06 June 2023

Ye Olde Mitre is a little
corner of Cambridge
and the hardest pub
to find in London

Ye Old Mitre dates from 1546 and is often said to be the hardest pub to find in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

During an afternoon in Southwark last week, two of us visited the ruins of Winchester Palace, once the London palace of the Bishops of Winchester. Earlier that day, we were in Hatton Garden and went in search of Ely Place or Ely House, once the palace of the Bishops of Ely, and instead we found Ye Old Mitre, often said to be the hardest pub to find in London.

Saint Etheldreda’s Church in Ely Place and the Old Mitre are all that survive of the old Bishop’s Palace, and the church is one of only two remaining buildings in London dating from the reign of Edward I.

Ye Olde Mitre is at the end of a narrow alley, hidden away from the rest of busy Holborn. The area immediately around Ye Olde Mitre and this hidden delightful alley is built-up. Yet this was once the site of a magnificent palace surrounded by lush gardens where vineyards, fruit trees and strawberries flourished.

Ely Place, also known as Ely Palace or Ely House, was built in the late 13th century and was the London residence of 41 Bishops of Ely, from 1290 to 1772. The Bishops of Ely thought their palace was too beautiful to be part of London, and declared it part of Cambridgeshire.

One resident – albeit briefly – was John of Gaunt, Edward III’s third surviving son and the father of Henry IV. When Wat Tyler and the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 attacked John of Gaunt’s Savoy Palace, he moved to the Bishop of Ely’s palace.

Shakespeare made Ely House the scene of events in Richard III and Richard II, including John of Gaunt’s ‘sceptered isle’ speech from his deathbed.

This is the part of London where William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered at Smithfield, and where many martyrs and traitors were executed.

Ye Olde Mitre is reached by a near-invisible passage off Hatton Garden (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Ye Olde Mitre can only be reached through a near-invisible passage, which adds to its quaint charm. The first tavern on the site was built by Thomas Goodrich, Bishop of Ely, for his servants in 1546.

Queen Elizabeth I is said to have danced here around a tree in the garden that belonged to one of her favourites, Sir Christopher Hatton, who gives his name to Hatton Garden.

The Crown took over the area in 1772 and cleared away all the crumbling buildings. All that survived were the Ye Olde Mitre and Saint Etheldreda’s Church nearby in Ely Place, and the area became known as Hatton Garden.

The pub claims it was first built in 1546, although most of the building dates from 1773-1782, and it was remodelled in the early 1930s, with a late 20th century extension at the rear.

Ye Olde Mitre is a three-storey building with an attic. Inside, it is highly atmospheric with dark panelling, heavy oak furniture and Elizabethan memorabilia. The building has many interesting architectural details, including a glazed timber screen, flat pilasters with Corinthian capitals, sash windows and Tudor style windows, and Tudor-style fireplaces.

The wide, horizontally laid panels on the walls of the staircase may date back to the building’s reconstruction in the 1770s. An upstairs room, known as the Bishops’ Room, can be hired for events.

The stump of Sir Christopher Hatton’s cherry tree, where he once danced with Queen Elizabeth, can still be seen just inside the pub door. The tree marked the boundary of the properties of the Bishop of Ely and of Hatton.

Ely Place and the Mitre are said to have once been an enclave of Cambridgeshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Ely Place and the Mitre may have once constituted an enclave of Cambridgeshire. It is claimed the pub’s licensing laws only stopped being administered by Cambridgeshire in the 1960s, and local lore says that until the late 20th century the pub and the immediate area around it were subject to different bylaws to the neighbouring streets.

Urban myths claimed criminals could evade arrest by seeking sanctuary from the Metropolitan or City Police, because this area was beyond their jurisdiction. However, this anomaly probably did not survive the implementation of the Metropolis Management Act in 1855.

Ye Olde Mitre is a Grade II listed public house and appears regularly in the Good Beer Guide, and the Good Pub Guide, and receives ‘pub of the year’ and Camra awards.

It is said that letters addressed to The Mitre Inn, Ely Court, Cambridgeshire, still reach the Ye Olde Mitre. But if you want to find Ye Olde Mitre it is at 1 Ely Court, Ely Place, Holborn, and the nearest tube station is Farringdon (0.2 miles).

A sign pointing to Ye Olde Mitre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (9) 6 June 2023

The chapel in Trinity College Dublin was designed in the 1790s by Sir William Chambers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This week began with Trinity Sunday (4 June 2023). The calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today remembers Ini Kopuria, Founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, 1945.

Over these few weeks after Trinity Sunday, I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel or cathedral I know;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside the chapel in Trinity College Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Chapel, Trinity College, Dublin:

My photographs this morning (6 June 2023) are from the chapel in Trinity College Dublin. Trinity Monday is no longer celebrated on this week in Trinity College Dublin. Instead, Trinity Monday was marked this year in TCD on 24 April, when new honorary fellows, fellows and scholars were announced. The ceremony is one of the oldest and most colourful at TCD and refers back to its foundation in 1592.

I received a post-graduate Diploma in Ecumenics at TCD in 1984, and studied classical Greek there in 1987. Later, I was twice the Select Preacher in the Chapel, and I have chaired and been the secretary of the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission (DUFEM).

Until 2017, while I was on the staff of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, I was an Adjunct Assistant Professor in TCD, sitting on academic and staff committees and Courts of Examiners, supervising research and overseeing examinations. Group photographs of the BTh and MTh graduates were taken each year on the steps of the chapel in TCD. I was also a visiting lecturer on other degree courses.

Overlooking Front Square, at the heart of the TCD campus, the chapel was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1798 to form the north range of Parliament Square. Chambers was George III’s architect, and he also designed the Examination Hall on the south side of Parliament Square. The building work was overseen by Christopher Myers and his son Graham Myers, and it is likely that Myers heavily influenced the end design.

The chapel and the theatre are similar in form, creating a pleasing balance to the square and evoking a sense of Palladian symmetry with the two buildings serving as end pavilions. However, the chapel is both longer and narrower.

The classical elegance of the design is seen throughout the chapel, particularly in the stonework carved by George Darley and Richard Cranfield. Inside, the classical motif continues in the plasterwork by Michael Stapleton, spiral staircases by Robert Mallet, and the organ gallery carved by Richard Cranfield. Henry Hugh, a general carpenter throughout the project, may have worked on the pews.

The 19th century saw significant modifications to the interior, with stained glass by Clayton and Bell depicting scenes of Moses and the Children, the Ransom of the Lord, the Sermon on the Mount, and Christ with the teachers of Law, installed in 1865. Polychrome floor tiles were added to designs of John McCurdy, and, in 1872, stained glass windows were installed in the apse and centre, showing the Transfiguration, to designs by Mayer & Company.

Reflecting the Anglican heritage of the college, there are daily services of Morning Prayer, weekly services of Evensong, and Holy Communion is celebrated on Tuesdays and Sundays.

The chapel has been ecumenical since 1970, and is now also used daily in the celebration of Mass for the college’s Roman Catholic members. In addition to the Anglican chaplain, who is known as the Dean of Residence, there are two Roman Catholic chaplains and one Methodist chaplain.

The chapel is often the venue for ecumenical events, such as the annual carol service and the service of thanksgiving on Trinity Monday.

The Chapel Choir in Trinity College Dublin was established in 1762 and sings twice a week at services in the chapel, Evensong on Thursdays and the Eucharist on Sundays. The choir is made up of students from across the university. There is also a student Conductor, a student Organ Scholar, and a professional Director of Music who oversee the running of the choir, its music, and its day-to-day activities.

The stained glass window in the apse depicting the Transfiguration is by Mayer & Company (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 12: 13-17 (NRSVA):

13 Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. 14 And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ 16 And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ 17 Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.

With MTh graduates on the steps of the chapel in Trinity College Dublin

Today’s prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Protecting the Environment in Zambia. This theme was introduced on Sunday by USPG’s Regional Manager for Africa, Fran Mate, with a reflection from Zambia for the United Nations World Environment Day yesterday.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Tuesday 6 June 2023):

Let us pray for the Zambia Anglican Council. May it work in partnership with other Churches and organisations to spearhead environmental protection in Zambia.


Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Almighty and eternal God,
you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
and live and reign in the perfect unity of love:
hold us firm in this faith,
that we may know you in all your ways
and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory,
who are three Persons yet one God,
now and for ever.

Parliament Square, or Front Square, in TCD, with the portico of the chapel on the left (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection<

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Looking through the Campanile towards Regent House, with the chapel on the right and the public theatre or exam hall on the left (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)