20 Images : 15. Saloon Bar Sign, The Black Friar, London
"If you only get the chance to visit one London pub", I would tell my London visitors forty years ago, "make it the Black Friar". It is certainly not the oldest pub in London by any stretch of the imagination: even in your wildest dreams you can't imagine Johnson and Boswell drinking a Campari and Soda there. It is not the best known - it is not on the main tourist trail and you will need to read the small print in the guide books before finding mention of it. Nor has it been held in reverence for centuries: the fact of the matter is that it was almost demolished in the 1960s and only survived after a spirited fight by a coalition of supporters that included pub-lovers, architectural historians and lovers of eccentricity of all sorts.
Situated within a yard of ale of Blackfriars Bridge, the pub was built in the early years of the twentieth century and decorated in the Art Nouveau style that was popular at the time. The theme for the internal - and to a certain extent the external - decoration is the old Dominican friary that stood on the site six hundred years earlier - thus, yet again celebrating that symbiosis between beer and worship that seems to be a continuing theme. My picture shows just one of the external signs that points patrons in the direction of the saloon bar. I will neither show nor describe what you will find inside - to discover that you will have to go yourself. And believe me, you will thank me for it.