Photographer Captures Secret Pubs of London Frequented by Local Legends

A group of four men with mustaches, wearing formal attire, are gathered at a wooden table in a cozy, dimly lit pub. Behind them are framed photographs covering the wall. The exterior of the pub, located on a curving street, is shown on the left side.

The British pub is legendary with imitations found around the world and tourists who visit London will often seek out rustic, Victorian boozers where they can enjoy a warming ale.

For photographer Horst A. Friedrichs’ latest book Local Legends: The Hidden Pubs of London, he sought out special pubs tucked away down London’s narrow alleyways concealed from crowds of tourists and passersby.

“I think my approach as a photographer is natural curiosity,” Friedrichs’ tells PetaPixel.

A cozy pub interior with a wooden bar counter surrounded by stools and tables. The walls are adorned with various framed pictures, posters, and memorabilia. The space feels warmly lit, with a staircase leading to an upper area in the background.
The Nags Head pub in Belgravia, London run by landlord Kevin Moran. © Horst A. Friedrichs /Local Legends /Prestel Publishing
A quaint pub named "Truman Hanbury Buxton & Co Ltd" with rustic charm, featuring vintage signage for ales. The façade displays "Burton Brewed Pale & Old Ales" and "Truman's Stout, Mild Ales, Porter". There are flower boxes and two barrels outside the entrance.
Princess of Prussia Pub, Prescott Street, London, © Horst A. Friedrichs /Local Legends /Prestel Publishing
A smiling person in a beige jacket and brown beanie hat sits on a barstool in a pub. They are looking to the side, with a pint of Guinness on the counter in front of them. Behind them are wooden panels and a framed photograph of an elderly person.
The Auld Shillelagh Stoke Newington Church St, London. © Horst A. Friedrichs /Local Legends /Prestel Publishing

Working with London pub guide John Warland who operates Liquid History Tours and wrote the words for the book, Friedrichs spent two years capturing 38 boozers with multiple visits to some of them in a quest to get the perfect picture.

“Capturing the characters either side of the bar is a special art,” he explains. “An eye for the shot, a sense for the timing, a desire to capture that particular moment and execute it.”

Four men with mustaches and wearing suits sit around a wooden table at a dimly lit pub. Each has a pint of dark beer. Behind them, the walls are adorned with numerous framed photographs and memorabilia. A warm light from a lamp adds a cozy ambiance.
The Heron pub tucked away at the back of Sussex Gardens, London.© Horst A. Friedrichs /Local Legends /Prestel Publishing
Three men are sitting at a wooden table in a rustic pub, each with a glass of beer. They are engaged in conversation, smiling and relaxed. The background includes a textured wall and a window, creating a cozy atmosphere.
The Holy Tavern, in Britton Street, Clerkenwell, London. © Horst A. Friedrichs /Local Legends /Prestel Publishing
A historic brick pub building with the name "The Lord Clyde" is situated on a street corner. It features signage for "Ales, Stout & Porter" and "Truman Hanbury Buxton." The pub has large windows, flower boxes, and vintage signs, with a clear blue sky above.
The Lord Clyde pub, Clennan Street, Southwark, London © Horst A. Friedrichs /Local Legends /Prestel Publishing

Friedrichs avoided using flash so as not to “freeze things and make it too harsh” and therefore relied upon his Canon 5D Mark IV and series of prime lenses.

“I wanted to keep this natural grainy feel and not make it too Getty or Instagram,” he adds. “I didn’t want it to be like a brochure or a guide. It should come across more authentic — a bit raw or rough.”

What Makes a London Pub Special?

Friedrichs says that a good pub is not just about the beer, but also about the people that populate the tavern.

“The stories that we heard from patrons and publicans whilst shooting were simply legendary,” he says.

“We had a strict criterion for the book. All the featured pubs are wet-led, meaning that while food may be served, their primary focus is the drinks.”

Book cover titled "Local Legends: The Hidden Pubs of London" by Horst A. Friedrichs and John Warland. The cover features a vibrant night-time photo of a traditional London pub on a corner, illuminated by street lamps, with "Courage" written above the door.

“We had to balance the visual, the anecdotal, and the experimental — that is, they had to look good, they had to have a bunch of good stories attached to them, and they had to be places you’d want to linger in.”

Friedrichs says he would listen to the interesting stories told by the characters that frquent these chaming establishments as he went about photographing the environment.

“We have the stories of landlords, landladies, and punters alike to thank for this wonderful experience,” he adds.

Local Legends: The Hidden Pubs of London is published by Prestel and can be purchased here.

Image credits: Photographs by Horst A. Friedrichs.