News reaches me in exile that one of my favourite pubs pulled their last pint on August 16. If you want a patriotic pub crawl in London the world just got a little bit smaller and a celebrated order of hirsute gentlemen have been given the heave-ho in favour of luxury flats.
Twirls moustache mischievously! Just off Edgware Road, Marylebone’s Windsor Castle had a modest selection of beer but tons of character. Patrons had to pass a Welsh Guardsman in the sentry box that dived the door and there was an endless selection of china nik-naks, guns, coins, dolls, etc in the windows. It was an eccentric collection that you could never quite view in detail because you would be staring over the top of somebody enjoying a drink.
The Castle offered a decent bit of fish and chips and a range of Thai dishes. The walls inside were peppered with photographs that ran a full spectrum of British life, sporting legend and celebrity icons.
Since April 1947, the pub was also the home to The Handlebar Club, established in a meeting that included raconteurs Jimmy Edwards and Frank Muir. They declared war on “the bland, the boring and the generic” and declared to show that men with moustaches ae men of good character. This would be displayed in “sport, conviviality and charitable engagements”.
The sole qualification for membership is “a hirsute appendage of the upper lip and with graspable extremities.” There were ten founder members, apparently outnumbered by chorus girls. Did they get a vote I wonder? However, that original gathering has inspired other chapters around the world.
With the lease on the Windsor Castle having expired, the building is being converted into luxury flats by a Saudi firm. As a consequence, The Handlebar Club has now hopped over to The Heron in Paddington (which is a Seventies shoebox, but some folk might like that). In some aspect it seems a little bit of British eccentricity will continue to flourish.