Category Archives: London Pubs

Tracing London’s old pubs

New Deal For East London – Bethnal Green

On a cold, windy and grey day in February, a day that seems very different to the weather we are having in June, I walked to the sites in Bethnal Green, Mile End Road and Stepney, continuing in my project to visit all the sites listed as at risk in the 1973 Architects’ Journal issue: New Deal for East London.

I had intended to cover all these locations in a single blog post, however I keep finding things of interest during these walks, and I did not have the time to write the full post, and did not want to impose such a lengthy post on readers, so I split into two.

A few weeks ago was the post on Mike End and Stepney, and today I am in Bethnal Green.

The post covers sites 49 to 52, where I also find an 18th century boxer and an interesting walk down to Mile End Road.

Bethnal Green

The area I will be walking is very built up, and has been since the early decades of the 19th century, however in 1746, Bethnal Green was still a hamlet surrounded by fields. Despite the very rural nature of Bethnal Green in 1746 it is possible to see the majority of the streets and features that we can walk through today.

The following is an extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map and I have labelled the key features I will cover in the rest of this post.

Bethnal Green

The area today, with the locations marked. Very different from the rural fields of 1746 (Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

Bethnal Green

I travelled out to Bethnal Green on the underground and arrived at Bethnal Green Station which is at the junction of Roman Road, Bethnal Green Road and Cambridge Heath Road, and also located at this busy road junction is:

Site 49 – Soane’s St. John’s Bethnal Green

The church of St. John’s, Bethnal Green looks over this major road junction from the corner of Cambridge Heath Road and Roman Road.

Bethnal Green

The church was designed by Sir John Soane and built between 1826 and 1828.

One of the so called Commissioners Churches as the church was a result of the 1818 and 1824 Acts of Parliament which provided sums of money and established a commission to build new churches.

These were needed in the areas where there had been considerable population growth and Bethnal Green is a perfect example of the transformation of an area from a low population, rural landscape, to a densely populated urban settlement.

The location of the church was on open land directly adjacent to what was already a road junction in central Bethnal Green, however there are also references to there being a Chapel of Ease on the site, or close to the new church, (for example the Tower Hamlets publication: “History of parks and open spaces in Tower Hamlets, and their heritage significance” mentions a Chapel of Ease in 1617). The Roque map does show a building of some form in the road junction which may have been the Chapel of Ease, although this is just speculation at this point and needs some further research.

The church was damaged by fire in 1870 with much of the interior and the church roof being destroyed. The church was reopened the following year after restoration, which included new bells cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The church did suffer some damage during the last war, fortunately not the major level of damage suffered by many other east London churches.

The church was closed on the day of my visit, however it is good to see that the church is still an imposing building overlooking this busy junction, even on a grey and cold February morning.

Diagonally across the junction from the church is the Salmon and Ball pub:

Bethnal Green

Early references to the Salmon and Ball date the pub to the first half of the 18th century, however the current building dates from the mid 19th century and is Grade II listed. The earliest contemporary reference I could find to the Salmon and Ball is from a newspaper report on the 26th November 1795 reporting that:

“This day about two o’clock, in consequence of Advertisements, several thousand Weavers assembled near the Salmon and Ball, Bethnal Green, to take into consideration a Petition to the House of Commons against the Bill brought in by Mr. Pitt, to prevent the people from meeting, &c. Mr. Heron was called to the Chair, when several resolutions were passed and a Petition against the Bill agreed upon.”

There are newspaper references to an east London Salmon and Ball going back to the 1730s, but they do not specifically confirm that they refer to the pub in Bethnal Green.

The name of the public is interesting, I have only found one reference to the origin of the name. In the East London Observer on the 9th January 1915 in an article titled “Roundabout Old East London” by Charles McNaught, there is the following reference to the Salmon and Ball:

“The Salmon and Ball, by the bye, figures prominently in more than one historical scene in the turbulent days of Bethnal Green Weaverdom. Apart from that, however, it is a tavern sign sufficiently incongruous to awaken curiosity. The early silk mercers adopted the Golden Ball as their sign, because, in the Middle Ages all silk was brought from the East, and more particularly from Byzantium and the Imperial manufactories there. And at Byzantium the Emperor Constantine the Great adopted a Golden Globe as the emblem of his imperial dignity. The Golden Ball continued as the mercer’s sign until the end of the Eighteenth Century and then it gradually passed to the ‘Berlin’ wool shops, and – conjoined with a fish or other animal – its was favourite sign for Taverns in the silk weaving area. 

The Salmon and Ball in Bethnal Green is not the only house with that sign; and other local names of the past include: The Ball and Raven, The Green Man and Ball, the Blue Balls, The Ring and Ball, and many others.”

No idea if this is the true origin of the name, but an interesting possibility.

My next stop was very close, and it was a short walk to:

Site 50 – Early 19th Century Terrace

This location was just opposite the church, a narrow street that runs parallel to Cambridge Heath Road and that goes by the name of Paradise Row. For the main part of the street, houses run along one side, with the opposite side formed by Paradise Gardens, which in February really did not live up to the name.

The terrace of houses in Paradise Row taken from within Paradise Gardens:

Bethnal Green

There is a blue plaque on one of the houses recording that Daniel Mendoza lived in the house:

Bethnal Green

Daniel Mendoza was a fascinating character. A boxer, or pugilist who became heavyweight champion between 1792 and 1795. In an age when it was common to advertise yourself with a memorable name. As the plaque states he proudly billed himself as ‘Mendoza the Jew’ in honour of his Jewish heritage. For an example of how other boxers billed themselves, Mendoza’s first recorded successful prize fight was against the wonderfully named ‘Harry the Coalheaver’.

The plaque refers to Mendoza living in Paradise Row when he was writing ‘The Art of Boxing‘. In the 18th century, boxing was mainly a punching, grappling, gouging match between two fighters.

Mendoza advocated a more formal, scientific approach to boxing which he set out in his book ‘The Art of Boxing‘. In his preface to the book, Mendoza explains his approach and the reasons why boxing should have a more scientific method:

“After the many marks of encouragement bestowed on me by a generous public, I thought that I could not better evince my gratitude for such favours, than by disseminating to as wide an extent, and at as cheap a rate as possible, the knowledge of an ART; which though not perhaps the most elegant, is certainly the most useful species of defence. To render it not totally devoid of elegance has, however, been my present aim, and the ideas of coarseness and vulgarity which are naturally attached to the Science of Pugilism, will, I trust, be done away, by a candid perusal of the following pages.

Boxing is a national mode of combat, and as is peculiar to the inhabitants of this country; as Fencing is to the French; but the acquisition of the latter as an art, and the practice of it as an exercise, have generally been preferred in consequence of the objection which I have just stated as being applicable to the former.

The objection I hope, the present treatise will obviate, and I flatter myself that I have deprived Boxing of any appearance of brutality to the learner, and reduced it into so regular a system, as to render it equal to fencing, in point of neatness, activity, and grace.

The Science of Pugilism may, therefore, with great propriety, be acquired, even though the scholar should feel actuated by no desire of engaging in a contest, or defending himself from an insult.

Those who are unwilling to risque any derangement of features in a real boxing match, may, at least, venture to practice the Art from sportiveness and sparring is productive of health and spirits as it is both an exercise and an amusement.

The great object of my present publication has been to explain with perspicuity, the Science of Pugilism, and it has been my endeavour to offer no precepts which will not be brought to bear in practice, and it will give me peculiar satisfaction and pleasure to understand, that I have attained my first object, by having taught any man an easy regular system of so useful an Art as that of Boxing.”

Daniel Mendoza put his approach into practice throughout his career. He was highly successful and his name became very well known across the country. He made (and lost) a considerable sum of money.

His most famous fights were against Richard Humphreys, his former trainer and mentor. These fights were captured in a series of etchings (©Trustees of the British Museum), published very soon after the fights.

In the following we see the first fight held on the 9th January 1788 in Odiham in Hampshire

Bethnal Green

Mendoza lost the fight and the following etching “Foul Play” shows how Mendoza lost the fight through the actions of Tom Johnson, Humphreys second, who blocked a blow from Mendoza:

Bethnal Green

In perhaps an early version of the tension built up in advance of fights today, in the 18th century Mendoza and Humphreys traded insults and accusations at each other through a series of letters published in newspapers across the country.

In a letter written on the 16th January 1788 when Mendoza was living in London at No. 9, White Street, Houndsditch, Mendoza set forth three propositions for how the next fight should take place. He finishes the letter with:

“The acceptance or denial of Mr. Humphries to the third proposition, will impress the public with an additional opinion of his superior skill, or they must conclude that he is somewhat conscious of his inferiority in scientific knowledge. In imitation of the challenge of Mr. Humphries, I shall not distress him for an immediate reply, but leave him to consult his friends, and his own feelings, and send an answer at his leisure.”

Mendoza wrote a follow up letter on the 27th January 1788:

“To prevent the tedious necessity of a reference to the several letters which I have written, and which have appeared in your paper, I am induced to take my leave of the public, with the insertion once more of the conditions of my challenge to Mr. Humphreys, and I beg that the world will consider them as open to the acceptance of that gentleman, whenever he may think better of his boxing abilities.

The first condition is, that I will fight him for 250 guineas a side, the second, the victor to have the door, the third, the man who first closes to be the loser, fourth and last, the time of fighting to be in the October Newmarket meeting.

Mr. Humphreys would do well to insert this challenge in his private memorandum-book; and as a teacher of the art of boxing, it would not be amiss to have it penned, neatly framed, and hung up in his truly scientific academy.”

Letters continued and finally Humphries accepted the challenge, writing on the 31st July 1788:

“I have seen your letter, and accept your challenge. I am glad that you have at last found out your own mind. The terms shall be settled at a meeting which I will appoint by private letter to you.”

After the loss of the first fight, Mendoza won the next two fights. The following etching shows what looks to be the closing stages of the fight on the 6th May 1789 with Mendoza on the left and a collapsing Humphreys on the right.

Bethnal Green

After his boxing career declined in the 1790s, Mendoza pursued a number of other money making opportunities including landlord of the Admiral Nelson in Whitechapel, the occasional boxing match, running his own academy, and also what today would probably be classed as a ‘bouncer’ at the Covent Garden Theatre.

The theatre management were attempting to increase ticket prices, which resulted in riots and protests in the theatre.

“It is a notorious fact that the Managers of Covent-Garden Theatre have both yesterday and today furnished Daniel Mendoza, the fighting Jew, with a prodigious number of Pit Orders for Covent-Garden Theatre, which he has distributed to Dutch Sam, and such other of the pugilistic tribe as would attend and engage to assault every person who had the courage to express their disapprobation of the Managers’ attempt to rain down the new prices.”

In another newspaper report, Daniel Mendoza was reported as being at the head of “150 fighting Jews and hired Braizers, as Constables.” His actions supporting the theatre management did not help his popularity with Londoners as he was seen to be supporting the theatre management rather than the common theatre goer.

I can find very little information on Daniel Mendoza’s family. He appears to have had two sons and a daughter. One son also named Daniel (so presumably the eldest son) appears in a number of newspaper reports accused of robbery and also wounding a man with a penknife.

In another newspaper report, his married daughter along with another woman were reported as being assaulted by two cab drivers.

Daniel Mendoza died in September 1836. his lasting legacy were the changes to boxing through his approach to ‘scientific boxing’ which started the move of boxing towards a rules based sport.

The contest between Daniel Mendoza and Richard Humphreys was still being used as an example of sporting excellence many years later, as shown in this Guinness advert from 1960:

Bethnal Green

The view from Mendoza’s house on Paradise Row must look very different today, with the volume of traffic on the Cambridge Heath Road, but good to see this terrace of houses still standing.

To get to my next location, I walked along the Cambridge Heath Road, passing the V&A Museum of Childhood, then turned into Old Ford Road, opposite this mix of buildings, including the Dundee Arms pub:

Bethnal Green

Along Old Ford Road is the York Hall leisure centre, swimming pool and in a link with Daniel Mendoza once one of Europe’s most significant boxing venues:

Bethnal Green

To the right of York Hall was part of my next location:

Site 52 – 17th Century Nettleswell House With Adjoining Late 18th Century Terrace: Across Road, Early 18th Century Terrace

This is the early 18th century terrace, across the road from Nettleswell House on Old Ford Road:

Bethnal Green

To get a view of Nettleswell House I turned off Old Ford Road into Victoria Park Square. It was difficult to get a good view of the buildings as they are concealed behind a tall brick wall, however they look in fine condition.

Bethnal Green

Nettleswell House is a Grade II listed building. The listing states that the building is late 17th century with early 18th century alterations.

There must have been an earlier building on the same site, with the same name as the listing also records what is on the plaque, just visible on the house in the above photo “Netteswell House – AD1553 – Remodelled 1705 and 1862″

In my post on “New Deal For East London – Stepney Green” I found one of the buildings built by the East End Dwellings Company – Dunstan House on Stepney Green. Walking along Victoria Park Square I found another. Montford House was built by the company in 1901, two years after the Stepney Green building.

Bethnal Green

The name apparently is a reference to Simon de Montford and there are stories that he was blinded at the Battle of Evesham 1265 and became a beggar in Bethnal Green (the same story is sometimes given as the source of the name of the Blind Beggar pub).

In reality, Simon de Montfort was killed at the Battle of Evesham and was buried at Evesham Abbey, along with Henry, one of his sons. His other son, also called Simon did arrive in Evesham, but too late to help the cause of his father. He later escaped to France.

There are a good number of the buildings of the East London Dwellings Company remaining.  One of my ever growing list of projects is to map and photograph all their buildings.

Further along Victoria Park Square, I found my next location:

Site 51 – 1700 Group Behind Gardens

Along one side of Victoria Park Square is a magnificent group of buildings, all in good repair, and as indicated by the Architects’ Journal title for these buildings, they all stand back from the street, separated by a good sized front garden.

Some include some rather ornate ironwork between street and garden:

Bethnal Green

The terrace:

Bethnal Green

There is some fascinating architecture along this one street, including what looks to have once been a private chapel built as a rather strange extension to the house behind:

Bethnal Green

Finding this terrace was the last of four locations in Bethnal Green. I then walked down to Stepney, so to complete the post, here are some of the buildings to be found on the route from Bethnal Green to Mile End Road, along Cambridge Heath Road.

This building is along Roman Road, alongside Bethnal Green Gardens.

Bethnal Green

The building is Swinburne House and it demonstrates the change during the early decades of the 20th century from housing built by philanthropic organisations such as the East End Dwellings Company to council built properties.

A stone on the front of the building records that the stone was laid on the 1st July 1922 to commemorate the erection of 166 dwellings by Bethnal Green Borough Council. The names of the housing committee are also recorded.

Bethnal Green

Along Cambridge Heath Road is this closed factory building, Moarain House:

Bethnal Green

I believe that this was the factory of umbrella manufacturers Solomon Schaverien. Many of their umbrellas include a label with the name Moarain on the inside of the umbrella.

I would not be surprised if the factory was replaced by an apartment building in the next few years.

Just after Moarain House, the railway from Liverpool Street Station crosses Cambridge Heath Road. All the railway arches along Malcolm Place have been closed off, and the typical businesses that normally occupy railway arches (car wash, car repair, tyres, light manufacturing etc.) have all moved out.

Bethnal Green

Network Rail are planning to redevelop these arches and the application for planning permission submitted to Tower Hamlets Council shows a row of arches with glazed brick for the piers, glass and stainless steel fascia – very different to the arches as they are now.

The proposed use of the arches are as a cafe, restaurant, drinking establishment, retail, light industrial and warehousing. No doubt increasing revenue for Network Rail, but another loss of the traditional use of railway arches by small businesses in East London.

After passing under the railway I was soon at Mile End Road for the locations in my previous post. It was good to see that all the sites listed in 1973 are still to be found in Bethnal Green, and in good condition.

I find these walks fascinating not just by seeing if the sites listed in the Architects’ Journal have survived, but also the chance finds along the way, and in this walk opening a window on the world of boxing in the late 18th century, another building by the East London Dwellings Company and the evolution from charity to council construction of homes.

I am now almost through all 85 sites listed in 1973, just a couple of groups of buildings to visit, in Greenwich and the area running north and west along the River Lea / Bow Creek. Hopefully these walks will not be as windy and cold as my walk through Bethnal Green.

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The Horn Tavern, Sermon Lane And Knightrider Court

One of my father’s photos of the Horn Tavern has been in the blog header since I started the blog, and today I finally get round to covering the location.

He took two photos of the rather ornate light on the corner of the Horn Tavern which was at the junction of Sermon Lane and Knightrider Street, just to the south of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Horn Tavern

Horn Tavern

This is the same view today, the frame of the light is still there, however there have been some changes to the pub and the surrounding streets have changed significantly.

Horn Tavern

The differences in the photos highlight what has happened to the pub since my father took the original photo. The pub had a long history as the Horn Tavern, with references to the pub going back to the 17th century (although it is sometimes difficult to confirm that whilst the name may be the same, it may not be the pub at this location).

The pub changed its name to the Centre Page in 2002. I have no idea why the name changed, or the meaning behind the current name. I would have thought that a name as old as the Horn Tavern would have been preferable, especially given the location on the walk up from the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s with the attraction of an old name to the passing tourist trade.

I will continue referring to the pub as the Horn Tavern as I much prefer the original name.

The frame of the light in my father’s photo looks to be the same as the light in place today, however the wonderful glass with the pub name has been replaced with rather bland clear glass.

The original light must have looked brilliant and very inviting when lit on a dark London night.

There have been many changes in the immediate vicinity of the Horn Tavern. In my father’s photo, the name plate for Sermon Lane can be seen. Sermon Lane still exists but only really in name rather than as a lane.

To set the location and changes in context, the following map shows the area today. Peter’s Hill is a wide walkway from Saint Paul’s Church Yard down to Queen Victoria Street.

Just over half way down on the left can be seen Knightrider Street. Where this meets Peter’s Hill, the Horn Tavern is on the upper corner of the junction. There is a truncated street running up and down from this junction and within Peter’s Hill can be seen the words Sermon Lane.

Horn Tavern

Peter’s Hill is one of the major changes to the area. The area between the cathedral and the river was once densely packed with office buildings, warehouses etc. Peter’s Hill carved through these buildings and streets to provide a wide pedestrian walkway from river to cathedral and opened up the view of the cathedral from the river and Bankside.

The following map is from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas of Greater London. In the middle of the map can be seen Sermon Lane, when it was a street with buildings on either side. To the right of Sermon Lane is Knightrider Court – this has had a strange move which I will cover later in this post.

Horn Tavern

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the area in more detail. The Horn Tavern is the P.H. on the corner of Sermon Lane and Knightrider Street.

Horn Tavern

Going back further to Rocque’s 1746 map, we can still see Sermon Lane, however to the right, Knightrider Court was then called Doolittle Alley (the second ‘o’ is missing from the map).

Horn Tavern

Doolittle Alley was the Doolittle Lane mentioned in Ben Jonson’s plays, for example from “The Magnetic Lady”, licensed for performance in 1632 and first performed by the King’s Men at the Blackfriars Theatre in the same year:

“She dwelt in Doolittle Lane, atop o’the hill there, I’the round cage was after Sir Chime Squirrel’s. She would eat naught but almonds, I assure you.” 

I had assumed the origin of the name Sermon Lane was religious given the proximity to the cathedral, however the London Encyclopedia states “perhaps named after Adam Sermoneinarius, a 13th century property owner, or since it was once known as Sheremongers Lane, its name may have come from the sheremongers, who sheared or cut, and rounded the silver plates used in the minting of coins”.

There appears to be a common explanation leading back to John Stow’s Survey of London for the name Knightrider Street and Court. In the Streets of London, Gertrude Rawlings states that “Stow says it was supposed that the name refers to knights riding this way from Tower Royal to the tournaments at Smithfield. It has also been stated that a “knightrider” meant originally a King’s messenger, but no such word is known in our dictionaries”.

Photos of the area today show the changes to these streets. In the following photo, the Horn Tavern is on the corner and the paved area edged by the trees, leading up towards the cathedral is Sermon Lane, however this is all open space and the steps on the right form the only boundary with Peter’s Hill.

Horn Tavern

A large sign on the corner of the pub documents a link with Dickens and also states that the pub was formerly known as the Horn Tavern – again why change, there is even a Dickens reference to the original name.

Horn Tavern

View of the entrance to the Centre Page in Knightrider Street – again with the reference to the former name.

Horn Tavern

The current Horn Tavern building dates from the 19th century. Remarkably with the level of destruction around St. Paul’s Cathedral, the building survived the blitz.

The Horn Tavern appears in newspapers over the years for all the usual reasons – the meeting place for clubs, adverts for staff and rooms, people staying in the tavern being involved in local events etc. In October 1874 there was a rather intellectual contest held between teams from north and south of the river when twelve of the best players from the City of London Chess Club, played against twelve of the best players from the Bermondsey Chess Club. Unfortunately I cannot find any results to confirm whether the north or south of the river came out on top.

This is the view looking down what was Sermon Lane from the end near the cathedral. This space still retains the name Sermon Lane, however it is only a line of trees and steps that separate Sermon Lane from the main part of Peter’s Hill.

Horn Tavern

Looking down from the centre of Peter’s Hill, Sermon Lane is on the right.

Horn Tavern

In the above photo, Knightrider Court once ran through the buildings on the left, as can be seen on the 1940 and earlier maps, and Sermon Lane terminated directly on Knightrider Street, however fast forward to today, and Knightrider Court has moved.

The name is now used for the small section of street from just before the pub, and includes a small space after the junction with Knightrider Street.

In the following photo, One Knightrider Court can be seen above the entrance to the building to the right of the Horn Tavern (although today it is separate, this entrance and the building above was part of the Horn Tavern).

Horn Tavern

From the above viewpoint, turning slightly to the left and looking straight down there is this small length of street which also has the name Knightrider Court.

Horn Tavern

So although the original Knightrider Court has been lost, the name has transferred to take over the end of Sermon Lane and an additional small length of land in front of the opposite building.

I like the fact that names are retained, however it is deceiving that the name looks to be in the right place (it is a court shaped stub of land off Knightrider Street) but in reality it is in the wrong place.

This is the view looking down Knightrider Street.

Horn Tavern

As can be seen in the maps at the start of this post, Knightrider Street once continued on towards Friday Street, however Peter’s Hill now terminates the street. I explored the extension of Knightrider Street, past the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey in an earlier post: Distaff Lane – How London Streets Have Changed Over The Centuries, which also covers how the streets have changed in the area to the south of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

I would be really interested to know why the Horn Tavern’s name was changed to the Centre Page. I would have thought that retaining such a historic name would have been a good commercial decision. It would also be great to see the light with the name of the pub once again etched into whitened glass and shining on a cold London night.

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Simpson’s Tavern, Ball Court

The area between Cornhill and Lombard Street has largely avoided much of the Victorian street widening and development, and more recent post war construction. Within this area can still be found alleys and courtyards that have retained their street plan for many centuries.

One such place is Ball Court, the home of this week’s location, Simpson’s Tavern – the oldest chophouse in London.

This is the photograph my father took in 1947 of Simpson’s Tavern:

I walked down Ball Court during a walk through the City between Christmas and New Year, and took the following photo of Simpson’s Tavern today:

My father took his photo during the day, however the shade of the surrounding buildings gives the impression of this being a twilight photo. There have been cosmetic changes to the front of the building, however the building that houses Simpson’s Tavern is basically the same. In 1947 it looks as if wooden planks had been put in front of the window on the left of the door.

The main entrance still has two circular windows on each door and there is a single light above the tavern.

I suspect the circular windows may have been relatively recent in 1947, however the 1947 view probably also looked much the same in the previous century.

Simpson’s Tavern in the Ball Court location opened in 1757 by Thomas Simpson following an earlier restaurant opened in 1723 in Bell Alley, Billingsgate and then the Queen’s Arms, Bird in Hand Court, Cheapside.

Simpson’s Tavern is a busy daytime restaurant and bar serving traditional food – the breakfasts are rather good after an early start.

The building is Grade II listed, and the listing states that the buildings are of late 17th or early 18th century construction.

The entrance to the alley that leads down to Simpson’s Tavern is shown in the photo below. A narrow, covered alley leading off from Cornhill.

Ball Court is not often named on maps. I have ringed Ball Court in the following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map.

The large X in the grey area where the alley leads off from Cornhill indicates that there is a building above the alley. The small court is shown with the P.H. letters for two pubs on either side, the one on the left being Simpsons Tavern. There is a further building over the alley leading out from the court in the opposite corner.The map also illustrates the number of little alleys and courts in this part of the City.

The alley and court can also be seen in John Rocque’s map of 1746 (just below the first L of Cornhill), however in 1746 the court looks to have been a slightly different shape. This was eleven years before Simpson’s Tavern would open.

The entrance to Ball Court from Cornhill:

I stood in Ball Court for 15 minutes and did not see another person. It was quiet and it felt almost like being in one of the recreated streets you can often find in museums.

The interior of the restaurant retains a much earlier layout with wood paneled booths seating diners. Looking through a window into the tavern:

Opposite the entrance from Cornhill, another alley leads off to Castle Court:

The entrance to Ball Court from Castle Court:

To walk along Ball Court and visit Simpson’s Tavern is to walk through a much older City when narrow alleys, courts in almost perpetual shade and hidden taverns could be found in between the main streets, It is also good to find a place in the centre of the City almost unchanged since my father took his photo in 1947.

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The Hand And Shears

The following photo was published in a January 2016 post covering locations I had not identified. I have no idea why I did not recognise this pub, having walked past it many times and been inside on a number of occasions. The sign on the front also had part of the name. Luckily there were a number of readers more observant, or with a better memory than me as it is the Hand and Shears at 1 Middle Street at the junction with Cloth Fair, close to Smithfield Market and the church of St. Bartholomew the Great. The photograph was taken by my father in 1952.

Hand and Shears

Last week I had the opportunity for a visit to the pub which is still looking very good, sixty-five years after my father’s photo.

Hand and Shears

The name of the pub should have been obvious from the sign on the corner of the building. There is the symbol of a hand and shears at the top and part of the name is given at the bottom of the sign which reads:

“Moorland celebrates the grant of a Justices Licence to …Shears on the 1st May 1552 …. of service to the Public”

The words before Shears must be ‘Hand and’ and I suspect after 1552 it may have read ‘for years’.

Hand and Shears

The Justices Licence refers to the Alehouse Act of 1552 which defined in law that it was illegal to sell beer or ale without the consent of the local Justices of the Peace. This was the first time that a licence was required to sell beer and ale and was an attempt to address the drunkenness and disorder that was being caused by the widespread availability of alcohol.

The Act required that each person granted a licence was responsible for maintaining good behavior at their premises and any problems could result in a fine or loss of licence. From the sign it appears that the Hand and Shears was granted a licence in 1552.

The pub must have been working prior to the grant of a licence as a sign above the door states that the Hand and Shears was established in 1532 so a pub has been on the site for almost 500 years.

One more comment about the large sign on the 1952 pub, it is also advertising the brewery Barclay’s “Doctor” brand. This referred to beer brewed by the brewery that had a picture of Dr Johnson on the label.

The building that the Hand and Shears occupied in the photos above obviously does not date from 1532. It was built around 1852 as the following picture of the pub is dated 1852 and is of the new building of the Hand and Shears. It has hardly changed in 165 years.

Hand and Shears

The name Hand and Shears probably originates from the early days of Bartholomew Fair when it was the England’s main cloth fair. I have read a number of different sources attributing the name to either the use of shears at the fair, the cloth workers or the Mayor of London opening the fair by cutting the first piece of cloth.

The Hand and Shears prior to the nineteenth century building occupied the building shown in the following 1811 etching.

Hand and Shears

The title to the above etching is Pye Power Court, Cloth Fair.

Pubs provided many functions to their local community in addition to selling beer. Inquests would be held in the building, meetings of various societies, they organised sporting events and for the Hand and Shears there was the special role of the hosting the Pye Powder Court.

A Pye Powder Court dates from medieval times when the role of the court was to have jurisdiction over disputes between merchants and the public at a market or fair. They would also cover any other general dispute arising on fair grounds.

The name Pye Powder comes from ‘pied puldreaux’ the French word for Pedlar.

The Pye Powder Court held in the Hand and Shears had jurisdiction over the Cloth Fair and later Bartholomew Fair in nearby Smithfield.

Pye Powder Courts fell out of use in the mid-nineteenth century. Some of the last were held in the Hand and Shears and the following report from the Illustrated London News dated the 5th September 1846 covers one of these events:

“BARTHOLOMEW FAIR – On Wednesday, the usual proclamations for holding the fair were issued from the Pie-Powder Court, but the preparations presented the prospects of a very sorry realisation of the pleasures of this once favourite and popular place of metropolitan resort. The Pie-powder Court, one of the most expeditious, if not one of the most ancient courts of law in the kingdom, and to which the administration of the law on all matters pertaining to the fair, or offences committed in it, was confided, is now almost limited to Bartholomew Fair, where its duties are confined to the receipts of piccage, stallage and tollage. The court, whose proceedings are now merely nominal, is still held at the Hand and Shears public-house, in Cloth Fair.”

The terms piccage (money paid at fairs for breaking ground for a booth) and stallage (rental or fees for holding a stall in a market), like Pye Powder both have French origins so must date from the medieval period and the use of French for many legal regulations after 1066.

The following page is from Londina Illustrata published in 1811 and shows the Pye Powder Court in session. The text below the picture of the Hand and Shears reads “This Court is held at a Public House, known by the Sign of the Hand and Shears, the corner of Middle Street and King Street, as exhibited in the Vignette. The scene above, is descriptive of the Court held in the dining room, where the judge, attended by his secretary, is determining a cause between two histrionic complaints, respecting some injury sustained in the neighbouring fair of St. Bartholomew, by one of the parties.”

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As well as the Pye Powder Court, other activities carried out at the Hands and Shears included inquests into deaths. There are numerous reports of these and they show the almost casual nature of death and lack of accountability in the city – I would recommend a read of 19th century newspapers for anyone who today criticises red tape and health and safety.

One report from the London City Press on the 18th February 1860 reads:

“FATAL ACCIDENT IN REDCROSS SQUARE – On Tuesday, the Coroner held an inquest at the Hand and Shears, Cloth-fair, on the body of George William Killby, aged 19 years, son of Mr. Inspector Killby of the City Police Force, whose death was occasioned under the following circumstances – On Monday, the 6th instant, the deceased and a young man named Joseph King, were walking along the above square on the foot-pavement, and upon arriving nearly opposite the gateway of Messrs. Treggon’s zinc manufactory, a loaded van was being drawn out of the gateway by a man in their employ, two others pushing behind, when, in consequence of there being a slight decline, the van overpowered them, and the off shaft pinned the deceased against the wall, the near shaft making a hole in the wall. He was extricated as soon as possible, and removed to his residence in Bartholomew-close, and Mr. Timothy, surgeon, of Barbican, attended him, and rendered every assistance; but he gradually declined and died on Saturday from inflammation of the bowels, the result of the injury. 

The Coroner summed up, and the jury, after having consulted together, the room having been cleared, ultimately returned a verdict of ‘Accidental death’; but they considered that vans should not be drawn out of the gateway in question without a horse, as this was not the first accident that had occurred, though fortunately the others had not been attended with loss of life.”

A full view of the Hand and Shears. The sign today boasts that the pub is the opportunity for the Last Ales before Newgate Public Executions.

Hand and Shears

The Hand and Shears was also the meeting place of the Bartholomew Club, a club of local people who met to discuss current political issues and points of historical interest, and the London City Press on the 22nd December 1868 reports on the annual dinner of the members and friends of the club, held in the Hand and Shears where a “substantial and satisfactory” dinner was provided. There followed a very large number of toasts, and proposing the health of various members and at the end “the company departed after spending a very agreeable and harmonious evening.

The pub has two bars, the Public Bar and the Saloon Bar. This is the corner entrance to the Public Bar:

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The entrance to the Saloon Bar on Kinghorn Street:

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Tiled entrance to the Saloon Bar:

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Internally the Hand and Shears is a wonderful pub. A central island bar around which are the public and saloon bars (although there is very little difference between the two). I visited on a Tuesday afternoon which probably explains why it was so quiet, it is usually much busier at lunchtime and evenings.

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Wooden paneling and polished wooden floor:

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It is fascinating to sit in the Hand and Shears with a pint and contemplate all the people and events that have taken place here over the years. Both the exterior and interior of the pub appear to have hardly changed since the pub was built.

Whether it will remain in the future must be a concern given the fate of so many pubs across London. The area around Smithfield will change considerably over the coming years.

Walk through the short passage opposite the Hand and Shears to Long Lane and a sign of these changes can be seen in the form of the new Farringdon Station on the Crossrail / Elizabeth Line.

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Future Smithfield developments also include the relocation of the Museum of London which will occupy part of the old market buildings. This area will change significantly.

As well as the Hand and Shears, there are a number of long-standing small businesses in the area. Along Long Lane is Evans and Witt (supplier of all manner of office supplies) which still retains the 01 telephone number on the facade.

Hand and Shears

And the Smithfield Cafe:

Hand and ShearsMany of the pubs my father photographed have disappeared. I have already written about the Tiger Tavern, the Gun Tavern and the Ticket Porter, so it is great to see the Hand and Shears still in business and much the same as when he took the original photo back in 1952.

I hope it stays as it is and in business for many years to come.

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The Prospect of Whitby And Shadwell Basin

Back in August 2015 I published some of my father’s photos where I needed help with identifying the location. This week’s post is about one of these locations, which I really should have known, however thanks to many readers it was quickly identified. The following photo was taken in Glamis Road in Wapping, looking towards the Prospect of Whitby pub which is framed by the bridge crossing the entrance to the Shadwell Basin from the River Thames.

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The same view today is shown in the photo below. My father was much better at timing photos. When I took the photo below, it was a lovely sunny autumn day, but this meant I was looking into the sun so the lighting is not ideal to bring out the detail. Converting to black and white and adjusting the contrast did help slightly.

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Glamis Road crosses the bridge to become Wapping Wall which passes the pub and then meets Garnett Street and Wapping High Street. The area was dominated by the London Docks which were still in operation when my father took the above photo in 1951. As can be seen in the 1951 photo there is still the control cabin for the bridge on the left and directly in front of the bridge on the pavement on the left looks to be some form of illuminated sign which perhaps was the warning sign when the bridge was about to open.

Today’s photo has one of my pet hates – the amount of clutter we have across the streets. Multiple poles with multiple signs. Not sure how long the new road layout has been in place, but I have seen these in place for years after the original change.

The bridge is across the eastern entry from the River Thames to Shadwell Basin which was the eastern end of the London Docks complex.

The map below shows the 19th century configuration of the London Docks and shows how much of Wapping these docks occupied at their fullest extent. Look at Shadwell Basin on the right of the London Docks and there are two channels providing access to and from the Thames. The only one of these channels still in existence is the upper channel and it is this channel that the bridge crosses.

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The original part of the London Docks, the Western Docks opened in 1805 and specialised in wine, brandy, tobacco and rice. The docks were a success and over the next couple of decades expanded further east with the Shadwell Basin and eastern entry into the river being the completion of the London Docks complex.

The land on which the Shadwell Basin was built was originally the home of the Shadwell Waterworks Company which had commenced operation in 1669 to provide a water supply to the area east of the Tower of London. Soon after the opening of the Western Docks, the London Dock Company purchased the land and the Shadwell Waterworks Company which maintained operation until water supply was transferred to the East London Waterworks, which then allowed the Shadwell Basin to be built.

If you look above the two channels, the area that is now occupied by the King Edward VII Memorial Park was original the Shadwell Fish Market.

The London Docks closed in 1969 and over the following decades the majority of the docks were filled in. The Shadwell Basin is the only main dock section to survive.

The following photo is looking into Shadwell Basin today. The land on the left is between what was the two channels to the river and was Brussels Wharf, and was occupied by a large shed as can be seen in my father’s photo.

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Looking from the bridge along the channel which leads to the Thames. At the end of the channel were the lock gates needed to protect the water level in the docks from the variations of the tidal river. It must have been quite a sight to see the shipping pass through here in the hours when the tide was right, particularly during the days of sail when entry to such a narrow dock entrance was down to mastering the flow of the river and wind. The entrance today is permanently blocked.

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Last year, during my trip down the river in the Paddle Steamer Waverley I took the following photo from the river showing the entrance to Shadwell Basin. The bridge can just be seen above the entrance.

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The Aerofilms archive provides the perspective needed to understand the layout of the docks. The following photo was taken on the 17th June 1948. Wapping is the land in the lower part of the photo with the Shadwell Basin in the lower centre with the entrance to the river leading to the left. The bridge can be seen with the road running up to where it bends to the right past the Prospect of Whitby.

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If you look to the right of Shadwell Basin, there is a channel that leads into the next section of the London Docks on the right. There is a similar bridge over the channel, which is still in existence. This is in Garnet Street.

Back to the original wall and signage on the wall records the names of the Shadwell Basin and Brussels Wharf.

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View from the other side of the bridge showing the large counterweight used to balance the road span as the bridge is raised or lowered.

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Always on the lookout for murals, I was pleased to see this within a shelter adjacent to the bridge.

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At the far end of my father’s original photo was the Prospect of Whitby which claims to be London’s oldest riverside pub dating from around 1520. The pub was originally called The Pelican and the alley and stairs down to the river at the side of the pub to the right are still named Pelican Stairs. The pub was also referred to as the Devil’s Tavern due to the reputation of the pub and the stairs as a haunt for smugglers and thieves. The name changed to the Prospect of Whitby in the late 18th century / early 19th century (I have found multiple years referenced as when the name changed) after a collier of the same name that berthed adjacent to the pub.

I suspect that the original pub may also have been a brewery, or there was an adjacent brewery. A number of newspaper articles reference the Pelican Brewery on Wapping Wall, for example the following from the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser of the 18th May 1824:

“To Brewers, Publicans, Coopers, and Others, by Mr. Cockerell.

At the Pelican Brewery, Wapping Wall on Thursday, the 20th instant, at Eleven, Lots suitable to the Trade, Publicans, and Coopers, (in consequence of an agreed Dissolution of Partnership). About 550 Barrels of PORTER, STOUT and ALE; four capital Dray Horses, three Drays and Harness; about 850 casks, in Butts, Puncheons, Hog-heads, Barrels, and other, a quantity of Hops and other effects. may be viewed and tasted two days prior to the Sale.”

The area around the Prospect of Whitby must have been a scene of continuous coming and going of ships, cargo, sailors and passengers. There are also advertisements which indicate the type of trade carried on here. Again from the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser of the 2nd December 1819 there is an advert for the new Brig Rolla which “carries 10 keels of coals at a light draft of water, sails fast, and shifts with all an end; adapted for the Mediterranean or Oporto Trade, or general purposes,; fitted for passengers, copper fastened and fitted with a busthead and quarter badges, also a high quarter deck.”

Researching the Prospect of Whitby provides a glimpse into the life of a docklands pub and landlord.

In June 1861, the landlord, a Mr Isaac who was also the Secretary of a Loan Society was in court to try to resolve a possible complex case of fraud where the recipient of a loan had disappeared, but leaving the person who requested the loan in Wapping to pay back the sum which he could not.

In 1858, the same Mr Isaac welcomed the officers of the East End district of the Ancient Order of Foresters to the Prospect of Whitby for the purpose of opening a new branch of the order. The account of the meeting states that a very large number of members from various courts were present, and there were several toasts given.

For many years in the 19th century, the Prospect of Whitby was part of a sculling regatta on the Thames which appears to have had a rather valuable prize money of a few hundred pounds. In October 1889 it was reported that “Weather of the most dispiriting description was associated with yesterday’s racing in connection with the regatta, which, as on Saturday, was decided on the ebb over the customary course between the Hermitage Wharf and the Prospect of Whitby, Wapping Wall.”

The Prospect of Whitby also claims Samuel Pepys, Charles Dickens, Whistler and Turner  as customers. The Prospect of Whitby today:

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Pelican Stairs running down the side of the Prospect of Whitby. Just imagine the stories of the number of people who must have passed down this alley on their way to and from ships on the river.

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The Prospect of Whitby from the river with Pelican Stairs on the left.

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The building immediately behind the Prospect of Whitby which can also be seen in my father’s and my photos of the bridge and pub, is the 1890 building of the London Hydraulic Power Company.

Once again, within the confines of a weekly post I have only just scratched the surface of the history of this area. Wapping is a fascinating area to walk, and rounding off with a drink in the Prospect of Whitby made for a perfect Autumn walk.

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The Tiger Tavern At Tower Hill

It seems that hardly a week goes by without another pub closing somewhere across London. This is not a recent phenomena as significant numbers of pubs have been closing since the last war. Some were damaged and not rebuilt, some closed when local industries shut down, population changes have had a significant impact and others just disappeared during redevelopment.

I have already covered a couple of these, the Gun Tavern in Wapping, and the Ticket Porter in Arthur Street.  For this week’s post I am at Tower Hill looking for the location of another lost pub, the Tiger Tavern. Here is my father’s photo of the pub in 1948:

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The whole area to the west of Tower Hill has been rebuilt a couple of times since the last war, so I turned to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map to locate the pub. The Tiger Tavern was on Tower Hill, also known as Tower Dock. I have circled the location in the extract from the map below, the pub is marked P.H.

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As the whole area has been rebuilt, I needed a reference point and luckily there is one fixed point which has not changed in over 100 years, the entrance building to the subway, marked in the above map inside the circle with the wording Subway Entrance. (the subway was originally a way to get across the river, but was not open for too long and has since been used to carry utilities under the river – this is somewhere I would really like to visit).

The subway entrance building is opposite the southern boundary of the Tiger Tavern.

The following photo is looking across to the location of the Tiger Tavern in 2016. The subway entrance building is just below and behind the tree on the far left. I could not get to the exact point where my father took the above photo as the visitor centre buildings are now on the spot.

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Behind the visitor centre buildings and this is the location of the Tiger Tavern, now the location of a Wagamama with floors of offices above.

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The entrance building to the subway – the only remaining reference point in this area.

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I could not find out that much about the Tiger Tavern. It appears to have been originally established around 1504 and over the centuries went through a number of changes and rebuilds with the building in my father’s photo being constructed in 1893. This building lasted untill 1965 when the whole area was redeveloped with a new office complex and a very different Tiger Tavern taking up part of the ground and upper floors. This last incarnation of the pub was demolished in 2002 along with the office buildings to make way for the latest office complex, although this development did not include a rebuild of the Tiger Tavern so after 500 years, Tower Hill is without a Tiger Tavern.

According to The London Encyclopedia by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, the Tiger Tavern had the mummified remains of a cat said to have been stroked by the young Princess Elizabeth when she was held a prisoner in the Tower. The entry on the Tiger Tavern also claims that there is still a tunnel from the Tavern to the Tower, although  (writing in the 1983 edition when the 1965 version of the pub was in existence) this has now been blocked off.

I have to admit I would be surprised if there was a tunnel as it would need to be deep enough to pass under the moat around the Tower, a not inconsiderable depth and distance to go from the Tiger Tavern into the Tower – but it would be fascinating to imagine that one did exist.

I could not find any references as to the source of the pub’s name, although there was a Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London for many hundreds of years and tigers were part of this collection so perhaps this was the source of the name.

Researching newspaper references to the Tiger Tavern throws a light not just on the pub, but also on London life over the years. In the 14th February 1895 edition of the London Evening Standard there is an account of one of the tricks that would be used in London pubs to get a bit of extra cash:

“Charles Farmer, John Dumont and William Chapman were charged with loitering with intent to commit a felony, and with what is called ‘ringing the changes’ at the Tiger Tavern, in Tower Dock. Mr Maitland, solicitor, prosecuted. Two City detectives, named Cox and Shepherd, watched the Prisoners for a considerable time, and saw them enter various restaurants in the City. Finally, Farmer went to the Tiger Tavern, where, being served with refreshments, he first tendered a half-sovereign in payment. Having received the money he wanted the coin back, as he preferred to change a sovereign. Ultimately, in the confusion, he succeeded in getting the barmaid to give him 10s more than he was entitled to. During this time the other two Prisoners were in an adjoining compartment. When the police entered, Farmer voluntarily returned 10s, saying he had received too much change. All the Prisoners had been previously convicted, and pleaded guilty. Mr Alderman Green sentenced them each to three months hard labour, commending the skill and ability of the detectives.”

An advert appeared in the Morning Advertiser on the 22nd July 1840:

“WANTED a respectable YOUTH from 14 to 15 years of age, who will be instructed in the general routine of the business of a Wine-vault, and treated as one of the family – one who has not been out before, and the son of a Licensed Victualler would be preferred. Apply at the Tiger Tavern, Tower Dock, City, this day and to-morrow, between the hours of five and six p.m.”

The Surrey Mirror of the 6th September 1901 provides an example of how employers could be the victim of fraud, including the owner of the Tiger Tavern:

“Before the Kingston-on-Thames County Bench on Monday, a man giving the name of Henry Henderson, 43, described as an agent of Long Ditton and New Malden was charged on a warrant with having obtained 2s by false pretences with intention to defraud Mr. Thos. Faier, of the Tiger Tavern, Tower Dock, London. The prisoner was undefended. Mr Faier stated that in June last he saw in several London newspapers an advertisement which represented that a woman named ‘A. Gage’ wanted a situation as ‘cook-general’ and which gave an address in Long Ditton. He wrote and requested ‘A. Gage’ to call upon him and in return he received a letter signed ‘H. Henderson’ which stated that if he sent 2s as an entrance fee ‘A. Gage’ would be sent to him. he sent 2s and on June 18th received another letter from Henderson stating that Gage had been instructed o call upon him. Gage, however, did not come, and two letters which he subsequently wrote to Henderson were ignored”.

The article then goes on state that the police were called in and Detective Inspector Scott called at the address of Henderson and arrested him. He found a large pile of ashes in the back garden from burnt correspondence and also went to another house in New Malden used by Henderson where he found a large pile of letters from other people who had also sent 2s but had not received any visits from the advertised person. Henderson was receiving 60 complaints a month which gives an idea of how many people he had defrauded out of 2s. The article does not state whether A. Gage existed – I suspect not.

For more cheerful news, it was reported in the paper for the 26th February 1887 that:

“Mr. F. Dewhurst, boatswain of the steamship Queen, has been presented with a watch and a written testimonial by J.J. Hunt and friends at the Tiger Tavern, Tower Hill, for gallantly rescuing a man named Hopkins from drowning when he fell from a barge loading alongside the steamship Queen, of Custom House Quay, a short time ago.”

A number of ceremonies were held at the Tiger Tavern. Every ten years, the Lord Mayor of London would be invited to the Tiger Tavern to taste the beer, which is also poured on a seat and the taster invited to sit. If the trousers stick to the seat then all is well and a laurel garland is hung outside the tavern and around the neck of the landlord. The Scotsman on the 20th December 1949 reported on this event:

“The Citizens of London one and all proclaim their defiance of the rigours and vexations of the times and their will to stand fast for the upholding of the might, the unity and the weal of this Realm – so ran the text of a cheerful  invitation to attend to-day the hanging of a laurel and holly ale garland over the portal of the Olde Tiger Tavern on Tower Hill. The tavern’s hospitality according to the invitation would run on this day to the tasting of ‘wassail bowl, fettled porter, lamb’s wool and mulled ale (of the best)”.

The article then goes on to describe the Lord Mayor raising the garland, and various drinks being served by waitresses in Elizabethan dress (this was in 1949 and I suspect the Tiger Tavern was now looking to the future and to trade more on the historical connections rather than just as a local pub. The addition of ‘Olde’ to the name and waitresses in Elizabethan dress point to this future).

The article also describes what was served, apparently based on 1732 recipes:

Lamb’s Wool – roasted apples, sugar, sherry, nutmeg, ginger and strong ale

Wassail Bowl – sugar, warm beer, nutmeg, sherry and slices of toast

Fettled Porter – run, stout, cloves, ginger and sugar

Mulled Ale – barley wine, rum, sugar, nutmeg, cloves and ginger

That is my Christmas drinks sorted !

There are many other accounts of ceremonies held at the Tiger Tavern, weddings, job adverts, barmaids being robbed, customer deaths etc.  It was strange to think of this long and detailed history of Londoners at the Tiger Tavern standing outside what is now a rather bland office block and chain restaurant.

The following photo helps fix the location of the Tiger Tavern. In my father’s photo above, the building to the left of the pub has been destroyed, this is the side wall that can be seen to the left of centre in the photo below.

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The Tiger Tavern survived the Great Fire of London and as can be seen in the above photo it was one of the few buildings in the block that survived the Blitz, but it could not survive the development of the area in the last 20 years.

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The Gun Tavern – A Tale Of Two Wappings

I find it fascinating to track down the locations of the photos my father took in the late 1940s. They all tell a story and highlight the changes that have taken place across London over the last 70 years. Sometimes, I can put a pair of photos together that sum up the change, not just at that specific place, but across a whole area of London, and that is the case with today’s post -The Gun Tavern – A Tale Of Two Wappings (with apologies to Charles Dickens).

The Gun Tavern and Hotel was on the corner of Wapping High Street and Dundee Street. Wapping is the area to the east of the Tower of London. An area of high density housing, warehouses and docks. Nearly all activity that took place in Wapping was driven by the River Thames. Ships moored alongside the warehouses or lighters transported goods to and from ships in the river. Steps leading down to the river provided access for those who worked out on the river. Housing provided very basic accommodation for the workers and the many pubs provided almost the only escape from work.

I will not put any text in between the following two photos so they can be compared. The first is the original photo taken by my father of the Gun Tavern and Hotel. I easily found the location today and the second photo shows the same scene today. Look at the building on the left which is the same in both photos. The pattern of the brickwork is the same and in the lower left of both photos, set into the pavement is a fire hydrant in the same position over 69 years.

The major change is the building that now occupies the site of the Gun Tavern.

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This is now a Foxtons Estate Agents and these two photos sum up the changes to Wapping over the past 70 years.

Walk along Wapping High Street and the majority of the old warehouses and wharf buildings have now been converted to apartment buildings, forming a barrier between the river and the street. There are some access areas and walkways, however considering how close this is to central London, Wapping High Street feels strangely quiet. It is almost a dormitory street for those who work in the rest of London, or apartments that get occasional visits from their remote owners. It has to be a wasted opportunity as with a more mixed use approach and more affordable housing this could be a much more vibrant area.

Wapping High Street is one of the few streets in London where you can walk a distance and not find the usual Starbucks, Costa or Pret which I assume the lack of local business or passing trade cannot justify. I last walked along Wapping High Street a few years ago and the site of the Gun Tavern was then a cafe, however either it could not make enough money, or the new development now occupied by Foxtons was a more profitable change for the owners.

The same road surface as in my father’s photo showing underneath later surfacing.

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The map below is an extract from the 1893-1895 series Ordnance Survey map. This shows the area around Dundee Street and the Gun Tavern including some of the many street name changes. The River Thames is at the bottom of the map, and Wapping High Street is running left to right across the map.

At the time of this map, Dundee Street was called Upper Well Alley and can be seen running vertically from Wapping High Street just to the right of centre. The Gun Tavern is the building labelled PH at the junction of Upper Well Alley with Wapping High Street.

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The considerable number of pubs across Wapping can be seen just by the sample in this one small area. Including the Gun Tavern, there are seven Public Houses marked. Today, there are hardly any pubs across the whole of Wapping. The only inland pub is Turner’s Old Star on Watts Street. The other pubs are the riverside pubs, Town of Ramsgate, The Captain Kidd and The Prospect of Whitby. The Town of Ramsgate is shown in the above map as the PH just above Wapping Old Stairs. At the end of the 19th century, there were roughly 29 public houses along just Wapping High Street.

I have been unable to trace when Upper Well Alley changed named to Dundee Street. At the end of Upper Well Alley in the above map, facing on to the river is New Dundee Wharf, so the new name must have come from the name of the Wharf and as it has “New” at the start of the wharf the name of the wharf must have been relatively recent.

In the 19th century, the Gun Tavern was often used as a location in which to hold an inquest. Reading accounts of these from newspapers of the time provides a fascinating insight into life in Wapping and London.

The following is from the London Daily News of the 30th January 1846, the headline was “Heartless Conduct. Mysterious Suicide”:

“At a late hour last evening Mr. Baker held an inquest at the Gun Tavern, Gun Wharf, Wapping on the body of Mrs. Lucy Robinson, alias Hawker aged 36 years, who was found drowned. William Adamson, a fisherman, said that on Tuesday forenoon, whilst in his boat, grappling off Wapping in sixteen feet of water, his grappling iron brought up the body of the deceased. She had a long Cashmere scarf twisted tightly around her waist, and her bonnet strings were tied in nine knots close under the chin. Mr. Henry Lambert, proprietor of the Caledonian Arms, Pentonville, identified the body as that of his sister; she some months kept the Vine Tavern, Kentish Town; she was then a widow.

A man named William Hawker, an omnibus conductor, used to frequent the house. He soon after professed an attachment to her; he represented himself as a single man; the correspondence was carried on for some time, and he ultimately induced her to cohabit with him as man and wife. Witness, hearing of this fact went to her, for the purpose of expostulating with her on her conduct, when words ensued between Hawker and witness. Hawker struck him several violent blows, and knocked him down, the next day witness went to the house again, his intention being to get a warrant for the assault. when he went he found the house shut up, and that Hawker and deceased had gone to France; they soon after returned, when he heard they had been married and that Hawker had drawn about 900s of deceased’s money, from a bank in which she had deposited it. He had never seen her since.

Martha Gaylor of Vine-cottage, Kentish-town, deposed that she had been a tenant of the deceased’s, and on terms of intimacy for the last eight years. After deceased and Hawker came from France, they went to live at No. 11 Marylebone Street. She told witness she was married; and that since she had found out that he had a wife living. Witness knew that there was a woman called Mrs. Hawker, and had seen her call at the house since Hawker’s return from France. Deceased had often complained to witness of the ill-usage she received at the hands of Hawker, showing bruises on her wrists, face and other parts of her person; and that he was in the constant habit of drinking, and ill-using her since she had obtained her money. On Tuesday week he thrust her out of doors violently on to the pavement. She took drink occasionally.

On Saturday night last, at ten o’clock witness called upon her. She was then intoxicated; did not see her again alive. Was told subsequently that she suddenly left the house at twelve o’clock at night, and was not heard of again until her body was found. There being no other evidence to show by what means she came into the water, the jury said they should not be satisfied until the man Hawker was before them, to hear his statement. Marshall, the beadle, said he had summoned him, but he was not in attendance. The inquiry was therefore adjourned for his attendance, and the production of other evidence as to how the deceased came into the water.”

As well as many murders and suicides, the Gun Tavern also held inquests into the frequent accidents on the river. The following is from Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper from the 25th August 1878 and has the headline “Fatal Boat Accident”:

“Yesterday evening Mr. Collier held an inquiry at the Gun Tavern, High-street, Wapping, touching the death of a young man named Charles Wicks. Deceased was a telegraph-wire worker, and on last Sunday he and several others went for a rowing an out-rigged four-oar cutter on the Thames, all being said to be used to rowing. When off Blackwall-point they were caught in the swell of a Newcastle boat, and the craft in which the deceased was, becoming filled, they had to jump out. Only two out of the five could swim. A witness threw him an oar, but it did not reach him. He and another man went down, the other three being picked up by the waterman’s skiff. the body was found off Wapping on Friday. The jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death.”

Reading the newspaper accounts of the numerous inquests held at the Gun Tavern covering suicides, murders and accidents quickly dispels any romantic view of life in Wapping by the River Thames in the 19th century.

As well as the inquests held in the Gun Tavern, the residents of Upper Well Alley were involved in many crimes, including murder. The following is from the Morning Post on the 26th August 1896, with the headline “The Wapping Tragedy”:

“James Jones, ship’s fireman, of 8, Upper Well-alley, Wapping, was charged yesterday on remand before Mr Dickenson, at the Thames Police Court, with the murder of Edward White by stabbing him in the neck with a knife. Further evidence was taken. That of the medical men who made the post-mortem examination showed that there were nine external wounds and 10 internal wounds. They were both incised and punctured, and all, with the exception of a small one at the back of the head, might have been caused by the knife produced. the most serious one was at the back of the neck, which divided the spinal column and vertebral artery. the wound which severed the spinal cord was a fatal one. Mr. Dickinson remanded the prisoner, and the witnesses who had given evidence were bound over.”

Another newspaper article from the 18th December 1894 had the title “Not sober for 4 years” and told the story of the death of a woman from number 8 Upper Well Alley, Wapping who had not been sober for over 4 years. The wife of a waterside labourer, she would not get up until 4 in the afternoon and had already taken everything in the house to the pawn shop to fund her drinking. When she could no longer move, she managed to get rum brought to her bed and after her death a bottle of spirits were found hidden underneath the pillow.

Upper Well Alley, or Dundee Street of today is very different to the days of the 19th century newspaper reports and is under going further change. The photo below taken in Dundee Street shows the St. Patrick’s Social Club building which I believe will soon be demolished.

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Dundee Street and along Green Bank was once home to St. Patrick’s Social Club, School and Church. Today only the church remains.

On the corner of Dundee Street and Green Bank is an old bollard dated 1899 and stating Limehouse District. In the late 19th century, the district of Limehouse extended from the main land area around St. Annes Limehouse, along a narrow strip of river side land in Wapping to a short extension inland here around Dundee Street. This bollard was the only remaining marker I could find around Dundee Street, Green Bank and Scandreet Street.

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Looking down Dundee Street, or as it was Upper Well Alley, from the junction with Green Bank.

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At the end of Green Bank, on the corner with Scandrett Street (or Church Street as it was on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map) is the old Turks Head pub (the PH at the very top, centre of the above map). Closed as a pub in the late 1970s, the Turks Head was restored by a charitable trust in the 1980s providing a community cafe for the local area.

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On the Scandrett Street side of the building is the original 1706 street name plaque, confirming that this was originally Bird Street.

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The following extract from John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the area in the right hand lower quarter. Bird Street is clearly marked as is Green Bank (about the only street in the area to retain its original name). Comparing with the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows that New Dundee Wharf was originally Gun Dock and leading north from here was Gun Alley and across Green Bank Lower Gun Alley. This explains where the name Gun Tavern came from although whether the street or the pub was named first is a good question.

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What appears to have happened over the last almost three hundred years is that Gun Alley was probably the original name, following by Upper Well Alley and then Dundee Street which remains the name today. Fascinating why names change so much and in this small area of Wapping only Green Bank retains its original name. (It is tempting to think that as Green Bank dates from at least 1746, the name may refer to an embankment along here that held the river back from further encroachment inland, much like the original street name of Narrow Wall on the South Bank, although I have not found any proof of this).

the following print  (©Trustees of the British Museum) shows the view of Gun Dock from the river in 1850. The church tower in the background is that of St. John’s which we will come to next.

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The original 1756 parish church of St. John’s is on the corner of Green Bank and Scandrett Street. The church was badly damaged during the war with only the tower and the shell of the rest of the church remaining. The building was later rebuilt as apartments so apart from the tower, the rest of the building is a new construction. To blend in with the surroundings much of the external walls were built using materials from other buildings destroyed during the war.

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Next to the church are the buildings of the St. John’s School. Although founded in 1695, the school was established by voluntary subscriptions in 1704, with old buildings on the west side of church street purchased to provide accommodation for the school. The site of these original buildings were included in a later expansion of the churchyard, so in exchange, a plot of land was given to the trustees of the school and the buildings that we see now constructed in 1756 to 60.

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The school appears to have been in a reasonably financially stable position. The 1819 the second report by the Commissioners on the Education of the Poor reported that the school held £2,000 in stocks and the dividends from these, as well as an annual £10 rent from the lease of a small parcel of land provided much of the income that the school needed. There was also a separate fund of £384 which had been raised by subscription among the inhabitants of Wapping in 1725. This money was used to purchase some land and buildings and at the time of the report a rent of £60 10 shillings was being generated for the school.

At the time of the report, the annual expenditure of the school was £480. The main costs were:

  • Clothing about £200
  • Schoolmasters and schoolmistress’s salary with coals, and etc. about £100
  • Repairs, about £40
  • Stationary, about £50

This was in excess of the dividends and money from rents received by the school, with the gap being made up from voluntary subscriptions.

Above the doors to the school, statues of school children in their blue coat uniforms. gun-tavern-11

Opposite the church and the school is the original churchyard.

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A plaque set into the wall of the churchyard, dated 1855 states that the wall belongs to the Parish of St. John of Wapping and is the boundary of the churchyard.

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The churchyard wall, plaque and old headstones lined up against the wall.

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One of the few remaining pubs in Wapping is the Town of Ramsgate – a pub which deserves a dedicated post. The pubs on the river almost certainly have a long-term future, their river facing location provide a reliable stream of custom which ensures their profitability and the history of pubs such as the Town of Ramsgate and the Prospect of Whitby should also hopefully also protect their future. The entrance to Wapping Old Stairs is down the alley to the right of the pub.

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If you walk a very short distance back along Wapping High Street towards the City, you cross the old entrance to the Wapping Basin and the London Docks. This has long been filled in following the closure of the docks, however stand on the Wapping High Street and look in land and the entrance to the Wapping basin is still visible with the walls of the entrance channel still either side of what is now a paved area.

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The buildings on the western side of Pier Head.

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The original buildings from when this was a working dock line the entrance at Pier Head either side of Wapping High Street.

The following photo is looking back towards Dundee Street from Pier Head. This was originally a swing bridge allowing the channel to be opened up whenever a ship needed to cross between the river and the Wapping Basin. This must have been really impressive to watch.

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When I travelled down the Thames last October I took the following photo from the river showing the entrance to the Wapping basin and the buildings of Pier Head on either side.

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Leaving Pier Head, i headed back to central London down a relatively quiet Wapping High Street until reaching the bustle of St. Katherine’s Docks which, on a busy Friday lunchtime was crowded with people.

The area around Dundee Street has so much history. I have not even touched on the River Police, or the stories associated with Execution Dock, but the area runs the risk of being turned into a quiet suburb of silent apartments lining Wapping High Street. This will be such a loss.

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The Lamb And Flag, Rose Street

After the last few weeks of exploring the River Thames and beneath the city streets, this week it is time to return to London in the late 1940s.

This is my father’s photo of the Lamb and Flag pub in Rose Street, near Covent Garden, taken in 1948. The name Lamb and Flag can be seen just above the entrance to the Saloon. On many London pubs of the time, the name of the brewery was given much greater prominence than the name of the pub. Barclay, Perkins & Co. Ltd were a major London brewery operating from the Anchor Brewery in Park Street, Southwark. The brewery was originally founded in 1616, becoming Barclay, Perkins in 1781 when John Perkins and Robert Barclay took over. Barclay, Perkins merged with Courage in 1955 and the brewery closed in the early 1970s.

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And my photo of the same pub from the same location 67 years later in 2015.

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The Lamb and Flag occupies one of London’s older buildings. It was originally built at the same time as Rose Street in 1623 and much of the original timber frame survives although the front was rebuilt in 1958 as can be seen in the above two photos.

The 1958 rebuild of the front of the pub lost many of the original architectural features including what appears to be a parapet running the width of the building at the top of the wall.

A close-up from my father’s photo shows the carving of the Lamb and Flag at the centre of the parapet:

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The pub has a historic interior, unfortunately it was a bit too crowded for photos at the time of my visit.

To the right of the pub is an alleyway with a side entrance to the Saloon Bar. The alleyway leads  through to Lazenby Court.

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Halfway along the alleyway, the height of the ceiling drops and at this point is a plaque that records some of the history of the pub and the immediate area. The plaque looks very new, however the reference to Courage and Barclays beers rather than those of Fullers, the current brewery, indicates an older source for the text.

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The plaque makes reference to Charles Dickens as well as one Samuel Butler.

Butler died in a house on Rose Street and is buried nearby at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden. He was a royalist during the English Civil War and at the restoration had a number of posts with other royalists who held key positions close to Charles II.

Butler wrote “Hudibras”, a popular satirical poem directed mainly against religious sectarianism and due to his Royalist sympathies focused on the Roundheads and Puritans.

The plaque also records the attack on the poet John Dryden in 1679 “at the instance of Louise de Keroualle, Mistress of Charles II” for allegedly having written some scurrilous verses about her.

Louise de Keroualle was unpopular in London for being both French and a Catholic, so may not have been the real culprit and an alternative person responsible for the attack was another alleged target of John Dryden’s writings, John Wilmot the Earl of Rochester.

At the time of the attack, Rose Street was a dark and narrow alley and an ideal place to carry out such a deed. Despite Dryden depositing £50 with Child’s Bank in Fleet Street as a reward, the guilty party, responsible for the attack was never identified and a Mistress of Charles II probably sounds a better attribute to the history of the Lamb and Flag than the Earl of Rochester.

Walking through the alleyway into Lazenby Court. This was probably  more open than it is now, forming a small courtyard behind the pub.

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The source of the name Lamb and Flag has a religious basis. The “lamb” is from the Gospel of St. John: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world” and the flag being that of St. George.

The pub was also once known as the Bucket of Blood due to links with prize fighting.

An older sign for Lazenby Court is partly hidden behind the direction sign for the pub.

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Rose Street runs from Long Acre, adjacent to the map and travel bookshop, Stanfords, down to Garrick Street, however today, it is cut in half by Floral Street.

As with many London streets, it has changed over the years. The following extract from John Rocque’s survey of London from 1746, shows Rose Street, with the alley running up from where the street bends to the left, in exactly the same position as the alley of today, however in 1746 it led to Glastonbury Court rather than today’s Lazenby Court. A very narrow Rose Street runs up to Long Acre.

To the right of Rose Street is Little Hart Street. Today, this street has been renamed Floral Street and extended just past the end of Rose Street where it meets Garrick Street, a street also not yet built in 1746 which cuts diagonally from the junction of Long Acre and St. Martins Lane (the street on the left with just the word Lane showing) down to King Street.

As far as I can tell from checking maps, the part of Rose Street leading up to Angel Alley, along with Angel Alley was lost when Little Hart Street was extended and renamed Floral Street.

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Older sign for Rose Street above the modern name sign.

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In Rose Street, just in front and to the right of the Lamb and Flag is the Westminster Fire Office, one of the original fire insurance companies who also ran a private fire fighting service.

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The door to the building records key dates for the Westminster Fire Office. 1717 was the founding year of the company. Offices were originally based in nearby King Street, but as the company grew more space was needed and in 1875 the company expanded into the building in Rose Street.

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The Lamb and Flag pub is a fascinating historic pub close by Covent Garden and Rose Street is an original street from the development of this part of London. They are both well worth a visit.

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The Founder’s Arms, Falcon Stairs, A Brothel And Confused Street Names

A couple of week’s ago, my post was on No.49 Bankside, one of the few remaining historic buildings in Bankside, and for this week, I have moved across to the other side of Tate Modern, and found how echoes of London’s long history are still visible today, despite what at first sight, appears to be a very recent landscape.

My photo for this week from my father’s collection was taken in 1950. As the street sign confirms, it is on Bankside and looking across to a fine Victorian pub. This is the Founder’s Arms.

Behind the pub is the viaduct, approaching Blackfriars railway bridge, carrying the rail lines across the Thames into Blackfriars Station. A couple of the arches underneath the railway can just be seen to the left of the pub.

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Although this part of Bankside has changed dramatically, it is relatively easy to place the location of the Founder’s Arms. The following is my 2015 photo, taken not quite from the same location as the new buildings on the right hide the view of the location of the pub, but using the arches in the railway viaduct and the road layout as reference points, where the pub once stood is now occupied by the single storey building behind the white van. The arches in the viaduct can just be seen on the left.

To the right of the pub in the 1950 photo, the roadway continues down to the wharfs and stairs on the river. Although not a road, this is still a footpath shown in the 2015 photo by the yellow railings. Bankside still curves to the right (although moved slightly away from the river, the original route now occupied by the buildings on the right), and in the 1950 photo, just visible to the left, two cobbled streets appear to be separated by a small part of pavement that extends into the centre left of the photo.

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An alternative viewpoint with a better view of the arches under the viaduct with the position of the Founder’s Arms on the right:

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To help understand the area in more detail, maps covering the last few centuries tell so much of how the area has changed, and what has remained.

Below is the latest Google map of the location. Hopton Street is seen in the middle of the map, coming up to a T junction at the top, with just before this, a small side extension to join with Holland Street.

Turn left at the T junction and the walkway to the river past the original location of the pub is shown in grey. The map still shows a Founder’s Arms, now directly on the river, I will come back to this later.

2015 map

Working back in time, the following map is from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London and shows the road layout as it was at the time of the 1950 photo. I have marked the position of the pub with a red dot.

Compare the roads Holland Street and Hopton Street. The 1940 map has these reversed compared to the Google map, and checking on site, Google is accurate, so was this just a map makers error?

1940 map with spot

Going back 10 years to the 1930 version of Bartholomew’s Atlas and it is even more confusing. Look at the same location near the top of the following map and now both are called Holland Street with no mention of Hopton Street.

1930 map

I checked the 1913 version of the same Atlas (yes, sadly I do have multiple editions of the same London Maps !!)  and the streets are both called Holland Street in this version as well, so I doubt this was an error.

So now, let’s jump back much further to John Rocque’s survey of London from 1746. I have again marked the approximate position of the pub by a red dot. In the John Rocque map, the reference point we can use that is still there today are the Hopton Almshouses which can be seen along The Green Walk. These can also be seen on the Bartholomew maps as the U-shaped building where Holland Street meets Southwark Street.

Founder 6a with spot So, in 1746, neither Hopton or Holland street names existed. Today’s Hopton Street was The Green Walk and today’s Holland Street was part of Gravel Lane.

To start with trying to explain the street name changes, George Cunningham in his survey of London’s streets, buildings and monuments gives an explanation for the name Holland Street:

“Location of the old moated Manor House of Paris Garden, subsequently notorious under the name of Holland’s Leaguer, from Holland, a procuress (an early name for a “woman who procures prostitutes”), who occupied it in Charles I’s time. The old Manor House was a favourite resort of James I and his Court, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham and the nobility generally.”

Holland was Sarah Holland who in 1631 had been charged as an “incontinent women” and imprisoned in Newgate. The Manor House was very suitable for her needs as she said it was “near the theatres and baiting rings, with their wild beasts and gladiators”.

George Cunningham’s book was published in 1927 and there is no mention of Hopton Street.

So that explains the source of the name Holland Street, but does not explain why or when The Green Walk and Gravel Lane changed their name. The 1913 Bartholomew Atlas is therefore correct by labelling the two streets (which were in effect one, looping back after reaching Bankside) as Holland Street.

In the original The Green Walk are Hopton’s Almshouses. These were built around 1749 for “twenty-six decayed house-keepers, each to have an upper and lower room with £10 per annum and a chaldron of coals.” They have been occupied continuously since July 1752.

The money (and name) for these came from one Charles Hopton who on his death left a large sum of money to his sister, and on her death the money was used to build the Almshouses. Hopton was born around 1654 into a wealthy merchant family and was a member of the Guild of Fishmongers.

The Almshouses are still there today. A surprise to walk down Hopton Street in the summer and suddenly find these 18th century buildings with at their centre a wonderful colourful garden:

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The Almshouses as they appeared around 1850. A far more austere appearance with no gardens:

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In 1831 there is a description of these as being “those of Mr Hopton in Green Walk” – so it appears the name had not changed to Holland Street by 1831. By the time of Edward Walfords Old and New London (1890) the name had changed to Holland Street.

Hopton Street has one further surprise. This is No. 61 Hopton Street, or when it was first built, No. 9 Green Walk and is the oldest building in the area.

One of a number of houses built by James Price around 1703. This is the sole survivor and is surrounded on all sides by much later (and much larger) additions to Hopton Street. The changes that this house has seen over the centuries must be quite remarkable.

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The change of part of Holland Street to Hopton Street probably occurred around the mid 1930s.

In Grace Golden’s history of Old Bankside, published in 1951, she refers to: “An apparently puritanical drive has recently changed Holland into Hopton Street, named after Charles Hopton”.

Also, the licensing records for the Founder’s Arms state that the original address was 8 Holland Street and the address was changed to 56 Hopton Street between 1934 and 1938.

From this, I assume that in the 1930s, there was an initiative to change from Holland to Hopton Street to erase the reference to what must have effectively been a brothel kept by Sarah Holland at the old Paris Garden’s Manor House.

The reversal of Holland and Hopton Streets between the 1940 and today’s maps was probably down to it being a very recent change in 1940 and an error in recording which leg of Holland Street had changed (although I cannot find out why only part of the street changed – it may have been down to the Almshouses wanting to have an address of their founder rather than the founder of a brothel !)

Before I return to the Founder’s Arms, there is one further name that persists in this small area. At the end of Hopton and Holland Streets is a paved area, planted with trees. This is Falcon Point Piazza:

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Also, the new buildings to the right of the above photo are named Falcon Point:

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If you return to the John Rocque map from 1746 and look on the river’s edge to the lower right of the red circle you will see Faulcon Stairs, one of the many old stairs that led down to the river.

The earliest explanation I can find for the name is from the sport of Falconry that took place in the Paris Gardens that occupied much of this area, so the buildings and the Piazza both retain the name of a sport that took place here hundreds of years ago.

The Falcon name has other associations with the area.

Between the end of Holland / Hopton Streets and the Hopton Almshouses was the Falcon Glass Works. Built in the late 18th century by the firm of Pellatt & Green, partly on the site of a Millpond (the millpond can be seen on John Rocque’s map above. Look slightly below the red dot and to the left and a small shaded area adjacent to the road is the original millpond. The curve of the current road still maintains the outline of the millpond)

Writing of the Glass Works in 1843 in his History of Surrey, Brayley states that “Their present importance and excellence are mainly due to the taste and exertions of the present proprietor and the employment of skilful hands on materials that science and experience approve. By these means the most elegant productions of the Continent are advantageously rivalled, and in some respects surpassed”. 

Falcon Glass Works as they appeared in 1827:

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As can be seen, they were located at the point where Hopton / Holland Streets loop round, back to Southwark Street and Sumner Street. The same location now with the curve of the road (due to the original millpond) still very obvious:

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I have read, but have been unable to corroborate, that the source of the name Founder’s Arms was due to the Glass Works or Foundry as a “Founder” is also an operator of a Foundry.

In addition to the Founder’s Arms, there was a much earlier pub on the site of the Falcon Drawing Dock, (closer to the river, near the stairs). This was the Falcon Tavern which was allegedly used by Shakespeare, but was definitely a major coaching inn, acting as the terminus for coaches to Kent, Surrey and Sussex. The Falcon Tavern was demolished in 1808.

Now if we walk past where the Founder’s Arms use to be back up to the walkway along the river we find both the latest the latest incarnation of the Founder’s Arms and steps leading down to the river, roughly in the location of the Falcon Stairs (I say roughly as with the building of the walkway and other changes it is impossible to be precise).

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A very different pub to the Victorian original but good that for at least 176 years (the earliest record I can find for the Founder’s Arms is from 1839) a pub with the same name has been found in this small area of Bankside.

A rather convoluted story, but one that demonstrates how much is to be found in one very small area of London, and that despite so much reconstruction and change, links with the history of the site are still there to be discovered.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • Old and New London by Walter Thornbury published in 1881
  • London, South of the Thames by Sir Walter Besant published in 1912
  • Survey of London, Volume XXII published by the London County Council in 1950
  • Old Bankside by Grace Golden published in 1951
  • London by George H. Cunningham published in 1927
  • Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London, editions published in 1913, 1930 and 1940
  • A Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster and the Borough of Southwark by John Rocque published in 1746

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Highgate – Pubs, History And Architecture

Highgate has been high on my list to visit as some of my father’s photos from 1948 are of the pubs and buildings around the centre of Highgate and with the recent good weather, a destination with a pub seemed perfect.

Highgate is probably better known for the cemetery of the same name, however the village at the top of the hill is well worth a visit to view some of the architecture and stop at some of the many pubs.

Coming out of London, up Highgate West Hill, after a long climb up to the heights of Highgate we reach the Flask. This is how the Flask looked in 1948:

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And my April 2015 photo shows the pub looking very much the same:

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It is really good that in the intervening 67 years there has not been too much change to the pub. The main difference being the courtyard area in front which is now a seating area, although in the 1948 photo you can just see some tables and chairs to the right and left of the courtyard so perhaps even this has not changed that significantly.

Internally, the pub has avoided the conversion to a large open space, the fate of so many other pubs. The Flask still has many small bar areas and rooms at different levels and is probably much the same as when my father visited in 1948.

The name of the pub is apparently from the flasks that were sold from the pub to collect water from the local springs.

Hogarth allegedly drank at the Flask. From Old and New London:

“During his apprenticeship he made an excursion to this favourite spot with three of his companions. The weather being sultry, they went into a public-house on the Green, where they had not been long, before a quarrel arose between two persons in the same room, when, one of the disputants having struck his opponent with a quart pot he had in his hand, and cut him  very much, causing him to make a most hideous grin, the humourist could not refrain from taking out his pencil and sketching one of the most ludicrous scenes imaginable, and what rendered it the more valuable was that it exhibited the exact likeness of all present.”

Fortunately the Flask was very peaceful during my visit, and it was the perfect location to enjoy the spring sunshine.

Another view of the Flask from the side, passing along Highgate West Hill in 1948:

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And today in April 2015:

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The Flask is now a Fuller’s pub. In 1948 as can be seen from the sign above the entrance it sold Taylor Walker’s Prize Beers.  Taylor Walker was founded in Stepney, East London in 1739 and originally brewed beer in Limehouse. It has been through a number of changes in ownership and is now a brand owned by Spirit Pub Company. At some point since 1948, it was acquired by Fullers who still brew beer in Chiswick, West London.

Part of the Green referred to in the Hogarth reference is still in front of the Flask and gives the impression of being in a country village rather than north London:

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The direction sign gives the very stark choice of either entering Highgate Village or going to the North. Highgate obviously has a very low opinion of the value of visiting anywhere else in the local area.

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Leaving the Flask and completing the walk up the hill, we find another pub, the Gatehouse. Highgate does seem well provided with pubs. In 1826, Old and New London records that there were nineteen licensed taverns. The pubs of Highgate practiced a custom whereby strangers visiting a pub had to swear an oath on a set of animal horns (each pub having their own). Byron referred to the ceremony in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

“Some o’er thy Thamis row the ribboned fair,
Others along the safer turnpike fly;
Some Richmond Hill ascend, some scud to Ware,
And many to the steep of Highgate hie.
Ask ye, Boeotian shades, the reason why?
‘Tis to the worship of the solemn Horn,
Grasped in the holy hand of Mystery,
In whose dread name both men and maids are sworn,
And consecrate the oath with draught and dance till morn.”

The custom died out in the 19th century.

I did not count how many are there today, but there does still seem to be a good number.

This is my father’s photo of the Gatehouse from 1948:

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And from the same location in 2015:

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In 67 years it is remarkable how little change there has been, apart from the style of cars, it is mainly cosmetic.

The Gatehouse may look relatively new, however this is one of the key locations in Highgate and the Gatehouse has a long history.

The name Highgate was first recorded in the 14th century, and refers to one of the Gates that provided access to the park, owned by the Bishop of London that stretched from Highgate, to the Spaniards pub in Hampstead and to East Finchley. There is also a view that the name has an earlier source and is based on “haeg”, the Saxon word for a hedge, where a hedge would also have been used to fence around a park.

At some point early in the 14th century, the Bishops of London had allowed a route through their parkland which due to the height of the land around Highgate, provided a more passable route in winter than the main route north through Crouch End and up to Muswell Hill.

The Gate here, or Gatehouse was to collect tolls from travellers along this route and is on the site of the earliest recorded building in Highgate.

The Gatehouse in 1820:

Highgate 11

The Gatehouse also stood in two different parishes as evident from the parish boundary markers still found on the wall of the building:

Highgate 12

The Gatehouse was split between the Parish of Hornsey and St. Pancras Parish. Being split between two parishes caused problems during some of the functions performed within the building. When used as a court, a rope had to be strung across the floor to divide into the two parishes and ensure that the prisoner did not escape into the other parish.

Boundary changes in 1994 took the whole of the building into the London Borough of Camden.

The gates that gave the Gatehouse its name were removed in 1892 with tolls having finished a few years earlier in 1876.

The location of Highgate, on hills to the north of London made it a popular location to live, close to London, but just far enough away to avoid the dense population, pollution, smoke, smells etc. of the city. There was much development of Highgate in the 18th and 19th centuries and many of these buildings remain today.

Close to the Gatehouse is Pond Square. My father took this photo in 1948:

Highgate 9

And in 2015, remove the scaffolding and the building is much the same.

Highgate 10

The name Pond Square comes from the ponds that were originally in the centre area of the square. The ponds were created by the digging of gravel for maintenance of the roads, however the ponds were filled in during the mid 19th century due to the poor state of the ponds and the associated risks to health (being also used as cesspools).

Looking across Pond Square today, there is no evidence of the ponds, although there is still evidence of what Ian Nairn described in Nairn’s London as:

“Ruined by traffic and a weary flow of municipal improvements – asphalt and crazy walling – which is at its worst in Pond Square. The place could be transformed without altering anything but the surface of the floor.”

Highgate 13

Walking round Highgate I was really pleased to find the location of the following photo. This is one of the many that I was not sure if I would find the location. There is no information, street names, recognisable buildings etc. to identify the location of the photo. It was on a strip of negatives that had one Highgate photo but also had photos of central London.

Highgate 8

This is Southwood Lane looking up into Highgate, and in 2015 it is remarkably much the same:

Highgate 7

Highgate is a fascinating location to visit and as shown by the photos my father took in 1948 and my 2015 photos has changed very little.

As usual, in the space of a weekly blog I have only been able to scratch the surface of the history of Highgate, but it is a location I will certainly be back to explore again.

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