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.
Deadpubs.co.uk 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.