Spaniard’s Inn

Today’s miscellany is a swindle… because the Spaniard’s Inn is not actually anywhere near the Mediterranean! The Spaniard’s Inn, in fact, is a pub in Hampstead Heath in London. Although, clearly, Spaniards are involved – which is my excuse for writing about it here. (That, and that it was passable weather today and I went to Hampstead Heath.)

Photo: Wikipedia.

Founded in 1585 as a tollgate inn, the Spaniard’s may have got its name from the fact that the Spanish Ambassador to King James’s court in the early 16th century liked to retreat here. Maybe. A more interesting legend has it that it was named for its Spanish landlords, the brothers Francisco and Juan Porero. The brothers who – very Spanish, this – fought a duel over a woman. Juan was killed and he’s been haunting the inn ever since…

…As has been the famous highwayman Dick Turpin who used the inn as his base in the 18th century (together with his equally famous horse, Black Bess, obviously). Really, when it comes to ghosts, the Spaniard’s is unbeatable. In addition to Juan Porero and Dick Turpin, it’s also haunted by an ‘unidentified woman in white’

Hampstead Heath with views over London

The Spaniard’s Inn is also famous for its literary connections: it’s mentioned by Bram Stoker in Dracula and by Dickens in The Pickwick Papers. John Keats supposedly wrote An Ode to a Nightingale here. But that’s not why the locals and the near-locals (meaning every- and anybody north of the Thames) come here.

It’s not like the beer or the food is that good. There’s nothing wrong with it but it’s hardly memorable and if you want a drink, especially on a sunny day, you’ll be waiting at the bar for a long time before you get served. No, people go there for the atmosphere. Low ceilings, wooden beams, dark wood panelling… ghosts. And a little room right by the entrance with comfortable armchairs just big enough to accommodate a family or a group of friends which is never unoccupied.


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