top of page
  • Writer's picturePeter Berthoud

An Antique Souvenir of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese of London City. The Literateurs' Haunt for 300 Years or The Book of The Cheese


This book was published around a century ago. If the current pub's owners were minded to produce a new version today they could get away with using the same illustrations.

The Eight Edition of "The Book of the Cheese" 1923

The Eight Edition of "The Book of the Cheese" 1923


"The Book of The Cheese - Being Traits and Stories of 'Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese', Wine Office Court, Fleet Street, London" was first published by the Cheese's owners in around 1900, as a souvenir and history of this famous London pub.


The book was revised and updated several times and numerous editions were produced. Copies are not hard to find and there are print on demand reprints available. I'll leave those who want to read the full contents to find a copy but I would like to share all the illustrations and the dedication I found in my copy.


If you have ever visited Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, almost all of scenes in these images will be instantly familiar. If you have never visited before, I hope these images inspire you to do so.


Click on any image for a larger version or to scroll through the gallery.


Cheshire Court at the side of "Old Cheshire Cheese".

Cheshire Court at the side of "Old Cheshire Cheese"

by Herbert Railton (1857-1910)


The Entrance to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

The Entrance to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese


H.R.H. Princess Mary with the Lord Mayor at "Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese", December 4th 1919.

H.R.H. Princess Mary with the Lord Mayor at

"Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese",

December 4th 1919


"The Way In".

"The Way In" By F. Cox


The Bar

The Bar By F. Cox


Staircase in the "Old Cheshire Cheese" From an original Drawing by Herbert Railton

Staircase in the "Old Cheshire Cheese"

From an original Drawing by Herbert Railton (1857-1910)


"The Cosy Corner" in Old Cheshire Cheese.

"The Cosy Corner" in Old Cheshire Cheese


Frontispiece of Bill of Fare By Cruickshank The ghost of Dr Johnson is seated for dinner with Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.

Frontispiece of Bill of Fare By George Cruickshank (1792-1878)

The ghost of Dr Johnson is seated for dinner with Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.


"Toddy at The Cheshire Cheese" By W. Dendy Sadler

"Toddy at The Cheshire Cheese" By W. Dendy Sadler (1854-1923)


The Johnsonian Corner

The Johnsonian Corner


Dr. Johnson's Chair

Dr. Johnson's Chair


"The Way Out"

"The Way Out" By F. Cox


Dr. Johnson's House in Gough Square

Dr. Johnson's House in Gough Square

by Herbert Railton (1857-1910)


Dedication page with an  illustration by John Hassall

A dedidication from one manager to another &

a dedicated cartoon by John Hassall (1868-1948)


The Jolly Fisherman by John Hassall, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The dedication page has a printed cartoon of William Shakespeare and Dr Johnson about to consume an enormous pie.


The artist, John Hassall has signed the illustration with the dedication "Ye Cheshire Cheese, Oct 1st 1913 To H.J.W.".


John Hassall is best known for his Jolly Fisherman (1908) used by the Great Northern Railway to promote holidays in Skegness.





My copy of the book also has a handwritten dedication on the same page, I wasn't expecting to find it when I bought the book but I was very pleased when I read it:


To S. Eeley, Esq.

Grand Hotel

Eastbourne


With compliments of

The Manager of

Ye O.C.C.


H.J. Wortham

30th Nov 1925


S.J. Eeley Manager of The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne is mentioned in numerous travel guides and advertisements throughout the 1920s. H.J. Wortham, manager of the Olde Cheshire Cheese is the same H.J.W. to whom John Hassall dedicated his cartoon.


Without Mr Wortham, The Cheshire Cheese couldn't be as it is today.


He became the manager of the "O.C.C." in 1910 and retired in 1937. His retirement was reported widely in the press. This example, from an Australian regional newspaper, is typical and briefly explains his significant role in the history of the pub:


SUCCESSFUL LANDLORD

The landlord of the "Cheshire Cheese," perhaps the most famous public-house in the world, and known to nearly all visitors to London, retired this week.

Mr H. J. Wortham, as a young accountant, was sent, in 1910, by his firm to examine the financial affairs of the "Cheese," and his recommendations so impressed the trustees of the house that they asked him to become its manager and carry out his own plans.

This he did with conspicuous success.


Mr Wortham's plan was to maintain the appearance of the "Cheshire Cheese" as a Charles the Second house, resisting the temptation to make it fake Tudor. The result was that his customers included ex-Presidents of great Republics, Ambassadors, Ministers of the Crown, and millions of tourists, all of whom appreciated its amenities and its simple but novel (or perhaps one should say ancient) cuisine.


Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia) Thursday 19th August 1937


So whether Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a regular haunt of yours, or somewhere you have yet to visit, when next you find yourself in need of a rest in Fleet Street, do raise a glass or spare a thought, for Mr. H.J. Wortham, who had foresight to leave this timeless pub as he found it.





There are some more photos from Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and many photos of other London pubs in this post from 2012 London Pubs in the 1920s.

Comments


bottom of page