The Old Queen’s Head, Islington
The Old Queen’s Head Public House (44 Essex Road) is a well known live music venue attracting world class bands and DJ’s, but this building that dates back to the early 19th century has a unique history and a reputation of being haunted.
The fireplace downstairs dates back to the 17th century and the original Old Queen’s Head Public House that was demolished in 1829. This original building was described in Old and New London: Volume 2 by Walter Thornbury in 1878 (Quoting Lewis 1842) “It was a strong wood and plaister building of three lofty storeys, projecting over each other in front, and forming bay windows, supported by brackets and carved figures. The centre, which projected several feet beyond the other part of the building, and formed a commodious porch, to which there was a descent of several steps, was supported in front by caryatides of carved oak, standing on either side of the entrance, and crowned with Ionic scrolls. The house is said to have been once entered by an ascent of several steps, but, at the time it was pulled down, the floor of its front parlour was four feet below the level of the highway; and this alteration is easily accounted for, when the antiquity of the building, the vast accumulation of matter upon the road, in the course of many centuries, and the fact of an arch having been thrown over the New River, in front of the house, are considered.”
“The interior of the house was constructed in a similar manner to that of most of the old buildings in the parish, having oak-panelled wainscots and stuccoed ceilings. The principal room was the parlour already alluded to, the ceiling of which was ornamented with dolphins, cherubs, acorns, &c., surrounded by a wreathed border of fruit and foliage, and had, near the centre, a medallion, of a character apparently Roman, crowned with bays, and a small shield containing the initials ‘I. M.’ surrounded by cherubim and glory. The chimneypiece was supported by two figures carved in stone, hung with festoons, &c., and the stone slab, immediately over the fireplace, exhibited the stories of Danae and Actæon in relief, with mutilated figures of Venus, Bacchus, and Plenty.”
The Old Queen’s Head is said to be connected with Sir Walter Raleigh and it has been claimed that he once owned the pub. Thornbury, writing in 1878 mentions this possible link. ‘Tradition had long connected this house with the name of Sir Walter Raleigh, though with no sufficient reason. In the thirtieth year of Elizabeth, Sir Walter obtained a patent “to make licences for keeping of taverns and retailing of wines throughout England.” This house may be one of those to which Raleigh granted licences, and the sign then marked the reign in which it was granted. There is also a tradition that Lord Treasurer Burleigh once resided here, and a topographical writer mentions the fact that two lions carved in wood, the supporters of the Cecil arms, formerly stood in an adjoining yard, and appeared to have once belonged to the old “Queen’s Head.” Another story is that Queen Elizabeth’s saddler resided here; while others assert that it was the summer residence of the Earl of Essex, and the resort of Elizabeth. Early in the last century, this occasional house belonged to a family named Roome, one of whom left the estate to Lady Edwards. The oak parlour of the old building was preserved in the new one.’
The Od Queen’s Head is said to be haunted by a woman and a young girl. The girl has apparently been heard running in the pub when t was supposed to be empty and the pubs website says she has been running ahead of people up the stairs. There are also reports of hearing her crying and the slamming of doors. Some sources cite that the woman and young girl are dressed in Tudor clothing and that it is more likely to happen on the first Sunday of the month.
The paranormal investigator and author Jack Hallam interviewed a former landlord of The Old Queen’s Head named Arthur Potter, (an account of this appeared in the Haunted Pub Guide by Guy Lyon Playfair) ‘His wife and daughter were already getting used to hearing the patter of footsteps, like those of a small child, usually late in the afternoon. They thought it must be a little girl, since the ‘swish and rustle’ of a long dress could also be heard. Early one morning Potter found the staircase light switch out of order and had to grope his way down in the dark. On the way he suddenly felt ‘this body, this thing’ coming up against him. He pushed whatever it was aside and tore down the rest of the stairs to the nearest light-switch. Not surprisingly, he was unable to give a very clear description of ‘this thing’