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The Landlord's Pulpit: The Lamb Pub, Bloomsbury

The Lamb is a Grade II listed pub at 94 Lamb's Conduit Street, built in the 1720s. The pub and street were named after William Lamb who repaired the ‘Holborn Conduit’ (later named Lamb’s Conduit in his honour in 1577).


14 October 2023

The Lamb is a quintessential Victorian Pub, situated in Lambs Conduit Street, close to Russell Square and Holborn tube stations. A popular meeting place for the Bloomsbury set, the group of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists whose members included Virginia Woolf and many more. They had modern attitudes to feminism, pacifism and sexuality.

On entering the pub with its splendid atmosphere and bar arrangement, the customer is taken with the elliptical shaped counter, and the etched glass screens atop the counter. The screens are called modesty or 'snob' screens, and when closed afforded privacy to customers who were perhaps with a young lady of the night.

My wife and I took over management at The Lamb in 1988 and had a successful tenure for ten years. The pub had a very strong and loyal set of regulars, and they took some convincing that my wife and I were a safe pair of hands. It was, and still is, a Youngs pub and served excellent real ale, and plenty of it.

Food business was miniscule, with perhaps a scotch egg or sandwich on offer at lunchtimes, and with the help and generosity of John Young, our Chairman, that was to change.

He agreed that food sales, the profits of which were ours to keep, would increase drink sales.

Youngs revamped an upstairs function room and business sales were increasing. Other areas were created providing more seating for food customers and drinkers, without losing the integrity and charm of the pub.

Rosemary, my wife, and I worked hard and reaped the benefits. We were proud of our time there and made hundreds of friends.

Many regulars were, or indeed would become, well known people. A particular favourite of mine was one Alex Boris Johnson. Alex worked at The Spectator magazine in Doughty Street, and once the magazine had gone to print on a Friday morning, Alex and his colleagues would come to The Lamb at lunchtime and often stay through the evening.

Alex was always charming and was particularly enjoyed by the Australian bar staff. It is even highly likely that one Keir Starmer of Doughty Street Chambers would have been an occasional customer.

Many of the regulars mixed with authors after book readings at local bookshops, the likes of JK Rowling, who achieved some moderate success!

Helen Sharman, the first British person to go into space, who described her experience as “out of this world”, I possibly should have seen that coming!

Other regulars included Kingsley and Martin Amis, whose lunchtime meetings would often become very heated.

Nobel peace prize winner Seamus Heaney and his pal Matthew Sweeney, what a pair of gents they were, and what great fun it was to sit and enjoy a Guinness with those two.

George Melly and John Chilton and the foot warmers, who were annoyingly funny. Tony Hadley and his wife and kids were Sunday lunch regulars, and were always good fun.

Martin and Gary Kemp would meet here on Christmas day, before going off for lunch at a local hotel, plus many, many more, far too many to mention, and I miss them all.

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