Work in progress.. suggestions/additions and corrections welcome
The George stands at the corner of Great Portland Street and Mortimer Street, W1. It was first recorded on site in 1677, however the existing building is Georgian (and Grade II listed).
Its nickname was 'The Gluepot' - given by Sir Henry Wood, who would rehearse BBC orchestras at the Queen's Hall (on the site now occupied by Henry Wood House and the St Georges Hotel). During breaks in rehearsals and concerts his musicians, particularly the brass section, made their way to this house to slake their thirsts. Some were late in returning to their musical duties, where they were severely reprimanded by the Maestro, accused of staying too long "in that bloody gluepot". However the Queen's Hall was huge, with audiences up to 3,000 strong using 17 entrances, and it's entirely possible that various bits of orchestras also used Riding House Street exits to reach the Yorkshire Grey (qv) in Langham Street. The Queen's Hall was gutted in an air-raid in 1941. There had been an afternoon performance of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius, and that night a single incendiary bomb put an end to an already weakened building.
Broadcasting House had opened in 1932. Around the Second World War, Hugh MacDiarmid, WH Auden, Robert Graves, Laurence Durrell and Muriel Spark (sometimes collectively referred to as BBC Bohemia) were customers of The George. In 1939, Humphrey Searle remembers meeting Constant Lambert, Louis MacNeice, Alan Rawsthorne, Dylan Thomas, W.R. Rodgers, Michael Ayrton and more there.
The Yorkshire Grey in Langham Street has a plaque just inside the back door (on Middleton Passage) which says it dates from 1822. A review setting up the East Marylebone Conservation Area, however, dates the current building at around 1860. In terms of "star" customers, we have Arthur Rimbaud, French poet and libertine, who stayed at Number 25 over the road; and may well have brought Paul Verlaine round for a snifter. Later, Ezra Pound lodged in the building just across Middleton Passage, as evidenced in this excellent piece by James Campbell: So it is that the two fiercest street-fighters of modern poetry, one French, the other American, shared the same London local. Though not of course, at the same time. Shapesoftime imagines they did in another little gem here. The appetite for drink of Dylan Thomas (and the occasional need to hide from BBC producers) brought him here as well as to The George.
Earlier this year (2016) a photo was hung in commemeration of Radio 4 Newsreader and pub regular Peter 'Don Pedro' Donaldson, again, just inside the Middleton passage door, opposite the bar.
Recent customers have included Sir Tom Jones, Barry Cryer, Alan Yentob, Suggs and Noddy Holder.
The Cock Tavern on Great Portland Street has re-opened in August 2015 after a spruce-up, and, if you're comfortable with the Sam Smith deal, it's worth a visit. The upstairs room could be useful for Christmas parties.
The first record of a publican on the site is from 1839, when the pub was just known as The Cock. The Cock Tavern first appears in records from 1882. The present building is the work of architects Bird and Walters, who built more than 70 pubs across the capital over 36 years from 1862, and altered many more. The Bird and Walters Cock emerged in 1897.
In April/May 1905 Lenin visited London for the meeting of Bolsheviks known as the 3rd Russian Social Democratic Labour Party Congress - venue/s still unknown - which he chaired. At the time, William Melville, formerly head of the Special Branch, was running a new intelligence department in the War Office, known as M03, later Mo5 (and MI5 in 1916). He used the services of a Special Branch detective Herbert Fitch to shadow Lenin and other delegates who were "holding covert meetings in pubs in Islington and Great Portland Street". Fitch never named the pubs, but a list typed by Melville in 1905 reads "The Duke of Sussex, 106 Islington High Street; the Cock Tavern, 27 Great Portland Street and The White Lion, 25 Islington High Street".
The Horse and Groom, further up at 128 Great Portland Street, is also part of the Sam Smith stable. A pub has been on the site since at least 1792.
In the late sixties, Ted Lewis, author of Jack's Return Home (now better known as Get Carter) was a regular.
performed there in September 1989 before they had a record deal, in the upstairs room. Former Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles named it as his favourite pub in 2000. The Kinks' Dave Davies was picked up by ambulance from the pub doorway in 2004 after suffering a stroke.