It was, however, still standing in 1936, when the photographer Bill Brandt took a series of images of the interior.
Bill Brandt, Barmaid at the Crooked Billet, Tower Hill, 1939
Another Crooked Billet was found on Crooked Lane in Eastcheap, which dated to the reign of James II.
The one which interests me most, however, was at the back of St Clement Danes near the Crown and Anchor. Writing in 1828 on the subject of songs sung about the street, Francis Place recalled this pub in connection with a pair of notorious drinking songs. The first was 'Sandman Joe,' (also known as 'The Sandman's Wedding') which was published in a cleaned up version by the Anacreontic Society which met at the Crown and Anchor. Place's version, however, includes a much more graphic verse that never made it into the printed text:
He star'd awhile, then turn'd his quid
Why, blast you, Sall, I loves you!
And for to prove what I have said,
This night I'll soundly fuck you.
Why then says Sall, my hearts at rest
If what you say you'll stand to;
His brawny hands, her bubbie prest
And roaring cried, white sand O
He concludes his transcription of the song with the following observation:
It was usually for a long time on saturday night sung in an open space at the back of St Clement in the Strand at the front of an alehouse door called the Crooked Billet by two women who used to sham dying away as they concluded the song amidst roars of laughter. (Add MSS 27825 ff. 154)
Elsewhere Place recalls another song sung by (presumably) the same two women:
Two women used to sing a song opposite a public house the sign of the Crooked Billet at the Back of St Clements Church in the Strand it was an open space between Holywell Street and Wych Street. The song was a description of a married man who had a lecherous wife, it described his being a pale fellow reduced by her to a skeleton. I can only remember the last two lines.
“And for which I’m sure she’d go to hell
For she makes me fuck her in church time.”
I remember these words in consequence of the shout which was always got up as the song closed with them. (Add MSS 27825 ff. 148)
This Crooked Billet was located at 37 Wych Street, but changed its name in around 1856 to The Rising Sun. The map below is John Rocque's map of 1746 (this area is awkwardly split between two sheets of Horwood's map of 1792-9). It shows Wych Street and Holywell street coming together to form "Back Side" just outside St Clement's opposite Arundel Street, where the Crown and Anchor was located.