Taverns And Coffee-houses Of Fleet Street
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
INTERESTING and, in many cases, dating from early days as are the Strand taverns, those in Fleet Street are more interesting and of greater antiquity still. When they first came into existence in this part of London it is difficult to say, nor can we tell whether the edict of the Corporation against any sign over seven feet square hanging above the roadway, which was issued in 1388, refers to one or more in Fleet Street ; we do know, however, that early in the following century Sir William Sevenoaks (so named because he was a foundling of that village), Lord Mayor of London, owned a brew-house here which was called the 'Cowpe on the Hoope,' 1 and which may conceivably have carried on the recognised business of a tavern, selling retail, as well as making, beer.
What is better established is that the vintners and their taverns, which were of mushroom-like growth in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in this quarter, referred to by the writer of Hudibras Redivivus as
". . . that tippling street,
were for long a source of trouble and inconvenience to their more sober neighbours, and were, as Noble terms them, " a disorderly race."
Thus he tells us that in 1558, in which year there were no fewer than twenty-six taverns in St. Dunstan's parish, one was 'presented' " for mayntayning of a foreigner to sell beer wth in his hous " ; another for keepinge his tapstore vehementlie suspected of evill " ; that in 1562 no fewer than sixteen tavern-keepers were indicted for " holdying house and typlers withn. the parishe for that they sell and utter their drinke by stone crewetts and potts nott seiled and wantnge measure " ; that in 1576 one William Powell was presented " for keepinge victuallinge without a licence in a sellar at Temple Barre, under the house of Symon Cannon, and for receivinge of idle persons into the same sellar to eate and drinke," a crime of which the Widow Paneley, who kept a tavern in Whitefriars, was also found guilty in 1581 ; and that in 1644 one John Beardwell, of Crown Court, Chancery Lane, was prosecuted under the following circumstances :
" For his house standinge in the same court within ye Freedom of ye Citty, hath a backe dore out into Middlesex whereby to free himself from the charge of the Citty and yt he cloth drawe drinke without lycense, and that he useth to travell to Oxforde and other of the kinge's quarters."
Such attempts to cheat the Excise were not, by a long way, the worst crimes of which the Fleet Street tavern - holders were guilty in these days. Many of their premises were disorderly houses of the worst description, and we come across many being prosecuted on this score. Others were nuisances in various ways ; and not a few, the Jerusalem Ordinary being the most notorious, were hotbeds of Jesuitism.
There is no doubt, too, that many of them were the constant scenes of those disturbances to which fermented liquor so frequently gives occasion. Indeed, one such broil is specifically mentioned in 1629, when the Lords of the Council wrote to the Lord Mayor requesting him " to shut up the taverns in Fleet Street from which the persons who caused the tumults there came ; and to commit the masters of such taverns to the houses of such citizens as he should think fit." 2 Three of the taverns concerned in this broil, are known to us by the following entries in the State Papers where a second letter, dated July 21, from the Lords of the Council contains this passage : " As there did not appear any crime against widow Sutton, keeper of the Mitre Tavern, and John Marshall, keeper of the King's Head Tavern, they might be let out on bail " ; while a third entry is in the form of an Order in Council, authorising the release of John Clopton, vintner, at the Globe Tavern, on bail.
Such affairs as these seem to have drawn attention to the Fleet Street hostelries, and some years later to be precise, in 1633 we find the Lord Mayor receiving an order from the Council to find out the number of such places of entertainment, with the result that eight are given as being in St. Bride's, Fleet Street ; one in St. Martin's Without, Ludgate ; and " Thomas Gilbert keepeth a tavern at the Bell Savage in Fleet Street," we are told, although this tavern was where Ludgate Hill (then called Fleet Street) now runs.
Of the eight hostelries mentioned, the DEVILS TAVERN, No. 1 Fleet Street, was one of the most famous and one of the oldest, its site being now occupied by the bank of Messrs. Child & Co.1 The 'Devil,' or ' St. Dunstan's,' as it was at first styled, which had, appropriately, for its sign a representation of St. Dunstan pulling the Devil by the nose, is mentioned as even then being an old and well known tavern, in the interlude called Jacke Jugeler, dated 1563. In this old play, Jack, in reply to Jenkin's inquiry as to where he and his master were to dwell, replies :
" At the Devyll yf you lust, I can not tell ! "
The house was kept, in the time of James I., by one Simon Wadlow or Wadloe, whose name is mentioned in a line in the Staple of Nezvs, by Ben Jonson one of the most frequent visitors here and the most famous, the pre-siding deity of the Apollo Club which held its meetings at the ` Devil.' Says Pennyboy Canter, in that play :
" . . . Dine in Apollo, with Pecunia,
It is mentioned in the earliest Directory, dated 1677.
Wadlow died in 1627, in which year an entry among the records of St. Dunstan's reads : " March 30, 1627. Symon Wadlowe, vintner, was buried out of Fleet Street." His widow appears to have carried on the business for nearly another three years, her name as a licensed victualler appearing, for the last time in the Wardmote Returns, on Dec. 21, 1629. John Wadlow's name is given in 1646, he being apparently the son of Simon, and it is last found in December 1660, he having moved eastwards and being known to have rebuilt the Sun Tavern, behind the Royal Exchange, after the Great Fire. He it was who issued a token showing St. Dunstan holding the Devil, on one side ; and thus following the example of his father, Simon, of whom a very rare token is recorded, having on the obverse " at the D and Dunstan's," with a representation of St. Dunstan standing by his anvil and pulling the Devil's nose with his pincers, and on the reverse the words " within Temple barre " and the initials " I. S.W."
The history of the ` Devil ' has become merged in the almost greater fame of the Club whose apartment,2 which seems to have been built away from the tavern, but formed an integral part of the property here, was termed the 'Oracle of Apollo.' Hardly is the ` Mermaid ' better remembered than this celebrated gathering of the learned and witty of Elizabeth's and James's reigns. Timbs says that it is not known when Jonson first began to frequent the 'Devil,' but it was, at any rate, as early as 1616, for he himself tells us that he wrote The Devil is an Asse, first produced in that year,
when he " drank bad wine at the Devil."
The room in which so many illustrious ones have from time to time assembled must have been on an upper floor, for, in some lines in Prior and Montague's Hind and Panther Transvers'd, we read :
" Hence to the Devil
Over the entrance to this room was placed a bust of Apollo, cleverly modelled from that of the Apollo Belvedere, and a black board, on which, in letters of gold, were inscribed the following lines of ` Welcome, which Ben Jonson wrote, and which were subscribed with the words, " of Rare Ben Jonson." They were placed above the door inside the room :
" Welcome all, who lead or follow,
Above the fireplace were exhibited the rules of the Club, said to have been cut in a marble slab, although more probably painted in gold on a black background similar to the ' Welcome.' These rules were written in Latin, "justly admired for its conciseness and elegance," says Burn. Indeed, Jonson's classic gifts seem to have been exhibited elsewhere in the tavern to which he so frequently resorted, for we are told that Latin inscriptions were to be found in other parts of the house, and so late as 1731 these words over the clock still remained in situ : " Si nocturnia tibi noceat potatio vini, hoc in mane bibes iterum, et fuerit medicina," a moral Jonson himself seems to have laid to heart, for it is known that, in order to be near his beloved Club, he lived " without Temple-barre, at a combe-maker's shop, about the Elephant and Castle," and at the ` Devil' he seems to have held a kind of literary and sociable court, just as Dryden afterwards did at Button's, and, later still, Theodore Hook at the Athenaeum.
The rules which Jonson wrote in Latin have disappeared, but we have Alexander Brome's English version, which shows that the earlier poet was well qualified to direct the modes and manners of " an assembly of good fellows." This is how they run : ---
" Let none but guests, or clobbers, hither come.
Jonson seems to have ruled at his club with some-thing of the dictatorial qualities of his great namesake (Johnson) at a later period. Here he held his court ; hither came those who, as his equals, wished for the 'flow of soul,' or, as his inferiors, hoped to gain inspiration from the words of wit and wisdom which flowed from his lips. One of these, named Marmion, thus describes rare Ben holding his literary court :
" . . . I come from Apollo
Another of the habitués was Randolph, the dramatist, and an anecdote has survived connected with his first introduction to the Club although his name, at least, seems to have been previously known to Jonson.
Randolph was anxious to see the author of The Al-chemist and his companions in full saturnalia, and with this object betook himself to the Devil Tavern, and having mounted the stairs, peeped through the half-opened door into the room where the Club was holding its séance. At the moment he did so, Jonson's quick eye detected him : " John Bo-peep," he cried, " come in." Upon Randolph's entry, four of the members began to make impromptu rhymes on the shabbiness of his clothes, and finally asked him if he could not cap their verses ; whereupon he thus did so :
" I, John Bo-peep, to you four sheep
" By Jesus," exclaimed Jonson, " I believe this must be my son Randolph " ; and ever after ` my son' was Jonson's affectionate title for the author of The Muses' Looking-Glass.
Another anecdote shows that Jonson sometimes met his match even in his own territory. On one occasion, a countryman, having been introduced to the Club, was boasting about the extent of his landed possessions. Jonson listened for a time in patience, but at last could stand it no longer, and impatiently exclaimed, " What signifies to us your dirt and your clods ? Where you have an acre of land I have ten acres of wit." (Jonson never let his light shine under a bushel.) " Have you so," replied the countryman, " good Mr. Wise-acre ? " " Why, how now, Ben ? You seem to be quite stung," said one of his companions, seeing the great man obviously annoyed at the retort. " Why, yes," answered Jonson. " I was never so pricked by a hob-nail before."
How long the 'Apollo ' existed at the 'Devil ' is unknown ; probably the death of Jonson put a stop to those jolly meetings coenaque Deorum, which under his oegis had such a notable existence. The 'Apollo' room, however, was for long used for various purposes of a literary kind.
Although the Apollo Club forms the most notable association of the ` Devil,' the tavern had many other memories, and, at a later date, we know it to have been a favourite resort of Pepys, Steele, Addison, and Swift, the last of whom tells ` Stella,' on Oct. 12, 1710, " I dined to-day with Dr. Garth and Mr. Addison at the Devil Tavern, and Garth treated."
Goldsmith also frequented the place, not only as a tavern, but also as a spot where a card club to which he belonged was wont to meet ; while Johnson was often here, and it was at the ` Devil ' that, in 1751, he gave that famous supper in honour of Mrs. Charlotte Lenox and her first literary bantling, the Life of Harriet Stuart. Hawkins gives the following graphic and amusing account of the entertainment :
" The place appointed was the Devil Tavern ; and there, about the hour of eight, Mrs. Lenox and her husband, as also the Club to the number of near twenty assembled. The supper was elegant, and Johnson had directed that a magnificent hot apple-pie should make a part of it ; and this he would have stuck with bay leaves, because, forsooth, Mrs. Lenox was an authoress. . . . About five (a.m.) Johnson's face shone with meridian splendour, though his drink had been only lemonade. The dawn of day began to put us in mind of our reckoning ; but the waiters were all so overcome with sleep that it was two hours before a bill could be had, and it was not until near eight that the creaking of the street door gave the signal for our departure."
The early reputation of the ` Devil ' for good cheer is exemplified in a ballad describing the visit of James I. to St. Paul's in 1620,2 one verse of which runs
" The Maior layd downe his mace, and cry'd, ' God save your Grace,
And keepe our King from all evill ! '
With all my hart I then wist, the good mace had been in my fist,
To ha' pawn'd it for supper at the Devill."
We come across another reference to the house in the following century, for in the Tatler for Oct. 11, 1709, is an account of a wedding entertainment given here, in which reference is made to " the rules of Ben's Club in gold letters over the chimney," in " a place sacred to mirth, tempered with discretion," supposed to be the last mention of Jonson's famous lines which were subsequently removed, although actually when or by whom has never been discovered.
It was in the Apollo Chamber, at the ` Devil,' that the Court-day Odes of the Poets Laureate were wont to be rehearsed to the accompaniment of music, a fact which inspired the line in the Dunciad: :
" Back to the Devil the loud echoes roll,"
and is also referred to in the following epigram :
" When Laureates make Odes, do you ask of what sort ?
But others besides wits and poets were accustomed to congregate here ; for instance, the Royal Society is known to have held one of its annual dinners here in 1746, and six years later concerts were given in the great room which had echoed to the voice of Jonson. In 1775, Brush Collins gave his satirical lectures on Modern Oratory ; and in the following year, a fraternity, known as the Pandemonium Club, held its first meeting here, on November 4. The members apparently lived up to the title of their club, for we are told that "these devils were lawyers, who were about commencing term, to the annoyance of many a hitherto happy bon-vivant." The place became, indeed, a great haunt of the students from the Temple, and they must have blessed the memory of the man who in the reign of Charles II. left " ten pounds to be drunk by lawyers and physicians at the Devil Tavern, by Temple Bar."
In spite of the numbers of those who studied and. administered the law here, one of the notable men who lived by breaking it was a constant habitué. This was no less a person than that John Cottington, alias ' Mull Sack,' who is stated to have indifferently subjected Oliver Cromwell and Charles II. to his depredations. It seems more than likely that many of those who unwittingly found themselves in the company of this well-mannered, fashionably dressed stranger, left the ` Devil ' lighter in pocket than they entered it !
There is a good representation of the exterior of the Devil Tavern, exhibiting its picturesque gabled front, drawn by Wale. It showed a half-length figure of the saint with the Devil looking over his shoulder. When, in 1764, projecting signs were ordered to be removed, this interesting relic was placed flat against the front of the house, and there remained, says Timbs, till the demolition of the building. This occurrence took place in 1787, when the tavern, having fallen on bad days, was purchased by Messrs. Child, for £2800, and Child's Place and the bank premises erected on its site soon after.
In connection with the ` Devil ' should be mentioned a tavern set up in rivalry with it, a few doors farther east in Fleet Street (at No. 8), and called the 'YOUNG DEVIL,' the entrance to which " was from a flight of steps leading down below ground from the adjoining narrow passage of entrance to Dick's Coffee-House." 1 It does not appear to have been a successful venture, for it lasted little over a year, 1708 to 1709, during which time, however, the Society of Antiquaries shifted their meeting-place hither from the Bear Tavern, in the Strand.
Many years later another attempt was made to resuscitate the place, under the ' style of WILL'S COFFEE-HOUSE, on the opposite side of the street. Here an ` Apollo ' music-room was instituted, in imitation of the Apollo room at the 'Devil' ; and an advertisement of a concert here, on Dec. 19, 1737, mentions that " tickets are to be had at Will's Coffee-House, formerly the Apollo, in Bell Yard, near Temple Bar." Probably the ` Apollo Court ' shown in Horwood's " Plan " of 1799 approximately marks the site of, and no doubt takes its name from, this coffee-house.
Not far from the 'Devil ' was a once famous place of entertainment namely, DICK'S COFFEE-HOUSE, earlier known as 'RICHARD'S,' which. occupied the site of No. 8 Fleet Street. It took its name from Richard Turner or Torner, who obtained a lease of the house in 1680. When Timbs was writing his book on Clubs, about 1870, Dick's was still in existence, and the writer tells us that it then retained its old panelling and original staircase. To-day, an optician's shop stands on its site. In 1737, the Rev. James Miller wrote and produced a play called The Coffee-House, and as a frontispiece to the published edition, was shown the interior of 'Dick's ' then kept by a Mrs. Yarrow and her daughter. Now it so happened that certain characters in this play were supposed, rightly or wrongly, to have been taken from these two ladies who were reigning ` toasts .' among the younger members of the Temple ; and so infuriated were the latter at the liberty taken with the hostess and her daughter, that they succeeded not only in damning the play on the first night, but in like manner dealing with anything suspected to emanate from Miller's pen for many years after.
Steele and Addison were both frequenters of Dick's,' and so was Cowper, and here it was that the latter one day read something in the newspaper, which his excitable brain construed into a libel on him-self, with the result that he rushed out, determined on committing suicide —a project luckily not persisted in.
In 1885, ` Dick's ' had become a French restaurant, and the back windows still looked out into Hare Court, Temple, as they had looked when the Spectator and Sir Roger de Coverley gazed through them. Together with No. 7, next door, the old house was demolished in 1899 ; and with it went not only the memory of this interesting coffee-house, but also a link with a still earlier day, for here, in the sixteenth century, Richard Tottill, law-printer to Edward vi., Mary, and Elizabeth, had his press, and No. 7 Fleet Street was in those days known by the sign of the ` Hand and Starre,' and formed Tottill's private residence attached to his printing establishment. Later, No. 7 was occupied by Jaggard and Joel Stephens, also law-printers in the days of the Georges ; while in our own day, Messrs. Butterworth, the law-printers, occupied it till 1899, as they had done for many years previously. The original lease of the premises dates from the time of Henry VIII., so that for nearly four hundred years one set of premises had been uninterruptedly in the hands of those carrying on a similar business.
Another well - remembered hostelry was the RAINBOW,' which stood on the site of No. 15 Fleet Street. It was the second coffee-house opened in London, the first having been in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill, which only preceded the 'Rainbow ' by four years. We find a reference to the Fleet Street house among Aubrey's MSS.1 dated 1680, where we learn that " when coffee first came in, Sir Henry Blount was a great upholder of it, and hath ever since been a great frequenter of coffee-houses, especially Mr. Farre's, at the Rainbowe, by Inner Temple Gate."
Farr, or Farre, was a man of some importance and energy, and he seems to have combined the business of a barber with that of a coffee-house keeper, for in the inquest held at St. Dunstan's on Dec. 21, 1657, we find the following entry regarding him, and his coffee-house which appears to have been a nuisance to the neighbourhood when the fragrant berry was being distilled :
" We present James Farr, barber, for making and selling of a drink called coffee, whereby in making the same he annoyeth his neighbours by evil smells and for keeping of fire for the most part night and day, whereby his chimney and chamber hath been set on fire, to the great danger and affrightment of his neighbours." 1 Whatever was the result of this complaint, it was not successful in getting rid of Farr or his coffee-house, both of which flourished exceedingly ; although there seems to have been great and widespread opposition to the introduction of coffee, ranging from royal proclamations (one in 1660 orders a duty of fourpence on every gallon of coffee made and sold ; another, in 1675, ordered coffee-houses to be shut up, but this was because they were supposed to be hotbeds of sedition, and the law was abrogated almost immediately afterwards) to such complaints as the one I have quoted. Even in 1708, Hatton, in his New View of London, is found remarking : " Who would ha
ve thought London would ever have had three thousand such nuisances, and that coffee would have been (as now) so much drunk by the best of quality, and physicians ? "
Addison and Steele were both accustomed to drink coffee at the ` Rainbow ' ; and, indeed, at this period the place was a fashionable resort, where the latest scandal was talked and the latest fashions exhibited. A reference to the latter is made in No. 16 of the Spectator, where we read : " I have received a letter desiring me to be very satirical upon the little muff that is now in fashion ; another informs me of a pair of silver garters buckled below the knee, that have lately been seen at the Rainbow Coffee-house in Fleet Street." How long Farr's tenancy of the house existed I am unable to say ; as we have seen, he was there in 1657, and he issued a token with a rainbow depicted on it in 1666. In 1780 the house was kept by Alexander Moncrieff, and preserved its old name.
Timbs was informed by Moncrieff, the dramatic writer, a grandson of Alexander, of this fact, and we are also told that the coffee-room had a lofty bay-window at the south end, looking over the Temple precincts, in which bay was a table reserved for the elder and more important patrons of the house. Only a glass partition separated this room from the kitchen, so that visitors were able to see the preparation of the drink they came to enjoy. Apparently the entrance was in Rainbow Court (called by Horwood, Rain Court, and by Strype, Rain Alley) and the front in Fleet Street, occupied by shops or offices ; for we know that Samuel Speed the bookseller had his premises 'at the sign of the Rainbow,' as had Daniell Paceman, a law bookseller, in 1656 ; that at an earlier date (1636) Trussell's History of England was "printed by M. D. for Ephraim Dawson and are to bee sold in Fleet Street, at the signe of the Rainbowe, neere the Inner Temple Gate " ; and that, in 1682, the Phoenix Fire Office was first established here, by Dr. Barebone. The house itself was continued as a tavern down to our own days, land, not inappropriately, the ` Bodega ' now occupies the site of its former activity.
According to some authorities, it was two doors east from the 'Rainbow ' that another coffee-house, called 'NANDO'S,' existed. Later investigation, however, seems to prove that 'Nando's ' (a contraction for Ferdinando's) was really a successor to the 'Rain-bow,' and occupied the same premises. The fact that a will of one John Jones of London and Hampton exists, bequeathing a fourth part of this property, in 1692,3 to the Trustees of the Free School at Hampton, and specifically stating its whereabouts, leaves us in little doubt as to its identity with the ` Rainbow.' 4 Another reason for questioning its ever having been at No. 17 Fleet Street is the fact that that historic site was the one occupied by the office of the Duchy of Cornwall, and such a fact would hardly have been overlooked by topographers when mentioning the coffee-house, considering the beauty of the interior carving and plaster-work in this house.
'Nando's ' was certainly in existence in 1707, for an advertisement of Bernard Lintot the book seller for that year gives his address " at the Cross Keys and Cushion next Nando's Coffee-House, Temple Bar." In the days of its prime, the house was kept by a Mrs. Humphries and her beautiful daughter, whose charms, says Cradock, in his Memoirs, were always admired " At the Bar and By the bar " ; al though, this being so, it seems strange that Anstey, in his Pleader's Guide, should speak of one who
" . . . as many a greater man does,
Eats, drinks, and falls asleep at Nando's."
One of the ` greater men ' attracted hither by female charms and the potency of punch was Thurlow, then a briefless barrister, and it is said that his rise at the Bar dated from a certain occasion, when the historic cause of Douglas v. the Duke of Hamilton was being discussed, and it was suggested by some one who knew his man that Thurlow should be briefed as junior counsel ; which was accordingly done, with the result that the Duchess of Queensberry recommended the young man to Lord Bute, as an appropriate recipient of a silk gown.
Another habitué was Shenstone, who lodged close by, between this house and 'George's ' in the Strand, and thus was able, as he writes in one of his letters, " to partake of the expensiveness of both.
The next tavern I have to speak of has become notable because Tennyson has enshrined its name in his " Will Waterproof's Monologue " :
" Oh, Plump Head-waiter at the Cock, To which I most resort,"
he sings ; and in consequence the 'Cock ' is known to many to whom the names of other Fleet Street taverns are a dead letter.
The 'Cock' is today situated at No. 22 Fleet Street, and a replica of its original carved sign, supposed to have been the work of Grinling Gibbon, and still preserved inside the house, as is one of the original Jacobean mantels, indicates to all and sundry the successor to the tavern where Pepys enjoyed himself ' mightily,' and Tennyson sedately consumed ' his pint of port.' But the original 'Cock ' was situated on the other side of the street, and was taken down in 1887, when a branch of the Bank of England was erected on its site. The earlier tavern, or ` ale-house,' as it was termed, correctly known as the 'Cock and Bottle,' was thus one door eastward (No. 201 Fleet Street) of that Apollo Court at the corner of which Will's Coffee-House once stood, as we have seen.
Timbs, writing of it about 1870, says : " It is, perhaps, the most primitive place of its kind in the metropolis : it still possesses a fragment of decoration of the time of James I., and the writer remembers the tavern half a century ago, with considerably more of its original panelling."
When the Plague was raging, in 1665, the landlord, in common with most of those who could afford to do so, left. London, on which occasion he caused the following notice to be issued :
" This is to certify that the master of the Cock and Bottle, commonly called the Cock ale-house, at Temple Bar, hath dismissed his servants, and shut up his house, for 'this long vacation, intending (God willing) to return at Michaelmas next ; so that all persons whatsoever who may have any accounts with the said master, or farthings belonging to the said house, are desired to repair thither before the 8th of this instant, and they shall receive satisfaction."
One of these farthings or tokens is still in existence, and is dated 1655.
After the Plague and the Great Fire, the 'Cock ' again opened its doors, and we find Pepys resorting hither on various occasions, one of which he thus records, on April 22, 1668 : " Thence by water to the Temple, and then to the Cocke Alehouse, and drank, and eat a lobster, and sang and were mighty merry."
Johnson was, of course, known at the ` Cock,' and in later days Thackeray was one of the many illustrious ones who have visited the place.
Before returning to the south side of Fleet Street, there are several taverns which it will be convenient to notice. Two of these were situated in Chancery Lane : the ` KING'S HEAD ' ' and the ` POPE'S HEAD.'
The former was a place of great antiquity, standing at the south-west corner of Chancery Lane, and described as " an elegant mansion," in the reign of Edward vi. Its sign represented the head of Henry viii. The tavern is supposed to have occupied the residence, or to have stood on its site, of that Sir John Oldcastle whom Shakespeare has perpetuated as Sir John Falstaff, and who was executed in St. Giles' Fields, in 1417, for conspiracy against the person of Henry v.
Some early references to the ` King's Head ' and its proprietors are to be found in the St, Dunstan's Registers. Thus in 1585 John Kent was ` presented ' for pouring forth, from an upper window here, bad wine upon the people's heads below and three years later a like fate befell one Henry Marshe, who lived next door, for an " oven in his house very dangerous, joynge to the Kinges Heade wch. hath heretofore dangered his neighbours by fyre and doth yet remayne dangerous." In 1619, we read of one Sepcoate Mulling-nay who, on April 12, had been " hanged ovr against the Kinge's Heade Taverne in Fleet Street," being buried.
The tavern seems to have been rather a favourite resort of malcontents, and in 1629, the then proprietor, John Marshall, was indicted, and his house closed by order, as being a suspected hotbed of treason.1 Again, in 1678, here met the Popish Plot conspirators, under the presidency of the notorious Lord Howard of Escrick ; and a few years later the Green Ribbon Club, largely responsible for the ceremony of 'Burning the Pope,' which obtained from 1680 to 1682, held their consultations here. North, referring to this tavern and the doings of the Green Ribbon Club, remarks : " The house was double-balconied in front, as may yet be seen, for the clubsters issue forth, in fresco, with hats and no perruques, pipes in their mouths, merry faces, and diluted throats for vocal encouragement of the canaglia below, at bonfires, on unusual or usual occasions."
The following reference to the place in Luttrell's Diary helps to sustain its reputation for unruliness :--
" 1682, Jan. 13. At night some young gentlemen of the Temple went to the King's Head tavern in Chancery Lane, committing strange outrages there, breaking of windowes, etc., which the watch hearing of, came to disperse them ; but they sending for severall of the watermen with halberts that attend their comp-troller at the revells, were engaged in a desperate riott, in which one of the watchmen was run into the body with an halbert, and lies very ill ; but the watchmen secured one or two of the watermen."
A rather earlier reference to the place is contained in a letter from George Robinson to Williamson, in which the former states that he is dining with Sir Martin Noel at the ` King's Head ' on Jan. 9, 1667.
The tavern itself, at least at one period, must have been, as so many were in the seventeenth century, upstairs, for Richard Marriot, the publisher of Izaak Walton's Works, kept shop in 1665 " under the King's Head."
The 'POPE'S HEAD' is known to have been one of Pepys's many tavern resorts, but little else is, I believe, recorded of it. Better remembered is PEELE'S COFFEE - HOUSE, which stood on the site of Nos. 177-78 Fleet Street, at the east corner of Fetter Lane. The days of Peele's glory were those of the later eighteenth century, and Dr. Johnson was one of its frequenters; indeed, Timbs affirms that a portrait of the great ` Cham of Literature,' said to have been painted by Reynolds, once occupied a conspicuous place in the coffee-room. After having had a prosperous career as a coffee-house, the place became a tavern ; but all traces of its existence, in either character, have long since disappeared. During its palmy days, the house was notable for the number of daily papers it took in, which caused it to be much patronised by those anxious to learn the latest news. It is said that files of the Gazette (1759), the Times (1780), the Morning Chronicle (1773), the Morning Post (1773), the Morning Herald (1784), and the Morning Advertiser were kept here, all dating from the years (given here) when their publication began.
Shire Lane, running slightly west of Chancery Lane, from the main thoroughfare to Carey Street, and later known as Serle's Place, also had several taverns within its precincts. The `TRUMPET' was one of these, and was one of the more interesting of the taverns in the district here dealt with. The premises were situated on the left hand of the street, about midway up it, going from Fleet Street, and there was also an approach to it from the Strand, at the back of Ship Yard. The house was distinguished by a column on each side of the doorway, and under one of the first-floor windows hung a small sign of a trumpet. It is sup-posed by Diprose to have been one of the oldest licensed houses in London ; which would date it from about the end of James l.'s reign. It is referred to by Andrew Marvell, who speaks of one sounding " another trumpet than that in Sheer Lane."
Diprose gives the following interesting description of it as it was about the year 1868, at which time it was demolished in connection with the building of the New Law Courts :
" In appearance, the 'Trumpet ' was unpretentious, substantially built of red brick. In front, the first and second floors had each a row of four equal and well-sized windows, with thick, heavy oak sashes, and the third or attic floor was lighted by two dormer windows within and rising above the parapet. With the exception of the ground floor, or shop front, but little alteration had ever evidently been made. There is a curious old woodcut of the house extant . . which shows the sign of the trumpet above the facia line and below and between the window-sills of the first floor ; higher up in the centre of the pier between the windows is the figure of Bacchus astride a barrel, and to the next pier between the windows southward is fixed the lamp-iron and inverted bell-shaped lamp of the fashion anterior to the discovery of gas. The ground floor shows the door to have been at the end adjoining the south party-wall, and three windows in unison with those above, but supplied outside with flap shutters with pierced holes. The cellar flap is shown, but is in a different place to the one now existing : the truth of the print is borne out, however, by very patent evidence, which shows it to have been bricked up and a wider and larger one made in another place ; the arches of the three windows are covered by the modern facia board."
The appearance of the house was rather that of a private residence than a tavern, and it seems probable that it was such before being converted to its later uses.
It is proved to have formed the line of demarcation between Serle's Place and Lower Serle's Place, a boundary which had been lost sight of, for we are told that the last proprietor of the tavern, who took great interest in its features, not only restored the signboard, a modelled trumpet which had been removed, but also had the various coats of paint which covered the front removed in 1845, when the name of Serle's Place, and not, as had hitherto been supposed, Lower Serle's Place, was found upon it.
An advertisement in the Daily Advertiser for July 2, 1742, draws attention to the fact that a Mr. Jones, a musician of the period enjoying some repute, had removed hither from ` Widow Evans's,' and was ready to give entertainments on the harp or violin, at five o'clock every evening, as it appears he was accustomed to do at the ` Hercules' Pillars ' in Fleet Street.
The chief fame of the Trumpet,' which had once been known as the ` Cat and Fiddle,' and still later as the 'Duke of York's,' lies, however, in the fact that two famous clubs, one largely imaginary, the other very real, held their meetings here. The former of these was the Tatler's Club, of which Isaac Bickerstaff was the chief protagonist, and of whose symposia Steele has told us in No. 132 of his immortal paper. Here it was that the deputation of ` Twaddlers ' assembled preparatory to setting out for Dick's Coffee-House in the Strand ; and after much trouble over the debatable question of precedence a question quickly put an end to by an alarm of fire they " marched down Sheer Lane." Says Steele : " When we came to Temple Bar, Sir Harry and Sir Giles got over, but a run of coaches kept the rest of us on this side of the street ; however, we all at last landed, and drew up in very good order before Ben Tooke's shop, who favoured our rallying with great humanity ; from whence we proceeded again until we came to Dick's Coffee-house, where I designed to carry them," etc.
The other club which has conferred fame on the ` Trumpet,' or the ` Cat and Fiddle,' was the noted 'Kit-Kat.'
The ` Trumpet ' was the scene of the Club's meetings, and here forgathered some of the greatest men and many of the finest intellects of the time. When Shire Lane was still in existence, a writer (in the National Review) well expressed the antithesis between this mean street and the noble and splendid figures which once haunted its precincts : " It is hard to believe," he says, " as we pick our way along the narrow and filthy pathway of Shire Lane, that in this blind alley, some hundred and fifty years ago, used to meet many of the finest gentlemen and choicest wits of the days of Queen Anne and the First George. Inside one of those frowsy and low ceiled rooms. Halifax has conversed and Somers unbent, Addison mellowed over a bottle, Congreve flashed his wit, Vanbrugh let loose his easy humour, Garth talked and rhymed."
In addition to such notable men all the great Whigs of the period seem to have been members of the 'Kit-Kat,' and there such men as the Dukes of Somerset, Grafton, Devonshire, Kingston, Marlborough, Richmond, and Newcastle, Lords Dorset, Sunderland, Manchester, and Wharton, and Sir Robert Walpole inter multis aliis, might have been met with conversing on matters of state, or questions of literature and the fine arts, or drinking to those ` toasts ' one of which was Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, hastily sent for by her father, the Duke of Kingston, from her nursery, and hailed with acclaim by the brilliant throng that surrounded her, as the most beautiful girl of her day.
During the eighteenth century literature and politics went hand in hand to a greater extent than they have ever done before or since. The statesman hardly considered that he had fulfilled his destiny unless he could entwine some bay leaves among his laurels ; the writer knew that his easiest and surest road to success was gained by hacking for one or the other party that wished to direct the destinies of the nation. The result was often an amorphous body of men whom to call merely political would have been to rob of their literary merit, and to designate solely as writers would have been to do too little honour to their political status. When those having such a twofold claim to notice became identified with a club, a difficulty at once arose as to whether that club should be regarded as a literary or political one. Such a difficulty might seem to face us with regard to the Kit-Kat Club : that it was political, its well-known Whig sentiments, and the names of the majority of its members, would be alone sufficient to prove ; but, on the other hand, so many men, who, if politicians and we know they were this, for did not Horace Walpole once state that " The Kit-Kat Club, generally mentioned as a set, of wits, were, in reality, the Patriots that saved Britain " ?—were still more great writers and wits, belonged to it ; many of its customs, particularly that of writing verses and epigrams for its toasting glasses, were so closely identified with literature rather than with politics, that, on the whole, I think it should take its place among literary clubs especially, too, as it has some claims to be considered artistic (each member was supposed to have his portrait painted and presented to the Club) ; and while we can easily associate art with literature, neither gods nor men have ever at-tempted to assert that it has any conjunction with politics.
The title, if not the origin, of the Kit-Kat Club is somewhat obscure. The generally accepted version is that it originally forgathered in a small house in Shire Lane, close to Temple Bar, then occupied by one Christopher Katt, who made and sold there mutton-pies (the conjunction of such a name with such comestibles is significant), and thus Kit (Christopher) Katt became, by an easy transition, the name of the Club itself. On the other hand, the fact that the pie itself was known as a 'Kit-Kat ' (after the name of its maker) is sometimes regarded (it was so by Addison in the Spectator I) as the origin of the name of the Club.
It would seem that the last years of the seventeenth century saw the founding of the Kit-Kat Club, and if, as has been assumed,' the so-called ' Order of the Toast ' is identical with it, then we can date its formation anterior to 1699, in which year Elkanah Settle wrote a poem " To the most renowned the President and the rest of the Knights of the most Noble Order of the Toast."
There seems every reason to regard the 'Order of the Toast ' as identical with the Kit-Kat Club, for one of the famous characteristics of the latter was its toasting-glasses, used for drinking the healths of the reigning beauties of the day, on which were engraved verses in encomium of the charms of the fair ones.
It was this habit of ` toasting ' that led Dr. Arbuthnot to produce the following epigram, which is also interesting as indicating another suggested origin of the Club :
" Whence deathless Kit-Kat took his name,
From no trim beaus its name it boasts,
The reference, in the first verse, to the 'Cat and Fiddle' is in allusion to Ned Ward's contention that the maker of the pies ('Kit-Kats') was named Christopher and lived at the sign of the 'Cat and Fiddle ' in Gray's Inn Lane, afterwards setting up as a pieman near the Fountain Tavern, in the Strand : whence the name of Kit (a fiddle) and Kat. Ward further affirms that the man Christopher was in the habit of inviting budding authors to feed, gratis, at his establishment, through the instrumentality of his friend, Jacob Tonson, the well known book seller, from which meetings the Kit-Kat Club had its origin. But Ward often wrote ' sarcastic,' and I think the earlier origin the more likely one, especially as it is more or less confirmed by Spence, who adds, however, that Tonson was secretary of the Club. Indeed, Tonson's later close connection with it is well known, when, as owner of the house at Barn Elms, he built a room expressly to receive the famous portraits painted of its members, 'which, from their size (36 in. by 28 in.), have given a specific name to a certain class of pictures.
The Club seems from the first to have been patronised by the wits and fine gentlemen of the day, and besides such notable men as I have already mentioned, its list comprised such famous names as those of Addison, Congreve, Garth, Steele, and Vanbrugh ; while Sir Godfrey Kneller was its 'painter,' and produced that remarkable series of portraits whose fame has outlived that of the Club itself. Two other members, of notoriety rather than note, were the redoubtable Lord Mohun and the Earl of Berkeley ; and Spence records that " the day they were entered of it, Jacob [Tonson] said he saw they were just going to be ruined. When Lord Mohun broke down the gilded emblem on the top of his chair, Jacob complained to his friends, and said a man who would do that would cut a man's throat " a remark which must have been called to mind by many when Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton fought their sanguinary duel in Hyde Park.
The Club was one of those which met for social converse, in which curriculum literature and politics, the last bit of scandal or the reigning beauty, were indifferently canvassed and discussed. Nor did it confine itself to spoken words, as its engraved toasts testify ; while its practical encouragement of literature found expression in a subscription, which was opened in 1709, of four hundred guineas for the best comedies, the list of names and subscriptions being drawn up by Lord Halifax in his own hand.
From among the many symposia held at the Kit-Kat Club, in which the eloquence of Addison, the wit of Steele and Garth, the conversational powers of Maynwaring (whose name is now wholly forgotten), the wisdom of Walpole and Pulteney, the humour of Congreve and Vanbrugh, and the less amiable qualities of Lord Mohun and Lord Berkeley, must have often played their part, two scenes at least have been recorded : the one when Garth, having repeatedly declared that he must be leaving, in order to attend his patients, was seduced into staying late by the excellence of some old wine, and when Steele reminded him of those awaiting his ministrations, pulled out his list of fifteen invalids and exclaimed, "'Tis no great matter whether I see them tonight or not, for nine of them have such bad constitutions that all the physicians in the world can't save them ; and the other six have such good ones that all the physicians in the world can't kill them " ; and the other, when, after an evening spent in great hilarity, the occasion being a Whig celebration of the anniversary of King William's accession, Steele, who had drunk not wisely but too well, insisted on his chairmen carrying him to Bishop Hoadley's lodgings and knocking up the right reverend prelate who, as a member of the Club, had been present earlier in the evening at its meeting. Having done this, they got safely home with Sir Richard who, the next morning, remembering what had happened, sent the Bishop the graceful lines, which might have surely atoned for a far worse delinquency :
" Virtue with so much ease on Bangor sits,
It was on the same occasion that John Sly, the hatter, insisted on drinking the immortal memory of King William on his knees, entering the club-room in this uneasy posture ; when Steele, turning to Hoadley, remarked sotto voce, " Do laugh ; 'tis but humanity to laugh."
The 'toasts ' of the Kit-Kat Club have become famous. They were drunk to the honour of some reigning beauty, or some lady to whom the Club wished to do particular honour, and we can imagine with what satisfaction the latest belle learnt that she had been the subject of such a compliment. We know by name some of those who were toasted : Lady Godolphin, Lady Sunderland, Lady Bridgewater, and Lady Monthermer all daughters, and beautiful ones, of the Duke of Marlborough ; the Duchess of Bolton, the Duchess of Beaufort, the Duchess of St. Albans ; Mrs. Long and Mrs. Barton, friends of Dean Swift ; Mrs. Brudenell and Lady Wharton, Lady Carlisle and Mrs. Kirk and Mademoiselle Spanheim, among them.
Some of the inscriptions engraved on the glasses were composed by Garth, others by Lord Halifax, of whose contributions the following, written in honour of the Duchess of Beaufort in 1703. is one of the most successful:
" Offspring of a tuneful sire,
The series of pictures with which the fame of the Club is coupled were painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, at the instance of Jacob Tonson, the secretary, who, as I have said, caused a room to be built for their reception at Barn Elms. At first they were half-lengths, but the apartment in which they were destined to hang being found too small for so many of such large dimensions, the smaller size was substituted, and the expression a 'Kit-Kat,' as applied to pictures, thus came into being. In 1821, a volume was published entitled Memoirs of the Celebrated Persons comprising the Kit-Cat (sic) Club ; it was illustrated by forty-eight portraits engraved by Cooper, in stipple, after the original pictures. The actual works, after the death of Jacob Tonson, descended to Richard Tonson, who, at his residence at Water-Oakley, on the Thames, added a room for their reception. He bequeathed them to Mr. Baker of Bayfordbury, a kinsman of the Tonson family, and Timbs mentions their being exhibited in the Art Treasures Exhibition at Manchester in 1862.
Several other Fleet Street hostelries were situated in Shire Lane, and among them was the ` GRIFFIN,' which is notable as having been the tavern whence Sir John Denham, then a student in Lincoln's Inn, and some boon companions set out in a drunken frolic one night in the year 1635, and having obtained pots of ink and brushes, solemnly proceeded to blot out all the signs between Temple Bar and Charing Cross an escapade for which they were duly mulcted by the law which was apparently casual enough to allow of their carrying into effect their practical joke.
Another tavern in the same thoroughfare was the ` BIBLE,' situated at what was later No. 13 in this street. It was a house of call for printers, and Diprose thinks that it was probably so called " in consideration of the typographic art, without reference to the sanctity of the holy volume." As it is known to have also been one of the notorious Jack Sheppard's haunts, one hopes his surmise was correct. There was a trap door in one of the rooms, and this was traditionally associated with the thief, he being said to have used it for purposes of escape from his pursuers, and to have gained Bell Yard by a subterranean passage connected with it.
During the eighteenth century Shire Lane was, as we know, a haunt of the worst characters, and at a tavern here, known as the 'ANGEL AND CROWN,' a Mr. Quarrington was robbed and murdered by Thomas Carr and Elizabeth Adams, who were duly apprehended, and hanged at Tyburn on Jan. 18, 1738.
Another inn in the same thoroughfare was the 'SUN,' subsequently used as the premises for the 'Temple Bar Stores ' ; while the name of yet another, the 'ANTIGALLICAN,' sufficiently indicates the period of its establishment. This house was a favourite resort of the notorious Lord Barrymore, whose sobriquet was ` Hell gate,' and who was wont to come here to ` assist,' in both the English and French acceptations of that term, in prize-fights and other amusements of a more brutal nature.
Close by, in Old Boswell Court, was the ` BLACK HORSE,' where entertainments, such as had a vogue before the advent of music-halls, were given. In the thirties of the nineteenth century it had a great reputation for such things, and is said to have been the best-frequented and most jovial of its kind in London, being the concert room, par excellence, of the period.
Those days are as much forgotten as is Nineveh, they areas dead as Pharaoh, so that such names as Dowson, Harry Perry, Bruton, Toplis, Mrs. Paul and Miss James, all of whom used to add to the gaiety of our forefathers in this haunt, mean nothing to us who with difficulty now associate any significance with that of Paul Bedford, or even with that of Toole as a comic entertainer other than an actor.
There was a room in the basement of the ` Black Horse ' called the ` Patter-fee Lumber ' in flash slang, and here were wont to consort many of the worst characters of this disreputable neighbourhood. They held a sort of club here, membership of which enabled a thief or pickpocket to obtain means of feeing counsel in his defence when, as was frequently the case, necessary.
Returning to the south side of Fleet Street, we come to a once notable tavern, ` THE MITRE,' which occupied the site of Messrs. Hoare's Bank, No. 39. There was another ` Mitre' farther east, in Mitre Court, about which I shall have something to say later on. The latter tavern has generally been regarded as the scene of so many of Johnson's oracular utterances, but the later investigations of Mr. Hutton seem to point to the fact that it was at the house at No. 39 Fleet Street that Johnson and his circle met. This tavern was one of great antiquity dating, indeed, from the days of Shakespeare ; and the poet is even said to have frequented it and to have written here " From the rich Lavinian Shore," which is asserted to be " Shakespeare's Rime made by him at the Mytre in Fleete Street." Ben Jonson refers to the house, in his Every Man out of his Humour,2 where Puntarvolo says, " Carlo shall bespeak supper at the Mitre against we come back ; where we will meet, and dimple our cheeks with laughter."
Another reference to the place occurs in a comedy published in 1611 and entitled Ram Alley, or Merrie Tricks :
" Meet me straight
At the Mitre door in Fleet Street."
Ram Alley, which gives its name to this play, was close by, and we have a mention of it, as well as of the ` Mitre,' in the Autobiography of Lilly the astrologer, who says : " In the year 1640, I met Dr. Percival] Willoughby of Derby ; we were of old acquaintance, and he but by great chance lately come to town ; we went to the Mitre Tavern in Fleet Street, where I sent for old Will Poole the astrologer, living then in Ram Alley." One Matthew Alsop is mentioned, in the Domestic State Papers, as being the keeper of the ` Mitre ' in 1639,2 and another seventeenth century reference to the place is found in the pages of Pepys's Diary, where, under date of Jan. 20, 1660, we read : " At the Mitre in Fleet Street, in our way calling on Mr. Fage, who told me how the City have some hopes of Monk."
Although during the Great Fire the ` Mitre ' was not actually destroyed, yet it suffered to some extent ; and we are told that it was " very much demolished and decaied in severall parts, and the Balcony was on fire, and was pulled downe," during the conflagration.
Notwithstanding the ` Mitre's ' antiquity, and even the not improbable presence of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson here, it is, as is the case with all the taverns and coffee-houses frequented by him, the memory of Dr. Johnson that first springs to the mind when we name it. It was the place he chiefly liked to sup in, surrounded by that wonderful society whose figures live again in Macaulay's famous description. The pages of Boswell contain many allusions to the ` Mitre ' : here the tour to the Hebrides was decided upon ; here Goldsmith was brought by Johnson ; here the Doctor told Ogilvie that " the noblest prospect a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads to England " ; here Johnson entertained the two young ladies from Staffordshire who had come to London to consult him on the subject of Methodism ; and it was of this house that Boswell once remarked : " We had a good supper, and port wine, of which he [Johnson] sometimes drank a bottle. The orthodox high-church sound of the Mitre the figure and manner of the celebrated Samuel Johnson —the extraordinary power and precision of his conversation, and the pride arising from finding myself admitted as his companion, produced a variety of sensations, and a pleasing elevation of mind, beyond what I had ever experienced."
One of the latest of those who frequented the house in Johnson's train Goldsmith, Percy, Burke, Hawkesworth, Langton, Beauclerk, and the rest linked their memory with a later age, for Chamberlain Clarke, who made one of them on many a notable occasion, died at a great age so comparatively late as 1831. Another notable habitué was Lord Stowell ; and it was at the ` Mitre ' that the Society of Antiquaries sometimes held their meetings. Referring to another symposium here, Dr. Macmichael makes Dr. Radcliffe remark, in The Gold-Headed Cane, " I never recollect to have spent a more delightful evening than that at the Mitre Tavern in Fleet Street, where my good friend Billy Nutly . . . had been prevailed upon to accept of a small temporary assistance, and joined our party, the Earl of Denbigh, Lords Colepeper and Stowell, and Mr. Blackmore." 1 The Royal Society, at least on one occasion, in 1772, held their annual dinner here, before deserting the place for the ` Crown and Anchor.'
The house seems to have been given up as a tavern about 1788, for in that year we know that Macklin opened it as the 'Poets' Gallery.' Later it became Saunders's Auction Rooms, and last of all it was purchased by Messrs. Hoare, who demolished the old building and erected their well known bank on its site in 1829.
It was, I imagine, not here, but at the ` MITRE ' IN MITRE COURT, that Hogarth gave a dinner to his friend King, whom he desired to come and Era Bera lice ; for Hogarth is connected with this house in another way. He painted, as we have seen, a portrait of the notorious Sarah Malcolm ; and when that formidable lady was condemned to death for murder, her execution took place opposite Mitre Court, on March 7, 1733. We are told in Nichols' Anecdotes of Hogarth that on this occasion the crowd was so dense that " a Mrs. Strangways, who lived in Fleet Street, near Serjeants' Inn, crossed the street from her own house to Mrs. Colthurst's . . . over the heads and shoulders of the mob."
The 'Mitre ' in Mitre Court had been earlier known as JOE'S COFFEE-HOUSE,3 and the later title was taken on the old house in Fleet Street being given up as a tavern. It existed till 1865, in which year it was altered and added to. So determined were its proprietors to connect Dr. Johnson with it, that his ` corner ' was preserved with due reverence, and a copy of Nollekens' well known bust of the Doctor given an honoured place. It is, of course, quite possible that he did frequent JOE's COFFEE-HOUSE, and therefore these relics de-served to be duly honoured here ; but it seems fairly well established that, when we read of him visiting the 'Mitre,' the 'Mitre ' at 39 Fleet Street, and not the 'Mitre' farther east, is indicated.
One of the numerous ' HERCULES' PILLARS ' which were to be found in London in the eighteenth century, was situated close by the Fleet Street ` Mitre.' It stood on the same side of the thoroughfare, on the site of No. 27 Fleet Street, nearly opposite St. Dunstan's Church, and was situated in Hercules' Pillars Alley, between Mitre Court and Falcon Court, which alley is described by Strype as " altogether inhabited by such as keep Publick Houses for entertainment, for which it is of note." It was a house of some pretensions, dating from the time of James I., and, like many others, issued its token (a halfpenny) at a time when one Edward Oldham kept it. The coin bears his name upon it, and a crowned standing figure grasping a pillar in each hand illustrates the sign of the tavern.'
The place was a favourite resort of Pepys, who has several references to it in his Diary, as thus : On Oct. 11, 1660: " With Mr. Creed to Hercules' Pillars, where we drank." Again : " In Fleet-street I met with Mr. Salisbury, who is now grown in less than two years' time so great a limner that he has become excellent and gets a great deal of money at it. I took him to Hercules' Pillars to drink."
Then, on Feb. 6, 1668, he carried his wife, Betty Turner, Mercer, and Deb " to Hercules' Pillars, and there did give them a kind of a supper of about 7s. and very merry."
On Feb. 22, 1669: " After the play was done we met with Mr. Bateller and W. Hewer, and Talbot Pepys, and they followed us in a hackney-coach ; and we all supped at Hercules' Pillars ; and there I did give the best supper I could, and pretty merry ; and so home between eleven and twelve at night ; " and again, on April 30, 1669, the Diarist tells us that " at noon my wife came to me at my tailor's and I sent her home, and myself and Tom dined at Hercules' Pillars ; " while later in the same year (Aug. 80), we find him dining here alone, " while he sent his shoe to have the heel fastened at Wotton's."
A more solemn personage than Pepys was also not unmindful of certain satisfying beverages to be had at this tavern, for Locke, according to Lord King's Life of the philosopher, in advising a foreigner when the latter was about to visit this country, writes, in 1679, that " there are several sorts of compounded ales, as cock-ale, wormwood ale, lemon-ale, scurvygrass-ale, college ale . . . to be had at Hercules' Pillars, near the Temple."
Hercules' Pillars Alley took its name from this tavern, which was the chief of several situated in this spot. Another of them was the 'CROWNE,' but it could not have been of much account, and the only contemporary reference to it (Pepys's) calls it " a little ordinary in Hercules' Pillars Alley . . . a poor scurvy place," although the Diarist dined there on Jan. 30, 1667, and " had a good dinner."
Another tavern close by which existed in Pepys's day, and much earlier, was the 'DOLPHIN,' situated opposite Fetter Lane. It is interesting as being one of the first houses where tobacco was sold, and we find its proprietor, Timothy Howe, and a neighbour in Ram Alley, indicted in 1618 " for keepinge their tobacco shops open all nighte and fyers in the same without any chimney, and uttering hott water and selling ale without licence, to the great disquietude, terror, and annoyance of that neighbourhood," and again, in 1630, they were 'presented' "for annoyinge the judges at Serjeants' inne with the stench and smell of their tobacco." 2 We do not, however, know how they emerged from this truly Jacobean counter-blast.
Again crossing Fleet Street, we find the site of another once well-known inn at No. 164. This was the 'HORN TAVERN, which is now appropriately revivified in Anderton's Hotel. This hostelry is recorded as having been bequeathed, under the title of the ` Horn in the Hoop,' to the Goldsmiths' Company by one Thomas Atte Hay, himself a goldsmith and member of this guild, so early as 1405, and it is still the property of the company.
There is a reference to the tavern in Machyn's Diary under date of 1557, and just forty years later we learn from the Register of St. Dunstan's that " Raphe was slained at the Horne, buryed."
An early seventeenth-century reference to the Horn Tavern is found in Father Hubbard's Tales, printed in quarto in 1604, where the following passage occurs :
" And when they pleased to think upon us, told us they were to dine together at the Horn in Fleet Street, being a house where their lawyer resorted. . . . He embraced one young gentleman, and gave him many riotous instructions how to carry himself . . . his eating must be in some famous tavern as the Horn, the Mitre, or the Mermaid, etc."
The grouping together of the tavern I am here dealing with, with such notable hostelries as the ` Mitre ' and the ` Mermaid,' seems to indicate that its fame and reputation were far greater than would be imagined from the lack of information we have about it ; for, beyond the fact that Sir John Baker is recorded as living there 3 in 1640, and that a token of this house is in the Beaufoy Collection, we know practically nothing more about the place.
It was not far from the 'Horn' that Mrs. Salmon's Waxworks were first exhibited at 189 Fleet Street, which was rebuilt for Praed's Bank, in 1802 ; and Snelling, the well known numismatist, lived next door to the tavern, one of his books bearing the imprint : " printed for T. Snelling next the Horn Tavern in Fleet Street, 1766, who buys and sells all sorts of coins and medals."
Notwithstanding the fame of the ` Devil,' the ` Mitre,' and the ` Cock,' it is probable that the renown of the CHESHIRE CHEESE TAVERN, to which we now come, surpasses that of all Fleet Street hostelries. The combination of three reasons is sufficient to account for this : its antiquity ; its association with Dr. Johnson and innumerable other celebrities before and after his day ; and above all, I think, the fact that the place still remains (almost, if not quite, the only survival) as it existed in earlier times. When you enter its precincts through the exiguous Wine Office Court, on which it abuts, you seem to be stepping back into those past times when, as Johnson once phrased it, " a tavern chair was the throne of human felicity." The ghosts of earlier days (and what ghosts !) appear about you, and in the incorporeal presence of Ben Jon-son and Herrick, Pope and Congreve, Steele and Addison, Johnson and Burke and Boswell, or the later shades of Douglas Jerrold, Mark Lemon,
Dickens, Thackeray, Tom Hood, Tom Taylor, and Tennyson, you forget the rush of the twentieth century and the noise of motors and taxi-cabs, and almost feel as if you could say with the poet :
" . . . Et Ego in arcadia vixi."
There is little to be gleaned about the history and associations of the 'Cheshire Cheese' beyond what is incorporated in the little Book of the Cheese, which was compiled by T. W. Reid, and of which a fourth edition was edited by Mr. R. R. D. Adams in 1901. In this compilation, notwithstanding certain redundancies and almost inevitable repetitions, you will find not only what historical facts are known of the place, but also much of interest concerning its past patrons ; its waiters (among them old ` William,' who would ask, " Any gentleman say pudden ? " and was not at all disturbed when a crusty old guest replied, " No gentleman says pudden ") ; its wonderfully and fearfully made Lark Pudding, concocted in mystery and eaten in true gourmet silence ; the clubs that have met here : the ` Johnson,' the ` 49,' the 'Rhymers,' the 'Soakers,' the 'St. Dunstan's,' and the rest. Another thing that helps to differentiate the ` Cheshire Cheese ' from other Fleet Street taverns, is the fact that it has not only been much written about (American vying with British journalists in doing it honour), but has been much painted and sketched : Mr. Seymour Lucas and Mr. Dendy Sadler having reproduced its earlier social life, and Herbert Railton and others the picturesque outlines of the old place. Indeed, it stands today as practically the last of those centres in Fleet Street (or Brain Street, as Sala happily termed it) in which we can, with little trouble to the imagination, rehabilitate the life of the past.
When the ` Cheshire Cheese ' was actually first started is unknown, but we can at least date it back to Elizabethan days, for it was here, it is said, that Ben Jonson and Sylvester had their famous couplet-making bout, when the latter produced the lines :
" I, Sylvester,
Kiss'd your sister."
To which Ben replied with :
" I, Ben Jonson, Kiss'd your wife."
" That's not a rhyme," said Sylvester. " No," replied Jonson, " but it's true." There is said, too, to be extant a manuscript play,1 dating from the same period, which contains these lines :
" Heaven bless the 'Cheese ' and all its goodly fare
while Herrick's apostrophe to Ben Jonson :
" Ah, Ben !
is supposed to contain an allusion to Jonson's visits here ; and although the ` Dog' is sometimes printed instead of the 'Cheese,' Mr. Reid says he feels convinced that the 'Cheese,' being opposite the ` Triple Tun ' or ` Three Tuns,' is the house Herrick meant. Charles ll. is recorded as having once partaken of refreshment here, with Nell Gwynn ; and, to come to later days, a small book called Round London, printed in 1725, describes the place as " Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Tavern, near ye Flete Prison, an eating-house for goodly fare."
Wine Office Court, in which the ` Cheese ' stands, is notable for having once been the residence of Goldsmith (a frequent visitor to the tavern), and here he wrote, or partly wrote, the Vicar of Wake-field. The court takes its name from the fact that the house where wine licences were granted, stood close by. At one time a fig tree grew here, it having been planted over a century ago, by the then Vicar of St. Bride's, who lived at No. 12 Fleet Street.
Among the many references to the ` Cheshire Cheese,' two dating from the eighteenth century deserve mention : the first, taken from a paper called Common Sense, or the Englishman's Journal (printed and sold by J. Purser in White Fryars, and G. Hawkins at ` Milton's Head,' between the Two Temple Gates, Fleet Street) for April 23, 1737, runs thus :
" On Sunday, April 17, one Harper, who formerly lived with Mr. Holyoake at the sign of the ` Old Cheshire Cheese,' in Wine Office Court, Fleet Street, for eight years, found Means to conceal himself in the House . . . and took away a small Box containing £200 and Notes to the value of £600 more." The account goes on to say that Harper, being disturbed, was obliged to hide in a chimney, where he was discovered with his booty, and was afterwards carried before the Lord Mayor, who committed him to Newgate.
The other reference is from the Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser for Monday, Aug. 9, 1784, by which we learn that a porter in the Temple named John Gromont induced a woman with whom he lived, but who had left him, to take a drink at a public-house in Wine Office Court, " where, starting up in a fit of frenzy, he cut the woman's throat " ; and we are further told that " before the transaction he had made several attempts to destroy himself at Mr. Bosher's, the Rainbow, opposite the end of Chancery Lane, in Fleet Street, and other public-houses in the neighbourhood."
Cyrus Jay, in 1868, and Cyrus Redding, ten years earlier, have both left word-pictures of the past life of the ` Cheshire Cheese' ; and there is extant a story of Sala, who, having been sent to Paris by the Daily Telegraph, to write on French cookery and restaurant-life, praised both unreservedly, and greatly to the detriment of English fare and tavern-management ; but, on his return to London, rushed off immediately to the ` Cheshire Cheese,' and exclaimed to the head-waiter, " William, bring me a beefsteak, some potatoes in their jackets, and a pint of ale. I've had nothing to eat for six weeks."
Poets have sung the place, John Davidson and Mr. Rhys among them, and at least once it has entered into fiction, when, in the Tale of Two Cities, Sidney Carton takes Charles Darnay to " the nearest tavern to dine well at," after the trial at the Old Bailey.
The ` TRIPLE TUN,' or the ` THREE TUNS,' opposite the ` Cheshire Cheese,' on the south side of Fleet Street, is known to us only by Herrick's reference to it, quoted above. There was another tavern of the same name, frequented by Pepys, near the corner of Chandos Street and standing on the site of 66 Bedford Street, Strand.
Another interesting old tavern on the north side of Fleet Street was the ` GLOBE,' which stood where No. 134 is now, close to Shoe Lane. It was existing in 1636, and thirteen years later one Henry Hothersall obtained a forty-one years' lease of it " at the yearly rent of £75 and ten gallons of Canary sack " and £400 fine. He expended a large sum in rebuilding the premises, and after the Great Fire obtained a fresh lease for sixty-one years at £40 per annum, together with a piece of ground in the rear " for the more commodious landing of his wines from Shoee Lane into his backyard." A tragic occurrence here is thus recorded by Luttrell in his Diary under date of Nov. 14, 1684 : " Sir William Estcourt, foreman of Mr. Noseworthy's jury, was with some of his fellow-jurymen and gentlemen of the country at the Globe tavern in Fleetstreet, where arose a quarrell between Sir William, Mr. St. Johns, and Col. Webb ; but after some words they fell on Sir William, and most barbarously killed him, notwithstanding several persons were in the company : he had five wounds about him ; and the next day the coroner's inquest found it murther in St. Johns and accessary in Webb ; on which they were both committed to Newgate." Both St. Johns and Webb were condemned to death ; but subsequently, pleading the King's pardon, they were discharged.
This house existed down to comparatively recent times, and Timbs tells us that he remembers it as a handsomely appointed tavern. It is, however, many a year since it was one of the features of Fleet Street. In the eighteenth century it was well known for its card-parties, and the clubs which had their head-quarters here. Among the latter were the Robin Hood and the Wednesday Clubs. The latter was a favourite one of Goldsmith's. Says Washington Irving in his Life of the poet : " Another of these free-and-easy clubs met on Wednesday evenings at the Globe. It was somewhat in the style of the Three Jolly Pigeons ; songs, jokes, dramatic imitations, burlesque parodies, and broad sallies of humour formed a contrast to the sententious morality, pedantic casuistry, and polished sarcasm of the learned critic. . . . John-son used to be severe upon Goldsmith for mingling in these motley circles, observing that, having been originally poor, he had contracted a love for low company. Goldsmith, however, was guided not by a taste for what was low, but what was comic and characteristic."
Goldsmith and his friends often finished their 'Shoemaker's Holiday' by supping at the ' Globe,' says Timbs who gives a list of some of the curious characters who were wont to forgather on these occasions, but whose names are now, for the most part, among forgotten things, although they included such once well-known ones as those of Macklin and Dunstall the actors, Woodfall the printer, and Lord Mayor Smith.
One of Goldsmith's delights was listening to a man of immense size, named Gordon, singing ` Notting-ham Ale,' or hearing the surgeon manqué, Glover, give his clever imitations of well-known histrions of the day.
It was at the ` Globe,' or rather on his way to it from the Temple, that Goldsmith made his well known epigram on Edward Purdon, a constant frequenter of the tavern :
"Here lies poor Ned Purdon, from misery freed,
Once more crossing to the south side of Fleet Street, we find two taverns close by Water Lane : the ` OLD SHIP ' and the ` BOAR'S HEAD.' Beyond the fact of adding to the not inconsiderable list of Fleet Street hostelries, the former has no history. The latter, however, which stood on the site of No. 66 Fleet Street, was said to date from the year 1646, although Boar's Head Alley, to which it presumably gave its name, is known to have been in existence in the early years of Elizabeth's reign. In 1775, Sarah Fortescue, who is described as a widow and victualler at the Boar's Head Ale-House, was charged with keeping a disorderly place.
Little is recorded of the 'BLACK LION,' in White-friars, of which Shepherd has left us a spirited water-colour drawing 1 dated 1859 ; or of the ROSE TAVERN, at Fleet Bridge, of which a token, dated 1649, exists ; and the names of the ` GOLDEN LION,' the 'SEVEN STARS,' the 'ST. DUNSTAN'S,' the 'GREY-HOUND,' mentioned by Machyn in 1557, and the 'CROSS KEYS,' 2 have come down to us in such an obscure way, that it is difficult to localise exactly their respective sites.
The ` GREEN DRAGON,' however, which stood on the site of 56 Fleet Street, is recorded so early as 1636. It was burnt in the Great Fire, but rebuilt in the following year, being then set back about six feet.3 It was noted for the clubs held here connected with the Popish Plot, and it was from its windows that Roger North witnessed one of the annual burnings of the Pope, which were once a feature of Fleet Street.
The 'RED LION, " over against Serjeants' Inn," was another hostelry which was burnt in the Great Fire, but not rebuilt. It dated from the later sixteenth century (a mention occurs of it in 1592), and was situated in Red Lion Court, No. 169 Fleet Street. In 1602, Ambrose Lupton, the vintner, described as " inn-holder at the 'Red Lyon ' in Fleete Streete," who " by his freedome keepeth a cellar at the Red Lyon Gate," had a number of cans and pots seized for false measure.
A still earlier tavern was the ` CASTLE,' which stood at the west corner of Shoe Lane, abutting on Fleet Street, and is recorded as being in existence so far back as 1432. It was, during the earlier half of the seventeenth century, the rendezvous of the members of the Clockmakers' Company, who held their meetings here till 1666. At a later date, when rebuilt after the Great Fire, it is said to have been decorated by the largest sign in London,' and about this time its proprietor was Alderman Sir John Tash who died in 1735, having made a fortune as a wine merchant and innkeeper.
Another tavern, only less ancient than the 'Castle,' was the ` BOLT- IN -TUN,' a record of which occurs in the Patent Rolls for 1443.2 It took its title from the well-known rebus on the name of Prior Bolton of St. Bartholomew's, Smithfield. References to this house, - which was once a great coaching rendezvous, are found in the Parish Registers under date 1629, and again in 1660, and five years later, during the Plague, we read that " a boy found dead in the hay-loft, in Boult-in-Tun Stables, was buried." An eighteenth-century record tells us that, in 1759, the keeper of it, one Thomas Walker, was charged with carrying it on as a disorderly house.
One other place which should properly be mentioned in this chapter is Lamb's 'only SALOPIAN SHOP,'
on the south side of the thoroughfare, near Bridge Street. Saloop-houses were to be met with in some numbers in Georgian London. In them was sold a decoction of sassafras, which was originally made from Salep the roots of the Orchis mascula. In the eighteenth century, Dr. Percival was a great believer in this form of the herb, and he affirmed that " it had the property of concealing the taste of salt water, which property, it was thought, might be turned to account in long sea voyages." 1 The last place in which the decoction was sold appears to have been Read's Coffee-House, at 102 Fleet Street, the original of Lamb's 'Salopian Shop,' which existed till 1833, having been first opened in 1719, by one Lockyer,2 who, according to Hotten, took ` Mount Pleasant ' for his sign. The name of Read reminds me that before taking leave of the Fleet Street taverns I ought to say a word about the 'MUG HOUSE,' in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, which was kept by a man of this name.
Mug-house clubs were very numerous in the earlier part of the eighteenth century. They took their title from the fact that each member drank his ale out of his own particular mug. The history of these mug - house clubs enters largely into the political annals of the day. Their members were of the Whig persuasion, and were ever ready to go forth and do battle against the adherents of the Pretender, when the latter were bent on mischief. The mug-house in Salisbury Court was one of the first started, and its frequenters were among the noisiest of the day. Indeed, on one occasion July 20, 1716 they created such a disturbance, by drinking party toasts in the parlour, with the windows wide open, that the mob (which must have contained a large leaven of Jacobites) became so en-raged that it threatened to pull down the place and. make a bonfire in Fleet Street of its contents. The Club immediately closed the windows and barricaded the premises, and having sent a messenger, by a backdoor, for help to another mug-house in Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, awaited events. Soon a noisy body of rescuers was seen proceeding down the Strand and Fleet Street, armed with all sorts of implements. On their arrival, the Salisbury Court ` Mugs ' sallied out, and the mob, caught between two fires, beat a hasty retreat. But it was only for a time ; the mob boiling with rage at this reverse, and merely being kept within bounds by the knowledge that a regiment of horse at Whitehall had received orders to ride into Fleet Street on the first provocation. Three days after the first attack, therefore, one Vaughan urged the people to take revenge for their defeat, regardless of con-sequences. Led by him, and shouting, " High Church and Ormond ! down with the Mug-House," they renewed their attack. Read, fearing that his premises would be demolished and their contents destroyed, thereupon threw open a window, and pointing a gun at the mob, swore he would kill the first who tried to effect an entrance. Vaughan and his band, enraged at this threat, thereupon made a determined rush at the house. Read took aim, and firing, shot Vaughan who fell dead on the spot. His followers, driven to still greater fury at this untoward event, swore they would hang Read from his own sign, and succeeded in forcing their way into the house. Luckily for him, he had been able to escape by a back entrance ; but everything was torn from the building and burnt, and the infuriated people were only prevented from setting fire to the mug-house by the arrival of the Sheriffs with a number of constables. The Riot Act, although read, was helpless in restraining the violence of the crowd, and it was only on the military being sent for that it was possible to disperse it.
Read was afterwards apprehended and tried for the murder of Vaughan, but was subsequently found guilty of manslaughter only ; while some of the rioters were hanged " at the end of Salisbury Court, in Fleet Street," on Sept. 21, 1716. Some years later, the Salisbury Court mug-house was demolished, and gradually this by-product of political enmity died .a natural death.
I may make an end of this chapter by reminding the reader that COGERS' HALL, the headquarters of the Society of Cogers, was situated at 15 Bride Lane, and that the DISCUSSION HALL, where the society founded by Daniel Mason in 1755, and including in its number such famous men as Curran and O'Connell, held their revels, was at 10 Shoe Lane.
Annals Of Fleet Street:
Streets South Of Fleet Street
Streets North Of Fleet Street
Temple Bar And Some Bankers
Inns Of Court And Chancery Clifford's Inn
Churches Of Fleet Street
Taverns And Coffee-houses Of Fleet Street
Famous Men And Women Of Fleet Street
Fleet Street And The Press