UK Pub history and historical street directory of London and the UK

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I thought I would select a couple of London pubs and try and dissect their history. I always like to have a dig at the many sites that describe a pub as being here in the 15th century, when what they are actually describing is a building from the 15th century which may have become a pub about 1990, or later!

Why is a modern theme pub purporting to be 600 years old. I guess, if If I have a broom and I replace the head and the handle enough times, it is still the original pub / broom? (Only Fools & Horses, Trigger)

Anyway, a little scholarly help and google books advanced search has come up with The history of signboards from the earliest time to the present day by Larwood, Jacob, 1827-1918; Hotten, John Camden, 1832-1873. It is full of references to many early London Inns and Taverns. At a time when but few persons could read and write, house signs were indispensable in city life. The London Directory contains the names of hundreds of streets which derived their titles from taverns or public houses in the immediate neighbourhood.

There was a Mitre near the west end of St Paul's, the first music-house in London. The name of the master was Robert Herbert alias Forges. Like many brother-publicans, he was, besides being a lover of music, also a collector of natural curiosities, as appears by his " Catalogue of many natural rarities, with great Industrie, cost, and thirty years' travel into foreign countries, collected by Robert Herbert, alias Forges, Gent., and sworn servant to his Majesty ; to be seen at the place called the Musick house at the Mitre, near the West End of S. Paul's Church, 1664."

This collection, or at least a great part of it, was bought by Sir Hans Sloane. It is conjectured that the Mitre was situated in London House Yard, at the north-west end of St Paul's, on the spot where, afterwards, stood the house known by the sign of the GOOSE AND GRIDIRON.

Goose & Gridiron, 8 London House Yard, St Pauls

Goose & Gridiron, 8 London House Yard, St Pauls

In these early days, Lodges in England met in taverns, and were distinguished each by the name or sign of the tavern where it assembled. No other name designated it, nor were numbers then used as now to particularize a Lodge. This nomenclature was the prevailing one in 1761, and probably existed afterwards. At the Apple Tree Tavern, in Charles Street, Covent Garden, four of the leading London Free Masons' lodges, considering themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren in 1716, met and chose a grandmaster, protern., until they should be able to place a noble brother at the head, which they did the year following, electing the Duke of Montague. It appears that the "four old Lodges of London" met, respectively, at the Goose and Gridiron, St Paul's Churchyard; The Crown, Parker's Lane ; and at the Rummer and Grapes Tavern, Channel Row, Westminster, in 1716, and that the Grand Lodge of England was organized at "the said Apple Tree.".

The early licensees of the Goose & Gridiron are well documented from Old Bailey records, early Sun Fire Insurance records and latterly through Trade directories and census. The pub is demolished in 1895, and for at least 40 years from July 1849, at the end of its existence,  it is licensed by William Making from Lavenham, in Suffolk, and latterly his son of the same name. It is likely this son goes onto license the Lord Holland, in Holland street, Brixton.

But the most famous of the inns with this, name, was the Mitre in Mitre Court, Fleet Street, one of Doctor Johnson's favourite haunts, " where he loved to sit up late," and where Goldsmith, and the other celebrities, and minor stars that moved about the great doctor, used to meet him. This house is named in the play of " Ram Alley, or Merry Tricks," in 1611. It was one of those houses which, for more than two centuries, was the constant resort of all the wits about town ; even the name of Shakespeare throws its halo around this place :

" Mr Thorpe, the enterprising bookseller of Bedford Street," says Mr J. P. Collier, " is in possession of a MS. full of songs and poems in the handwriting of a person of the name of Richard Jackson ; all prior to the year 1631, and including many unpublished poems by a variety of celebrated poets. One of the most curious is a song of five-seven-lines stanzas thus headed : ' Shakespeare's Rime which he made at the Mytre in Fleete Street.'

In this same tavern Boswell supped, for the first time, with his idol, and the description of the biographer's delight on that grand occasion has a festive air about it that cannot fail to make a lively impression on his readers :

"He agreed to meet me in the evening at the Mitre. I called on him, and we went thither at nine. We had a good supper, and port wine, of which he then sometimes drank a bottle. The orthodox high church sound of the Mitre, the figure and manner of the celebrated Samuel Johnson the extraordinary power and precision of his conversation and the pride from finding myself admitted as his companion, produced a variety of sensations and a pleasing elevation of mind beyond what I had ever experienced. "

There, also, that amusing scene with the young ladies from Staffordshire took place, which would make an excellent companion picture to Leslie's " Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman."

" Two young women from Staffordshire visited him when I was present to consult him on the subject of Methodism, to which they were inclined.
Come (said he) you pretty fools, dine with Maxwell and me at the Mitre, and we will talk over that subject, which they did; and after dinner, he took one of them on his knees and fondled them for half an hour together."

Hogarth, too, was an occasional visitor at this tavern. A card is still extant, wherein he requested the company of Dr Arnold King to dine with him at the Mitre. The written part is contained within a circle, (representing a plate) to which a knife and fork are the supporters. In the centre is drawn a pie with a Mitre on the top of it, and the invitation

In this tavern the Society of Antiquaries used to meet, before apartments were obtained in Somerset House. "The Society hitherto having no house of their own, meet every Thursday evening, about seven o'clock, at the Mitre Tavern in Fleet Street, where antiquities are produced and considered, draughts and impressions thereof taken, dissertations read, and minutes of the several transactions entered, and the whole economy under such admirable regulations, that probably in a short time they may apply for a royal power of incorporation." 

The Old Worlds End, 459 Kings Road, Chelsea - Licensee G Oake, circa 1894

The Old Worlds End, 459 Kings Road, Chelsea - Licensee G Oake, circa 1894

Kindly provided by John Carnaby

The sign of the last house in a row on the outskirts of a town, used frequently to be the WORLD'S END. This was represented in various punning ways ; sometimes by a globe in clouds, as on the trades token of Margaret Tuttlesham, of Golden Lane, Barbican, in 1666. Others rendered it by a fractured globe in a dark background, with fire and smoke bursting through the rents, and thus it was represented at the World's End in the King's Road, Chelsea, in 1825.

The King's Road was formerly a private footpath for the use of farmers and gardeners; but as Charles II. found it to be a convenient route to Hampton Court, it was converted into a coach-road, and Bloody Bridge, afterwards Blandy and Grosvenor Bridge, was then rebuilt. Difficulties arose, however, as to its being a public road. The surveyor general of George I. ordered the road to be closed; and Sir Hans Sloane, as lord of the manor, and the inhabitants generally, petitioned the Lords of the Treasury on the subject; and finally, after a long delay, a right of way was obtained in 1719.

Those, at least, of the World's End at Chelsea and at Knightsbridge were rather exceptionable. Both these houses were much patronised by the gallants of the reign of Charles II.

Pepys also honoured a World's End, the " drinking-house by the Park," with an occasional visit. On Sunday, the 9th of  May 1669, for instance, he went to church at St Margaret's, Westminster, and that duty performed, walked " towards the park, but too soon to go in, so went on to Knightsbridge, and there eat and drank at the World's End, where we had good things, and then back to the park, and there till night, being fine weather and much company, and so home." The "good things" evidently proved a strong attraction, for three weeks after he went again, " and there was merry, and so home late."
In 1708 Torn Brown thus alluded to its equivocal reputation. " The lady must take a tour as far as Knightsbridge or Kensington, stop, maybe, at the World's End or the Swan; offer my spark a small treat," &c. It is suggested that this Worlds End in Knightsbridge was at an address of Spring Garden which was closed in 1826.

And Last updated on: Tuesday, 02-May-2017 19:35:22 BST