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.

Fourteen Staries, Rosemary Lane

In his report on a meeting of the General Committee that took place on 17 September 1795, Spy Powell reported that Division 10 was to move from "14 Stairs Rosemary Lane to the Queens Arms Crutched Friars"

The Fourteen Stairs was insured to John Withers, victualler, on 26 June 1794, (Records of the Sun Fire Office, London Metropolitan Archive, MS 11936/397/628684). It was still operating in 1800 when it was insured to "Earl." The records from the Sun Fire office lists the address as "10, 11, 12 Rosemary Lane" suggesting that is occupied the site of three separate buildings to the west of Rosemary Lane, next to the Tobacco Warehouse.

Rosemary Lane, now Royal Mint Street, ran from Cable Street to the Tower of London. The poet Edmund Spenser was born here in 1552, and endowed a group of cottages on the north side of Rosemary Lane as almshouses. Though a relatively short street, Rosemary Lane was well known as the site of Rag Fair, which is mentioned frequently in literary works of the eighteenth century. Daniel Defoe's Colonel Jack (1722), for example, went with his companions to Rag Fair and "bought two pairs of shoes and stockings for 5d., and went on to a boiling Cook's in Rosemary Lane where they found cheap fare."  Rag Fair also appears in Pope's Dunciad as one of the areas in which journalists liked to gather. Pope provided the note: "Rag-fair is a place near the Tower of London, where old cloaths and frippery are sold."

Rag Fair had a particular reputation for selling goods that had been stolen, and the cheapness of the goods was frequently remarked upon. According to Thomas Pennant in his book Of London (1790), "The articles of commerce by no means belie the name. There is no expressing the poverty of the goods, nor yet their cheapness... It was here, we believe, that purchasers were allowed to dip in a sack for old wigs -- a penny a dip."

In his Every-Day Book (1826) William Hone describes the activities of Sir Jeffrey Dunstan (c1759-96), "a dwarf with knock knees and a disproportionately large head" who "earned his living by supplying dealers with second-hand wigs":

When Sir Jeffery raised the cry of 'old wigs', the collecting of which formed his chief occupation, he had a peculiarly droll way of clapping his hand to his mouth, and he called 'old wigs, wigs, wigs!' in every doorway. Some he disposed of privately, the rest he sold to the dealers in 'Rag-fair'. In those days, 'full bottoms' were worn by almost every person, and it was no uncommon thing to hear sea-faring persons, or others exposed to the cold, exclaim, "Well, winter's at hand, and I must e'en go to Rosemary-lane, and have a dip for a wig." This 'dipping for wigs' was nothing more than putting your hand into a large barrel and pulling one up; if you liked it you paid your shilling, if not, you dipped again, and paid sixpence more, and so on. Then, also, the curriers used them for cleaning the waste, &c. off the leather, and I have no doubt would use them now if they could get them.

Thomas Rowlandson's drawing of Rag Fair shows a busy street scene bustling with traders and buyers with clothes littering the ground, hanging from windows and suspended from poles protruding from upper-floor windows.

(For more on Rag Fair see Rictor Norton The Georgian Underworld.)

It seems the LCS connection with the Fourteen Steps was a brief one. It only appears once in the LCS records, in the spy report by Powell, and there it appears as a site which the LCS was moving away from. Precisely why the LCS had to remove from this area can only be a matter of speculation. Perhaps by September 1795 the LCS was sufficiently disreputable that they couldn't be accommodated even in Rosemary Lane.  Or perhaps the LCS no longer wanted to be associated with an area so closely associated with criminal activity. Regardless, the Fourteen Steps, is characteristic of the kind of "low" alehouse that the LCS divisions often met in, that has left only the slightest trace on the historical record.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fountain, Virginia Row, Shoreditch

The minutes from a meeting of the LCS General Committee on 27 August 1795 report that:

The following wish to establish a Divn at Fountain Virginia Row Shoreditch -
Wm Weston              I Dykes
J Downing                I Keene
P Dykes                    R J Lester
N Hammersley         N Clayton
J Drior                      S Davies
Joseph Thompson    W Smith
Thos Carter              J Salter
D Barking                John Croft
J Young                   C Hartley
J Jones                     H Fox
John Kniblet            J Devonshire
C Bower

A Citizen said that it would be best for those Citizens to enter into a Division on the spot which there was one at Bethnal Green, & then they might branch to that house -- And there was a Person named Dykes amongst them as he believed was not a good Citizen as he belonged to the Loyal Britons  On the other hand it was stated that we ought to appoint a deputation & let them establish a Divn for it we ought to give all encouragement possible to Citns wishing to become Members & that they had as good a right to open a Divn by themselves, as to tun to some Place a distant from their habitations to join one
Citn Place said he had once being a Loyal Briton, but he did not think himself any worse for it, & he said he knew that Dykes -- & beleived him to be a very good Citizen -- Citn Wilson informed the Commee he had once belonged to the Loyal Britons -- & he made no doubt but the Citn was fully convinced of his error
To be 55 Deputed B Binns Dyall, Cardinall Webb, Canty (Add MSS 27813, fos. 113v-21; Thale 291. See also PC 1/23/A38; Thale 296 for Powell's spy report from the same meeting).

In May 1766 the lease for the Fountain was sold by auction, when it was described as a "well-known and good-accustomed Public House, known by the Fountain in Verginina-Row behind Shoreditch church, with a large new erected drinking-room, and three bed-chambers over ditto; there are three skittle grounds, one bear ditto, two gardens, and a plat [sic?] of ground... The whole premises are subject  to the rent of 35l." (Gazatteer and New Daily Advertiser, 24 May 1766).

Gazatteer and New Daily Advertiser, 24 May 1766.

Apparently the auction did not go well, as it was put of for sale again by the same auctioneer, Thomas Skinner,  less than two months later (Daily Advertiser, 18 July 1766).

In July 1783 the lease was auctioned again, after the death of its previous owner, Samuel Newton, who still had 11 years left on his lease at the time of his death (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser 10 July 1783).

Skittles appears to have been a particularly popular past time in the area. The History of the County of Middlesex reports that "Gambling with cards and shuffleboard, especially on Sundays, were included in charges against disorderly alehouses in 1818. Gambling at cards and skittles in beershops were the principal recreations around Virginia Row in 1875."

In 1800 and again in 1807 the Fountain was insured to a "gentleman" named John Johnson from Canal Row in Rotherhithe. (Sun Fire Office Records, Guildhall MS 11936/418/706377; MS 11936/441/809048). And in March 1811 it was insured to a large brewing company Messers Clowes and Co, of Stoney Lane, who owned around fifty other public houses in East London around Whitechapel,  Shoreditch and Bermondsey. (Guildhall MS 11936/452/854816).

In December 1827 it was insured to Henry Fearon (Guildhall MS 11936/514/1069271).

It continued functioning throughout the nineteenth century. The website deadpubs has traced the Fountain in various post office directories until 1915. The London Metropolitan Archive holds a box of "secretaries papers" relating to buildings formerly owned by Courage and Company Limited, including  one dated the 13th August 1923 that agrees to the sale of the building. The consent of debenture agrees to sell the "aforesaid formerly used as a public house know as "The Fountain" but now unlicensed" to Louis Harr for £125. The building is listed as number 93 Virginia Row, though according to deadpubs, in the eighteenth-century it had been 13 Virginia Row Shoreditch.

The area is now occupied by a post-war housing development.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fleece, Little Windmill Street

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In the minutes of the LCS general committee from 27 August, 1795 "The Fleece little Windmill Street Golden Sqre" was reported as one of eleven houses that "wished to receive Divns" (Add MSS 27813, fos 113v-21; Thale, 292). The minutes from the general committee meeting two weeks later (10 September, 1795) then reported from Division 31:

The Delegate informed the Comee that that Landlord (where his Divn met) informed him they must get a fresh place to meet in, As he should [not] have his license renewed if he let them meet in his house - they therefore moved to the Fleece little Windmill St to meet to morrow & then change their night to Wednesday.
(Add MSS 27813, fos. 126-9; Thale 302).

The earliest mention of the Fleece is in the coroner's inquest into the suspicious death of Elizabeth Cooper, who was found "hanging by a Cord fastened to a Staple from the Ceiling with her head hanging down." (See City of Westminster Coroners.) The witness for the inquest was questioned at "the Dwelling House of Mr. Thomas Watson the Sign of the Fleece in Little Windmill STreet" on 30 July 1773.

In a trial at the Old Bailey in 1774 Joseph Medcalfe was sentenced to death for breaking and entering the Fleece at 2am on 16th April and stealing four hundred and eighty copper halfpence, the property of Thomas Watson, who kept the Fleece. Medcalfe was a young boy who had allegedly broken into the tap room with two accomplices by breaking the shutters and sash window. When a watchman disturbed them the burglars ran away, but Medcalfe was caught in the passage of a nearby house.

In addition to keeping the Fleece, Thomas Watson for many years ran the box office of the Haymarket Theatre. And indeed it seems that the Fleece itself occasionally sold tickets for Haymarket performances. Tickets for a performance of the "The Gentle Shepherd" by Allan Raeburn at the Haymarket on 9 February 1784 could be had of "Watson at the Fleece, Little Windmill Street (being the original Scotch house)." (See The London Stage, 1660-1800 , Vol 5, 1776-1800, p. 679.).

Watson had a son (also Thomas Watson) who was a notable artist, who was still living with his father at the Fleece when he exhibited a drawing at the first exhibition of the Royal Academy. (See Gordon Goodwin, British Mezzotinters: Thomas Watson, James Watson, Elizabeth Judkins (London, 1904)).

Iain McCalman identifies the Fleece as one of the alehouses, along with the George in East Harding Street, the Green Dragon in Fore Street and the Cecil in St Martin's Lane, that became a focal point for resistance in the years after the LCS were outlawed. It subsequently became a regular meeting place of Thomas Spence's free-and-easies. (McCalman. Radical Underworld, p. 115.)

On 12 February 1808, during the time it was used for Spence's meetings the Fleece was insured to John Clark with the Sun Fire Office (see Guildhall Library MS 11936/445/814167).

In Pigot's directory of 1839 the Fleece is registered to Thomas Laidley, and the address is given as 27 Little Windmill Street

In the 1840s the Fleece was the home to one of twelve societies into which London's tailors had combined in order to regulate their trade at a time when the business was dramatically falling off, thanks to the increased mechanization of the trade. (David Goodway, London Charistm, 1838-1848, p. 172).

Little Windmill Street was renamed in 1885, when along with Cambridge Street it became part of Lexington Street. Horwood's map shows a brewery further south on street, belonging to "Starkey & Co," which was the latest installment of Ayre's Brewery, and was likely where the Fleece purchased its beer. Ayres's Brewery had first been set up in about 1664, and was rebuilt in 1700. A Survey conducted by Henry Mayhew in 1831-6 show the site with some of the houses built in 1700 still lining an open court. (See Survey of London, Vols 31-2)

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The site on which the Fleece formerly stood is currently occupied by the PR agency Trimedia.

Lexington Street in the present

Monday, March 5, 2012

Feathers, Charles Street

A spy report from Spy Powell from a meeting of the LCS General Committee on 17 September 1795 mentions the removal of "Div 42 from the 1 Ton Strand, to the Feather Chas Court Strand."

In the 1770s the Feathers tavern was a regular meeting place of clergymen, who gathered there to campaign for relief from parliament. In the 1780s it was also the meeting place of the Society for the Support of Decayed Musicians, whose chairman was Charles Burney. (See Morning Post and Daily Advertiser July 27, 1784).

In December 1790 a T. Williams announced in the World newspaper that he had recently fitted up the tavern "in a genteel manner, with good beds, and well aired apartments for the reception of Families." Announcing also hat the he had "Fine Old Port, of the vintage eighty-seven and eight, wholesale and retail."

World Tuesday, December 14, 1790

For all Williams' intentions to make the tavern into a genteel location for Families, it seems to have remained an obscure house which barely registered on the consciousness of the metropolis. Horwood did not mark it on his map, something that he did with large, respectable taverns. Indeed he shows only a uniform row of featureless, unnumbered houses down each side of Charles Court, which suggests that he felt there was nothing there worth observing more particularly.

In 1720 Strype described Charles Court as "a very handsome new-built Court, with Houses fit for good Inhabitants, having a Stone Pavement down to the Thames, where there is a Pair of Stairs for the conveniency of the Water. Out of this Court there is a Passage intoVilliers-street, and another intoHungerford Market. But by the beginning of the nineteenth century the old market and its surroundings had become an eyesore, "a deplorably dirty-looking piece of ground, flanked by squalid houses, and little better than a monster dust-heap, and a cemetery for the dead dogs and cats of the neighborhood." In 1862 the whole of the area in clouding Charles Court and Hungerford Market, was bought by the Charing Cross Railway Company for the formation of Charing Cross Station. (See Survey of London, Vol 18)

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Falcon, Gough Sq.

In a spy report from 23 June, 1794, spy Metcalfe gave a rare glimpse into what an LCS meeting might have involved:

Went in Company with Burks and Davis to the Falcon in Gough Square, where Division 9 which had been nearly dispersed had been assembled, there was 30 present and it appeared to be an Evening of pleasure rather than business, many very Treasonable Songs were sung and they did not break up until past 12 oClock (Thale 1897; TS 11/956/3501).

This was the second of two meetings that Metcalfe had attended that evening (the other was a meeting of the Div. 6 at the Parrot in Green Harbour Court by the Old Bailey). And while Metcalfe's reports tended to a zealous conservatism, determined to show the malefactors of the LCS in the worst possible light, his report on the earlier meeting had conceded that there was nothing of interest to report. The evident glee with which Metcalfe reported on the "evening of pleasure" at the Falcon and the "Treasonable songs" they sung may well have been heavily colored by his loyalist sentiments, but this is not to say they were untrue.

Despite Goddard's claim in Hardy's Treason Trial of 1794 that he had never heard songs sung at LCS meetings, there is plenty of evidence that songs were indeed sung. Metcalfe enclosed a copy of one song that he says he heard at the meeting called "Parody on the Song of Poor Jack," printed by Thomas Spence. According to Thale this song "contemptuously dismissed Richmond and Burke, it concludes that the time is near when Britons "shall assert their demand," and that tyrants shall never rule this island" (Thale, 187 n. 91).

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The Falcon was (somewhat confusingly) located very near the Falcon on Fetter Lane, in one of the mazey allies to the north of Fleet Street near where Samuel Johnson lived (Johnson lived at 17 Gough Square). It had been there at least since 1768, when it was listed as one of the addresses at which E. Graves of Shadwell could be contacted by those gentlemen who wanted to decorate their ceilings with "ornaments of paper-machee."

In August 1835 it was insured to a John Crump with the Sun Fire Office, which lists the address as Goldsmith Street, a small alley with around 10 residences just off Gough Square (Guildhall Library, MS 11936/546/1202777).

In 1846 it was registered as the address of the "Falcon Coal Club," (see Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons, 1877)

In a letter to Scottish Notes and Queries in October 1902, J.F. George observed that when he used to lunch occasionally at the Falcon it was a house that was "much resorted to by overseers and machine operators from the neighboring printing offices."

It remained on the site until around 1944, when it was run by Mr and Mrs Cliff Taylor, who removed to the Golden Lion in Kings Street, most likely because of damaged sustained to Gough Square in the second world war.

(Thanks to Mike Weaver, via

I have been unable to locate precisely where the Falcon was on Gough Square. Goldsmith Street on which it was located, no longer exists, buried somewhere underneath Pemberton House. This image of Gough Square from 1902, however, gives an idea of the Square itself before the post-war redevelopment.

Robert Randall, 1902, London Metropolitan Archives, Pr.267/GOU

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Falcon, Fetter Lane

At a meeting of the LCS Northern District Committee on the 29th of January 1796 it was reported" "Div. 13 to Branch to the Falcon Fetter Lane to be No 90 Dep Evans. Rhynd MackNaughton to open it" (Thale 340; PC 1/23/A38).

The Falcon was located at 10 Fetter Lane, on the East side near Fleet Street.

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At the trial of James Jones for theft in 1822, the victim, Alice Robinson described how she had gone into the Falcon with her husband, a mariner, at around 2pm in the afternoon, having been taken into the pub to get some "directions about a ship." They were taken into the back room of the Falcon, where initially there was only one other man, though they were later joined by two more men, including Jones. The man who had bought them to the alehouse and Jones proceeded to play what amounted to an elaborate game of heads or tails, at which Jones lost. Jones then accused the others of being poor people who intended to rob him. At the encouragement of her husband Alice Robinson showed the man two five pound notes which she had with her in order to demonstrate that they were not poor and didn't need his money. The man who had originally accompanied them into the Falcon then snatched the money out of her hands and passed it along to James Jones, who ran out of the room. Alice chased Jones out of the room into the passageway, while her husband seized the man who had offered them direction for the ship. A fight ensued which spilled out onto the street, and concluded with the capture of Jones in a grocers shop. In the trial Jones claimed that he had won the money of Robinson in a bet, he was found guilty and sentenced to be transported for life.

The trial reveals several interesting things about the Falcon. In terms of the architecture it is clear that there was a back room, which could be accessed directly from the street by a passageway. There was also, presumably, a front room that had a separate enterance. Alice, who had a certain amount of money, was able to enter into the back room of the Falcon (accompanied by her husband) at 2pm without her respectability being called into question. Gambling seems to have been common practice in the pub's back room, and the landlord, who enters the room at several points to bring beer, and pen and ink, raises no objection to the gambling, which seems to have involved at least four out of the five people in the room, even though the Robinson had never met Jones and his accomplice before.

This seems to have been a medium-sized public house, somewhere between an alehouse and a tavern, which could be understood as either.

The earliest record of its existence is April 1739, when a meeting of fan painters was held here (London Evening Post, April 24-26, 1739), though there are references to a "Golden Falcon" on Fetter Lane as early as 1710.

In April 1795 a meeting of Uncertified Bankrupts, which had previously met in the highly respectable Crown and Anchor, took a step downmarket to meet here.

In 1791 the Falcon was offered for lease. It was described in the advertisements as a highly valuable property consisting of two separate, but related businesses. One side "was fitted up with much judgement for carrying on the Spirit and Wine trade, the other side for the Tavern and Public Line, having such commodious rooms for company and such conveniences as scarcely can be equalled. The whole in excellent repair, there having been upwards for 300l. laid out within six months thereon for that purpose; the rent moderate and the return near 200l a month." (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, May 30, 1791).

In the 1850s the Falcon was frequently used by the Freemasons, suggesting that by then (if not before) it was a relatively respectable house. lists Post Office records for the Falcon and 10 and 11 Fetter Lane from 1856 continuing until 1923.

Fetter Lane was badly damaged during the second world war, though the Falcon seems to have survived. Records at the Corporation of London Records Office list alterations, including plans, made to the building in 1923, 1933, 1951 and 1954 (COL/SVD/PL/02/0497 1923 - 1954).

This photograph in the London Metropolitan Archives, shows the Falcon still functioning in 1970. The site is now occupied by a branch of Books etc.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Elliots Head, Mitcham

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In the minutes of an LCS General Committee, from 10 September 1795 it is reported that at an apparently fractious meeting, Division 57:

requested a deputation to go to Mitcham to morrow evening to meet at the Elliots head the other side of Newington at 1/4 before 5 O'Clock.
To be No 60 deputed Haselden, Hiram Powell B Binns
Morgan, Haselden resigned -
Movd & Sec'd that Citn Patton be heard - Neg, -
(Thale, 302; Add MSS 27813, fos 126-9)

Mitcham, at about 9 miles to the South of Westminster Bridge, was a significant journey from London, but evidently close enough that deputations could be expected to travel there from the Metropolis. According to Daniel Lysons "The Environs of London" published in 1792, there were around 450 houses in Mitchum, with a substantial amount of land (250 acres) used for "physic gardeners, who cultivate lavender, wormwood, camomile, aniseed, rhubarb, liquorice, and many other medicinal plants, in great abundance; but principally peppermint, of which there are above 100 acres. The demand for this herb is not consined to the apothecaries shops, it being much used in making a cordial well-known to the dram-drinkers."

I have been unable to find any records of an Elliots Head in Mitchum, although another public house of that name was in the new development of Prospect Place in St George's Fields near Lambeth.

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Monday, March 23, 1795.

Powell, listed as one of the deputed men, was a spy. His report listed the meeting place as the Buck's Head, not the Elliot's Head, so this could simply be an error in the LCS minutes.