What links Dame Judi Dench, Michael Sheen and Hugh Bonneville to this London pub?

The Barley Mow in west London ( SWNS)
The Barley Mow in west London ( SWNS)

A weekly pub quiz has become ‘world-famous’ - thanks to A-list hosts including Judi Dench, Michael Sheen, Hugh Bonneville and Bryan Cranston.

The Barley Mow in Marylebone, west London, struggled to get their pub quiz back off the ground following Covid.

But after Judi Dench agreed to record a quiz round last September - asking the punters of the Grade II-listed pub to name the ten longest motorways in England - word got around.

A year on, 14 teams a week pack out the pub not just for the £7 pints of Guinness - but to hear a different A-list luvvie host the ‘top ten’ round via video link, every week.

And far from the scripts they usually deliver, the segment sees them ask the room a single question with ten answers.

Michael Sheen asked about ten countries that end with the word ‘land’ from outside the Sydney Opera House while John Lithgow delivered his questions from a hotel lobby.

Martin Freeman quizzed from what looked like his bedroom while Hugh Bonneville asked quizzers to get their “pens at the ready” from his attic study.

Other famous cameo quiz hosts have included Dominic West, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Peña, Jonathan Pryce, Ben Kingsley and Sophie Whittaker.

On September 5, Calendar Girls’ Celia Imrie asked the quizzers the ten most successful tennis players by grand slam victories.

Previous topics have included the ten longest motorways in Britain and underground stations starting with G.

Bryan Cranston asked the packed audience for the top ten most common chemical elements in the human body.

The pub has managed to get the hosts thanks to being a haven for London actors, staffed by actors and musicians who pool their contacts for hosts.

So far every celeb who has taken part has been through one of the pub staff’s connections.

Celebrities have helped improve the popularity of a pub quiz in west London (SWNS)
Celebrities have helped improve the popularity of a pub quiz in west London (SWNS)

The pub’s general manager and owner, Will Norris, 44, had been working there on-and-off for over a decade, before he bought it from the owners earlier this year.

Rada graduate Will said: “The first guest we had was Judi Dench because one of the guys who works here knows her daughter.

“Once you get Judi Dench, lots of people want to get on board - now we’ve done 52 weeks of it.

“We have another 42 weeks’ filmed and ready to go - including Martin Freeman and Jodie Whittaker.

“Coming out of Covid was quite horrendous so we were lucky to have our quiz night and our darts tournaments keeping us afloat.

“Now when we have our weekly quiz. It’s so busy that we have to kick non-quizzers out!”

The pub now has a waiting list, and the Christmas one - raising money for Shelter - is already sold out.

Will said: “We don’t know who yet - but we’ll get someone big in for the Christmas quiz.”

But it’s not all about big names for their quiz events - as Will says a huge part of it is creating a “community feel”.

He said: “The sense of community we have purposely cultivated is something pubs in London don’t always have.

“Even though we have a W1 postcode, we’ve created this special rare thing which people in London are desperate to find.

“People are loyal to us and lots of our quiz teams come regularly - it creates a feeling of safety and acknowledgement, and it brings comfort.”