The Morpeth Arms – London, England - Atlas Obscura

The Morpeth Arms

A historic London pub with prison cells in the cellar and a "spy room" on the second floor. 


The Morpeth Arms is among the creepiest of old pubs in London. In addition to originally being used as a prison and transfer facility for the old Millbank penitentiary, the building was also a deportation holding centre for convicts being shipped off to Australia.  

Convicts would be led from their cells at Millbank through the tunnels below ground, where they would be locked up temporarily before being taken aboard a ship or a carriage. The tension of the space can still be felt in the air, which has a distinctly eerie vibe. Millbank Prison closed in 1890, but the underground cells remained. 

It’s now a typical London pub with beer, food, and loyal patrons, but the dark history of the cells in the basement hasn’t been forgotten. Bar staff have reported seeing movements or items replaced, and a general feeling of unease when closing up at the end of the night. The phantom feelings have gotten to the point there’s a closed-circuit TV with a camera fixed on the cells monitoring for spectral activity. 

The other notable feature of Morpeth Arms is its “Spying Room.” The room is on the second floor of the pub, decorated in a 1920s style and themed after Mata Hari, the infamous dancer and double agent. Its windows, which just so happen to look out upon the British Intelligence Service building across the street, are adorned with binoculars so pub patrons can spy on the spies. MI5 and FBI agents are said to occassionally call in for a pint.

Know Before You Go

If you're there to drink, after work is crowded but lively and fun. If you want to try and access the cellar, go late (or early). If you ask nicely and the bar backs are feeling accommodating, you might just be able to tour the cells below. Nearest Tube station is Pimlico. As of May 2017, public access has sadly been severely limited due to health & safety issues. A CCTV screen is set up in the bar, but tours are no longer allowed.

One slower days, ask the staff about viewing the basement as they may allow you through the kitchen, which is a narrow space, and down a flight of steep stairs. Although, they may only allow no more than two people to venture down.

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