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The History Of Dirty Dicks

During the early 19th century, Dirty Dick’s was called The Old Jerusalem, but the then owner, William Barker, renamed the pub after an infamous resident who had owned a warehouse around the corner from the pub.

The original Dirty Dick, whose actual name was Richard Bentley, or some say Nathanial Bentley, was a prosperous city merchant living in the middle of the 18th century.

Bentley, who owned a hardware shop and warehouse, had been quite the dandy in his youth, but following the death of his fiancée, in his broken-hearted anguish, he reportedly refused to clean anything, including himself. Such was the legend of the now Dirty Dick, that he is said to be the inspiration for Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ as Dickens’ himself is said to have frequented the pub.

Bentley’s house, shop, and warehouse became so filthy that he became what you could almost call a ‘celebrity of dirt’. He became so famous for his lack of cleanliness that letters intended for him would be addressed to ‘The Dirty Warehouse, London’. Bentley eventually stopped trading in 1804 and died in 1809 and his warehouse was later demolished.

William Barker’s The Old Jerusalem Pub soon took on the character as well as the name of Dirty Dick and was described thus in 1866: “A small public house or rather a tap of a wholesale wine and spirit business… a warehouse or barn without floorboards; a low ceiling, with festoons of cobwebs dangling from the black rafters; a pewter, bar battered and dirty, floating with beer, numberless gas pipes tied anyhow along the struts and posts to conduct the spirits from the barrels to the taps; sample phials and labelled bottles of wine and spirits on shelves, everything covered with virgin dust and cobwebs.”

It seems that successive owners of the Bishopsgate Distillery and its tap capitalised on the legend. By the end of the 19th century, its owner, a public house company called William Barker’s (D.D) Ltd, was producing commemorative booklets and promotional material to advertise the pub.

For years the cobwebs, dead cats, and other unusual features of Dirty Dicks were kept in the cellar bar, but these have now been tidied a to a glass display case situated close to the Main Bar bathrooms.