Sunday, August 24, 2014

Globe Tavern, Strand

Not to be confused with the Globe Tavern on Fleet Street, the Globe on the corner of the Strand and Craven Street housed the general meeting of all divisions of the LCS on Monday 20 January 1794. The meeting was organized by a subcommittee of LCS members including John Thewall, John Philip Franklow, and Thomas Stiff, who all acted as Stewards. In the chair was John Martin. The meeting began at 1pm and was followed by dinner at 5pm. Tickets cost 5s and 6d, wine included (6d less than the dinner at the Crown and Anchor, and 6d less than the abandoned dinner at the Globe Fleet Street the previous September). According to later accounts the meeting was attended by a great many members, with most of them leaving before dinner, at which 500 were present.

Advertisement for the meeting in the Morning Chronicle January 18, 1794

Thomas Hardy later provided the following account of the meeting:

A remarkable incident happened in this days business. The multitude who assembled at the tavern in the first floor being so heavy that one of the principle beams of the floor broke in the middle and gave way about a foot and threatened destruction to the whole building and also to the large company that were in the house - great confusion ensued everyone endeavoring to get out of the house first - to save his life - however it soon subsided - carpenters were set to work immediately and put up temporary supports in the coffee room underneath. When that was done the society resumed business - they were not to be deterred from proceeding with what they had projected by a threatened accident of that sort. When they had finished by receiving the unanimous assent of the society present to the address he adjourned, except about five hundred who dined together and spent the remainder of the day in the greatest harmony and conviviality. (British Library Add MSS 27814 fo. 39)

The account is significant for a number of reasons (not least of which Hardy's usual determination to depict the meeting as harmonious and respectable despite the collapse of the floor, which could easily be represented as an inevitable outcome of a meeting of the swinish multitude). For my purposes it's interesting because it provides useful details about the layout of the tavern, which in fact conforms to the floor plan of many of the more respectable taverns of the period. On the ground floor is the coffee room -- the respectable more public face of the tavern. Upstairs on the first floor is the large room where meetings and large dinners could be held, which could be privately hired.

Hardy also provides a sense of the order of the events of the meeting. During the business part of the meeting in the afternoon the address was read and resolutions agreed to. After the conclusion of the business, dinner was served accompanied by "harmony and conviviality," involving presumably the singing of songs and the drinking of toasts.

Cover page for the Address from the Globe Tavern
 The order of events is significant because the meeting at the Globe Tavern came up again and again during the Treason Trials of both Hardy and Thelwall later that year. One of the issues which was hashed out by the lawyers during the trial was whether the allegedly treasonous songs that were sung at the meeting were part of official LCS business, or whether they were sung by private individuals at a private dinner. Were they sung as part of a large conspiracy to subvert the authority of the government, or were they utterances of private individuals exercising their constitutionally protected right to exchange opinion? The meeting at the Globe Tavern then is of particular interest to historians of the LCS because we have an almost complete record of the events of the meeting: the arrangements made for the meeting itself, the advertisement placed in the newspapers, a sense of the building in which the meeting took place, printed copies of the address that was given, the resolutions that were agreed to, the toasts that were drunk, and the songs that were sung (3 of which were by Thelwall), as well as several eye witness accounts given as evidence during the Treason Trials.

The Globe Tavern meeting was of particular interest during the Treason Trials in part because the address, resolutions, toasts and songs were noticeably less circumspect than at other LCS meetings, which had much to do with the timing of the meeting. The meeting followed on the heels of the first of the Edinburgh trials for sedition which took place after the British Convention. The LCS had sent  two members to Edinburgh, Joseph Gerrald and Maurice Margarot. Six days before the Globe meeting Margarot had been been found guilty of sedition and sentenced to 14 years transportation. Joseph Gerrald would eventually be given the same punishment, although his trial was postponed until March, so he was present at the Globe tavern meeting, where he gave a moving tribute to Margarot. Also present, acting as a Steward, was Charles Sinclair who had been at Edinburgh convention serving as the delegate for the Society for Constitutional Information, though he wasn't brought to trial as he turned King's evidence.

Feelings at the meeting were understandably running high, leading to a number of particularly (uncharacteristically) incautious comments. The rousing final statement of the address, for example, pointed out that men in a state of civilized society were bound to seek redress of their grievances from the laws as long "as any redress could be obtained by the laws," pointing out that "we must have redress from our own laws and not from the laws of our plunderers, enemies and oppressors." This was followed by a resolution that the LCS general committee would meet every day during the next session of parliament and "upon the first introduction of any bill or motion inimical to the liberties of the people" they would issue a summons to the delegates of each division and to the different societies with which they corresponded to call for a General Convention of the People -- precisely the kind of convention for which Margarot had received fourteen years transportation.


There are references to a Globe Tavern in the Strand as early as 1736, though the tavern on the corner of the Strand and Craven Street begins to appear in newspaper reports with some consistency from 1770 onwards. It was particularly prominent during the 1790 Westminster Election, when the supporters of Lord Hood's election campaign met there regularly, campaigning not only for Hood's re-election but also for a peaceful election campaign -- with recent turbulent and sometimes violent elections in mind -- which involved Public Houses being closed for entertainment, and no music being used which might "disturb the tranquility of the city."

World 18 June 1790
For the same election the Globe was also used for a dinner by supporters of Horne Tooke, the SCI leader, where the tickets cost 7s 6d -- making the LCS's 5s 6d seem relatively inexpensive, though still perhaps surprisingly steep for a society comprised of tradesmen and shopkeepers.

World 31 January 1789
In February 1789 the tavern's lease was put on sale at a cost of one hundred pounds a year by the incumbent occupant Mr Luke Reilly, who listed his occupation as "Vintner," the usual designation for keepers of taverns. The advertisement claimed that the tavern had been in operation for "upwards of 50 years," but had been recently renovated for sale. The advertisement also mentions arched vaults, cellaring and stabling in the tavern, and that the tavern, "frequented by the most respectable Companies, Parochial Meeting and established Societies," provided "every convenience for business."
World 18 January 1791

Apparently the sale of the lease was not a success, and by May 1790 Reilly, still the vintner, was advertising that the tavern had been re- opened having undergone further alterations including a considerable expansion of the building, with particular emphasis being placed on the "very capacious concert and ball room" -- where presumably the LCS meeting took place -- as well as several Dining rooms in addition to the "spacious and pleasant Coffee Room" downstairs.

By the end of the eighteenth century the Globe had changed its name to the Craven Hotel, which continued to operate on this site into the early twentieth century (see the post office listings on At the time of writing the site, on the stretch of the Strand between Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Station, was occupied by a branch of the clothing retailer Next.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Globe, Fleet Street

At a meeting of the LCS General Committee on 15 August 1793 a sub-committee was appointed to organize a General Meeting (Thale 79). It had already been decided that a General Meeting should take place on September 2nd. This was to be another large meeting of all members of the LCS, not restricted to individual divisions, on the model of the meeting that had occurred at the Crown and Anchor on 8 July 1793. The meeting was to take place at 2pm on 2 September, there were to be 1000 tickets available, priced 6d - the same price as the tickets for the July meeting at the Crown and Anchor (compare this with the 7s 6d spy Groves paid for his ticket to the SCI meeting at the Crown and Anchor in May 1794). All that was left was for the subcommittee to hire a room for the meeting, for which they were provided with 7 Guineas.

It is notable that the obvious choice -- the Crown and Anchor -- was not selected. Correspondence to other societies around the country suggest that the LCS leaders thought the first meeting had been very successful. They were proud, they said, of how peaceably the meeting had been conducted. Perhaps the presence of John Reeves and his Association at the Crown and Anchor meeting had been a deterrent -- the first meeting had gone well, but there were no guarantees that the next meeting would. Or perhaps the vintner at the Crown and Anchor, Thomas Simpkin, was unwilling to let his tavern out to a society who were becoming increasingly notorious. Whatever the reason, the subcommittee instead announced on the 22nd August that they had selected the Globe Tavern in nearby Fleet Street, another of the handful of well-known taverns in London which could accommodate meetings of a thousand people.

On the morning of the 2 September meeting Sir James Saunderson, the Lord Mayor, confronted the landlord of the Globe Tavern threatening him with the loss of his license and the prosecution if he allowed the meeting to go ahead (Thale 81). The St James's Chronicle gleefully reported that the mayor had "intimated to the master of the house the character of his guests" at which he "very prudently locked up all his plate. The gentlemen took this amiss, and went away."

St. James's Chronicle  August 31, 1793 - September 3, 1793.

The LCS meeting minutes take a rather different view of events:

This Meeting appointed to be held at the Globe Tavern Fleet Street was prevented from meeting there by the illegal interference of Sir James Saunderson - the Committee therefore in order that the Society might not be disappointed agreed with Lewis the Auctioneer at No. 314 Oxford Street for the Use of his Room, ordered the printing of 700 Hand bills & posted two men at the Globe tavern to distribute them. (Thale 81).

The meeting went ahead at this "obscure place in Oxford Street" (as the St James's Chronicle described it). At the Oxford Street address Joseph Gerald read an Address and 4 resolutions were made.

1/ That the interruption they had met with on the Part of the Lord Mayor of London was unconstitutional but the public Character of Sir James Saunderson was so despicable as to render him unworthy of the attention of the London Corresponding Society.

2/ that a Certain number of Members of the Society would adjourn to Supper at the Globe Tavern in Fleet Street purposefully to indemnyfy the Landlord from the effects of the unconstitutional prohibition of the Lord Mayor

3/ That the Address be printed & Signatures obtained to the Same in order that it may be presented to the King as soon as possible.

4/ That the next General Meeting of the Society shall take place on the 1st. Monday after the meeting of Parliament - liable to be convoqued if the General Committee think it necessary. (Thale 81).

This next general meeting took place in January 1794, and the venue was named as the Globe Tavern. And this is where things get slightly confusing. There were two different taverns called the Globe, one at 134 Fleet Street (sometimes 133), at the corner of Shoe Lane, and one at the corner of Craven Street and the Strand. The original general meeting of the LCS had been intended for the large, well-known tavern on Fleet Street, which could easily have accommodated the one thousand persons the general committee anticipated. The January 20th meeting took place at the second Globe, which will be treated separately in my next posting. Understandably, the proximity of these two taverns with the same name has been the cause of some confusion, not least in the trial of David Downie and Robert Watt in 1794, transcriptions of which mention the second meeting as taking place in Fleet Street. But the contemporary documents, including newspapers and the LCS records are consistent in saying that the second meeting was at the Globe in the Strand, not in Fleet Street.

The Globe on Fleet Street was one of the largest and best known taverns of the eighteenth century. According to Bryant Lillywhite the Globe Tavern on Fleet Street dated back to at least the early seventeenth century when it is mentioned in accounts of mobs which ran riot in 1629. That tavern burned down during the great fire of London in 1666, and was rebuilt by the vintner Hothersall for the cost of one thousand pounds (Lillywhite 234).

John Roque's map (1746).

Mentions of the tavern in the newspapers of the eighteenth century are far too numerous to catalogue here, suffice to say that the Globe was used for the usual variety of purposes which eighteenth-century taverns accommodated: political dinners, meetings of various extra parliamentary groups, a masonic lodge, a place to celebrate anniversaries of significant events, a theatre ticket box office, a place where subscriptions for charitable purposes could be received, an auction house, and so on. 

In April 1749 Henry Fielding received evidence in the Globe from a witness who claimed to have caught her master having sex with another man in his Chamber in Islington. Numerous anecdotes circulate about Oliver Goldsmith's connections with the Globe, and it was rumored to be John Wilkes's favorite tavern. Joseph Brasbridge's The Fruits of Experience (1824), contains a substantial account of the colorful characters who frequented the Globe in the 1770s.

Washington Irving in his Life of Goldsmith describes the Wednesday Club, a "free-and easy" which met at the Globe "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. . . . Johnson 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."

In his 1902 London in the Eighteenth Century, Walter Beasant provides the following unattributed description of the Globe in the mid-eighteenth century: "this was one of those places a little above the a public-house in accommodation and character. There was a common parlour into which scarcely anyone entered promiscuously; almost every one was more or less of a regular frequenter of the room after being introduced by some of the old sets."

Meanwhile a satire, The Court of Equity or a Convivial City Meeting, published in 1779 depicts the interior of the tavern at this time, showing (among others) Robert Dighton, the artist. In the middle of the print is Thomas Thorpe the landlord of the tavern, approaching Dighton and his father with a bowl of punch. Brasbridge described Thorpe as "too convivial and too liberal to make [the Globe] anything but a losing concern." He apparently died insolvent. The print shows a relatively small, but well-appointed room with a series of coats of arms hanging from the wall. It shows the pipe-smoking and punch-drinking that formed a central part of convivial gathering. And it shows, too, an ornately decorated large chair to the left of the print in which the chair person for the occasion sits.

Fine dining was evidently one of the Globe's specialities. In 1788 Richard Biggs, a former cook at the Globe, published The English Art of Cookery, according to present practice.

Roach's London Pocket Pilot (1796), lists the Globe in Fleet Street, along with five other taverns, (the London Tavern in Bishopsgate Street, the Paul's Head in Cateaton Street,  the St Alban's Tavern in St Alban's Street, the Thatched House Tavern in St James's Street, and the Star and Garter in Pall Mall) as providing the best food available in London. At these taverns "are to be met all the most delicate luxuries upon earth, and where the fortuned voluptuary may indulge his appetite not only with all the natural dainties of every season but with delicacies produced by means of preternatural ingenuity," (43-4).

More directly relevant to the LCS was that the Globe in Fleet Street housed meetings of the Ciceronian School, a debating society in which John Gale Jones, surgeon mid-wife and LCS member, participated. On 2 March 1795, during a debate on the question "at this awful moment of difficulty and danger, which best deserves the public confidence, Mr. Pitt or Mr. Fox?" Jones gave a speech that was so well received he thought it worth publishing, the first of his orations to make it into print.

In the late 1790s the Globe begins to appear in directories as a Coffeehouse, rather than a tavern, in part no doubt to appeal to a more respectable clientele, though it frequently reverts back to its earlier designation as a tavern.

A trading card held in the British Museum, dated 1797 describes the Globe as a "Hotel, Coffeehouse and Tavern." The description below reads "Michl Rowed having fitted up the above house in the most elegant stile for the accommodation of Lodgers, Dining parties, &c Begs leave to assure those Gentlemen who may honor him with their favours that the utmost diligence will be exerted in every department of his house to give entire satisfaction."

An advertisement appearing in the Norfolk Chronicle or Norwich Gazette on 8 July 1797 similarly tries to recuperate the tavern from associations with disreputable radicalism by emphasizing its elegance and indicating that the presence of lodgers was a relatively new experiment: "Michael Rowed begs leave to return his thanks to those Gentlemen who have honoured him with their support since opening the above house for the reception of Lodgers... His lodging rooms possess superior recommendations; they are retired from the street; water is conducted into all of the by proper pipes, and they are fitted up with peculiar regard to cleanliness and general conveniences. The situation of the House is neatly in the center of the united Cities of London and Westminster, and in the immediate vicinity of the Inns of Court."

Ralph Roylance's Epicure's Almanack (1815) meanwhile describes it thus: "The Globe Tavern, No 133, Fleet Street, is kept by Messrs Tucky and Bolt. The edifice stands on the site of one of the oldest taverns in the city of London, and deservedly maintains the character of being a modest excellent house. Here are soups and a larder at command. Joints of prime meat are sent round at the stated ordinary hours in the same style as at Andertons." 

In December 1820 a ball was advertised as taking place at the Globe, Fleet Street. This was held by Thomas Wilson, a dancing instructor and author of the verse comedy "The Disappointed Authoress."
There are mentions of "Globe Coffeehouse and Hotel" in the notoriously unreliable Picture of London, as late as 1833. John Timbs, writing in 1866 said that he remembered the Globe "a handsomely appointed tavern some forty years since; but has long ceased to be a tavern." The tavern keeper, L.W. Williams was listed as bankrupt in March 1826.

By 1830 a Globe Tavern on Shoe Lane, begins to be listed, that has radical associations. Letters for the Metropolitan Political Union (whose members included Henry Hunt and Daniel O'Connell) could be addressed to the "Globe Tavern, Shoe Lane, Fleet Street." This tavern (at 111 Shoe Lane) seems to have been something of an outgrowth of the Globe tavern on Fleet Street, coexisting alongside it in the 1820s, insured to the same owner -- Sophia Chisholm, who is listed as the insurer in 1824. At this point 111 Shoe Lane was known as the "Globe Tap," operating simultaneously alongside the Globe Tavern.

By 1832, 134 Fleet Street, the former site of the Globe Tavern, was insured to Henry Dobbs and Co, who were listed as "stationers book binders and black lead pencil makers" (Sun Fire Office Records LMA MS 11936/536/1148024). Among their other properties was listed the "Globe Tavern, Shoe Lane,"which was presumably the former "Globe Tap" now elevated to Tavern status with the original tavern now closed.

The site is currently occupied by Goldman Sachs International, in a building designed by the American firm Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, constructed in 1988-91.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

George, West Harding Court, Fetter Lane

In the minutes of a LCS General Committee meeting, held on 23 July 1795, it was reported that Div 13, would branch to the George, West Harding Court, Fetter Lane on the following Wednesday, where  Ward, Canty, Rawson, Hastie, Oxlaid would act as deputies (Add MSS 27813, fos. 76v-82; Thale 268).

Horwood's Map. Click to Enlarge.
Fetter Lane is a north-south artery that connects Fleet Street with Holborn. John Strype reported in his Survey of 1720 that the houses in Fetter lane were generally good and "well inhabited". West Harding Street, towards the south end of Fetter Lane, was a small street of around 10 buildings, connected to East Harding Street, which Strype identifies as one of the nicer streets of this relatively affluent neighborhood, in part because it is "open." This was a stronghold of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, and was part of the area known as Goldsmiths Rents. In 1794 the committee of the Goldsmiths Company announced that they would sit at their hall to receive proposals for "repairing the Leases" of Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in West Harding Street. (Oracle and Public Advertiser, October 9, 1794). West Harding Street is part of the maze of small streets and alley's near where Samuel Johnson lived, that I have described elsewhere. I have been unable to locate any record of a pub called the George on this street outside the LCS meeting minutes themselves.

The area, especially the north end of Fetter Lane, was severely damaged by bombing during the second world war, and much of it was redeveloped in the post-war period. None of the eighteenth-century buildings on West Harding Street survived and both sides of this narrow lane are now occupied by large modern office buildings.

West Harding Street today.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

George, Compton Street

Following the passage of the Two Acts in 1795, certain sections of the reform movement grew increasingly disillusioned with the possibility of a peaceable parliamentary reform, and began to adopt a more aggressive policy to overthrow the government. The United Irishmen had long advocated a more direct approach to instigating a political revolution, and began to forge closer links with likeminded English radicals. The United Englishmen, a society modeled on the United Irishmen and committed to insurrectionary politics, was particularly strong in the north of England, especially in Manchester, but similar groups -- calling themselves the United Britons and True Britons also had cells in London, where they met at Furnival's Inn on the Strand and in the house of Thomas Evans in Plough Court, Fetter Lane. In 1798 Evans also served as the secretary of the LCS, and in April  he used his contacts within the LCS to attempt to establish a new division of the United Englishmen, at a public house that was already being used by a division of the LCS.

The first meeting took place on 18 April 1798 at the George on Compton Street, Clerkenwell (not to be confused with Compton Street, Soho, where the LCS also frequently met). Evans had urged many LCS members (including Francis Place, Edward Despard, Benjamin Binns and the spy James Powell) to bring with them as many acquaintances as possible. Some (including Joseph Nagle and William Webb) clearly thought they were going to a meeting of the LCS. Others, including Francis Place, knew full well that Evans was trying to promote a revolution and stayed away. Wisely, it turns out. The government were fully aware of what was afoot, and once Evans had arrived, promptly arrested everyone present.

An unsigned deposition provided by an attendee, gives an account of the meeting:

About  the later end of the year 97 the divison [of the LCS that I attended] was moved to St Johns lane Green man where it continued till the later end of march 98 when it was moved to the Georg the corner of compton Street the wich house iatended the division two or three tims when evans called on me and told me there wold be ameeting on wendesday in the evening & desired would com and bring with me as many of my acquantance as icould iatended the meeting which ibelieve from the test found upon him he ment to to propose to be a meeting of true britains which test idid not take we being all takeing into custody five minutes after Evans came into the room (PC 1/43/A153; Thale 429).

The Report of Committee of Secrecy (1799) provides the texts of the "tests" that Evans had on him at the time of his arrest. This was an oath, which read as follows:

I ____ do truly and sincerely engage to defend my Country should Necessity require; for which Purpose am willing to join the Society of True Britons to learn the Use of Arms, in order that equal Rights and Laws should be established and defended.

The name of the Society given in the oath, the True Britons, rather than the True Englishmen, attests to the continuities between various London radical groups in the final years of the 1790s. The names the societies were given were largely insignificant given the widely overlaps in both personnel and meeting places. (Although it should be noted that -- at least in retrospect -- Francis Place was keen to associate himself with the London Corresponding Society, but attempted to distance himself as much as possible from the insurrectionary tactics of the United Englishmen).

Along with this oath, The Report of Committee of Secrecy also provides the text of another oath that was found on the Floor of the George after the arrests of the members:

Report of Committee of Secrecy, 1799, Appendix, p.75.
The focus of this oath is on secrecy -- on not giving evidence against any other members of this or any other society -- testifying to the assumed joint venture of the various radical societies in the late 1790s, and also to their (justified) paranoia that they were being infiltrated by spies. Place was convinced that the main reason the United Englishmen continued their existence was because they were encouraged by the spies who had infiltrated the society and were reporting back to the government. Certainly James Powell (who Place claimed had thrown this second oath under the table, and who he described as a "easy silly fellow," Autobiography 179) was very active in the establishment of the division of United Englishmen.

Also significant in this second oath is the emphasis on religious toleration, which was no doubt inherited from the (largely Catholic) United Irishmen, but which also undermines  the frequent (in the period) association between sedition and godlessness. Many members of the LCS -- as Williams Hamilton Reid's Rise and Dissolution of the Infidel Societies, made clear -- were religious, including Thomas Hardy and Evans, though they tended towards dissenting traditions rather than state-sanctioned Anglicanism, hence the emphasis on toleration.

Click to enlarge
The George was located in Clerkenwell, at the junction of Compton Street and St. John's Street. It was owned by the Dickinson and Co brewery, which operated out of St John's Street. There had been a brew house attached to the Unicorn inn since at least the 1670s, which had become known as the Horseshoe by the 1740s. The Dickinsons acquired the Horseshoe brewery, which occupied the site to the south of Compton Street along with other property in the area in 1764 and began expanding operations, changing the name, once again, to St John of Jerusalem.

In 1818, the brewery was sold to Harvey Combe and Joseph Delafield.  The sale included the beer, hops, malt, horses, drays, casks, the brewhouse and the several public houses owned by the brewery. The deeds which were acquired included those to the George which was described as being "on the west side of St John Street and the north Compton Street, St James, Clerkenwell." A new lease was signed for the George on 2 March 1798, six weeks before the United Englishmen met there, and during the time the LCS were meeting there (City of Westminster Archives 789/246). 

Under the stewardship of Combe and Delafield most of the properties formerly belonging to the Dickinsons were broken up and sold on. The site of the Horseshoe brewery became part of the Cannon brewery, which was acquired by the Taylor Walker Group in 1930, subsequently taken over by Ind Coope. The site was seriously damaged during the 1940-1 Blitz, and though it recommenced operations after the war, it was finally closed in 1955 (See Survey of London, vol. 46).

The site of the George became part of a distillery, which was built in 1828 by John and William Nicholson.  The Nicholson distillery expanded throughout the nineteenth century, with the St John's Street frontage becoming offices in the 1870s and 80s and further expanded in the 1890s. The Nicholsons distillery was, like the Canon brewery taken over by Ind Coope after the second world war, and put up for sale in 1961. The former distillery was redeveloped into apartments, known as St Paul's Square in 1997-8 (see Survey of London, 46).

187-205 St John's Street, former offices of Nicholson's Distillery
Opposite the site formerly occupied by the George, at 180 St John Street, is now (2013) a pub called the Well. Until fairly recently it operated under the name the George, and dates back until at least the early nineteenth century, when presumably it was associated with the Canon Brewery (see I mention this because for a while I assumed that this George was the alehouse in which the LCS met. The deeds in the Westminster Archive that locate the George on the west side of St John Street and the North of Compton Street are in fact the only records I have found that contradict this location, and it remains possible that the records are inaccurate -- especially given that the unsigned deposition quoted above locates the George on Compton Street, not St John Street. 

I have decided to treat the Westminster archives as accurate, however, because they are contemporaneous with the LCS records, whereas the records for the George on the east side of the street all date from after the turn of the nineteenth century, and it was common practice for houses to adopt the name of public houses that had previously existed nearby. 

The George at 180 Compton Street was demolished at the turn of the twentieth century, and was rebuilt in 1901 by the architect W.A. Aickman for the publican H.H. Finch.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Friend at Hand, Little North Street

On 8 November 1792, with the LCS around six months old, three new divisions were set up, including division 19, which had splintered from division 6. The new division first met on 26 November 1792, at the Friend at Hand on Little North Street in Knightsbridge with John Richter elected as the delegate to the General Committee (Thale 26n; BL Add MSS 27812, for 24-4v). On 30 October 1794, at the trial of Thomas Hardy, evidence was given that 6 members were present at the first meeting of the division (ST vol. 24 col. 574).

The Friend at Hand has proven stubborn to identify, in part because in the late eighteenth century Knightsbridge remained a relatively small village outside of London between Chelsea and Kensington. Finding a reliable contemporary map has proven a challenge, it was not, for example, sufficiently large to merit inclusion on Horwood's Map of 1792-9, which only made it as far west as Kensington. Nor have I been able to find any records of a "Little North Street" in Knightsbridge, though there was a North Street (now Basil Street), which presumably was connected with Little North Street. Things are further confused by the fact that the house was at the junction of North Street, Queen Street, and Elizabeth Street, all of which have changed their names at least once, and the address is variously given as being on one of these streets, with very little consistency of address. The confusion is compounded by the fact that "Knightsbridge" did not designate a district so much as a street name until the twentieth century, earlier it was more properly considered a part of Brompton.

Greenwood Map of 1830

A classified ad for the lease for the Friend at Hand appeared in the Morning Post and Daily Advertiser on 15 September 1791. The listing describes a "well established public house" with a "house adjoining," and describes its location as "desirably situate the corner of North and Queen-Street, near Sloane Square." The estate was sold by auction by Mr. Christie, who had established his auction rooms thirty years earlier in the 1760s, and which is today the world's largest auction house.

Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 15 September 1791.
Like many other public houses of the eighteenth century the Friend at Hand occasionally served as an auction house itself. In June 1791 a large collection of fire arms consisting of "double and single barreled fowling pieces, rifle bullet guns, pistols and blunderbusses" was sold there by auction.

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 28  June 1791.

On 6 April 1797 the address of the Friend at Hand was given in a classified ad in the Morning Post and Fashionable World as "Elizabeth-Street, Hans-Place," rather than Queen Street. And while it's tempting to think that perhaps the house had moved to an alternative nearby location, later addresses continue to list it at Queen Street, suggesting that it had not moved, but that addresses were given with rather more latitude around the turn of the nineteenth century.

According to the Sun Fire Office Records a "Friend at Hand" was insured to "Edward Bates, at the Friend at Hand, Queen Street Brompton" in August 1810 (London Metropolitan Archives MS 11936/453/846997).

By August 1820 the Friend at Hand on Queens Street, Brompton was insured to a William Vinall (LMA MS 11936/483/970363). The same address and the same owner is provided in the Sun Fire records office until 12 March 1823 (LMA MS 11936/498/1001908). From the 1826s on the Friend at hand appears in various directories with the address 1 Elizabeth Street (see In January 1830, for example, Michael Collins of the Friend at Hand, Elizabeth Street, Brompton, was declared bankrupt (Law Advertiser 8.1 (1830): p1). The address is given consistently as Elizabeth Street until 1886, when Queen Street and Elizabeth Street were renamed Hans Road, which is the name by which it still goes.

The Survey of London (vol. 41) reports that "at the comer of North (Basil) Street next to the entrance to the Queen's Gardens School, the Friend at Hand public house was rebuilt in a cheerful stripey style by Dear and Winder, architects, in 1894." Again, there is no guarantee that this was the same "Friend at Hand" that the LCS met in one hundred years previously, but if not they must have been very close to the same location.

The Survey of London says that all of the buildings on the former Queens Road that were developed at the end of the nineteenth century, including the new stripey Friend at Hand, disappeared in 1908–12, as the Harrods department store (initially based on Brompton Road) bought up the leases and expanded on to the sites. One of the last mentions of the Friend At Hand occurs in the Post Office Directory of 1910, where the landlord is listed as Edwin Cash, and the address is given as 37 & 39 Hans Road.

Harrods viewed from corner of Hans Road and Basil Street

Unsurprisingly, given the fame of Harrods there is a substantial archive of photography which document the history of the area. A search for "Hans Road" on Collage brings up numerous images of Hans Road from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, documenting the growth and development of the department store.

Harrods, Brompton Road: by Hans Road looking east.
Photograph from 1892; London County Council Photograph Collection at the LMA.

Frustratingly, however, most of the images are from the Brompton Road end of Hans Road, looking east and none show the junction of Hans Road with Basil Street (where the Friend at Hand still existed into the early twentieth century). The Friend at Hand, like many of the alehouses in which the LCS met remains just out of shot, proximate to, but never quite present in the recognizable images of the metropolis.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

French Horn, Lambeth Walk

French Horn in 1965, courtesy of London Borough of Lambeth.

At a meeting of the General Committee on the 6 August 1795 it was reported that "Div 13 branches to the French Horn Lambeth Walk to be No 44 Neale, Peirce, Williams" (Add MSS 27813, fos. 94-101; Thale 280). By September, however, the division's meeting place had to be moved from the French Horn to the Queens Arms Kennington Lane,  (PC 1/23/A38; Thale 305). Spy Powell later reported from a meeting of the General Committee held on 29 October 1795 that the Landlord had lost his license "on account of a Division meeting there" and that "a deputation [was] appointed to enquire into the character of the House" (PC 1/23/A38; Thale 318).

The report is intriguing as it suggests that the General committee were willing to provide funds to help support landlords who had lost their licenses due to LCS activities, though they would not do so indiscriminately. The need for a deputation to enquire into the character of the House suggests it was not well known to the members of the General Committee, and required further investigation to find out whether it was solely the fault of the LCS that the landlord has lost his license, or whether they had been a pretext for the magistrate to take away the license of a public houses that was already of ill-repute. It suggests some of the complications the General Committee faced in the relatively prosperous years between the 1794 Treason Trials, and the Two Acts.

The French Horn in 1989, Courtesy of Steve White2008, under Creative Commons License.
Peter Walker's The Pubs of North London (P. Walker, 1989), claims that the pub was founded in circa. 1750 and rebuilt in 1890. In 1989 he describes it as a “nice family pub”, remarking that “the new tenant has been making some good internal improvements, removing some of the less attractive partitions and exposing the earlier surfaces.” The later building still stands, but no longer operates as a public house.

For much of the eighteenth century Lambeth Walk was a small country lane known as Three Coney Walk. The area became significant thanks to Lambeth Wells which opened towards the end of the 17th century, principally to provide water to St Thomas's Hospital. The fields in the area became a popular resort and people would come for the water, and concerts and dancing were held for their entertainment, and the Wells became a well-known pleasure garden for about fifty years. By the 1750s however it was condemned as a nuisance and the Great Hall in which the entertainments were held was denied a dancing license, when it became a Methodist meeting room, (see Warwick Wroth, Pleasure Gardens of the Eighteenth Century, 1896 pp. 279-80 and The Vauxhall Society website).

The French Horn seems to have been built at about the time that Lambeth Wells was closing, and indeed may well have taken its name from the musical entertainments that were popular at the pleasure garden. The earliest record of it I can find dates from February 1774, when the lease was up for auction. The advertisement for the auction described it as "that old-accustomed Public House," suggesting that it had existed for some time. "The Premises" the advertisement promised, "are greatly improved, and upwards of 200l. have been laid out on them within these two years." Again the suggestion is that it had been standing some time, but that it had gained a reputation that only a substantial facelift could improve.

Daily Advertiser (London, England), Monday, February 21, 1774
The public house is mentioned again in the Times on October 13 1788, where an article mocking the pointless fad of collecting, describes "a person at the French Horn, in Three Coney Walk, [who] has spent twenty years collecting a variety of stuffed birds and cockle shells, which he now call a Museum."

Times, October 13, 1788.

Three Coney Walk must have changed its name to Lambeth Walk shortly after this article was published, as it is known as by the latter name by 1795 in the LCS papers. Subsequent records suggest that it was originally at number 113 Lambeth Walk, on the corner of Walnut Tree Walk.

Horwood, Map of London 1799. Click to enlarge.

Records from the Sun Fire Office show that the French Horn in Lambeth Walk was insured to a John Beeby from 1820 to 1829 (London Metropolitan Archives MS 11936/478/964197, 14 February 1820;  MS 11936/521/1088293, 12 March 1829). The Will of Elizabeth Beeby (National Archives, PROB 11/1843/367) lists the French Horn as her address in March 1835. The pub history website reports records a series of landlords between 1869 and 1884, by which point the street numbering had changed, the address now listed as 49 Lambeth Walk. By now Lambeth Walk was the home to a thriving street market, described by Henry Mayhew as having 164 costermongers' stalls. The market continued to flourish until the end of the Second World War.

In June 1998 the it was proposed that Lambeth Walk and China Walk be designated a Conservation area. "In the 1950's" the proposal claimed, "massive clearance schemes robbed the area of much of its character, sweeping away late Georgian and Victorian properties and replacing them with medium rise blocks of flats and open grassed areas. However, an interesting group of about two dozen properties survived agains the odds - many are in a various states of disrepair [sic], but together form an important reminder of the old historic and architectural character of Lambeth Walk."

No. 49 Lambeth Walk was one of the historic buildings that the report singled out as architecturally significant, describing it as "an attractive four storey building, formerly the French Horn Public House... It has stock brick elevations with re-brick banding and Edwardian style painted timber sash windows - on the first floor surmounted by subtle red-brick pediment detailing."The report comments that the public house had a similar architectural treatment to  numbers 77-87, which it estimates was built in about the 1910s.

At the time of writing the building has been converted into offices by the "Lambeth Tavern Management Company,"so the later building remains, though, despite the misleading sign it does not function as a public house. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fox and Hounds, Sydenham, Kent

At a meeting of the LCS General Committee on 13 August 1795 it was reported that a letter had been received from Thomas Holmes of Division 27 stating "We wish to form a division on 16 July at 2pm at the Fox and Hounds, Sydenham, Kent." The new division was to be  number 52, and several of the leaders of the LCS -- Hodgson, Haselden, Place, Higgins, B. Binns, Saml Smith, Morris, and Dyer were to attend.

Photograph by  Ewan Munro per Creative Commons License.

There remains a pub, called Fox's, on the site of the Fox and Hounds, on the corner of present day Wells Park Road and Kirkdale. The current building was erected in the 1880s to designs by Thomas Haliburton Smith, and was notable for its saloon bar -- one of the first of its kind -- which has since been demolished.
Image of the newly rebuilt Fox and Hounds, with ground floor plan,  February 1890
There was a Fox and Hounds on the site, much earlier than this, as shown on Stanford's Library Map of London and it's Suburbs from 1862.

No image of the first building remains, however, and there is much confusion over when it was built. One local historian claims that "The Fox and Hounds was first licensed in 1826, and was thus one one the earliest buildings in the High Street." The mention of it in the LCS records, however, suggests that it predated this "first licensing" by at least thirty years. The LCS records are not the only evidence of the earlier existence of the Fox and Hounds, however, on 17 September 1798, a Robert Phillips took out a classified advertisement in the Morning Post and Gazetteer, complaining of a horse that had been left at the Fox and Hounds nearly a year previously, which he had been forced to look after at his own expense.

There is also mention of a "Fox and Hounds" on Sydenham Common, Lewisham in a document dating from 10 July 1769, when it was described as a house belonging to William Cooper (Kent History and Library Center, Lewisham  Q/RH/1/5W 1769). Other descriptions of Sydenham Common dating from the same period suggest that there were very few buildings in this area at the time, suggesting that the town of Sydenham was developed around the original Fox and Hounds building. It's population grew considerably in the nineteenth century, after the opening of the canal 1801. In 1854 the Crystal Palace, originally erected to house the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, was moved to Sydenham.