For Halloween, I thought that I would showcase London's most haunted pub, the Viaduct Tavern. The Viaduct Tavern is located at Holborn Viaduct, near Smithfield's Market. (Smithfield's Market was a meat market.) This is a very old and haunted area of London, and three Halloweens ago, I took a ghost-walking tour that focused on this area. The location is near Charterhouse Square, which was the scene of murders of monks in Charterhouse abbey and monestary, and the location of the Black Plague pits. It's also near St. Bartholemew's church and hospital, which are also rumoured to be haunted. Outside the hospital, many lives were ended due to religious differences, and Braveheart also met his end here.
Holborn Viaduct is the world's first flyover, and the River Fleet is now buried beneath the streets here. The bridge on the flyover contains impressive statues (science, agriculture, commerce and fine art), and this bridge must have been impressive on the way into (or out of) the City.
The Viaduct Tavern was built in the mid-1800s on a spot where part of the Newgate Prison was demolished. The prison would be completeley demolished in 1902, and the Old Bailey is now located in its place. Hangings took place just outside the prison, where a fountain (across the road from the pub) marks the spot, and some of those hanged are rumoured to be buried there. The Viaduct Tavern was a "gin palace"; gin was a popular drink in London and pubs that were lavishly decorated took the name "gin palace". According to various articles I've read in the past, gin was cheap and not polluted; in these days, the Thames was dirty and full of waste, so gin-drinking was more common.
The cellars of The Viaduct Tavern are rumoured to be original cells from Newgate Prison, though some doubt the accuracy of this. Irregardless, my friend and I asked the staff to check it out, and we were given a tour. Whether or not these cells are original, the cellar area would have been used to lock up prisoners as the prison was located here. Perhaps the cells have been altered in some way to be used by the pub at a later date. It is possible that the doors and caging were used by the prison.
Once we arrived at the bottom level, we found ourselves in a large room with three or four closed and locked doors off to the side. We were shown the cells by the member of staff. One of the cells held a series of cages staked three high. We also saw a sign painted with the "Gaol Rules" on one of the doors.
It would not have been nice to be locked up in one of these rooms with little light and surrounded by other different types of criminal. I am sure that many who were confined to prison here met their fate here as well. Based on the deaths that would have happened and the hangings that took place, it is no wonder that the pub is rumoured to be haunted. Some of the bartenders will not go into the cellar, and others have had bottles fly off the shelves.
For those in the area, I suggest going to the pub at non-peak times and ordering a drink to soak up the atmosphere before asking if you can see the cellar. I found the staff to be friendly and helpful. For non-peak times, avoid after 17:00 and avoid the hours between noon and 14:00. I believe that my friend and I made our visit at about 16:00.