Progress update June 1st
You may have noticed that our gin cellar has been closed since February this year, and the bar has been closed since April. We haven’t said much about it up to now, here is an update.
Road works outside the bar at the end of January caused structural damage to our basement and we now have something of an unwanted water feature – even Charlie Dimmock would be impressed. So where are we now? Getting this fixed was always ‘out of our hands’. It was initially thought the repairs would be straight forward and take a month so we closed in April with high hopes we’d have a month of disruption at most. Sadly this wasn’t the case. The damage was much more extensive than originally apparent and the road may need to be dug up so our vault can be fixed properly (eek!).
We’re frustrated, you’re frustrated, but we promise we’re doing everything we can to push things forward, if we had a pick and a shovel we would do the repairs ourselves but we can’t.
In the meantime here are some snippets about our wonderful basement, which dates back to the 1700s!
About the basement
Maps show there’s been a building on this site since the 1720s, however the building you see now is at least it’s second and possibly it’s third incarnation. It was rebuilt in 1824, and possibly altered again in the late 1800’s however the original basement vaults remain.
The first mention of the streets are in Westminster Rate books. Chappell Street ( as it was called then) appears in 1696, the first mention of Hollen Street and Great Chapel Street (our corner) is 1717. We are sure a building was here then, but buildings did not have numbers until the 1850’s, they were referred to by the occupiers name. The first reference to the property as a public house comes from insurance records, in 1785 Richard Beall is insured as a victualler at The George, Great Chapel Street, Soho.
The first real details of what the original premises were like come from the Morning Advertiser 1809 which is advertising the lease for sale which indicate the cellars were originally build as wine vaults: “A free public house and vine vault near oxford st with immediate possession. An old established house known by the sign of the George most advantageously situate the corner of hollen street in great chapel street.”
The next full description we have been able to find dates from 1824 Morning Advertiser where the lease is again up for sale but the premiese have clearly been rebuilt, probably because most of the first Georgian buildings in Soho were put up quickly and cheaply by builders on relatively short leases and so were not built to last. “A valuable public house and wine vaults known as the George situate in Great Chapel St, Oxford st, the corner of Hollen street, soho. The house is newly build in the most substantial manner and fitted up with every convenience for the trade and contains 5 bedchambers, a clubroom 22ft by 16, bar, palour, tap, kitchen, washhouse, cellar areas and vaults in the occupation of Mr Cussins.” We are not sure where the ‘Wash house’ was, but we suspect the building used to have a back yard before Novello House was built next door in the late 1890s.
So we know our vaults date from at least 1809, and from the records and what we can see now they are stripped back inside we are pretty sure they are from the original premises though the back vault was clearly altered at some point, probably when the premises were rebuilt in 1824 to accommodate coal storage.