One of the most famous of London pubs, and a very likable one, The Spaniards is located on the north side of Hampstead Heath, near the Kenwood estate.

The road between Hampstead and Highgate passes by its door, reduced to single-line traffic because on the east side is an eighteenth-century toll house. It is no longer in use as anything, but as both the inn and the toll house are listed buildings, widening the road is quite impossible. The road is called Spaniards Road on the Hampstead side, and Hampstead Lane beyond that.

The pub is especially associated with the highwayman Dick Turpin, as he was said to stable Black Bess there when he was lying low. More than one of the old coaching inns in Highgate and Hampstead cultivate a Turpin connexion. He was born in a pub where his father John Turpin was landlord; some sources say it was here, others the Crown in a village in Essex. Possibly the confusion arises because John Turpin was to become landlord of The Spaniards Inn after Dick was born.

It was originally a private house, built in 1585. Nothing that old remains, but a good deal of it is still rickety and twisted like an eighteenth-century building. The Spaniard of the name is debated: a Spanish ambassador, or Spanish innkeeper brothers, or both?

More real-life drama came in 1780, when the Gordon Riots broke out against Roman Catholics. London was in uproar, houses were being destroyed, and a mob was moving towards nearby Kenwood House, home of Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice, who they thought was a sympathizer but who was presumably just upholding the rule of law against mob rule. When they stopped off at The Spaniards, the landlord plied them with drinks until messengers could summon troops to guard Kenwood, which was thus saved. The pub still displays relics from this event, and one of Turpin's bullets.

The beer garden is extensive and very pleasant, and said to be haunted, possibly by Turpin. There are large wooden tables among the trees, and at one end an aviary with budgerigars. The Spaniards Inn, at the time of writing, does good food and drink, and is well worth a visit. Bus: 210.

Many famous people before you enjoyed their time at The Spaniards, which has passed into several famous works. Although Dickens used the Gordon Riots as the central historical basis of his Barnaby Rudge, it was in Pickwick Papers that he actually set a scene in the garden of The Spaniards.

Keats is said to have observed the nightingale there that inspired his Ode. However, I seem to recall his home in Hampstead, now the Keats House museum, also lays claim to having the plum tree where Keats observed his nightingale, or at least where he wrote the Ode.

It is also referred to in Bram Stoker's Dracula, as are the nearby Jack Straw's Castle and Highgate Cemetery.

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