Category Archives: London Pubs

Tracing London’s old pubs

George Inn, Borough High Street, Southwark

The George Inn, along Borough High Street, Southwark is the only remaining galleried coaching inn in London of the many that once serviced the numerous coaches that connected the city with the rest of the country.

The George remains thanks to the London and North Eastern Railway. Although they did demolish large parts of the original buildings leaving only one side of the complex, they sold to the National Trust in 1937, who continue to own the property with it currently being leased to the pub chain and brewer, Greene King.

Back in 1977, I took the following photograph of the George with the main building and galleried upper floors.

George Inn

There was something being filmed at the time of my visit, as the lights facing into the building demonstrate – cannot remember what it was – a late 1970s period drama.

On a rather overcast September day, I went back to Borough High Street to photograph the George Inn.

George Inn

The George still has the narrow entrance from Borough High Street. These are days of COVID precautions and the sign indicated a separate side for entrance and exit.

George Inn

I did not want to challenge the restrictions in place, so did not walk into the yard just to take photos. I was short of time, having to be in Clerkenwell that afternoon so could not stop for a drink. The George is on the list for a return visit, and some better photos.

George Inn

The George looks much the same as in my 1977 photo, however the building at the end of the yard in 1977 has been demolished and replaced.

The George is a very old Inn, dating back to at least the 16th century. It was mentioned by Stowe in 1598 as one of the “fair inns” of London.

It was originally called the St. George, but because of changes in sentiment towards religious iconography, Popery and saints, the inn became the George in the mid 16th century.

In 1622 the inn is described as being built of “brick and timber”. In 1670 a Mark and Mary Wayland were running the George for an annual rent of £150. That year the pub was damaged by fire. Wayland rebuilt and had his rent reduced to £80 and a sugar loaf.

A much larger fire in 1676 that burnt through much of the surrounding area, totally destroyed the George, but again it was rebuilt by the tenant who had the rent further reduced to £50 and a sugar loaf, along with an extension of the lease.

In 1825, the George is recorded as being “a good commercial inn in the Boro High Street; well known, whence several coaches and many wagons depart laden with the merchandise of the metropolis, in return for which they bring back from various parts of Kent, that staple article of the country, the hop, to which we are indebted for the good quality of the London porter”.

In 1855, a description of the stables area of the inn included “a round room for the ostlers in the days of pack-horses, and a stable below ground with steps leading down to it”.

For many years, the George was owned by the trustees of Guy’s Hospital, which was on the eastern boundary of the original George Inn – the building we see today is a small part of the original inn and the associated buildings to support the coaching business.

In 1874, St Guy’s Hospital sold the George Inn to the Great Northern Railway. The coming of the railways had seen a rapid decline in travel by horse and coach, so the sale of the inn to the GNR, who used the site as a receiving station for goods to be transported on their rail network, was in many ways a logical continuation of the main transport function of the inn.

The following photo shows the courtyard of the George, looking towards Borough High Street, with a sign above the entrance to the offices of the Great Northern Railway:

George Inn

The location of the George Inn was key to the success of the inn as a coaching inn, as one of many inns located in courtyards along the main road that led south from London Bridge.

The following map extract is from a map of the Parish of St. Saviours Southwark by Richard Blome (late 17th century but published by John Stow in 1720).

It shows the road leading from London Bridge at the top of the map, down to the Marshalsea Prison at the bottom of the map. This road had long been the only southern route out of the City of London.

George Inn

To the right of the road are numerous alleys and courts. Many of these were inns such as the Spur Inn, Queen’s Head Inn, Talbot Inn, White Heart Inn, King’s Head Inn, Black Swan Inn, Ship Inn and Bores Head Inn. Southwark really did have a lot of Inns.

At number 35, with the red circle is the George Inn. The narrow access from the street leads on to a large courtyard.

There were a number of reasons for the high number of inns. The road was originally the only road from the City of London to the southern counties of England. The area was outside the control of the City of London, there was more land available and rents were cheaper than on the other side of London Bridge.

Catching a coach from one of the Inns in Southwark was almost the equivalent of walking across London Bridge today and catching a train at London Bridge Station.

Coaches from the Southwark Inns served numerous destinations in the counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire and in 1809, W.S. Scholefield who was running the George at the time, published a list of the destinations from the inn, and their frequency:

George Inn

The table demonstrates just how busy the George Inn must have been. Numerous destinations, with some having four coaches a day. Horses being stabled at the George, passengers staying in the rooms of the George before an onward journey, luggage and other goods for onward transport across London.

The table includes coaches, which were mainly for passenger transport, and also wagons, which were used for the transport of goods, so the George was also the hub for a transport network for products, raw materials and personal / household goods that needed to be sent to destinations from Kent to Hampshire, and returning goods for sale in the City.

I plotted the coach network onto a map to give a graphical view of the geographic spread and number of destinations (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

George Inn

The majority of destinations are in the county of Kent, with some in Sussex. There is a  significant gap between the main Kent services and the five destinations to the west of the map, with no services to towns such as Edenbridge, East Grinstead, Uckfield and Lewes.

It may have been that there was no market for these destinations, or that they were served by coaches from other Southwark based coaching inns. I did consider trying to put together a map showing the destinations from the different inns, where these are known, colour coding based on the Southwark inn. An 18th century / early 19th century equivalent of a 21st century rail network map, but as usual have the idea but not the time.

What the list of destinations does not show is whether each was a single route with multiple stops, or whether these were individual destinations, or a mix of both. Or, whether some of these destinations were reached through a change in coach.

There is a brilliant book called “Paterson’s Roads – An Entirely Original and Accurate Description of all the Direct and Principal Cross Roads in England and Wales”.

I have the 1826 edition, and the book is basically an early 19th century SatNav, It provides detailed routes to get from Town A to Town B, listing all the intermediate towns, turnpikes, and where other destinations could be reached through turning off from the main route. The routes are annotated with descriptions of the towns and villages along the route, milestones, turnpikes and important buildings.

One of the routes is from London (the Surrey side of London Bridge) to Dover. An important destination, as from Dover boats provided the shortest crossing of the channel over to continental Europe. As Dover is one of the destinations from the George, I plotted the route from 1826 as the red line on the following map:

George Inn

The route is the most direct route, but with a short diversion for a stop at Gravesend – a long route in a horse drawn coach on 18th / early 19th century roads.

Paterson’s Roads describes Gravesend as “the first port in the Thames, and by a grant of Richard II, enjoys the privilege of conveying passengers to and from London; the vessels depart from Billingsgate every day at high water, on the ringing of a bell, and from Gravesend every flood tide. All outward bound vessels are obliged to bring-to here, till they have been examined by the proper officers, and receive their clearances; here also all foreigners are detained on arriving from abroad; till they have obtained permission from the Secretary of State’s office to proceed, and all foreigners departing must receive their clearance  from the Aliens office here”.

Paterson’s Roads also provides points where there is a route to a secondary destination, shown as the blue lines on the map. So a stop at Chatham provides a route south to Maidstone, a stop at Faversham provides a route to Ashford, and a stop at Canterbury provides a route north to Whitstable.

The infrastructure needed to support the number of coaches and wagons departing from and arriving at the George Inn was significant and originally the Inn was much larger than we see today.

The coming of the railways destroyed the coach and wagon business and Inns such as the George lost much of their business over a relatively short period of time.

Buildings and land that were originally part of the George were sold, and part was demolished or converted by the Great Northern Railway to be used as storage space.

The Great Northern Railway became the London and North Eastern Railway, and in 1937, the LNER sold the George to the National Trust, who still own the building. As part of the sale, the LNER produced a plan created in 1847 when the previous owner, Guy’s Hospital, had sold to the Great Northern Railway.

This plan provides a detailed view of the original scale of the George, not just the yard in front of the current pub, but extending much further back towards Guy’s Hospital, where there were a large number of stables for the horses that once pulled the coaches and wagons across the counties south of London:

George Inn

The following photo, dated to the 1880s shows the yard outside the current pub. The archway at the end of the yard is that shown in the plan above which leads into the stable yard and extensive stabling.

George Inn

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0970_X72_310

Newspaper records mainly reference the George Inn for coaching services rather than the alcoholic problems that a 18th / 19th century inn would often have, for example, even in 1812 it was not a good idea to fraudulently claim expenses:

“28th October 1812 – MIDDLESEX SESSIONS. Thomas Pearson, lately employed as office keeper in the office of his Majesty’s Quarter-Master-General, stood indicted for fraudulently altering, in a bill from the coach-office of the George Inn, Southwark, the sum of 3s 1d to 13s 1d for the carriage and porterage of a parcel from Hythe; and thereby defrauding his Majesty”.

There were adverts of coach services from the George, and the mention of reduced fares probably indicates the competitive nature of coach services. From the Maidstone Advertiser on the 20th September 1842:

Reduced Fares. Direct to London in three and a half hours by the favorite 4-horse coach, from the Swan Inn, Maidstone, every afternoon at 4 o’clock. Returning from the Ship, Charing Cross, Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill; Bull and Mouth, St Martin’s Le Grand; Blossoms Inn, Lawrence-lane; every morning at nine o’clock; and the George Inn, Borough, at half past nine, Fares 10 Shillings Inside. 6 Shillings Outside”.

On the same page as the above advert, is another that tells of the coming demise of the horse drawn coach services, and is probably why the above advert was advertising reduced fares:

“South-Eastern Railway Booking Office. Swan-Inn, High-street, Maidstone.

To and from London in three and a quarter hours!

Superior appointed coaches start punctually at the stated times from the above office to the station Paddock Wood, passing through Testom, Wateringbury and Peckham. Fares 2 Shillings Inside, 1 Shilling Outside”.

The above advert is interesting as it shows the hybrid nature of early train services and how the railway companies used the coach services they wanted to replace as feeder services to their stations.

The South Eastern Railway had reached Paddock Wood in Kent in May 1842, but would not reach Maidstone until 1874, so the South Eastern Railway ran coach services to take customers from nearby towns such as Maidstone to the nearest station.  A clever idea as it not only grew traffic on the new rail network, but also encouraged those who had to use a feeder service to support the extension of the rail network to their own town.

The railways would quickly kill off the horse and coach services, and with them the need for coaching inns, and in the latter half of the 19th century London lost nearly all the coaching inns, with the exception of the George Inn. Even the nearby Tabard Inn, which seems to have been older than the George was demolished in 1873.

By 1899, the importance of the George was being recognised. From the 4th September 1899:

“I am glad to observe that London is not to be deprived of the old George Inn at Southwark – the last of the picturesque galleried hostelries of London. It was reported in one quarter that this ancient inn was to come down; in another, that it was to be turned into a common-place gin palace. 

It was frequently visited by the sixth Lord Digby, a benevolent member of the Peerage, who midway in the eighteenth century, used to disguise himself in a shabby old blue dress and visit the old Marshalsea prison, and free a number of prisoners by paying their debts in full. He did this twice a year, at Christmas and Easter, and then took them to the George, celebrating the occasion by entertaining the liberated prisoners to a repast”.

An earlier story about Lord Digby tells of thirty people he had released from the Marshalsea prison, sitting at dinner at the George Inn.

Late 19th century view of the George:

George Inn

The George Inn is one of the many London locations that claim an association with the author Charles Dickens, although with the George it is almost certainly true that he did visit the inn and it does get a brief mention in Little Dorrit.

There are many original features inside the pub, dating back to the 19th, 18th and 17th centuries, and there is possible reuse of medieval beams and stone.

The George Inn is still owned by the National Trust, is Grade I listed and the inn is currently run by Greene King.

The George was a key location for transport to Kent, and there are plenty of other reminders in this area of Southwark of how Kent produce was taken to, traded and sold in Borough.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Borough Market and the Hop Exchange, and a short distance in Borough High Street from the George is this facade:

George Inn

WH and H Le May were William Henry and his brother Herbert. Born in Gun Lane, Limehouse, they went on to establish a very successful hop trading business based on Borough High Street.

Their trade extended to all the hop growing areas of the country, not just Kent, but counties such as Herefordshire where newspapers had adverts for the business encouraging growers to consign their hops to WH and H Le May, to be “sold in London, the best market for hops”.

Advertising included pricing updates and in 1911 they reported that “the demand for all types of hops continues, and prices have again advanced on all the hop markets of the world”.

George Inn

The business may be long gone, but the ornate facade provides a reminder of this area of Southwark’s connection with the trade of agricultural produce from Kent, southern England and further afield.

One of the books I have used to research this post is “The Old Inns of Southwark and their Associations”, by William Rendle and Philip Norman. The book was published in 1888.

Old books help as they provide information closer to the time they are recording. Some care must be taken to double check, but they are a good source of information.

These books also have their own history as they pass from owner to owner over the years, accumulating a memory of their time with some of the owners of the book.

In the Old Inns of Southwark, on the rear of the title page, I found the following photo glued onto the page.

George Inn

I have no idea who A.H, Lucas was, perhaps the owner of the book in December 1959 when the photo was taken.

I was considering adding my 1977 photo, but I did not own the book at the time, so when it is possible to get back to the George, I will take another photo and add to the book.

Another book which takes this to a more extreme level, with additions that tell of the coaching history of Chatham is “The Medway River and Valley” by William Coles Finch, an author and resident engineer of the Chatham and District Water Company. The book was published in 1929 and is a fascinating history of the River Medway, and the towns along the Medway.

The book was purchased when published by a Mr A.C. Holliday, a local teacher.

In 1934 A.C. Holliday had written to William Coles Finch, apparently praising his books as Coles Finch replied, and A.C. Holliday glued the reply into the book:

George Inn

A.C. Holliday also glued into the book, on every empty page at the start and end of the book, newspaper cuttings on the history of Chatham.

This cutting tells of the first train to arrive in Chatham, and also recalls the state of the roads which the old horse drawn coaches would have used to reach Chatham from London from inns such as the George Inn, with dust in dry weather and mud in winter:

George Inn

The article includes mention of the Vans that once ran to London, loaded with goods. The sense of London as being a distant place of mystery and adventure, and of the problems that a traveler would encounter with thieves on Shooters Hill:

George Inn

William Coles Finch died in 1945, and an obituary is glued in the book:

George Inn

William Coles Finch wife, Emily wrote to A.C. Holliday regarding the article, and the letter is also glued into the book:

George Inn

There is no free space in the book to add any further contributions, however I printed one of my photos of the London Stone at Yantlet Creek to use as a book mark, and have this in the book as my addition to its history.

I have always used the latest London Underground folded maps, exhibition or concert tickets, or photos as bookmarks and leave these in the book when finished – my contribution to their history.

The George is now much smaller than the original establishment, when horses needed to be stabled and coaches and wagons set out for the southern counties, but it still shows what an inn would have looked like when horse drawn vehicles were the main mode of transport.

As the George Inn is owned by the National Trust (a brilliant decision by the LNER), the long term future looks assured, and it is the perfect place to stop for a drink and consider the many thousands of travelers who must have departed or arrived here, each on their own special journey through, what was described in Coles Finch’s book as “London, being a distant place of mystery and adventure”.

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The Globe at Borough Market

In 1977 I was taking some photos around Southwark using my brand new Canon AE-1, purchased using hire purchase as at the time it was the only way I could afford such a camera, and I was desperate to replace the cheap Russian Zenit camera I had been using. The main feature of this camera seemed to be a sticking shutter which ruined far too many photos.

A couple of these photos were of the Globe at Borough Market. A very different market to the market of today.

Globe at Borough Market

The same view 43 years later in 2020:

Globe at Borough Market

The Globe was built in 1872 to a design by architect Henry Jarvis. A lovely brick pub, the paint on the external walls in my 1977 photo has since been removed to reveal the original brickwork.

When I took the original photo, Borough Market was a very different place. Selling all types of fruit, vegetables, potatoes etc. The market started very early in the morning mainly selling to businesses such as the shops and restaurants of south London.

The narrow aisles between the market stalls meant that vehicles could not easily enter the market so porters were employed to transfer goods from lorries parked in the streets, into the market.

One of the barrows used by a porter is outside the corner entrance to the pub. This was why I took the photo as the barrow and pub seemed to be a good combination that in many ways summed up a London market at the time. There is another barrow parked alongside the Globe at left.

There were a number of pubs surrounding Borough Market, catering to the needs of those who worked in the market, which included being open much earlier in the morning than a normal London pub. Reading the licence information above the door of the Globe gives an indication of days and times that the pub served the market, and the trades of those who were expected in the Globe:

“NOTICE PURSUANT TO THE LICENSING ACT 1964 – Intoxicating liquors are permitted to be sold and supplied in these premises between the hours of six-thirty and eight-thirty of the clock on the morning of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of each week. Excepting Christmas Day, Good Friday and Bank Holidays for the accommodation of persons following their lawful trade of calling as Salesmen, Buyers, Carmen, Assistants or Porters and attending a Public Market at the Borough of Southwark”.

Another photo of the Globe in 1977:

Globe at Borough Market

And in 2020. The days of selling Double Diamond are long gone.

Globe at Borough Market

In the above photo, at the very top right corner, you can just see an edge of the Thameslink Viaduct that was built over Borough Market between 2009 and 2013.

The first floor of the Globe was the film location for Bridget Jones flat in the 2001 film Bridget Jones Diary.

Globe – the name of the pub in stone above the windows, seen in both the 1977 and 2020 photos:

Globe at Borough Market

If you go back to the photo at the top of the post, and look along the left side of the street, and in the distance is an arch with a sign above. The sign still remains although Lee Brothers Potato Merchants have long gone.

Globe at Borough Market

The origins of Borough Market are ancient, dating back for at least 1,000 years. Originally a market at the southern end of London Bridge, however by 1754 the City of London was fed up with the Southwark entrance to the bridge being congested by a market, and that the market was taking business away from the City markets. A bill was introduced to Parliament to stop the market trading in March 1756.

The local residents were not happy with the loss of their market and raised £6,000 to buy an area of land called The Triangle, and this became the new home of what is today Borough Market.

The market flourished, and the arrival of the railways with their local goods yards increased the volume of fruit, veg, etc. being sold at the market.

The end of the wholesale market started in the late 1970s and continued in the early 1980s. The City of London constructed New Covent Garden market in Nine Elms. This was a much larger market with considerably easier access and plenty of parking, unlike at Borough Market.

In parallel was the gradual replacement of the traditional corner shop and green grocer by much larger supermarkets who had their own supply chain and had no need to purchase fruit and veg from a local market such as Borough.

The market’s renaissance started in the late 1990s when specialist food suppliers started to move in, and food fairs were organised. Borough Market has since gone from strength to strength, and on most days (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic) it would be crowded with tourists and shoppers.

When walking among the stalls, it almost looks as if you could buy a different cheese for every single day of the year.

Along with the market traders, a wide range of restaurants have opened surrounding the market, and the old pubs that once served the market porters at 6:30 in the morning, have a new lease of life and are serving a very different customer – no longer are barrows left outside the pub door.

One of the pubs surrounding the market is the appropriately named The Market Porter on the corner of Stoney Street and Park Street.

Globe at Borough Market

The Market Porter dates from 1890, however the site was previously occupied by a pub named the Harrow.

Further along Stoney Street is another pub that looks in a rather strange location, squashed by the railway bridge directly above the pub. This is the Wheatsheaf:

Globe at Borough Market

The current Wheatsheaf building dates from 1840, although a pub had been on the site since the 18th century. It originally had three floors and was part of a terrace. The pub lost the third floor when the pub closed in 2009 for the construction of the Thameslink Viaduct which now runs directly overhead. The Wheatsheaf reopened in 2014 in its new, cramped looking condition, however thankfully this historic pub survived such a dramatic change.

Construction of the Thameslink Viaduct was a significant engineering achievement, with building such a structure above a working market. The viaduct runs for 322 metres across the market, and during construction, work included the removal and replacement of the market’s historic roof.

The following photo shows the Wheatsheaf in 1943, in its original condition (the building on the right), along with the same style of barrow that I would photograph in 1977:

Globe at Borough Market

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_376_F1582

On the corner of Stoney Street and Southwark Street is the Southwark Tavern, a lovely Victorian corner pub dating from 1862:

Globe at Borough Market

However a more remarkable building is alongside the Southwark Tavern. This is the imposing Hop and Malt Exchange.

Globe at Borough Market

The Hop and Malt Exchange dates from 1867 and was designed by the architect R.H. Moore, and was the premises of the Hop Planters Association.

The frontage along Southwark Street is 340 feet and it covered more than an acre of land.

Although the building looks impressive today, it was originally a much taller building, however after a fire in 1920 which gutted much of the building, the top two floors were demolished. The original, larger facade just after the fire can be seen in the photo below:

Globe at Borough Market

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: C_PHL_01_375_574c_2

The Hop and Malt Exchange was built in Southwark, as it was close to the main railway stations and goods depots that served the hop growing counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey and provided a place were growers and buyers could meet in one place to conduct the sale of hops.

The main entrance to the Hop and Malt Exchange:

Globe at Borough Market

The pediment above the main entrance contains some wonderful decoration showing hop and malt production. Hops being grown and picked in the centre. Barley being grown on the right for the production of malt, with these products being carried in a sack on a barrow on the left.

Globe at Borough Market

Looking through the iron gates of the entrance (which are also beautifully decorated), we can glimpse the main Exchange Room:

Globe at Borough Market

The Exchange Room was the central point for trading activities. It was 80 feet long by 50 feet wide and 75 feet was the original height to the top floor. The roof was glass allowing plenty of natural light to shine on the floor below. There was a central lantern feature running along the length of the roof, and in the pre-fire building, this was 115 feet above the floor of the Exchange Room.

The Exchange Room was surrounded by four floors of offices and show rooms where growers could show off their products to potential buyers. First and second class refreshment rooms were also provided. Presumably you used the first class when trying to impress a buyer, and the second class for normal refreshment.

A view of the Exchange Room after opening:

Globe at Borough Market

Today, the Hop and Malt Exchange has been restored and is currently a location providing office, corporate hospitality and a live events space, so in some ways is still true to the original use of the building – although no longer trading in hops and malt.

Borough Market and the Hop and Malt Exchange highlight that this area was a significant place for trading agricultural products. What started off as a market on the southern end of London Bridge, grew considerably with the arrival of the railways. Road and rail access to the southern agricultural counties turned this part of Southwark into a key location where London’s shops, restaurants and breweries could negotiate and buy the key agricultural products they needed for their business.

My 1977 photo captured the very end of that long period, but Borough Market still remains serving a new, 21st century customer.

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Pubs of the City of London, July 2020 – Part 3

I have finally completed the write up of the third and final part of my walk to find the pubs of the City of London in July 2020. At the end of the last post, I had reached 26 Furnival Street, and my final set of pubs runs from Farringdon Street to Aldersgate Street via Smithfield.

Before starting with the first pub of this final stage, the following map brings together all the pubs that I walked to in the City of London. Clicking on the appropriate marker will take you to the pub in the appropriate post.

 

From Furnival Street at the end of part two, I walked east to Farringdon Street to find the:

Hoop and Grapes – Farringdon Street

The Hoop and Grapes is an early 18th century pub squeezed between two buildings of much more recent construction.

pubs

The pub was built on a part of St Brides churchyard that was remote from the church,

The pub was near the Fleet prison and the course of the River Fleet. The Hoop and Grape’s website claims that the pub was the site of “Fleet Weddings” which is entirely possible. Fleet weddings were weddings performed outside of the normal process for conducting weddings. They were held when couples did not want to hold a wedding at their home church, when they had to be held quickly, or with some secrecy. An article from the May 1867 edition of the Cornhill Magazine provides some background to Fleet weddings:

“In the days of which we are writing, a large number of dissolute clergymen were to be found within and about the Fleet Prison. Some of these were confined in the prison itself; other of them, although also detained for debt, being privileged to reside within the local of the Fleet. These men discovered in the recent order of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners the means of their own pecuniary benefit.

They at once espoused the cause of candidates for clandestine matrimony, and undertook to meet the popular demand. They began to marry couples on application, without notice and without publicity, the only requirements being the payment of fees; and the amount of these fees was permitted to vary, according to the pecuniary capacities of the applicants for matrimony, although, as we shall hereafter see the parsons invariably secured as large a remuneration for their services as possible.

The marriages were at first often solemnized in the Fleet Chapel; but the Act at length put an end to their celebration there, and henceforth they took place in various brandy shops and other places in which the parsons lodged, or still oftener in certain taverns which came to be known as regular marriage houses, the landlords whereof derived their profits from matrimony just as they did from malt liquors. In many cases rooms were especially fitted up for the performance of the marriage ceremony, and these apartments were often dignified with the title of ‘chapel’ the name of a saint being sometimes prefixed to the word chapel in the ordinary manner. As soon as the Fleet became associated in the public mind with clandestine marriage, it was voluntary resorted to by many abandoned clergymen”.

So the next time you drink at the Hoop and Grapes, remember the many clandestine marriages that probably took place within the building.

The Hoop and Grapes had a special licence for many years, allowing the pub to open between two and five in the morning for the convenience of printers who worked in nearby Fleet Street. The licence only allowed the pub to serve those working in the newspaper trade, and other trades which involved night or early morning working, such as London’s markets. Pubs that held these special licences often were not too careful in checking that their customers worked in the allowed trades.

In March 1894, the landlord of the Hoop and Grapes was fined £5 for serving persons who were not connected with the newspaper or market trades.

The Hoop and Grapes was under threat of demolition in the 1990s, when the buildings surrounding the pub had already been demolished. The building was saved and Grade II listed in 1991. The Historic England listing states that the pub was built for a vintner around 1720 and converted to a public house in 1831, and that brick vaults in the basement are thought to be part of 17th century warehousing vaults built in connection with the formation of the Fleet Canal.

Full view of the Hoop and Grapes:

pubs

Leaving behind the Hoop and Grapes, I cut through from Farringdon Street to Limeburner Lane, then up Old Bailey to find:

The Viaduct Tavern – Newgate Street

The Viaduct Tavern was undergoing some external renovation and would have been open under normal circumstances.

pubs

The Viaduct was built between 1874 and 1875 with latter interior changes between 1898 and 1900 by Arthur Dixon. Without the scaffolding, the Viaduct is an impressive later Victorian, curved corner pub, and is Grade II listed.

There are a number of legends / urban myths about the Viaduct. It is claimed to be one of the most haunted pubs in the City, and also that the cellars were once the cells of Newgate prison, which was across the road. Even Google maps describes the Viaduct as “Pub in former jail”

Not something I believe as they look like normal beer cellars with racking for barrels and bottles, not cells. If they were I would also have thought they would have been part of the Historic England listing.

From the Viaduct, I walked up Giltspur Street to West Smithfield to find:

The Bishops Finger – West Smithfield

The Bishops Finger is on the west side of the street that circles round the central space in West Smithfield. A late 19th century building with some rather ornate decoration between the top two windows:

pubs

The Bishops Finger name dates from 1981. The pub had been purchased by Shepherd Neame in the 1970s, and the change in name was to name the pub after one of their leading beers.

The pub had originally been called the Rutland and had also been the Rutland Hotel.

Above the first floor window on the right is the year 1890 which dates the construction of the building, however there must have been a previous establishment called the Rutland on the site prior to the 1890 build. Newspaper reports of a Rutland in West Smithfield include an advert on the 19th October 1864 in the Clerkenwell News for “Girls (Two clean, respectable), wanted, 16 or 18 , used to a Coffee House, must be able to wash. The Rutland, Smithfield”.

So the Rutland was probably a coffee house before changing to a hotel and pub which may have been when the new building was built. The name Rutland may have come from the old English county of Rutland.

The Duke of Rutland was a frequent exhibitor of cattle at Smithfield and the Rutland Agricultural Society were frequently involved with Smithfield, promoting the agricultural produce of their county.

The pub sign today, reflecting the pub’s current name:

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Sign in the window summing up the position of City of London pubs in July 2020:

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According to the Bishops Finger’s website, they are still closed, so not yet back to normal.

West Smithfield is ringed by a number of pubs in addition to the Bishops Finger. The proximity of Smithfield Market would have generated large amounts of business for these establishments.  Across the central space from the Bishops Finger is:

St Barts – West Smithfield

I was not sure whether to include the St Barts. It is not a traditional pub, but as it occupies such a prominent position in West Smithfield I have included it in the post.

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Named after the local hospital, the St Barts is owned by the Hush Heath wine estate in Tonbridge, Kent. It seems to be more of a wedding venue, and available for event hire, with operation as a walk in pub during the week. Before being called the St Barts, it was a business known as Jamies Bar, however I believe the building was originally a bank.

On the corner facing Smithfield is the date “Erected 1885”, which gives a clear date for the building, however on the side of the building facing Long Lane are the words and date “Established A.D. 1825”, so I am not sure exactly what was here, and what was established in 1825.

Another pub that is only a recent pub is the:

Butcher’s Hook and Cleaver and Fuller’s Ale and Pie House – West Smithfield

I have bundled these together as although they look like very different pubs, they are both owned by Fuller, Smith and Turner and are effectively a single pub. The Fuller’s Ale and Pie House is the corner building and the Butcher’s Hook and Cleaver is the building on the immediate left.

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They were both opened in 1999, with the corner building originally being a Midland Bank, and the building to the left were the offices of a meat wholesalers.

Walk into Cloth Fair, the street alongside the Fuller’s pub and there is an old pub:

The Rising Sun – Cloth Fair

The Rising Sun occupies a corner position on Cloth Fair, with the narrow Rising Sun Court running alongside the pub down to Long Lane.

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The Rising Sun is an old pub that has kept its original name for the last couple of centuries. The earliest written reference I can find to the pub is from the Morning Advertising on the 29th December 1818, when the landlord of the Rising Sun, a Mr Swift was one of the stewards for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Friendly Society of Licensed Victuallers.

A pub has probably existed on the site for several centuries, as a survey in 1616 recorded a pub called the Starre Tavern in the same location as the Rising Sun.

One of the more unusual references in newspapers to the Rising Sun dates from 1945. During the war, businesses bombed out of their normal building had to find temporary offices and in October 1945 the Maurice Dixon Musical Service, who provided orchestral services to theatres in the West End were advertising that their temporary address was the Rising Sun.

The pub sign of the Rising Sun:

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The Rising Sun was closed in the early 1970s, but fortuently the pub was purchased by a brewery and opened later the same decade. The state of the Rising Sun in 1971 can be seen in the following photo from the London Metropolitan Archives, Collage collection. I suspect anyone seeing the pub at the time would not have expected it to survive.

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Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_022_71_1551

The Rising Sun is a lovely pub at any time of year, however my favourite time to visit is during a winters weekend evening when the streets around Cloth Fair are quiet and the light from the windows of this small corner pub offer a warm welcome.

The view from Rising Sun Court up to St Bartholomew the Great:

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From Rising Sun Court I walked along Long Lane to find one of the few businesses that was busy – having just been allowed to open.

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Further along Long Lane was:

Old Red Cow – Long Lane

The Old Red Cow is a lovely red brick building facing onto Long Lane. The lower left of the ground floor is an alley which leads through to the passages between Cloth Fair and Long Lane.

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As with the Rising Sun, the Old Red Cow is an old pub. Although the current building dates from 1854, a pub with the same name had already been on the same site. The first reference I can find is from September 1803 when the Old Red Cow was one of the places involved with the trial of someone who was alleged to have stolen a parcel of valuable Spanish wool.

Facing onto Smithfield Market, the Old Red Cow was popular with market workers and the market must also be behind the source of the name of the pub.

Walking through the alley next to the Old Red Cow, I walked back into Cloth Fair to find:

The Hand and Shears – Cloth Fair

The area around Cloth Fair really does have some good pubs, and the Hand and Shears at the junction of Cloth Fair, Middle Street and Kinghorn Street is one of them.

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The Hand and Shears was one of the pubs photographed by my father in 1952:

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The Hand and Shears has a fascinating history, including involvement with the Bartholomew Fair held on the fields of Smithfield.

I have written a full post dedicated to the Hand and Shears which you can find here.

From Cloth Fair, I walked to Aldersgate Street, then south to St Martin’s-le-Grand for my final pub:

Lord Raglan – St Martin’s-le-Grand

The Lord Raglan is squashed between a couple of office blocks. It is a pub with a long history.

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The current building dates from 1855 when the previous pub on the site became the Lord Ragland Hotel.

A pub has been on the site since at least the 16th century, when it was known as the Fountain. It later became the Bush, and then the Mourning Bush. The source of the name “Bush” is interesting as it dates from the times when many people were illiterate and picture signs directed people to the right place. The Globe in September 1903 referenced the pub in St Martin’s-le-Grand:

“And before inn signs became the heterogeneous, unmeaning medley of heroes and landowners heads, of blue boars and other heraldic monstrosities, there were two or three emblems which were the chosen sign of the the vintner’s and ale-seller’s trade. Some used chess-board pattern on their shutters and so became known as the Chequers, a name still used; but the common signs were the red lattice and the ivy bush. It is of course from this ancient vintner’s custom of hanging out a green bush as a sign that we get our proverb ‘Good wine needs no bush’

The bush was always of ivy, the custom thus preserving the association of ivy with Bacchus which takes us back to classical times. 

A tavern-keeper in Aldersgate Street, when Charles I was beheaded, painted his artificial bush black, and his house was long known as “The Mourning Bush’ at Aldersgate. To ‘beat the ivy-bush’ became a recognised slang phrase for the habit of tavern-frequenting.”

The article refers to the Mourning Bush being in Aldersgate, and this street name seems to have been used as well as St Martin’s-le-Grand as the pub was so close to the junction of the two streets and the site of the original City gate.

The pub changed name during the Crimean War to Lord Raglan.

Lord Raglan was Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, who in 1854 was commander in chief of the British troops during the Crimean War.

Lord Raglan now looks out over St Martin’s-le-Grand from the sign of the pub that bears his name.

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The Lord Raglan ended my walk around the pubs of the City of London in July 2020.

When writing this post I checked the web site of many of the pubs I have covered, and a number of them are still closed, and there must be concern for the future of many of these institutions.

Train travel and passenger numbers on the Underground are still a fraction of their pre-March levels. The majority of City workers are still working at home, and I suspect this will be a long term trend.

I downloaded the latest transport data for London from the Government Statistics website. This has data comparing passenger numbers on each day as a percentage of the equivalent day in 2019. I created the following graph using the data in the spreadsheet from the 1st March 2020 to the 10th August 2020, showing the percentage against the equivalent day in 2019 for travel on the London Underground:

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The graph shows that last Monday, the 10th August, travel on the Underground was still only 28% of the same day in 2019. The situation for London buses is better, but still very low compared to a normal day:

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The drop to zero is the period when Transport for London introduced the middle-door only boarding policy, with no requirement to touch in, so obviously lost any meaningful passenger number data.

The graph shows that on Monday 10th August, bus passenger numbers were still just over 50% of the number on the equivalent day in 2019.

The Government site does not have London specific National Rail data, however it does have comparison data covering rail traffic across the country, so London will be included in these figures. Again up to Monday 10th August, however the last 7 days are provisional so will be updated with final figures. The graph does show a similar drop in rail usage, which if you have been to any of London’s main stations will be easily confirmed.

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These graphs reflect not just the work at home approach, but also the loss of tourism in London, which will also drastically impact so many businesses and jobs across the city.

On the days I have been in the City over the last few weeks, it has been a shadow of its former self. The streets are quiet, many of the take away food shops are still closed, there are few workers in offices.

Businesses will realise that they do not need everyone in an expensive office, every day, indeed many of the large City financial companies have already announced that they do not expect staff to have to work onsite in the City, full time, in the future.

Technology has for some time enabled many office based jobs to be done from anywhere and the Covid pandemic has accelerated the deployment and take-up of this method of working. Workers will also realise they can make substantial savings in terms of the cost and time of travel.

There will always be a need for people to work together, in an office for specific activities, and it is essential that there is a level of human interaction. I suspect that numbers of City workers will gradually rise, but will never get back to pre-March levels. Many City workers will get to a mix of work from home and work from office.

The impact on the City of London will be interesting to see. Will there be sufficient business to support not just the pubs, but all the other businesses that rely on many thousands of commuters travelling into the City, five days a week.

Will the City need so many steel and glass office towers, and will some of the planned future towers be built?

I will aim to take a walk around the same pubs as I have covered in these three posts in five years time. I hope I will find they are all still in business.

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The Pilot and Ceylon Place, Greenwich

Thirty five years ago, my father was outside the Pilot in Greenwich. Located on the peninsular which now has the O2 Dome at the northern tip, the Pilot is one of the very few original buildings left after the recent and ongoing development of the Greenwich peninsula.

The Pilot pub in 1985:

Pilot

Last week I returned to the Pilot to take a comparison photo and for a beer. Although redecorated, and no longer a free house, the pub looks very much the same.

Pilot

The Pilot is at the end of a short terrace of houses, originally going by the name of Ceylon Place.

Pilot

The location of the Pilot, and the terrace is shown in the following map, marked by the red oval. The O2 Dome is at the top of the peninsula (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Pilot

From the above map, it is hard to appreciate the level of development on the peninsula. The O2 Dome, or Millennium Dome as it was, kick started development of the area, and after a use was finally found for the dome as a major London concert venue, development on the peninsula has been a permanent activity, with apartment towers, offices and hotels of strange design rising from this once industrial landscape.

The Pilot and the terrace at Ceylon Place have are remarkable history, dating back to the early development of this part of Greenwich. The level, and type of change over the last couple of hundred years has been such that the pub and terrace have been surrounded by incredibly different landscapes.

We can explore these by looking at maps. The above map extract shows the area now dominated by the O2 Dome, and the associated developments, however, going back to 1951, and this was a very industrialised place. The Pilot and terrace is highlighted by the red oval in the following map extract (Following maps: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’:

Pilot

There are a few other terraces, in addition to Ceylon Place, however the majority of the land is occupied by Gas Works, Tar Works, Electricity Generation, a Steel Works, and many other smaller industrial sites. The following map extract is an enlargement of the area around the Pilot and Ceylon Place, which are in the centre of the map.

Pilot

The pub and terrace face onto River Way which leads down to the Thames. A cooling pond occupies much of the space directly opposite. A railway runs to the west, Behind the terrace is a steel works.

Much of the development of the peninsular was during the later part of the 19th and early 20th century. If we go back to 1893, we can see the start of the industrialisation of the peninsular.

The Pilot pub and Ceylon Place can be seen, with a longer terrace that stretched to the east. Much of the immediate surroundings are open space, and the railway has not yet arrived. The area to the south are the Greenwich Marshes.

Pilot

Looking at an extract from the above map, we can see the terrace in 1893, with the Pilot (labelled P.H.) at the western end of the terrace as it still is today.

Pilot

At the eastern end of the terrace, there is a large building called East Lodge with open space leading down to the river and bays on either side – presumably bay windows to provide a good view of the Thames.

The majority of the terrace, and East Lodge would disappear in the coming years. By the 1913 Ordnance Survey map, East Lodge had gone. and by 1939 much of the terrace had also been lost, leaving only Ceylon Place we see today, and the Pilot pub.

In all this time, the Pilot has looked out over a very different landscape. Once surrounded by open space and marsh land, the Pilot was then surrounded by some of the most polluting industries to be found in London, then as industry in the area closed, the pub looked out on a derelict landscape.

Today, the Pilot looks out on yet another very different landscape. A ten minute walk from the O2 Dome, in the middle of a green space, and in the process of being surrounded by tower blocks of ever more outlandish design.

The Pilot and the terrace date from 1801. A plaque on the front of the pub to the upper left of the main entrance confirms the date, the name Ceylon Place and New East Greenwich which was the name given to the development, as it was expected to form the basis of a larger development.

The main body of the pub is original, however, as will be seen when comparing my father’s photo, and my photo below, a smaller extension to the right has been added. This now provides accommodation, so if you want to stay on the Greenwich Peninsular, there is an option with a pub attached.

Pilot

The London Metropolitan Archives Collage collection has a photo of the Pilot and terrace dating from 1979. The Pilot looks the same as in my father’s photo, with the same pub sign, however look closely at the terrace of houses and you will see three of these have their window and door bricked up. The 1970s and 80s were the time when industry in the area was in significant decline, and it is surprising that the terrace has survived to this day.

Pilot

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0976_79_5000

The street in front of the pub and terrace now ends in a dead end, rather than running down to the causeway that ran into the Thames. Today, blocks of apartments now separate the Pilot and terrace from the river that for much of their time, must have been a significant influence on the lives of those who lived in the houses and drank in the pub.

Pilot

We can get a good idea of life in the terrace and pub by looking at old newspaper reports. When first built, the rear of the terrace looked out onto the Greenwich Marshes and a maze of ditches draining into the Thames, however in July 1857, the Kentish Mercury reported that:

“The inhabitants of Ceylon-place, East Greenwich complain of the very offensive state of the ditch at the back of their houses. They inform me that this ditch, like all other ditches on the Marshes, was formerly flushed out at every tide, but since Mr Wheatley has lately stopped up a sluice at the entrance to the ditch. The water is, therefore, become stagnant, and is certainly in an offensive state, and thereby causing the nuisance complained of”.

There were the day to day events that would have had significant personal impact, to those who lived in the terrace. On the 30th May 1840:

“POOR MAN’S LOSS – On Saturday evening last, as a poor labouring man was going home, after work, he lost the whole of his wages, amounting to 30s, besides some papers which, to the owner, are of consequence. The finder of the documents would be doing an act of great kindness by forwarding the same to No. 3, Ceylon Place, Greenwich”.

There was the type of crime common when drink was involved. In March 1903 the Woolwich Gazette reported that:

“Frederick Boos, a foreign seaman, of s.s. Hendon, was charged on Thursday at Greenwich  with assaulting a waterman, named Russell Lewis, of 6, Ceylon Place, East Greenwich. The victims head was bandaged and he said he was suffering from several bad cuts, said the prisoner hit him several times without any provocation. Boos alleged that the prosecutor had been making false statements about him and that he (Boos) was drunk at the time – Two months hard labour”.

The victim, Russell Lewis is recorded as being a waterman of Ceylon Place. Checking the census data reveals that this was a common occupation for those living in the terrace in the 19th century. In the 1871 census, there were several watermen, and watermen’s apprentices among the occupants of several of the houses.

Another mention of a Waterman living at Ceylon Place is from the Kentish Mercury on the 3rd April 1885: “A PUGILISTIC WATERMAN – Charles Watkins, waterman, of 8 Ceylon-place, East Greenwich, was charged on summons of assaulting another waterman named Richard Preddy. The complainant said he was sitting on a seat at the Anchor and Hope Wharf, waiting for a ship to come up the river. He heard footsteps and saw Mr Watkins, who pulled off his coat and wanted him to fight; he told him to put on his coat, when the defendant struck him in the face, and then they both fell over the seat”.

Charles Watkins was fined 20 shillings with 2 shillings costs for the attack.

The majority of the other inhabitants were recorded as being labourers. One, a Mrs Elizabeth Elliott, widow, aged 74 was on the Parish Poor Relief. This was a very working class terrace.

There were other professions, perhaps unexpected in such an industrial area. In 1901, a resident of Ceylon Place was up before the Lord Mayor:

“THE SERIOUS CHARGE AGAINST A GREENWICH MAN – At the Mansion House on Thursday last week, Charles Rayner, aged 23, described as a music-hall artiste of Ceylon-place, Greenwich was again before the Lord Mayor on the charge of being concerned with another man in stealing £10 from the Falstaff Restaurant, Eastcheap”.

Publican’s were in danger of prosecution if they continued to sell alcohol to those already drunk, and in July 1908, in an article entitled The Peril of the Publican, it was reported that:

“Mary Ann Millington of the Pilot public-house, Ceylon-place, East Greenwich, was summoned for selling intoxicating liquor to a drunken person, and for permitting drunkenness”.

Mary Ann Millington was fined 40 shillings.

When they were living in the terrace, Charles Watkins and Charles Rayner, would have looked out on a rapidly industrialising area, but they would have still been very familiar with the last of the fields and marshes on the peninsular, and the causeway down to the river at the end of the longer terrace would have probably been used by many of the watermen of Ceylon Place.

Looking north from the terrace, the view would have been of cooling ponds and gas works. Today the view is of a park.

Pilot

And replacing the electricity generating station, and steel works are now rows of apartment buildings, which also block off the direct access to the river that the watermen of Ceylon Place formerly enjoyed.

Pilot

At the eastern end of the terrace. an old, painted sign provides a faded view of the original name of the terrace.

Pilot

The view of the terrace hidden behind trees on the walk down from the northern tip of the peninsula:

Pilot

The park is now established, but all along the eastern edge of the peninsula, building is continuing and the park is fenced off from numerous building sites. The following photo is the view looking north from the same position as the above photo. Tall buildings can be seen in the distance, to the east of the O2 Dome, and the building sites to the right are fenced off, so many more tall apartment buildings will soon overlook Ceylon Place and the Pilot pub.

Pilot

The Pilot is a really lovely pub, with an open terrace at the rear which was perfect on a warm August afternoon.

The Pilot and Ceylon Place have been here for over 200 years. They were:

  • Built when much of the Greenwich Peninsula was still field and marsh
  • They saw the building off, and were surrounded by some of the most polluting industries in London
  • They saw the decline of these industries and the derelict state of the much of the peninsula
  • The Millennium Dome came to the end of the peninsula
  • They are now being surrounded by towers of apartment buildings, but with an open space providing a view to the north

I suspect one of the watermen, or a worker in the industries on the peninsula would never have guessed what the place would look like today, and likewise, we probably have no idea what the peninsula will be like in one or two hundred years time, but I hope the Pilot and the Ceylon Place terrace will still be there to see how this part of London develops.

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Pubs of the City of London, July 2020 – Part 2

Welcome to part two of my walk to find the pubs of the City of London, as they were in July 2020. At the end of part one, I was at the Ship in Talbot Court. From here, I walked back to Gracechurch Street, then down to Cannon Street, looking for the:

The Bell – Bush Lane

Walk west along Cannon Street, and just before reaching Cannon Street Station, turn left into Bush Lane, and a short distance down is The Bell.

City of London Pubs

A pub has been at this location for many years, with the pub claiming 1660 as the year of the first business.

The pub is the smaller building in the terrace, and is Grade II listed. According to the listing record the current building dates from the mid 19th century.

Between the top two windows on the Bell is a rather nice plaster relief of a bell.

City of London Pubs

Apparently below the pub are the remains of Roman walls. The HMSO 1928 publication, Inventory of Roman London, mentions Roman walls and a tessellated pavement found in the area of The Bell and Bush Lane.

Back to Cannon Street, and continuing west, at the junction with Queen Street, is:

The Sugar Loaf – Cannon Street

Another Grade II listed pub is the Sugar Loaf, now back to its original name after a short stint as an O’Neills between 1996 and 2014.

City of London Pubs

The Grade II listing dates the pub to early 19th century. The first records I could find date from the 1850s when the pub started appearing in newspaper reports.

One particularly tragic report from the 19th May 1868 is about a 30 year old servant, Emily Volenworth, at the Sugar Loaf who threw herself from an attic window of the pub, and died soon after. I wonder what circumstances led her to such an awful fate.

At the junction of Cannon Street and Queen Victoria Street, I turned south along Garlick Hill to find:

Three Cranes – Garlick Hill

The Three Cranes is a recent name change to an old pub that until a few years ago was the Hatchet.

City of London Pubs

The pub is now named after Three Cranes stairs, one of the Thames stairs to the south of the pub. The pub sign shows a map with Three Cranes stairs in the centre. It looks like a version of the Agas map, but is lacking in detail. The name Three Cranes comes from the three cranes along the river near the stairs, used for moving cargo between ship and shore.

City of London Pubs

A good name for a pub, and a local reference, and I suspect was chosen to add some authenticity as a new name for the pub.

Ye Olde Watling – Watling Street

Back up to the Cannon Street / Queen Victoria Street junction, then up Bow Lane to the junction with Watling Street to find Ye Olde Watling:

City of London Pubs

The pub is named after the ancient street on which it stands (or the rough alignment of the original Watling Street). Built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1668, The Encyclopedia of London claims that the pub was used by Wren as an office whilst designing St Paul’s Cathedral.

A newspaper report from August 1948 states that the pub had recently been repaired following war time damage, and records that the pub was in danger of demolition. At the time it was called Ye Old Watling Restaurant.

Ye Old Watling in 1948 in a view that looks more like that of a market town, than the City of London. The tower in the background is that of the church of St Mary Aldermary.

City of London Pubs

On a sunny lunchtime and evening, the space outside Ye Olde Watling would be crowded with drinkers, whilst other City workers and tourists walking up to St Paul’s Cathedral would squeeze past.

The pub sign emphasises the Roman connection with Watling Street:

City of London Pubs

A short distance further along Watling Street is:

The Pavilion End – Watling Street

With any pub, there is a need to differentiate, to show the pub is different to those in the local area and to attract a specific audience. The Pavilion End does this by being a themed sports / cricket pub and is relatively recent.

City of London Pubs

Whilst the Pavilion End is a perfect pub for a cricket enthusiast, the building is the more historic point of interest and is a rather nice mid 19th commercial building.

The building is Grade II listed and retains the iron columns used to support the structure of the building. Many of these can be seen on the facade facing Watling Street, now painted red. The pub also has some rather ornate decoration around the doors.

The Grade II listing was dated 1977, and was fortunate as the 1970s were the decade when many of these buildings were at risk. The LMA Collage archive includes a photo of the building in 1971.

City of London Pubs

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_027_71_9832

The above photo illustrates the risk to City buildings in the last decades of the 20th century as the buildings on either side of what is now the Pavilion End have both been replaced with later buildings.

From Watling Street, i walked up Bow Lane, and turned into Groveland Court to find:

Williamson’s Tavern – Groveland Court

Groveland Court is a narrow alley off Bow Lane, with the main attractions being the pubs at the end of the alley, as Groveland Court does not lead anywhere.

Williamson’s Tavern has a long history, which a sign on the front of the pub informs:

“Williamson’s Tavern dates back to the 17th century, built not long after the Great Fire of London in 1666. The site became the address of the new Mayor of London and the wrought iron gates a gift from William III and Mary II who are thought to have dined here. 

By 1739 the building was not thought to be grand enough an address for the Mayor and it was sold to Robert Williamson for conversion into a hotel. the hotel remained in the Williamson family until 1914 when James Williamson died and it was sold at auction”.

City of London Pubs

The pub also claims to hold the oldest excise licence in the City and to be haunted by a poltergeist called Martha, whose presence apparently causes Police Dogs to bark as they pass Groveland Court, and refuse to enter the narrow alley.

Oppsite Williamson’s Tavern is:

The Four Sisters – Groveland Court

The Four Sisters is not really a pub, rather a cocktail bar / restaurant and is styled as a Georgian townhouse. I have included the Four Sisters as externally it does look like a traditional pub and has a traditional pub sign handing outside the building.

City of London Pubs

The wrought iron gates to the left of the above photo were the gift from William III and Mary II, mentioned in the history of Williamson’s Tavern. The Groveland Court Four Sisters is an offshoot of the main establishment at Canonbury Lane, Islington. Although the Groveland Court establishment has been closed since March, I am not sure if it is reopening as it has disappeared from the company’s website.

City of London Pubs

From Groveland Court, I walked back down to Cannon Street, up to St Paul’s Churchyard, then down Peter’s Hill to:

The Centre Page – Knightrider Street

There is a long history of a pub on this site, possibly dating back to at least the 17th century, although the current name is recent, having changed in 2002 from the Horn Tavern.

City of London Pubs

Although the pub has changed name, the large lantern on the corner has been a long term feature, which my father photographed from Sermon Lane (the original lane that now sort of runs to the west of Peter’s Hill at the top of the steps). I wrote a post about the Horn Tavern here.

City of London Pubs

From Peter’s Hill / Sermon Lane, I walked up to and along Carter Lane, to:

The Rising Sun – Carter Lane

The Rising Sun announces its location as you walk along Carter Lane, before you can see the actual pub:

City of London Pubs

Another Grade II listed, early / mid 19th century building, the Rising Sun is a typical City pub.

City of London Pubs

The Rising Sun is within the St Paul’s Cathedral Conservation Area, so as well as the Grade II listing for the pub, the surrounding area should be preserved as the narrow streets add to the pub’s character, although Creed Lane, the street I was standing in to take the above photo is currently closed off, with a large empty space where some new building work is underway. Hopefully whatever is planned will maintain the character of the area. Also looks like the facade in the distance has been retained.

City of London Pubs

From Carter Lane, I walked down St Andrew’s Hill to find:

The Cockpit – St Andrews Hill

The Cockpit is a lovely Victorian triangular pub, with one side on St Andrew’s Hill and the other on Ireland Yard.

City of London Pubs

The Cockpit is a perfect example of the difficulty of finding the true history of places and the origins of names. Most references to the Cockpit pub link the name to cock fighting and a cock pit on the site. References also include a name change, for example the London Encyclopedia states that “After cockfighting was banned in 1849, the name was changed to the Three Castles”.

The Three Castles name was though being used almost 50 years earlier with a reference in the Morning Advertiser on Saturday July 2nd 1808: “The Members of the Benefit Society of Taylors  held at the Three Castles, St Andrew’s Hill, Blackfriars, are requested to meet at the above house on MONDAY the 11th July at Eight o’clock in the evening”.

St Andrew’s Hill was originally named Puddle Dock Hill as the street led down to Puddle Dock on the Thames. I cannot find a cock pit reference on any early maps, and books such as Old and New London make no reference to a cockpit being located here. The most common historical reference to the area is that Shakespeare bought a house in 1612 in the area around St Andrew’s Hill and Ireland Yard.

There may well have been a cockpit here, and a pub on the site before 1808 may have been called the Cockpit, but it was not the banning of the practice in 1808 that caused the name change, and I can find no firm evidence that there was.

It is though a lovely, friendly pub, and usually one of those that can be guaranteed to be open at the weekend.

My next stop was a pub that looks similar to the Cockpit, and was actually open.

The Blackfriar – Queen Victoria Street

The Blackfriar is a magnificent pub, sitting on a triangular plot of land which has resulted in the shape of the pub.

City of London Pubs

Named after the Dominican friary which has given its name to the local area and the nearby bridge over the River Thames, the Blackfriar was built around 1875, so not long after Queen Victoria Street opened. The pub was Grade II listed in 1972, which probably explains how the pub has survived the development of the surrounding area. The triangular shape of the building is down to an original street and the new Queen Victoria Street.

To the left of the pub is a short stub of a street leading to a dead-end. On maps this is currently named as Blackfriars Court, but was originally Water Lane. The plot of land originally extended further south to make a more rectangular plot, however Queen Victoria Street sliced through the lower part of this plot and created a triangular plot on which the Blackfriar was built.

Designed by the architect H. Fuller-Clark, with decorations by the artist Henry Poole, the Blackfriar is a unique pub, both inside and out, and was open by the time I reached the pub.

Socially distanced tables were outside, and despite being very well organised and feeling very safe, it was quiet, which highlights the challenges that City pubs may encounter in the coming months. It is not just about reopening – there need to be sufficient people in the City, willing and wanting to go to a pub, and feeling safe when they are there.

From the Blackfriar, I walked up New Bridge Street, and turned left into Bridewell Place:

St Bride’s Tavern – Bridewell Place

St Bride’s Tavern is a modern looking pub, with a large central set of bow windows on the first and second floors of the building. I suspect it would look better if the wall and windows on either side of the central section were symmetrical, however today there are six windows on the right, and one on the left.

City of London Pubs

The austere facade of the pub is broken up with lots of greenery, there is usually a large display of flowers across the building. At the very top of the bow window are some interesting gold painted decorations:

City of London Pubs

The St Bride’s Tavern, or indeed any pub, has not been at this location for a long time. The 1894 Ordnance Survey map shows that at the time, the same space was occupied by a Police Station of the 3rd Division.

The pub is named after the church of St Bride’s which is a short distance to the north west, and the pub sign displays the spire of the church above the surrounding rooftops:

City of London Pubs

It was to the edge of St Bride’s church that I headed to next:

The Old Bell – St Bride’s Avenue

St Bride’s Avenue runs along the northern edge of St Bride’s churchyard, and despite the use of Avenue in the name, it is a narrow alley leading up from Bride Lane. The narrow space also made photographing the Old Bell somewhat difficult.

City of London Pubs

The Old Bell is an old pub, claiming to have been built by Sir Christopher Wren in the 1670s for workmen and masons working on the church of St Bride’s. On a warn summer’s day, the alley would frequently be crowded with drinkers – but not today.

City of London Pubs

I have used St Bride’s Avenue as the address for the pub, however the main address is on Fleet Street, where the pub also has an entrance, however personally, I always prefer the St Bride’s Avenue entrance. The narrow alley is a much better way to enter a pub rather than from the bustle of Fleet Street.

City of London Pubs

The Old Bell has survived the loss of the newspaper industry around Fleet Street, as workers from the papers published and printed along the street once made up a significant proportion of the pub’s clientele. Hopefully the Old Bell will continue to prosper long into the future.

Before walking up to Fleet Street, there was one more pub to find in Bride Lane, opposite the steps leading up to the Old Bell:

Crown and Sugar Loaf – Bride Lane

The Crown and Sugar Loaf could be easy to miss as you walk along Bride Lane, as your attention probably wanders to the adjacent church and the Old Bell, but it is a pub worth visiting.

City of London Pubs

A small pub, but with an interesting history. Although the space has been a pub for many years, it has only been the Crown and Sugar Loaf since 2004. The space now occupied by the Crown and Sugar Loaf was once part of the Punch Tavern, but this space was separated from the original pub when the Punch Tavern was sold, and a new pub opened in this smaller space.

The Crown and Sugar Loaf is an interesting name. Crown usually refers to some link or reference to Royalty. Sugar Loaf could either refer to the trade of the Grocer, or, Sugar Loaf was the name applied to a block of refined sugar, exported from the Caribbean.

The name is the original name for the pub that would be called the Punch Tavern, so the next pub was obviously the pub that was separated off from the Crown and Sugar Loaf, and was renamed as:

The Punch Tavern – Fleet Street

The Punch Tavern was originally the Crown and Sugar Loaf. It was renamed at some point in the 1840s. The first record I can find of the pub using the Punch name is from 1846.

City of London Pubs

The original Crown and Sugar Loaf dates to the 18th century. A newspaper report from October 1790 reports on the ever present risks to London buildings when the Crown and Sugar Loaf was badly damaged by a fire which started in a gingerbread baker’s in New Bridge Street;

“The flames communicated from thence to the adjoining premises backwards and burnt through to Fleet-street, the Crown and Sugar Loaf and Mr Pridden’s, were also much damaged before the flames could be extinguished”.

The reason for the name change in the 1840s were the number of drinkers at the pub who worked in the nearby offices of Punch magazine. The current building dates from 1894.

A short distance west along Fleet Street is:

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – Fleet Street

I am always a bit dubious about places that put “Ye Olde” in front of their names, but the Cheshire Cheese is genuinely old. The pub is housed in the building to the right of the brick built pair in the centre of the following photo:

City of London Pubs

The pub dates from 1538 and the current building dates from 1667. There is no entrance to the pub from Fleet Street, you have to walk down Wine Office Court to the left of the Cheshire Cheese to gain access. Wine Office Court dates from at least 1676, and takes its name from the office that issued licences for selling wine that was located in the court.

City of London Pubs

Perhaps one of the strangest stories from a London pub is that of the parrot that lived at the Cheshire Cheese and the national publicity of its death in 1926. From the Devon and Exeter Gazette on November 1st 1926:

“A Great Bird: The death after a long illness of the Cheshire Cheese parrot has gloomed half of London. The news was broadcast last night from 2LO with due solemnity. So far as a grey and scarlet South African parrot can achieve greatness, that bird did. For 40 years it was the biggest personality in Fleet-street. No really illustrious visitor to this country failed to secure an audience, at which the parrot always took the honours. It was a gifted talker, even by the highest Army standards, and beside such wide-tricks as imitating perfectly all the sounds of a public bar not only swore like a cavalry S.M. but obviously knew the right time to do it. I once saw it drop a cigarette box it was perforating. It promptly exclaimed just what most ex-Service men would say if they dropped a half crown down a grid. Once Princess Mary insisted on being introduced to Polly. It had to be done, but it aged the manager. If anyone had mentioned the Kaiser the King’s daughter would have heard things not mentioned to a drunken cow-puncher”.

As well as the parrot, the Cheshire Cheese has also been frequented by lesser celebrities such as Charles Dickens.

The Cheshire Cheese likes to wear its history:

City of London Pubs

Across the road from Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, is:

The Tipperary – Fleet Street

The Tipperary occupies a relatively thin building at 66 Fleet Street:

City of London Pubs

A board at the front of the pub provides some detail as to the long history of the pub:

City of London Pubs

Further west along the Strand, at number 22 is:

Ye Olde Cock Tavern – Fleet Street

Another tall and narrow pub, sandwiched between two later stone buildings, Ye Olde Cock Tavern has an entrance which covers the entire ground floor aspect to Fleet Street:

City of London Pubs

Ye Olde Cock Tavern is Grade II listed, and the listing provides some architectural details:

“1912 by Gilbert and Constandures. Painted roughcast. 4 storeys and attic; a single bay facade; ground floor entrance with wide 4 centred arch. Timber mullioned and transomed oriel window with leaded lights at 1st floor. Attic within half-timbered gable with plain bargeboards. Steep tiled roof. Hanging sign on wrought iron bracket. Contains a C17 chimneypiece of stone supported on plain brackets with an oak overmantel flanked by enriched terminal pilasters”.

The Historic England listing gives a date of 1912, however the pub is much older, but at a different location. A pub with the name may have been established as early as the 17th century, however it was on the opposite side of the street. The pub moved to its current position in 1887 when the construction of a bank resulted in the demolition of the original pub.

The move across Fleet Street seems to have been the catalyst for an addition to the name. The only references I can find to the full name of Ye Olde Cock Tavern date from the 1880s. The pub had previously been known simply as the Cock Tavern. I suspect that “Ye Olde” was added to the name at the time of the move across the street to perhaps ensure that although it was in a new location, it was seen as a continuation of a name which had been on Fleet Street for many years.

The original pub seems to have been known for oysters, for example from a newspaper report from the 1st December 1846 “The country visitor to the metropolis has been, for more years than we can remember, accustomed to take his first oysters and stout at the Cock Tavern, in Fleet Street; and we have occasionally, like other people, trespassed upon his well saw-dusted floor”.

The move of the pub must have been to an existing building, before the re-work of 1912, as the Grade II listing makes reference to 17th century features remaining in the building.

City of London Pubs

Leaving Fleet Street behind, I walked north along Fetter Lane to find:

The White Swan – Fetter Lane

The White Swan in Fetter Lane is within a 1950s building, and now advertises as a Pub and Chophouse. Pubs have had to focus more on food over the years as there is more profit in food than there is in just the sale of beer and spirits at a bar.

City of London Pubs

Although the building is relatively recent, there has been a Swan on Fetter Lane since at least 1808, when the pub was used in an advert for a Chandlers Shop to let, with interested parties invited to ask for directions at the White Swan, Fetter Lane.

It is fascinating the different activities carried out within pubs, when they were far more of a community resource than today. I have written about many of the functions carried out within pubs along the river in east London, but interesting to see that many of these same functions were carried out at pubs in the City. For example pubs were a common place for inquests to be held, and on the 22nd November 1832, the Morning Post reported:

“Yesterday evening an Inquest was held at the White Swan, Fetter-lane, Fleet-street, on the body of a female named M. Cleallan, who committed suicide by cutting her throat with a razor. The Inquest was held before the City Coroner, J. SAYERS, Esq., and a very respectable jury. The Jury having viewed the body , and examined witnesses amongst whom was the husband of the deceased, unanimously returned the following verdict;- That the deceased committed the rash act in a fit of temporary derangement”.

The White Swan is within a rather nice brick building, with concrete surrounding the central windows. Between the first and second floors, the name “The White Swan” is carved on one of the concrete panels.

City of London Pubs

From Fetter Lane, I turned off into Norwich Street, to the junction with Furnival Street, to find:

26 Furnival Street

Much like the White Swan, 26 Furnival Street (the name of the pub as well as the address) is a pub which now concentrates far more on food.

City of London Pubs

The name change is recent as this was a typical corner pub called the Castle.

The name comes from the original street name – Castle Yard, which changed to Furnival Street in the early 1890s. Norwich Street, the street that runs alongside the pub back to Fetter Lane was called Magpie Yard. The Castle Yard name was changed to commemorate Furnival’s Inn – not an Inn in the pub sense of the word, rather one of the Inns of Chancery. Founded by William de Furnival in 1383, and later part of Lincoln’s Inn.

The current pub building dates from 1901, but there has probably been a pub on the site for a few hundred years.

And with 26 Furnival Street, I have concluded part two of my walk to find the pubs of the City of London. I had intended to complete this walk in two posts, however with each post being over 4,000 words, and plenty of photos, I do not want to inflict too much on you, the reader.

Part three will be the final post, and will cover pubs from Holborn, Smithfield and Aldersgate Street.

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Pubs of the City of London, July 2020 – Part 1

I have been meaning to do this for some time, to take a walk to find all the pubs of the City of London and last Sunday I had the opportunity to do so. I wanted to do this for a number of reasons.

Working with my father’s photos, I am very aware that there was so much else that would have been fascinating to see recorded as a photo. The costs and limitations of film photography always restricted the number he could take as an amateur.

I like photographic themes and snapshots of a theme at a specific time. They tell the story of what life was like, what you could find on the streets of London, at a specific point in time. My first attempt was a couple of years ago when I photographed all the theatres in the West End. All closed now, but at the time a dynamic, cultural environment, attracting many thousands of people into London and supporting many jobs. Those posts are here and here.

I have also been thinking recently about the impact of the pandemic on the City of London. Is this one of those points in history which results in a significant change, or in five years time will everything be back to normal, the streets, offices, transport systems all crowded.

During the week the City is very quiet. So many companies are finding that it is perfectly possible to work remotely and the potential savings in office space costs are enormous, and for workers, saving both time and money by not having the crowded commute into London are significant benefits.

There will always be a need to have some working space in London, but it may be at considerably reduced levels to those we have at the moment, and whilst working at home offers significant benefits, there is a need for the type of interaction which can only be achieved face to face.

The question will be whether the number of those working in the city return to levels which can support the number of businesses which sell to city workers. All the coffee shops, retailers and pubs.

This may be an economic problem for the pubs of the City of London, so I decided to photograph as many as possible during a single day. I know many of these pubs, and also used the data made available on the Corporation of London website where you can map all the premises in the City with alcohol licenses. There are some basic filtering options to help separate out the many restaurants that also have alcohol licenses from the pubs, and I worked out a roughly circular route that took me to a total of 50 pubs.

I know there are some I missed, so will mop these up during a later walk.

Nearly every pub was closed, and the streets of the City were empty. No tourists, very few walkers and very few cars. The congestion charge now applies at weekends, which may also have an impact in reducing the numbers of visitors to the City.

Today’s post has the first batch of pubs, and a midweek post will cover the final batch. This second post will also include an interactive map of all the pub locations.

My walk started in the heart of the City, just north of Gresham Street, at:

The Old Doctor Butler’s Head – Masons Avenue

With an address in Masons Avenue, you might expect the Old Doctor Butler’s Head to be in a wide street, however you will find the pub in a narrow alley between Basinghall Street and Coleman Street.

Pubs of the City of London

The Old Doctor Butler’s Head is an old pub, with the building allegedly dating from just after the Great Fire.

On a summer’s evening, the alley is normally crowded with people having a drink after work.

It is named after Doctor William Butler, the court physician of King James I. Born in Suffolk in 1535, he lived until 1617, and during his life he used a number of bizarre treatments including firing pistols near the heads of his patients with epilepsy to scare the ailment from the patient.

His connection with pubs comes from his creation of a “purging ale” which he claimed had medicinal properties. There were a number of pubs with the name of Doctor Butler selling the ale, and the pub in Masons Avenue is the only one to remain.

The current building cannot date from Dr Butler’s time as it was built at some point after 1666, but there may have been an earlier pub on the same site.

Pubs of the City of London

Doctor Butler’s Head looking much the same in 1974:

Pubs of the City of London

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0975_74_12394

From Masons Avenue, it was a short walk up to the junction of London Wall and Moorgate, to find:

The Globe / Keats At The Globe – Moorgate

I have not been in either of these two pubs for many years, and as far as I can tell they are now effectively one pub.

Walking across London Wall to Moorgate, there is an entrance to the Keats at the Globe in the small space that has now been truncated by the building of Crossrail:

Pubs of the City of London

Walk around the corner, and facing Moorgate is a large Victorian pub – The Globe, with a mirror image of the above entrance to Keats at the Globe, alongside the Globe.

Pubs of the City of London

The Keats at the Globe was originally a separate pub called the John Keats, but appears to now be a bar associated with the larger corner pub. It make an interesting combination of buildings, with the Globe forming a typical corner pub, and the Keats running through the length of the block of buildings having an entrance at both ends.

The reason for the Keats name is given in a plaque on the Moorgate facing side of the Keats pub, claiming that John Keats was born in the Swan and Hoop which was originally on the site in 1795.

Pubs of the City of London

John Keats was the son of Thomas Keats, a west country stableman, who moved up to London to manage the Livery Stable at the Swan and Hoop. He married Francis Jennings, the daughter of the proprietor of the Swan and Hoop and the poet John Keats would be the result.

Heading further north along Moorgate, then into South Place and Eldon Street:

Red Lion – Eldon Street

The Red Lion is on the corner of Eldon Street and Wilson Street:

Pubs of the City of London

Etched onto the pub windows are signs saying that the pub has been a “Purveyor of Quality Cask Ales since 1799”. Until the large corner sign was redecorated, it was claiming to have been established in 1887. I suspect that is when the current building dates from, and there was probably an earlier pub on the same site.

Nothing to do with pubs, but the following photo illustrates how the City streets may well be changing over the coming year. When Eldon Street curves into Broad Street Place, there is a branch of T.M. Lewin, originally founded in Jermyn Street in 1898, For many years, T.M. Lewin branches across the City have been selling shirts and suits to City workers.

Pubs of the City of London

However, from now on they will be selling online only, and have announced that all their shops will close. The streets are potentially going to look very different.

From Eldon Street, it was a short walk to Liverpool Street station, and:

The Railway Tavern

On the corner of Liverpool Street and Old Broad Street is the Railway Tavern.

Pubs of the City of London

Works for Crossrail have occupied much of Liverpool Street opposite the pub, but now seem to be coming to a close, so hopefully the street will soon be opening up fully.

The Railway Tavern seems to have been built in the 1850s or early 1860s. The earliest record I can find for the pub is from 1864 when the pub was used as a mailing address in an advert.

The pub backs on to the railway lines of the Circle and Metropolitan lines, which are open to the surface just behind the pub.

The Railway Tavern was opposite the old Broad Street Station and is now diagonally opposite Liverpool Street Station, and followed the 19th / early 20th century approach of building a pub outside a railway station and naming it the Railway Tavern.

Pubs of the City of London

Broad Street Station has been replaced by office blocks, however the Railway Tavern continues to provide a place for London commuters to have a final pint before running to Liverpool Street for the train home.

The next pub was very close:

Lord Aberconway – Old Broad Street

A short distance from the Railway Tavern, in Old Broad Street is the Lord Aberconway.

Pubs of the City of London

The Lord Aberconway was originally named the Kings and Keys, but has not always been a pub. The 1894 Ordinance Survey map does not show a pub at the location. It has though been associated with the nearby stations as it was previously a Railway Buffet and Refreshment Rooms.

The pub is named after Lord Aberconway who was the last Chairman of the Metropolitan Railway.

Pubs of the City of London

Outside the pub is a plaque claiming that the Lord Aberconway is “purportedly haunted with the spirits of the Great Fire of London victims”. 

Then via Liverpool Street into Bishopsgate, and:

Dirty Dicks – Bishopsgate

In Bishopsgate, all shuttered up was Dirty Dicks:

Pubs of the City of London

The pub, originally called The Old Jerusalem, took the name from a character who owned a hardware business in Leadenhall Street.

Nathaniel Bentley was originally a well off, well dressed young gentleman and owned the hardware business in Leadenhall Street. He was engaged to be married, but on the morning of the marriage he received news that his fiance had died. The room where the wedding breakfast had been arranged was locked and he vowed never to open the room again. He changed his way of living, wearing rags, never cleaning the store and generally living in squalor.

Whether the story is true is open to question. There are a number of alternative stories for why Nathaniel Bentley became Dirty Dick. For example, the East London Observer on the 11th June 1870 also used the marriage as the reason, but in this story he was jilted on the morning of the wedding with his bride claiming the cause being that he had not washed his neck. As a result, he swore an oath that he would never again use a bar of soap, use a brush, or allow a woman to enter his doors again.

What ever the cause. his actions resulted in him acquiring the nickname of Dirty Dick.

He refused his landlord access to the building, but when the landlord finally had access: “He found pictures and looking glasses on the walls of the living-rooms so encrusted with dirt that they could only be distinguished from the walls at close quarters. A study was the breeding place of countless spiders. In a bedroom was an old coat lying on the floor – the mattress used by Dirty Dick when he lay down to sleep”.

When he finally left the shop, he took shop soiled goods with him worth £10,000, and moved to Shoreditch. He did not stay there for long, and went on a tour of the country and whilst at Haddington in Scotland, he was taken ill and died in 1819, being buried locally in Haddington.

The link between Nathaniel Bentley and Dirty Dicks is somewhat tenuous. A landlord of the pub is alleged to have removed the contents of Bentley’s rooms in Shoreditch to the pub. The pub was later rebuilt in 1870, and continued the reputation as it was certainly a unique history, and good selling point to get visitors to the pub.

Also on Bishopsgate was:

Woodin’s Shades – Bishopsgate

Almost opposite Dirty Dicks, and on the corner of Bishopsgate and Middlesex Street is Woodin’s Shades:

Pubs of the City of London

Woodin was one William Woodin and the word “Shades” refers to a wine cellar.

William Woodin owned wine cellars in Thames Street, and a newspaper report in the Globe on the 6th April 1882 reported on the closure and sale of the wine cellars: “OLD WOODIN SHADES CELLARS – Thames-street. Absolute and Unreserved SALE of about 4,000 dozens of WINES of various descriptions in consequence of the immediate demolition of the Premises by the Fishmongers’ Company”.

As well as the wine cellars in Thames Street, William Woodin was also the landlord of the  Woodin’s Shades pub in the 1860s. The current building dates from 1893.

The Woodin’s Shades pub in 1959:

Pubs of the City of London

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: M0029433CL

From Bishopsgate, down Middlesex Street with a very quiet Sunday morning market was:

The Astronomer – Middlesex Street

The Astronomer is a relatively recent name for this pub in Middlesex Street. Reopened in 2016 as the Astronomer, it was the Shooting Star, and before that, the Coach and Horses which opened in the middle of the 19th century.

Pubs of the City of London

It is a Fuller’s pub, and they claim the name Astronomer is because the building in which the pub is located is called Astral House. I would have thought the Shooting Star was also an astronomy related name, so no idea why pub companies sometimes change the name of pubs. Possibly to provide a clean break with any past issues, but I am not aware of any that would have resulted in a name change from Shooting Star.

From Middlesex Street, up north along Sandy’s Row to find:

The Kings Stores – Widegate Street

The Kings Stores is on the corner of Widegate Street and Sandy’s Row.

Pubs of the City of London

The current pub dates from 1902, when it was rebuilt as confirmed at the top of the building:

Pubs of the City of London

Before the rebuild and name change, there was a pub on the same site, but called the Hoop and Grapes. I suspect the name change was to give the pub a unique name, rather than being one of several Hoop and Grapes in the City, two of which we will be visiting in this journey around City pubs.

Pubs of the City of London

I always photograph graffiti and stickers when walking the streets of London. They are off their time and provide a record of different views of world events. There were several on my City walk. This was on a door opposite the Kings Stores.

Pubs of the City of London

Back down Sandy’s Row, then via Middlesex Street, Catherine Wheel Alley and Cock Hill, to:

The Magpie – New Street

The history of the Magpie should be straightforward, but is confused by the pub company’s own references to the pub where they state: “The site of our pub was an ambulance station at the beginning of the 20th Century, but its place in history was secured when one of the first electric ambulances was stationed here in 1909. At night time and Sundays this one vehicle served the entire city”. However, at the top of the pub is the year 1873, and the building does look purpose built as a pub.

Pubs of the City of London

Checking newspaper records for the beginning of the 20th century, and there is clearly a pub here. For example in 1902 a report of £1 being collected for charity at the Magpie Hotel, New Street, Bishopsgate, and in 1912 there was an advert for a Housemaid and assistant at the bar of the Magpie, New Street. The 1894 Ordnance Survey map also shows a Public House in the same location as the Magpie.

There was also a pub on the site prior to the year 1873, when I assume the current building was built.

I wonder if the confusion is down to the building directly behind the Magpie. Bishopsgate Police Station extends from where the front of the building is located on Bishopsgate, all the way back to New Street, where the street curves left past the Magpie. It may be that the ambulance was based there, at the rear of the pub rather than at the site of the pub, which from records was clearly a pub from 1873 to the current day.

Pubs of the City of London

One of the joys of wandering around London is finding things in the most unexpected places. New Street is a dead end for traffic, however at the end of the street Cock Hill provides a walking route down to Catherine Wheel Alley.

Cock Hill is a very quiet alley, but on the side of one of the buildings is a wonderful bit of art:

Pubs of the City of London

A large blue cockerel above an entrance to one of the buildings. The tile to lower right has the date 1991, and if I have interpreted correctly, the initials W.N.

Pubs of the City of London

I have not been able to find who created the work, and why it is here (apart from the obvious association with the name of the alley), but it brightens up an alley surrounded by tall buildings.

Then back to Middlesex Street, which I followed south to:

Hoop and Grapes – Aldgate High Street

My next pub is the first of two Hoop and Grapes in the City of London, and I suspect why the Kings Stores changed name from the original Hoop and Grapes. The original reason for pubs having such graphic names was to ensure people (many of whom were illiterate), knew where to go. If you said to someone “I will meet you at the Hoop and Grapes” you did not want any confusion as to which one.

Pubs of the City of London

The Hoop and Grapes has foundations going back to the 13th century. There are various dates for the main building with both the 16th and 17th Centuries being claimed. Pevsner provides a date of the late 17th century for the pub, however I suspect at that time, buildings were not often completely rebuilt, but use was made of any features worth keeping to keep costs down.

Pubs of the City of London

The Hoop and Grapes in 1961, when before or after a beer, you could also get your eyes tested at the adjacent optician and teeth at “Supreme Denture Service Ltd”.

Pubs of the City of London

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_001_61_4323

Then along Aldgate High Street, and cut through the alley of Little Somerset Street to find:

Still and Star – Little Somerset Street

The Still and Star is a perfect example of the continual threat to London pubs, and the challenges they face in operating an economic business. There was a threat to the pub from development in 2016, however the pub was listed as an asset of community value, which saved the pub from demolition.

Pubs of the City of London

The developers appealed and in 2018, the appeal was rejected, however the appeal document showed the potential challenge to the continual existence of the pub.

The appeal findings stated that from 1820 to the 2nd October 2017, the building had operated continuously as a pub, however in October 2017, the tenant vacated the premises leaving a number of unpaid bills. His reason was the lack of revenue, particularly outside the summer months.

I am not sure if the pub has been open since the end of 2017. There is a chalked sign up outside the pub stating that it is closed until late 2021. The Victorian Society had an article dated the 21st March 2019 stating that the Still and Star was again at risk.

Pubs of the City of London

The Still and Star is a historic pub, as it was not built as a pub, rather it is a converted house, turned into a pub when licensing was deregulated. The City of London Appeal Findings provide the following source for the name:

“It is believed that the name originates from the premises once containing a still for producing spirit, likely gin, in the hayloft, and the strong associations with the Jewish community around Aldgate and Spitalfields, the star referring to the Star of David”.

No idea what the future will be for the Still and Star. I suspect the reason that the previous tenant left sums up the problem for the pub. Whilst it may be an asset of community value, if it cannot generate enough revenue, who is going to cover the pub’s costs? The developer probably just needs to sit back and wait for time to prove that the pub cannot commercially survive.

Back to Aldgate High Street, and west to find the:

Three Tuns – Jewry Street

The Three Tuns was once a common name for City pubs, however as far as I am aware, this is the only Three Tuns remaining.

Pubs of the City of London

A pub has been on the site since the mid 18th century, and the present building dates from 1939. The pub had a brief name change to Hennessy’s in 2003, but fortunately the original name has returned.

The Three Tuns has a section of Roman wall in the cellar which is a very fortunate survival given how many times there must have been building on the site.

The three tuns, or barrels are on display between the first and second floors of the building, which managed to provide a reminder of the original name during the time the pub was Hennessy’s.

Pubs of the City of London

Back up to Aldagte High Street, and at the junction with Leadenhall Street, I took the southern branch to Fenchurch Street:

East India Arms – Fenchurch Street

The East India Arms takes its name from the East India Company, who had their offices in nearby Leadenhall Street.

Pubs of the City of London

The earliest records I can find of the pub date from 1830 when a meeting at the East India Arms Tavern in Fenchurch Street was mentioned in the London Evening Standard.

It is a lovely brick building which stands in contrast to the surrounding buildings.

The pub sign consists of the arms of the East India Company – which makes sense given the name:

Pubs of the City of London

The following photo provides a view along Fenchurch Street to the East India Arms in 1969, and gives an impression of the diversity of shops on London streets at the time.

Pubs of the City of London

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_010_69_3780

Back to Fenchurch Street and to Fenchurch Street Station, then south into the:

Ship – Hart Street

The Ship is a wonderfully ornate pub, which needs some better lighting conditions than on the day of my visit to do justice to the decoration facing the street.

Pubs of the City of London

The current building dates from 1887 and is Grade II listed, and as with the majority of City pubs, there was a pub on the site prior to the current building.

Just above the central ground floor window of the pub is a carved shell, with the words Jubilee Year and the date 1887. A reminder that the year the pub was built was also the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

Pubs of the City of London

The decoration on the pub is wonderful and fully justifies the Grade II listing.

Pubs of the City of London

A quick detour up New London Street from Hart Street:

The Windsor

My intention was to photograph what might be called the traditional pubs in the City, however I have included one very new pub, if only to show how some sites retain their use over very many years, despite the area changing considerably.

This is The Windsor in New London Street:

Pubs of the City of London

Just to the right of the top of the steps on the left of the photo is Fenchurch Street Station and a pub called the Railway Tavern was originally on the site of the Windsor.

The first references I can find to the Railway Tavern date back to 1854, so perhaps the pub was built as part of the rebuild of Fenchurch Street Station.

The Windsor occupies the lower floors of a modern office block. No idea why it is called the Windsor and has a picture of Windsor Castle on the pub sign. It is not as if trains from Fenchurch Street run to Windsor.

Back to Hart Street, and east to where the street turns into Crutched Friars, and:

The Crutched Friar – Crutched Friars

The Crutched Friar in the street of the same name, is a pub I have not been able to find too much about.

Pubs of the City of London

The name comes from the religious order that established a base near Tower Hill in the 13th century. One of the few City pubs that I have not been in – will have to investigate more once they open.

Keep walking east along Crutched Friars to the:

Cheshire Cheese – Crutched Friars

A short distance along from the Crutched Friar, and on the same street is the Cheshire Cheese which has been built under the railway viaduct of the railway into Fenchurch Street Station,

Pubs of the City of London

The railway was built in the 1850s, however a pub with the same name has been on the site for some years before the arrival of the railway. For example, a newspaper advert from the Morning Advertiser on the 4th July 1807: “Wanted for a respectable Public House, a stout active lad, with a good character from his last place. Apply at Mr Chipping’s, Cheshire Cheese, Crutched Friars”.

It is one of the more unusual locations for a City of London pub.

Back to Fenchurch Street, all the way west to Gracechurch Street, then south to:

The Ship – Talbot Court

The second Ship pub on the walk around the pubs of the City of London, but this Ship has a very different appearance. Located in Talbot Court which runs from Gracechurch Street to Eastcheap.

Pubs of the City of London

A sign on the front of the pub claims that the Ship was built after the previous pub on the site (The Talbot) was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The rebuilt pub was renamed the Ship after the dock workers and deckhands that used to drink at the pub.

On a summer’s day, a very different clientele spill out into the space in front of the pub, but on my walk, it was closed and silent.

Pubs of the City of London

Not a single pub was open. If you look at the windows of the pubs, the majority had notices on doors and windows stating they are closed, and that they look forward to welcoming customers back as soon as they can safely open.

The challenge will be whether in a post pandemic world, there are enough customers to keep them all open.

That concludes part one of my walk to find the pubs of the City of London. In part two I continue west and north.

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New Crane Stairs and the Anchor and Hope Pub

In the week before the lock down was implemented, I walked from London Bridge to the isle of Dogs. One of my favourite walks as the views of the river are wonderful in the gaps between old warehouse buildings. I am gradually working through as many Thames Stairs as I can find, and for this week’s post, let me take you to New Crane Stairs and a lost pub.

New Crane Stairs can be found at the corner where Wapping High Street turns away from the river towards Garnet Street. the entrance is tucked away between the old New Crane Wharf building and a recent new apartment building, with the entrance to the River View Chinese restaurant at the entrance to the stairs.

New Crane Stairs

The view along the passageway leading to the stairs:

New Crane Stairs

At the end of the passageway, New Crane Stairs lead down to the river foreshore:

New Crane Stairs

Despite the name, New Crane Stairs are an old set of stairs down to the river. They appear in Morgan’s 1682 map of the whole of London. The word “New” at the start of the name is interesting as it implies there may have been an earlier set of stairs with the Crane name. There are other examples of this, for example Horselydown Old and New Stairs on the south bank of the river, east of Tower Bridge.

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets Wapping Wall Conservation Area document states that: “Great Jubilee Wharf and New Crane Wharf (following the post medieval river wall line) form a continuous ‘wall’ of buildings between the street and the Thames.” Intriguing to wonder if New Crane Stairs could possibly date back to a route over the medieval river wall to the river.

The following photo shows the view of New Crane Wharf from the river, with the stairs to the left:

New Crane Stairs

I cannot find a source for the name, whether there was an earlier set of stairs with the Crane name, or whether the name was in reference to the nearby installation of a “new crane” which perhaps in the 17th century or even earlier would have been worthy of note.

Rocque’s 1746 map clearly shows New Crane Stairs at the point where the road turns north, in the centre of the following map:

New Crane Stairs

The first written reference I can find to the stairs, in addition to the above maps is a rather touching newspaper report from the 4th August 1758:

“Thursday, the Wife of John Newcomb, a Waterman, belonging to New Crane Stairs, Wapping, was delivered of three fine boys, and all are like to do well.”

That this was newsworthy probably indicates how rare it was in the mid 18th century for three babies to be born, presumably without any complication – although typical for the time, the wife’s name is not given, or her health following the birth.

Five years later, in July 1763 there was one of the disastrous events that were relatively common in the wooden, close built houses and warehouses crammed with combustible materials:

“Sunday morning, about One o’Clock, a most dreadful Fire broke out at the New Crane Stairs, Wapping, which burnt with great Fury for 4 Hours before it could be stopped, and consumed all the Houses from New Crane Stairs to King James’s Stairs, and from the River-side back to the Garden Ground which includes both sides of the Street called Wapping Wall, and Part of Gravel Lane; it ended in consuming Mr Wilson’s large and fine Cooperage: The Number of Houses burnt are computed around 170, besides Shops, Warehouses and Docks, &c. and it is reckoned 1500 Persons, Housekeepers, Lodgers, &c. are burnt out. The loss is immensely great.

In the Dock by New Crane Stairs was the Mary Gally, captain Clarke, a fine Ship in the West-India Trade, almost ready to come out, which was entirely consumed to the keel, with all materials about the Dock. 

It is said the Fire broke out in a Small-Beer Brewery, which immediately communicated itself to the Ship Alehouse; and the Wind blowing strong from the South carried the Flames to the Dock-Yard and other Houses adjoining; and the street being narrow, greatly impeded the working of the Engines. Two men are said to be buried in the Ruins and a Fireman had his skull fractured by the falling of a Wall.”

The damage caused by the fire can be judged by Sun Fire Office alone paying out £40,000 to those who had suffered losses in the fire.

It was a sunny and peaceful day when I walked down New Crane Stairs. The following photo is looking back up the stairs, the green algae demonstrating the height of high water on the stairs and surrounding buildings.

New Crane Stairs

Part of the foreshore at the base of the stairs is covered in large concrete blocks, possibly the remains bombed buildings, river wall of structures that once ran into the river.

The foreshore at the base of many of the Thames stairs are remarkable places. I very rarely see anyone else, they are very peaceful, but have the full view of the river and adjoining buildings.

New Crane Stairs

To the east (the above photo), the foreshore is almost beach like with a fine silt covering much of the surface. To the west as shown in the photo below there are more of the large concrete blocks:

New Crane Stairs

The foreshore is covered with the tide worn remains of bricks and the chalk blocks that were used to provide flat and firm bases on the foreshore for barges and lighters.

New Crane Stairs

When the tide is low it is possible walk some distance along the foreshore, but not today – and always with care to watch the tide and access to and from the river.

New Crane Stairs

A rather tragic event at New Crane Stairs in 1911 demonstrated the lack of care for people really struggling and probably with mental health problems. The following article was titled “A Lucky Escape”:

“James Rick, 48, a meat porter of Angle-street, Walworth, was charged with attempting to commit suicide by jumping into the River Thames at New Crane Stairs, Wapping.

Police-Sargent Anderson, stated that early on Saturday morning he saw the accused struggling in the water. He rowed to his assistance, and succeeded in getting him into the boat. When questioned at the station, the accused replied ‘I have lost my wife, and everything has gone wrong. Everything seems to have gone wrong with me’.

Prisoner was remanded for a week.”

That someone who had attempted suicide, and had been driven to that fate by who knows what tragedy had been treated as a criminal seems incredible, but was a standard approach at the time.

A different example, but which also shows how people were treated comes from 1832 when Hugh Elliot of the coal ship Flora from Sunderland was charged with assaulting John Morrison, a boy belonging to another collier.

The boy had been assaulted at midnight at New Crane Stairs where he was waiting for his master, when the prisoner and several other ‘north country seamen’ came down and asked the boy to row them to their ships. He refused as he was waiting for his Captain, and Hugh Elliot assaulted him with several blows about the face and body.

This was bad enough, but the boy had been waiting since 10 pm and was “almost perished with cold”. It was apparently common practice for the masters of colliers to get their apprentices to row them to shore, then wait in the cold whilst they got drunk in the pubs. The report adds that a few winters ago, two lads were found by their officers frozen to death while waiting for their captains.

New Crane Wharf, to the east of the stairs is one of the pre-war warehouses, however the building to the west of the stairs is a new apartment building replacing a smaller building seen on the left of the following photo of New Crane Stairs in 1971:

New Crane Stairs

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0639_71_35_518_11

We can get an idea of the industry in the immediate vicinity of New Crane Stairs by looking at maps of the area. The following extract from the 1894 Ordinance Survey Map shows New Crane Stairs in the centre of the map, with a causeway extending out into the river.

New Crane Stairs

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

There is a jetty extending into the river, and to the upper left of New Crane Stairs are a “Commercial Gas Company’s Works”. More detail can be seen in the 1948 Ordnance Survey Map below, where New Crane Stairs is shown with a “Hard” extending into the river, the pier is still there with a conveyor which I suspect was used for taking coal to the Gas Works, which by 1948 are now shown as disused.

New Crane Stairs

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

There is a 1929 Britain from Above photo which shows the area covered by the above two maps. Ignore the large white ship, rather look to the right and there is a smaller ship with two square holds which I suspect carried coal which would then be transported via conveyor to the Gas Works, the area to the right of the gas holders.

New Crane Stairs

New Crane Stairs are to the upper right of the smaller ship, between the large warehouse (New Crane Wharf) and the smaller building.

Coal for the Gas Works was at continual risk of theft. An article in the East London Observer on the 29th May 1920 reported on two boys, John Vincent and John Bullman, both of Whitehorn-place, Wapping who were charged with the theft of 84lbs of coal, the property of the Commercial Gas Company. They had been seen by Constable 393 H who was on duty at New Crane Stairs coming from the barge Spaniard with a large sack.

They were up before the magistrate at Old Street Police Court and were given some “good advice” and bound over to be of good behaviour for twelve months.

I suspect the large amount of broken concrete blocks on the foreshore to the west of New Crane Stairs could be the remains of the jetty, or other infrastructure which was part of transporting coal from moored ships to the gas works.

The two maps also show a causeway or hard extending from the stairs into the river. There was no sign of that on the day of my visit, however on a visit a couple of years ago when the tide was lower, remains of this feature were visible existing out from the silt of the foreshore into the river, as shown in the following photo:

New Crane Stairs

The following drawing from the LMA Collage archive, dated c1870, shows the New Crane Stairs on the far right, along with the smaller warehouse building shown in the maps, Britain from Above photo and the 1971 photo.

New Crane Stairs

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: p540958x

In the centre of the drawing is a pub. This is the Anchor and Hope public house, the building labeled P.H. just to the west of the stairs in the 1894 Ordnance Survey map.

I cannot find any photos of the pub, or much written about the pub, although there are plenty of newspaper references to the pub, either as a reference point for some event, or to activities using the pub. These references are always useful in understanding more about life in London as they record the day to day events that were important at time.

The unhealthy state of the River Thames is clear from an article in The Sportsman on the 14th January 1889 when the capture of a fish justifies an article:

” Perhaps the most startling incident in the world of sport during the last few days is the catch of a large carp in the Thames at Wapping. On Tuesday afternoon, opposite Mr Bat Murphy’s well-known hostelry, the Anchor and Hope, Wapping, a lighterman caught a very fine specimen of an English carp in the river, weighing more than 7lb. Mr Murphy has given instructions that this ‘below-bridge novelty’ should be stuffed and placed in a glass case.”

So perhaps the carp in its glass case was on display in the Anchor and Hope. The article goes on to mention a previous capture of a carp in the Thames, which was cooked for a special dinner to commemorate the capture of such a fish in the river, however after one bite, the taste was so bad that the diners had to reach for the brandy – a possible indicator of how bad the pollution of the river was in the 19th century.

Pigeon racing was a popular sport in East London and in August 1883, Mr Murphy, representing the Anchor and Hope came 3rd and won £3 in a race that started from the Derby Arms, Charlton.

In August 1880, the City of London, Tower Hamlets, Middlesex, Shadwell, Wapping and Ratcliffe Annual Regatta took place and all watermen and lightermen’s apprentices of the River Thames from Teddington to Gravesend were invited to enter their names at the Anchor and Hope, New Crane, Wapping for their annual coat and silver badge, and freedoms of the Watermen’s and Lightermen’s Company.

Pubs were used as a meeting point, both for activities at the pub and also as a reference point for unrelated activities. An event in 1806 is a reminder of how General Elections were very restricted and the appointment of MPs controlled by the MPs, who often held seats for very long periods of time.

In the November 1806 General Election, George Byng was returned to Parliament for Middlesex. He had already been an MP since 1790 and would remain an MP for Middlesex until his death in 1847.

Voting was limited to Freeholders, and one way to get Freeholders to vote was to arrange their transport, and George Byng was advertising in newspapers that on election day:

“the Friends of Mr Byng are respectively informed that Carriages are provided for the conveyance of Freeholders in that Gentleman’s interest, and stationed at the following places, viz. Near the Anchor and Hope, New Crane, Wapping.”

As well as the Anchor and Hope, the advert then lists an additional 8 locations across East London and the City where coaches would be provided to transport his supporters to the election at Brentford.

I can identify exactly how and when the Anchor and Hope pub closed. The following is from an article titled “Exciting Scenes At Wapping” in the Daily News on the 5th July 1904:

“The East-end was the scene of an exciting fire in the early hours of yesterday morning, at which two persons were injured and three had very narrow escapes.

Shortly before two o’clock a fierce fire burst out in the spirit stores on the first floor of the Anchor and Hope public-house, Wapping High-street. In a short time the entire floor was blazing.

When the Shadwell firemen arrived they were informed that there were people in the burning building. Dashing up the staircase, and beating back the flames with a hydrant as they went, the crew of the escape brought down a man and a woman – the latter, Mrs Margaret Allen, 68, being in a condition of semi-unconsciousness. Meanwhile a third person had leaped out of the second floor window to the foreshore of the Thames. Her name is Ann Donovan, 43, and when she was picked up and removed to hospital it was found that she had broken her leg in two places, and was otherwise injured.

The fire was not extinguished until the public-house and it contents had been practically destroyed.”

It may be that fires were at the start and end of the Anchor and Hope, probably built after the destruction of the 1763 fire, and destroyed in the 1904 fire. After the 1904 fire, the area once occupied by the pub seems to have been included in the space occupied between river and gas works, probably used for the movement of coal from river to gas works.

I continue to be fascinated by Thames Stairs. They are some of the oldest features to be found along the river and almost certainly date back many hundreds of years.

Most times when I walk down stairs and on to the foreshore, even on a glorious sunny day, they are quiet. It is not often I find someone else on the foreshore.

A perfect place to watch the river and consider the considerable human history centred around these places that form the boundary between land and river.

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The House They Left Behind

The following photo is from 1986, and shows the side of a building where the adjacent buildings have obviously been demolished. The building has “The House They Left Behind” painted in bold black letters on a white background, with below the original build date and a restoration date of the year before the photo was taken.

House They Left Behind

The same view today:

House They Left Behind

The House They Left Behind is still there, although the side of the building has been painted over. New homes have been built on the vacant space to the left.

Going back to the original photo, the sign on the street lamp on the left should give a clue as to the function of the building, the house they left behind was a pub, originally the Black Horse, but renamed as The House They Left Behind after all the adjacent buildings were demolished, mainly due to bomb damage from the war.

The building is in Ropemaker’s Fields, a short stub of a road that turns off Narrow Street in Limehouse, East London.

Unfortunately, my father did not take a photo of the front of the pub, only the signs at the side, however this is the front of the building on a sunny March morning.

House They Left Behind

I am not sure exactly when the pub closed, but it was auctioned off as a closed pub, and with planning permission for conversion to a home in 2009. The house was up for sale last year for £3.25 million.

In the 1986 photo, the sign on the side of the pub dates the build to 1857, however licensing records date a pub at the address to 1807, so the current building is a mid 19th century rebuild of the Black Horse.

It was adjacent to the Barley Mow Brewery, which was also located on a much longer Ropemaker’s Fields, which ran all the way to Three Colt Street. The 1894 edition of the Ordnance Survey map shows the location of the pub (red oval), Ropemaker’s Fields and the Barley Mow Brewery, which occupied a large area to the east. I have also marked another well-known Limehouse pub with a blue oval – the is the Grapes.

House They Left Behind

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

Today, Ropemaker’s Fields ends immediately to the east of the pub, and the green space with the same name, along with the housing estate alongside Barleycorn Way now occupy the area of the brewery, and the rest of Ropemaker’s Fields.

The name Ropemaker’s Fields give an indication of what the space here in Limehouse was used for. The following map is an extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map of London. The location of “The House They Left behind” is highlighted by the red oval. The street was named Ropemakers Fields in 1746, so this is an old street name.

House They Left Behind

If you look to the left and slightly higher from the red oval, there is a space called The Rope Walk.

A rope walk was a long space where lengths of rope would be made by twisting together the individual strands of material. The Rope Walk and Ropemaker’s Field indicate that this activity was carried out here in Limehouse, with a ready market for rope nearby from the ships docking along the river.

The 1746 map also shows that Narrow Street ended at the junction with Ropemaker’s Fields. The Fore Street was the road that continued on, however today Narrow Street now continues all the way to Three Colt Street and The Fore Street name has disappeared.

The following photo is a slightly wider view and shows where Ropemaker’s Fields would have once continued.

House They Left Behind

The 1746 map also shows an open space at the junction of Narrow Street and Ropemaker’s Fields. That open space remains today and at the corner, facing west is a large sculpture of a Herring Gull.

House They Left Behind

This was commissioned by the London Dockland Development Corporation in 1994 and created by the artist Jane Ackroyd.

The old pub is the only building that remains from the old Ropemaker’s Fields street. There is a single photo in the London Metropolitan Archives, Collage collection showing Ropemaker’s Fields. The following photo shows numbers 89 to 91.

House They Left Behind

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_397_1505

It is possible to precisely locate the above photo. The street name on the wall on the far left of the photo states Nightingale Lane. This lane ran north from the junction of Narrow Street and Ropemaker’s Fields, and if we look back at the 1894 Ordnance Survey map, we can see the bow-window of the first building, and the building that juts out a bit further into the street. I have circled these buildings in the map extract below. The pub would have been a short distance further along the street in the above photo.

House They Left Behind

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

Side view of The House They Left Behind, showing that whilst the building looks small from the street, it extends a long way back.

House They Left Behind

There are numerous mentions of the original pub name, the Black Horse, in newspapers. Mostly all the usual adverts for staff, use of the pub as an address for sales and auctions or meetings and inquests. In 1842 there was an inquest held in the pub on the sudden death of the landlady, from the Morning Post on Wednesday 11th May 1842:

“SUDDEN DEATHS – Three inquests were held last evening, by Mr Baker, on the bodies of persons who had died suddenly. The first took place at the Black Horse, Ropemaker’s-fields, Limehouse, on the body of Mrs Elizabeth Barton, aged 63, the landlady of the above house. Sophia Forest said that the deceased went out for a walk on Monday evening last, and returned home in good health and spirits at about half-past six o’clock. At about seven o’clock witness found her sitting in a chair in her parlour and quite insensible. She died at nine o’clock. Verdict, Natural death.”

Reading through old newspapers, competitive rowing on the Thames seems to have been a thing in the 19th century, with pubs often used in some form for the organisation of a race. Again, the Black Horse is mentioned a number of times in this context, and on the 2nd May 1858, Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle reported on once such challenge:

“CANNON AND WADE – In answer to Cannon’s challenge, Wade will give him two boat lengths start, and row him for £30 or £50 a side. Money ready on Thursday next at Mr Harass’s Black Horse, Ropemaker’s-fields, Limehouse. Since the above was in type Cannon called at our office, and expressed his willingness to proceed with the match; he deposited £2 10s in our hands, and will be at Mr Jones’s Ship, Church-street, Rotherhithe on Thursday next, prepared to sign articles and make it into £5 a side.”

With these competitions, there seems to often have been taunting of one party by the other, often seen as in the above competition by one person offering the other a head start, and a large amount of money. Presumably implying a low opinion of the other’s abilities.

A licence application in 1908 to the Clerk of the Licensing Justices of the Tower Division shows how the name of the pub and the pub sign was a real identifier of the pub, perhaps from a time when many people could not read, and signs were the visual identification of a place. The application finishes off “…. and which premises I intend to keep as an Inn, Ale-house or Victualing House under the sign of the Black Horse”.

The most recent mention of the pub is from 1998 when Christopher Dunhill, the heir to the Dunhill tobacco business was stabbed in the pub, with the landlord also being wounded. Dunhill had been living above the pub and was reported to be in a serious but stable condition at the time.

The Daily Mail reported that:

“The House They Left Behind is a stump of a pub that stands on a corner in
Limehouse, East London, isolated by Hitler’s Luftwaffe and subsequent
redevelopment. By closing time on Monday night there were only eight people in
the bar. Six left. Police are now asking them to come forward.

The two who remained were landlord Tony Fran, 32, and Mr Dunhill, 43, who
appears to have been lodging above the premises while running an oyster stall
on the small plaza outside. At around 11.30, three men carrying at least one
knife entered. Their intention was to murder both Mr Fran and Mr Dunhill.
They left in a dark-coloured car having failed, but only just.

Mr Dunhill had been stabbed 12 times in the head, neck and stomach. Last
night he was ‘stable’ in the Royal London Hospital. ‘He’s definitely on the
mend and should be out soon,’ said his brother Jonathan. But why would someone
want to kill Christopher? ‘I am not prepared to comment on that.’ Mr Fran
received wounds to his arms and buttocks and was discharged next day. He claims
to remember little of the attack.”

To the east of the pub is the green space, Ropemakers Field. This is looking along the space from the southern end, up towards the Limehouse Cut. The street, Ropemaker’s Fields once ran left to right where the shelter now stands.

House They Left Behind

On the opposite side of Ropemaker’s Fields to the pub is a triangular open space, then we find Narrow Street, with on the river side of the street, this historic Georgian terrace, which mirrors the scale of earlier 18th century development on the river.

House They Left Behind

At the western end of the terrace is the Grapes pub, the plaque on the pub claiming a 1583 date for a pub being at this location.

House They Left Behind

Further along the terrace are a mix of architectural styles representing the changing development of the buildings along the river’s edge:

House They Left Behind

The buildings provided the housing, workshops and warehouses that were needed to support the trade and industry on the river, just at the rear of these buildings.

House They Left Behind

Although the pub has gone, it is good that there is a single reminder of the buildings that once ran along Ropemaker’s Fields, so the name The House They Left Behind is still just as relevant.

The name of this short stub of a street also recalls one of the ship building and maintenance related industries that took place in the fields to the north.

Wapping Trivia

To finish off this post – a bit of Wapping trivia. The area to the east of London, both north and south of the river, was used as the backdrop for a number of films and music videos during the late 1970s and 1980s. I know films used east London in the preceding decades, but these were the years when I started taking an interest in these and their London locations.

I have been tracing and photographing the location of many of these for a future post, from  Derek Jarman’s 1978 take on Punk in the film Jubilee through to music videos such as Katrina & The Waves and Walking On Sunshine from 1985, and it was locations from this later video that I was looking for when walking to Ropemaker’s Fields last Monday.

One of the locations has changed very little. This is a still from the video (available on YouTube), filmed in St John’s Churchyard next to Wapping High Street.

House They Left Behind

The same scene today:

House They Left Behind

Hardly changed in the last 25 years, although many other locations used in the video are very different now, or have been lost. More from this video, others and films in a future post.

To finish off, and show how wonderful London looks on a sunny spring morning, a view across St John’s Churchyard towards the church:

House They Left Behind

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The Waterman’s Arms – Isle of Dogs

For this week’s post, it is 1986, and I am standing outside the Cutty Sark pub in Greenwich, looking across the River Thames to the south eastern tip of the Isle of Dogs. The photo below shows the view which includes the spire of Christ Church, on the corner of Manchester Road and Glenaffric Avenue, the Newcastle Draw Dock leading down into the river, and to the left, a pub, the Waterman’s Arms.

Waterman's Arms

The same view today:

Waterman's Arms

Although the weather was the same for the “now” photo, the tide state was different which does change the views, however the Newcastle Draw Dock is still there today, just below the water.

Apart from the spire, Christ Church is still hidden by trees. Housing on the right is the same, however a large new build of apartments has been built on the left of the dry dock which completely obscures the Waterman’s Arms and the towers of the City, which in 1986 consisted only of the Nat West Tower.

The Waterman’s Arms was originally the Newcastle Arms, built as part of the Cubitt Town development. It seems to have opened in 1853, and that year is the first that I can find any written references to the pub, with two contrasting newspaper mentions.

In the Morning Advertiser on the 30th April 1853 there was an advert for a Servant, Potman and Waiter – possibly the first staff for the newly opened pub. In October 1853, the Kentish Mercury had a very different report on the pub, where George Henry Wood, the step son of Mr Harris, the landlord of the Newcastle Arms, was charged with stealing a horse, the property of Mr Brooker, a grazier of Poplar.

Apart from these mentions, there seems to have been very little reported about the Newcastle Arms, apart from the occasional advert for staff, and reference to the adjoining dry dock. most often related to criminal activity.

The most significant period in the pub’s history were a couple of years in the 1960s when the pub changed name to the Waterman’s Arms and became an East London centre for pub entertainment, attracting many national and internationally famous celebrities. I will cover this phase later in the post.

In 2011 the pub changed name to the Great Eastern and became a pub on the ground floor and backpackers hostel on the upper floors, and it was this version of the pub that I photographed when I was in the area last year.

Waterman's Arms

The adjacent Newcastle Draw Dock, photographed at low tide and looking across the river to the Cutty Sark pub.

Waterman's Arms

The reason why the Waterman’s Arms has a rather unusual history compared to other Isle of Dogs pubs is down to a brief period between 1962 and 1964 when the pub was run by Daniel Farson.

Daniel Farson was an interesting character. Born in 1927, he was the son of Negley Farson, an author and American foreign correspondent. After National Service in the American Army Air Corps (he had dual US / UK citizanship – he would later renounce US citizanship), he went to Cambridge University, then took a post as photographer with the Picture Post.

He had a variety of jobs in journalism and also the Merchant Navy, before joining Associated Rediffusion, one of the early independent television companies.

During his time at Associated Rediffusion, Farson proposed a TV programme on the boom in pub entertainment. This he saw as a continuation of the Music Hall tradition which was one of his interests. The proposed programme was to be called “Time Gentlemen Please!” and to help with research he visited a number of East London pubs. It was during this research that he found the Newcastle Arms. The pub was described as being “down on the floor” and the “pub with no beer”. The pub attracted very little trade and the brewery refused any credit for the purchase of beer.

Farson was also interested in the area of East London along the river, and had been living at 92 Narrow Street in Limehouse so was relatively close to the Newcastle Arms, although he admits to knowing very little about the Isle of Dogs, and his view of the location of the Newcastle Arms would have been very different if he had approached the pub from inland, rather than from the river.

Despite all the warning signs, he purchased the pub in 1962 using money left to him by his parents, and set about converting the pub to accommodate space for an enlarged stage area. He would use this to put on pub entertainment, based on Musical Hall traditions and building on the entertainment to be found in many East London pubs, although he attracted stars that would not normally be found in a pub at the tip of the Isle of Dogs, or a usual East End crowd.

Farson also changed the name of the pub from the Newcastle Arms to the Waterman’s Arms, a name he felt better suited the pub’s riverside location.

Farson’s proposed programme “Time, Gentlemen Please!” was shown at 9:45 on the evening of the 5th December 1962, and part was filmed in the Waterman’s Arms. The Daily Mirror description of the programme was:

“ITV commentator Dan Farson, who recently became landlord of a pub in London’s East End. takes a look at pub-land entertainment in tonight’s ‘Time, Gentlemen Please!’. 

Says Farson: ‘If the spirit of music-hall lives anywhere today, you’ll find it in the East End pubs.’ Many pub owners say that entertainment is a good boost for business.

So Farson and director Rollo Gamble visited four public-houses to film some of the professional and semi-professional acts that appear there.

One of the pubs was Farson’s own, the Waterman’s Arms, near the docks at the Isle of Dogs.

Most of the pub entertainers are singers, who present modern pub tunes along with the old music hall hits. One artist is 80 year-old Ida Barr, a star of the Edwardian music hall.

Others in the programme rejoice in such names as Tommy Pudding, Sulky Gowers, Welsh George, Queenie Watts and Tex, who wears a cowboy hat.

Says Gamble; ‘Though some of the performers are unknowns, there’s a lot of talent there. Some of these people live by touring the pubs, others entertain in the evening after a hard day’s work.”

Ida Barr, one of the original stars of the Edwardian music hall was a popular performer at the Waterman’s Arms, and she was still very active, including performing at London’s last remaining music hall, the Metropolitan Theatre in Edgware Road. She sang at the last performance at “The Met” on the 14th April 1963 before its demolition later that year as part of the road widening scheme for the Edgware Road.

As well as the Waterman’s Arms, the other pubs that featured in the programme were the Lansdown Arms, part of the old Collins Music Hall at Islington Green, the Rising Sun in Bethnal Green, and the King’s Arms in the Old Kent Road.

The entertainment put on by Farson in the Waterman’s Arm consisted of both local amateur and professional acts, old-time music hall stars, as well as those that you would not expect to see in a Victorian pub on the Isle of Dogs such as Shirley Bassey.

The audience at the Waterman’s Arms attracted not just the locals, but also those from the West End, and a global set of celebrities from the early 1960s. Names such as Lord Delfont, George Melly, Groucho Marx, Lionel Bart, Trevor Howard, Tony Bennett, Mary Quant, Norman Hartnell, Judy Garland and Clint Eastwood (who wrote the word ‘rowdy’ in the guest book).

Daniel Farson also discovered local talent who went on the perform at the Waterman’s Arms. One of these was Kim Cordell who Farson saw performing at the Rising Sun in Mile End Road and who was described in The Stage as: “In the booming world of pub entertainment, one personality is causing more and more comment. This is Kim Cordell, first seen in Dan Farson’s TV pub show Time, Gentlemen Please! and now the compere/singer of his pub on the Isle of Dogs, the Waterman’s Arms. Kim herself says: ‘Without a doubt, this has been the best year of my life. I seem to have found a real incentive for the first time’. Apart from her success at The Waterman’s, the year has included appearances on TV; two films, one called ‘Songs of London’ for the British Tourist and Travel Association, the other ‘London After Dark’, not yet released; and the lion’s share in a forthcoming L.P. ‘A Night At The Waterman’s'”.

Kim Cordell performing at the Waterman’s Arms:

Waterman's Arms

The Waterman’s Arms was a success in terms of the number of people arriving to watch the entertainment, the number of stars attracted to perform, and those who came to the Waterman’s Arms to be in the crowd, but it could not last.

In 1964 Farson received a call from his bank manager to tell him that he was £3,000 overdrawn.

The financial challenges were down to how much was being sold to fund the costs of running the pub. People would not arrive until 8pm, from then on the bar was crowded. Crowding meant that people could not easily get to the bar, so drink sales were limited.  For many there was more interest in the entertainment rather than a long evening’s drinking. They would watch the entertainment than move on. The costs of putting on entertainment were also high, particularly for the more famous acts.

He could not go on, and after a battle with the brewery, a new tenant was found, Daniel Farson sold up and left the Waterman’s Arms and Narrow Street and moved down to north Devon to start a career as an author.

One of the books that came out of this move was Limehouse Days. A record of his time in Limehouse and at the Waterman’s Arms. The front cover of the book shows Daniel Farson behind the bar at the Waterman’s Arms, talking to customers.

Waterman's Arms

The book does have some strange diversions, such as a chapter where Farson claims to identify Jack the Ripper, however the book, and the photos taken by Farson provide an intriguing view of life in East London in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Daniel Farson was also part of Soho in the 1950s and early 1960s (and continued to visit after his move to Devon). He photographed and wrote about Soho in another book Soho in the Fifties, although due to his level of drinking there was always some doubt as to the details of the stories Farson would recall and tell.

His obituary by Philip Hoare in the Independent started with the paragraph “Mythomaniacal, egotistical, and often unable to tell the truth or the difference between it and fiction, the character of Daniel Farson – photographer, writer, and drunk – is redeemed by at least one grace: that of self-awareness: “One of the more bizarre aspects of my life is the way it has veered from triumph to disaster without my seeming to notice the change.”

He was also frequently mentioned in the obituaries and memoirs of others who found the pubs, bars and clubs of Soho as a second home. For example the following is from the obituary of the journalist and author Sandy Fawkes: “One close friend for 30 years was Daniel Farson, the television journalist, chronicler of Soho and spectacular drunk. He would suddenly turn from an intelligent conversationalist into a growling monster. “I loathe you,” he would shout suddenly between fat, quivering cheeks. Sandy Fawkes would go to stay with him in Devon, where he enjoyed comparative calm, though barred from local pubs.”

It was also in Soho that Farson met people such as the artists Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, who would also go on to visit the Waterman’s Arms.

The Waterman’s Arms and Daniel Farson tell of a very different time. Soho has since lost so much of its character, and East London pubs have been disappearing rapidly over the last few decades.

The Waterman’s Arms is part of a listed group around the Newcastle Draw Dock, which also includes Glenaffric Avenue, Christ Church and Christ Church Vicarage, Manchester Road.

The future of the pub as the Great Eastern looked in doubt, running as a pub on the ground floor and backpacker hostel on the upper floors. The pub has a good location, close to the river and the Newcastle Draw Dock, so could easily have fallen to the fate of so many other London pubs, and been converted into apartments. The good news is that a very recent story in the Docklands and East London Advertiser reports that starting this month, the pub will get a £600,000 refurbishment,. The name of the pub will also be changed from the Great Eastern back to the Waterman’s Arms.

So although not visible from Greenwich as it was in 1986, hopefully the Waterman’s Arms will have a good future.

For a glimpse of the Waterman’s Arms when owned by Daniel Farson, the 1964 film London in the Raw by Arnold Louis Miller includes a sequence filmed in the Waterman’s Arms. The film is available from the British Film Institute.

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Old Barrack Yard and the Chinese Collection

Before heading to Old Barrack Yard for today’s post, a quick update to last week’s post on Seven St Martin’s Place.  Thank you for all the feedback, personal links with the site and thoughts on who could have created the reliefs on the front of the building.

Through Twitter, TheTaoOfOat sent me this link to a site which included some posts from the original sculptor’s daughter. Hubert Dalwood was the sculptor who was commissioned to create the reliefs for the Ionian Bank. The material is aluminium which probably makes them rather unique.

I have been in contact with Hubert’s daughter, Kathy Dalwood, who is also a sculptor, to discover more about the background to these reliefs, and she will be letting me have some more information when she returns from travel. I have also e-mailed the developer to ask whether the reliefs will remain with the new hotel development.

Thanks again for all the feedback, it is brilliant to be able to bring some recognition to these wonderful reliefs and I will update the blog post as I get more information.

Now to the subject of today’s post – Old Barrack Yard.

I was in Knightsbridge last Tuesday on a rather wet July day. Leaving the underground station at Hyde Park Corner, I headed west along Knightsbridge, and a short distance along, turned south into Old Barrack Yard. The part I was interested in was not the street that connects directly onto Knightsbridge (which is a building site at the moment), but a bit further along after where the street turns east, there is a southern branch heading down towards Wilton Row.

I have marked the location in the following map extract  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Old Barrack Yard

My father took a number of photos of Old Barrack Yard on a rather sunny day in 1949:

Old Barrack Yard

Seventy years later, I photographed the same scene on a very wet day:

Old Barrack Yard

Although the weather conditions are very different, and my use of colour photography also tends to suggest a difference in the two scenes (I often wonder whether I should switch to black & white for these comparison photos) – the scene is very much the same, apart from some minor cosmetic differences.

The paving stones do though appear to be different in the two photos.

The name – Old Barrack Yard – provides a clue as to the history of the area.

The following map extract is from Horwood’s map of London, created between 1792 and 1795. The large block in the centre of the map is Knightsbridge Barracks.

Old Barrack Yard

Stabling for the Grenadier Guards were in use here around 1762, and by 1780 barracks had been fitted out, with an entrance through to Knightsbridge, allowing direct access to Hyde Park.

Ornate gardens had been created to the south of the barracks and a large yard was to the right of the barracks – part of this yard and the gardens to the south are the location of Old Barrack Yard today.

The military released the barracks in the 1830s, and the following extract from Reynolds’s 1847 map of London shows how the area had developed:

Old Barrack Yard

The barrack block can still be seen, and on the western edge of the original gardens, just below the barracks, is the church of St. Paul’s, built in the early 1840s. The yard can still be seen to the right of the barracks, and a crescent of housing has been built up to the corner of the church – this is Wilton Row.

Note that to the right of the old barracks block is the abbreviation “Exh” – this refers to an exhibition that was established here in the 1840s using parts of the yard and the old barracks.

The Chinese Collection was an exhibition of Chinese artifacts collected by an American merchant, Nathan Dunn, who had spent 12 years in Canton. The exhibition had previously been on display in the United States, but brought to London at the encouragement of a number of learned societies and individuals. Interest in China was high at the time with the first Opium War about to be brought to a successful close with the signing of a peace treaty with the Chinese in Nanking.

The Illustrated London News reported on the Chinese Collection in August 1842:

“Upon the left-hand side of the inclined plan, extending from Hyde Park Corner to Knightsbridge, and towards the extremity of St. George’s-place, a grotesque erection has lately sprung up with all the rapidity which distinguishes the building operations of the present day.

As the work proceeded, many were the guesses at the purpose for which it was intended; and to feed the suspense of the many thousands who daily pass this thoroughfare, the work was covered with canvas until just completed. The structure in question is the entrance to an extensive apartment filled with ‘curiosities of China’. In the design this entrance is characteristically Chinese, and is taken from the model of a summer residence now in the collection. It is of two stories, the veranda roof of the lower one being supported by vermilion-coloured columns, with pure white capitals. and over the doorway is inscribed in Chinese characters ‘Ten Thousand Chinese Things’. Such summer-houses as the above are usual in the gardens of the wealthy in the southern provinces of China, often standing in the midst of a sheet of water, and approached by bridges, and sometimes they have mother-of-pearl windows.

Although the above building is raised from the pathway, whence it is approached by a flight of steps, it is somewhat squatly proportioned. But such is the character of Chinese buildings, so that when the Emperor Kesen-king saw a perspective of a street in Paris or London he observed, ‘that territory must be very small whose inhabitants were obliged to pile their houses to the clouds;’ and, in a poem on London, by a Chinese visitor it is stated – ‘The houses are so lofty that you may pluck the stars’.

The collection we are about cursorily to notice, has been formed by the American gentleman, Mr. Nathan Dunn, who resided in China for a period of twelve years, and experienced more courtesy from the Chinese than generally falls to the lot of foreigners.

The design at first was merely to collect a few rare specimens for a private cabinet; but the appetite grew with what it fed upon, and thus Mr. Dunn has assembled what may, without exaggeration, be termed the Chinese world in miniature; and, it is equally true, that by means of this collection, we may, in some sense, analyse the mental and moral qualities of the Chinese, and gather some knowledge of their idols, their temples, their pagodas, their bridges, their arts, their sciences, their manufactures, their trades , the fancies, their parlours, their drawing rooms, their cloths, their finery, their ornaments, their weapons of war, their vessels, their dwellings, and the thousands of et ceteras.”

The approving description of the Chinese Collection in the Illustrated London News continued for a few more hundreds words. The exhibition was a considerable success, and was the place to be seen in 1842.

A view of the interior of the Chinese Collection:

Old Barrack Yard

The Chinese Collection exhibition closed in 1846, and in 1847 the pagoda that had been built for the exhibition at the entrance to Old Barrack Yard was purchased by James Pennethorne and relocated to an island in the lake at Victoria Park, Hackney, where it could be found until 1956.

By 1895 the barrack’s had disappeared (partly demolished in the 1840s, with final demolition in the late 1850s), and the buildings that form the lower part of Old Barrack Yard, photographed by my father, can be seen in the following map extract.

Old Barrack Yard

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

The upper part of Old Barrack Yard was still there, however this area would be developed in the 20th century, leaving Old Barrack Yard as a street that runs from Knightsbridge, turns to the east, then south into the section focused on in today’s post.

The entrance to Old Barrack Yard from the north is through a building that separates off this southern section of the street. The view from the end of the entrance arch:Old Barrack Yard

The same view in 2019 on a very wet July day (although with the cloud cover, i did not have the contrast problems that my father had on a very sunny day):Old Barrack Yard

Walking through the arch and this is the view looking back:

Old Barrack Yard

The same view today;

Old Barrack Yard

There are a number of references, including in the latest Conservation Area Audit by Westminster City Council, that the buildings around the arched entrance, shown in the above photos are part of the original stables for the barracks. My only concern is that they do not appear in the maps prior to 1895, although being stable buildings they may have been considered as part of the yard and therefore not shown as separate structures.

The top section opens out with the potential stable buildings surrounding a wider section of Old Barrack Yard, so this part of the street does have the appearance of a stabling area. The final, southern section is composed of a narrow walkway, separated from the stables area by three bollards, which appeared in the 1949 photos and remain to this day.

Two and three storey, early 19th century buildings line this final section of Old Barrack Yard.

Old Barrack Yard

1949 above and 2019 below. the tall buildings directly behind the old stables detract from their appearance, but Old Barrack Yard remains much the same.

Old Barrack Yard

A landscape view of the same scene:

Old Barrack Yard

I really like small details that remain the same – the leaning lamp-post, the access covers on the ground, the bollards, the drainage channel.

Old Barrack Yard

Walking backup, this is a wider view of what could have been part of the original stables for the barracks. The appearance perfectly fits the function of a stables, with a wider space between the buildings than in the rest of the street, with large openings on the ground floor for stables, rather than brickwork.

Old Barrack Yard

At the southern end of Old Barrack Yard is the side of the Grenadier pub. There is a doorway at the end Old Barrack Yard which provides access to steps that lead down into Wilton Row.

Old Barrack Yard

Looking back up from the southern end of Old Barrack Yard:

Old Barrack Yard

Walking through the gate at the end of Old Barrack Yard and down the steps takes us into Wilton Row. This is the view looking back on the Grenadier pub. The gate to Old Barrack Yard is on the right.

Old Barrack Yard

Parts of the Grenadier building could date from 1720, when it may have been part of the officers mess for the barracks. Again, my only concern is that the pub is not shown as a separate building on any of the maps prior to 1895.

To try to trace the age of the pub, I have been searching newspapers for any references.

The very first reference dates from 1828, when on the 20th February 1828, the Morning Advertiser carried an advert, with a rather shocking exclusion:

“WANTED a thorough SERVANT for a Public-House. One with a good character may apply at the Grenadier, Knightsbridge Infantry Barracks – No Irish need apply”

That last sentence is still shocking to see in print. The address implies that the pub was part of the infantry barracks, which makes sense as the pre-1895 maps may not have gone into detail with the structures within the barracks and barrack yard.

I have also found a couple of references that for a short period the pub was called the Guardsman. I have been trying to find newspaper references to confirm, and have only found one. In the Morning Advertiser on the 16th October 1856 there is the following advert:

“BRICKS – FOR SALE. 150,000 Bricks, 10,000 Pantiles, 20,000 plain Tiles, at the Life Guardsman public-house, Knightsbridge, and six adjoining houses. Inquire on the Premises.”

I am not aware of any other pub in Knightsbridge with this name, although given the barracks in Knightsbridge, this may be a possibility, however the late 1850s are when the final remains of the old barrack buildings were demolished, so the sale at the pub may have been of the demolished remains of the old barrack block.

What is clear is that the Grenadier is an old pub, and has its origins in the infantry barracks that occupied the area  for many years.

The Grenadier in 1951:

Old Barrack Yard

Old Barrack Yard is part of the very extensive Grosvenor Estate land, and is also within the Belgravia Conservation Area, this last classification should help Old Barrack Yard, with its references back to the original infantry barracks in Knightsbridge, survive for many more years.

Any signs of the Chinese Collection have long since disappeared. After the exhibition closed, the collection toured the country and then returned to the United States. It did later return to London,  when it opened at Albert Gate in 1851, not far from the original location. The Chinese Collection was not as popular this second time round, and closed a year later, with items from the collection then being sold at auction.

Old Barrack Yard is one of those hidden locations where you can walk from a very busy street into a totally different place. Whilst I was there, very few people walked through the street. Most of the people I saw were workers from the neighbouring hotels and offices using the arch at the top of the yard to smoke or make phone calls whilst sheltering from the rain.

It is well worth a visit, with the Grenadier pub an added bonus.

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