Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Duke's Head, St Martin's Lane

A report from Spy Powell on a LCS General Committee meeting on 24 September 1795 states: "A Society meeting at the Duke's Head St Martins Lane (to which a deputation was sent to hold a conference last week) sent a letter that they were willing to become a division of the London Corresponding Society. The Committee gave them the No 68 & appointed a deputation to open it."

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The area around St Martin's Lane appears to have operated as a radical stronghold in the late 1790s, and indeed for the early decades of the nineteenth century. Iain McCalman identifies the Angel in Cecil Court as one of the alehouses which became a focal point for resistance to the attempts by City magistrates to close down or frighten alehouses that hosted LCS divisions, and which "recurred as radical venues in later years" (Radical Underworld, 1988, p.115). The Duke's Head was located at number 37 St Martin's Lane, on the site which is currently occupied by Bertorelli, and Italian restaurant (unusually the house numbering appears unchanged since the 1790s). According to an anecdote in the Gentleman's Magazine for June 1795, this was next door to the "immortal mansion of the great Sir Issac Newton" which was later occupied by Dr Burney. The Duke's Head, the correspondent claimed, "was rebuilt some time ago, and between the wainscot and the old walls was found the remains of a cat in the act of devouring a huge rat."

View London Corresponding Society Meeting Places in a larger map has found listings for the Duke's Head in various directories and census data, starting in 1839, and continuing until 1899. Sun Fire Office Records held at the Guildhall Library confirm that the Duke's Head existed from at least 1791 (when it was insured to Thomas Underwood). In 1816 it was the site of a violent robbery, for which there was a trial at the Old Bailey.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dog and Duck, Bond Street

According to the minutes of an LCS General Committee meeting on 13 August 1795, division 28 "Branches to Dog & Duck Bond St." The new branch was to be designated div. 49, and would meet on Wednesdays. The LCS minutes list "French, Gibbons, Read, Hewit" as member of the new division. A Report from Spy Powell from the meeting, however, lists a different set of names: "Willson, Constable, Pelton & Mc.Guire to open it" (Add MSS 27813 fos. 101v-7v; PC 1/23/A38; Thale 285-7).

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A well-known pub called the Dog and Duck that stood on St George's Fields in Southwark, but this was not the one used by the LCS. I have been unable to find a Dog and Duck in Bond Street, however a number of nearby streets including Ducking Pond Mews and Ducking Pond Row (now Grafton Street) refer to the popular sport of duck hunting, in which dogs were trained to catch ducks whose wings had been clipped and were compelled to dive underwater to avoid capture. This was apparently popular in Mayfair, and was presumably where the Dog and Duck got its name. Reginald Colby's Mayfair: A Town Within London, asserts that there was "an old half-timbered public house with a garden attached at the lower end of Hertford Street" called the Dog and Duck.

Writing in 1903 for Walter Besant's series on The Fascination of London, G.E. Mitton wrote that the Dog and Duck was on Carrington Street "behind which was a pond 200 feet square, where the sport of duck-hunting was pursued in the eighteenth century. The site is now marked by Ducking Pond Mews." Ducking Pond Mews no longer exists, but Carrington Street does. It is a small street leading to an NCP car park.

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Carrington Street today.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Crown and Thistle, Peter Street

According to a report from spy Kennedy from c. 20 November 1792, Division 4 met in the "Crown & Thistle Peter St Westr" (TS 11/959/3503; Thale 29). The report is brief, simply stating that the meeting was "Partly of the same Tenor" as the meeting of div. 3 (held on 14 Nov at the Green Dragon in King Street Golden Square). Kennedy's report from the div. 3 meeting states "Their principle conversation was respecting the reform & each firmly resolv'd to support each other in the business to see themselves righted but without any violence whatever."

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According to the Survey of London, Peter Street, which is a small passage west of Wardour Street in Soho, probably gets its name from a saltpetre house which was built in 1656. "In 1720 Peter Street was described as 'a Street not over well inhabited', and in the 1830's as 'a short dirty street, without any thoroughfare'. By the late nineteenth century the buildings had become 'wretched hovels, and a disgrace to humanity'."

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As befitting an area which is a disgrace to humanity I have been unable to locate further information about the Crown and Thistle, though Horwood's map shows that a large brewery belonging to Sturkey and Co occupied a large plot at the end of the Peter Street. Whether the Crown and Thistle had any connection with the brewery is unknown.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Crown, Newgate Street

In October 1792, the spy George Lynam joined Div. 12 of the LCS which met at the Crown in Newgate Street. His report of this meeting was brief: "Read the Copy of the Address to the French Convn. which was first proposed by the Meeting at the Unicorn and brought forward the 27 Septr. last" (TS 11/959/3505; Thale 25).

Lynam had in fact been partially responsible for the LCS meeting at the Crown, having warned the landlord of Mansion House -- the previous meeting place of division 12, about the unconstitutionality of the LCS (see ST vol 24, cols 763 & 805). This must have been on Oct 24 at the latest.

At Hardy's Trial Lynam mentioned that he was also present at a meeting of Div. 12 at the Crown on 31st of October. According to Lynam the Address to the French Convention was reported (ST vol 24 col 765)

On 14 November 1792 Lynam gave an account of a general meeting of the LCS at the Unicorn in Henrietta Street. At this meeting it was reported that a meeting had taken place on the same day at the Crown in Newgate Street (TS 11/959/3505; Thale 26-7). At Hardy's Trial Lynam revealed that he had also attended the meeting at the Crown, but that nothing material happened there (ST vol 24 col 766).

Spy Christopher Kennedy also reported that a meeting of Div. 12, consisting of about 40 people, met at the Crown on 14 Nov. 1792: "Heard the Society was to be remov'd to Finsbury Square on Tuesdays -- Also that Mr Erskine was to be council in behalf of Mr Paine." The delegate was reported as Freemantle (TS 11/959/3505; Thale 29).

Lynam was again present at a meeting of Div 12 at the Crown on 21 November 1792. A government paraphrase of his report state: "21 Novr. -- The Witness [Lynam] was present at the Meeting of Division No. 12 at the Crown in Newgate Street when the report was made from the Committee of Delegates of the Letter having been received from Norwich... enquiring whether the London Correspg Society ment to rest Satisfied with the Duke of Richmonds Plan only or whether it was their private intention to rip the Monarchy by the Roots & place Democracy in its sted, -- The Delegates suspected this might be some scheme to draw them into some unwarrantable expressions & declined answering" (TS 11/954/3498; Thale 31).

At Hardy's trial, Lynam claimed that Division 12 had branched off into Division 23 on 21st of November, and met at the Ship in Moorfields on 27th November, and that he was appointed delegate at the 27th November meeting. (ST vol 24. 767; TS 11/959/3505; Thale 31).

The final meeting at the Crown appears to have been in February 1793. On 21 February 1793 Lynam reported that "Field met Division No 12 at yd Crown Newgate Street. They where refused a room 2 Common Council being there saying they wo'd take away the licence if entertain'd --" (TS 11/958/3503; Thale 52).

The Crown was located near the corner of Newgate Street and Warwick Lane, just to the South of Crown Court. Floor plans from 1796 held at the London Metropolitan Archive, show a three rooms, labelled "Room," "Barr," and Tap Room." It was part of the Bridge House Estate.

The house measured approximately 20 feet by 50 feet. According to John Summerson's Georgian London the size and shape of London houses were determined by the need to get as many houses as possible onto one street. This resulted in a simple plan consisting of "one room at the back and one at the front on each floor with a passage and staircase at one side. On a site as narrow as twenty-four feet hardly any other arrangement is possible; in broader sites it is still a perfectly satisfactory and economical arrangement." Given the width of the plot of the Crown it is unsurprising that it adheres broadly to this plan -- known as the "standard" or "Summerson" plan. (See Neil Burton and Peter Guillery, Behind the Facade: London House Plans, 1660-1840. Reading: Spire Books, 2006, p. 14).

Floor plan of the Crown, along with a three room building stretching from Newgate Street to Crown Court. (London Metropolitan Archive COL/CCS/PL/01/202/61). Click to enlarge.

More recent studies have complicated the idea of the standard plan, and demonstrated the number of variations that existed on this basic design. The Crown modifies the standard plan by adding an extra room to the back, which provided another entrance to Crown Court. A substantial chimney with fireplaces in both the "Barr" and the back "Room" suggests that this back room was a feature of each of the floors and was not merely an extension on the ground floor.

It is not clear how many floors the house had, though the plans show two flights of stairs: one at the front of the house, on Warwick Lane, and one at the side of the second "bar" room.  It was common to have an uncovered staircase at the front of the house which would lead to the basement, but the floor plan suggests that the front stair case was covered -- the wall at the front of the stairs being more substantial that the thinner dividing wall that separates the Tap Room from the corridor containing the staircase. There also appears to be an entrance into the Crown from the narrow corridor (entrance could be gained by a door on Warwick Lane that took the patron along the passageway into the back of the Tap Room). It seems likely that these narrow, covered stairs would provide access to both the basement and to the upper rooms, and may well have functioned as an means of access for the landlord or for people living on other floors, so they didn't disturb patrons in the Crown by using the larger staircase behind the "barr".

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Unusually the house had no window on the Warwick Lane frontage. Instead light entered through windows on Crown Court, on which the main entrance was also located. The plan also shows a window at the back of the pub (on the South side of the "Room"). According to Horwood's map, this would have looked out onto the yard belonging to the Bell Inn. As an inn, the Bell would have had stables for horses and both horses and humans would have regularly passed the Crown's back window. The building that Horwood shows stretching back from Newgate Street into the open area shared by the Crown and the Bell was number 17 Newgate Street, better known as the Cat and Salutation. This was a favorite haunt of the twenty-two year old Coleridge, where he, Lamb and other Pantisocrats in  1794-6, indulged in "pipes, tobacco, Egghot, welch Rabbits, metaphysics and Poetry." (Letters of Charles and Marry Anne Lamb,  ed Edwin Marrs. Ithica and London, 1975-8, i. 65.)

One further point of interest regarding Horwood's map: Horwood's plan to number each of the houses on his map was not entirely successful, and Warwick Lane was one of the areas where his numbering system broke down. Part of the difficulty, it seems, was the problem of what constituted a "house." The Crown's three rooms are represented on Horwood's map separately, and it is not hard to imagine that, were they not used as a public house, each of the rooms could have been used separately as individual residences.

Presumably when Horwood conducted his surveys for his map he was only looking at outer walls, and had to guess how they were divided up internally. Horwood also marks four separate houses in the area going south from Newgate Street to Crown Court. On the floor plan in the London Metropolitan Archive this was a single, narrow building consisting of three rooms -- a "shop," a "parlor," and a "yard" (a window from the parlor to the yard indicates that the yard would have been a walled, enclosed but uncovered area). The building was 15.5 feet wide and 85 feet deep (including the yard). What Horwood shows as different houses might actually have been multiple rooms within the same house.

Today on the site is a large office building. The Saint wine bar is within a few yards of the original site of the Crown, where the Cat and Salutation originally stood.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Crown, Air Street

Towards the beginning of the LCS's existence, on 20 November 1792 Christopher Kennedy, of Cross Court Long Acre, a carpenter and Bow Street constable, reported that Div 16 met on Wednesday at the Crown, Air Street, though he himself was not in attendance. (TS 11/959/3505; Thale 29).

On 7 February 1793 spy Lynam reported from a meeting of the LCS general committee that: "Division 28 met 11 in number last night Field deligate for 18 first meeting at yd Crown Air Stt Piccadiliy."

According to the Survey of London, vol 31:

'Aire Street' (which in its southern part follows the boundary of Swallow Close and Round Rundles) first appears in the ratebooks in 1658, its name being presumably derived from Thomas Ayres, brewer, who held leases in the neighbourhood. The northern part of the street formed the western boundary of the Sherard estate, and was sometimes referred to as Francis Street, probably after Francis Sherard. The St. Albans rent-roll of 1676 mentions twenty-three houses in the street.

According to John Feltham's The Picture of London for 1803 there was a dissenting meeting house in the street at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

This area was heavily rebuilt as part of Johh Nash's Regent Street and Piccadilly developments from 1811 to 1825. The Crown, however, seems to have survived these development and continued to exist until at least 1834, when the landlord Joseph Henry Winter insured it with the Sun Fire Office (see Guildhall Library MS 11936/544/1184257).

Air Street was severely damaged in the Blitz, as this photograph from Life shows, although whether the Crown had survived that long is highly doubtful.

In the words of the Survey of London "Air Street is now arched over at first-floor level by the buildings on the north and south sides of the Regent Street Quadrant, which cuts across the street near its southern end."

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