); the Prospect of Whitby. Others suggested by various tourists dumb enough to be taken in and to diarise their credulity include the Old Mitre, the Old Shades, the Dove, the George and the Salisbury.

I suspect the answer is that we don’t really know, or that it depends on which measure you use’ oldest building, longest standing pub on the site, longest-standing continuous license, blah blah blah). The question has already begun to bore me so I can only imagine it will do the same to you. I write this to point you in the direction of a compendium of great stuff: The Pub In Literature. The site was set up to complement The Pub In Literature: England’s Altered State (a book I’ll get my hands on soon, I hope) but the site’s a goldmine for pub-related factlets for those of us who prefer to imagine the substance of a story and who like our information factoidal.

We’re told that according to Popham (The Taverns of London Topographically Arranged, Second Edition,1928, another for the wish list) the oldest pub in London is a house by the name of the Lord Raglan in Aldersgate Street, re-built in the 1850s. Can this be The Raglan, St. Martins-Le-Grand (which is a continuation of Aldersgate St)? It seems a fairly unprepossessing pub to claim the title, but I’m prepared to believe, if only because it makes Fancyapint’s comment that there’s little more to say about this place look foolish.

A much more interesting question: which is the most famous pub in the world?