Last night we went to see Handel’s Jephtha at Covent Garden. On the way, we stopped for a drink at the Hercules Pillars.
On August 7th 1718, Sir John Vanbrugh wrote to the Duke of Newcastle:
I am to acquaint you, That the Tate a Tate Club reviv’d last night, at the Hercules Pillars Alehouse, in high Holborn. There was Stinking fish, and Stale cold Lamb for Supper with divers Liquours made of Malt in an execrable Manner. We drank Your Graces health in them however (Bumpers) to shew (to one an another) our great regards and respects to you.
The pub is not an 18th-century building but is probably on the site of the one Vanbrugh mentions. Needless to say, there was no stinking fish and we didn’t drink too many bumpers because I wanted to be conscious for Allan Clayton’s performance. It’s a great pub, though, and I’ll certainly be back.
Source: The Complete Works of Sir John Vanbrugh, vol. 4 (letters), ed., Geoffrey Webb (Bloomsbury: The Nonesuch Press, 1928), p. 100.