The Ship & Shovel Pub, London

Great London Pubs – the Sherlock Holmes and Ship & Shovell


The Sherlock Holmes pub is conveniently located not far from the National Gallery, the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square. It’s on Northumberland Street, just off the main drag.  If you’re looking for a cooling pint after your touristic endeavours, it’s an atmospheric place to relax. It’s recreated Sherlock Holmes’s digs in 221B Baker Street – though I do wonder why this was done here, and not anywhere nearer to Baker Street itself!

It serves real ale – Greene King Abbot Ale, for instance, or Speckled Hen. (Don’t be fooled by the Sherlock Holmes ale – a bit of detective work shows that it’s rebadged Morlands, apparently.)

The Sherlock Holmes Pub, London

However, if the rather touristy feel of Sherlock Holmes puts you off, just take a little walk up to the Strand, where the Ship & Shovell in Craven Passage has a ramshackle charm. And serves beers you won’t find everywhere – Badger beer, to be precise, including the famed Tanglefoot.

Even better, you have a choice of two tiny bars, one on each side of the alleyway. One is snug, with wooden benches and fine mirrors, and the other is even snugger – practically just a bar with a tiny allotment of space for you to stand in. Difficult to choose between the two. I suppose if you wanted to be entirely free of bias, you could always drink in the alleyway itself…

Now, there’s a little bit of history here because you’ll probably have noticed the odd spelling of Shovell. That’s because it doesn’t refer to a digging implement, but to Sir Cloudesley Shovell – the admiral who got his fleet lost in the English Channel. Having refused to listen to a sailor who was a rather better navigator than he was, the admiral ended his life on the rocks of the Isles of Scilly. It’s said that he struggled ashore alive, but a local woman killed him and cut off his finger in order to get at his expensive ring.

All in all, just as interesting a story as anything in the casebook of Sherlock Holmes!

Photo courtesy of Ewan Munro.

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