The Black Friar pub was built in 1875 on the south western end of the site of a former medieval Dominican friary which was there from 1276 to the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539.
The pub’s style is an art nouveau architectural curiosity — the building is wedge-shaped due to the fact that all the surrounding buildings have long since been demolished, taking with them the small alleyways that were once the only access to the pub. Outside, the pub is adorned with mosaics, ornamental balconies and a guardian black friar.
It’s small and cosy inside and you’ll find further decoration with mosaics, copper reliefs of jolly-looking monks, along with decorative touches such as the elaborate fire-basket with goblin ends. The monks are shown singing carols, collecting fish and eels for their meatless days, with one monk is just about to boil an egg. An extension to the main saloon is lined with marble and alabaster with more copper reliefs and mosaics, and mottoes such as “Haste is Slow” and “Industry is All.”
The pub was due for demolition in the 1960’s with the expansion of Blackfrairs station, but for a public outcry by Sir John Betjeman which saved the building.
Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984) was a poet, writer and broadcaster. He was a passionate defender of Victorian architecture and wrote many books on the subject.
Along with saving the Black Friar pub, he was instrumental in helping to save St Pancras Railway Station & hotel in 1967.