UK Pub and London History - including Southwark and Other historical taverns
An account of the Ancient Mourning Bush Tavern, Aldersgate, &c. : London coffee houses and taverns
A historical site about early London coffee houses and taverns
and will also link to my current pub history site and also the London street
An account of the Ancient Mourning Bush Tavern, Aldersgate, &c.
Ancient Mourning Bush Tavern, Aldersgate - in 1746
Research has failed to produce much respecting the old Mourning Bush Tavern, by
Aldersgate, further than to satisfy us that it was highly celebrated in its day,
and must from its remains have been one of the largest and most ancient taverns
in London. The history of such a place, had it been preserved, would no doubt
have abounded with amusing anecdote. No account, however, has transpired that we
have heard of, and, independently of the interest arising from its age, and some
other circumstances which will be hereafter noticed, we only find a single
historical, fact concerning it,— the modern version of which is thus given, in a
dissertation on signs, in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1818;— the conclusion
expresses a wish, which the reader will see is at length adopted.
"An innkeeper in Aldersgate Street, London, when Charles I. was beheaded, had
the carved representation of a bush at his house painted black, and the tavern
was long afterwards known by the name of the Mourning Bush, In Aldersgate; I
wish that the sign was revived, as a memorial of a man, who had, the courage so
conspicuously to display his loyalty at such a time to his unfortunate
sovereign, 'more sinned against than sinning.'"
The inaccuracy of the writer here in designating the landlord of the Mourning
Bush Tavern, an innkeeper, instead of a vintner, makes nothing against the truth
of the story, which is told also in works of the civil war period, and is
corroborated elsewhere; like the Bush, the principal tavern at Bristol, and the
Ivy-bush, the head inn at Caermarthen, the sign mentioned, no doubt originated
in the practice of hanging a bush at the door of vintner's houses, whence the
proverb, "good wine needs no bush."
Ivy was chosen for this purpose with classical propriety, that plant being
sacred to Bacchus, whose thyrsus it entwined, and it is accordingly often
alluded to by old writers :—
" Now a days the good wyne needeth none ivye garland."
Gascoigne's Glass Of Gov'.
"'Tis like the ivy bush unto a tavern."
Hearne copied the following anecdote of a similar nature from a paper in the
hand-writing of Dr. Richard Rawlinson:— " Of Daniel Rawlinson who kept the Mitre
Tavern in Fenchurch Street, and of whose being suspected in the Rump time I have
heard much. The Whigs tell this, that upon the king's murder, he hung his sign
in mourning: he certainly judged right. The honour of the mitre was much
eclipsed through the loss of so good a parent to the church of England.
"These rogues say, this endeared him so much to the churchmen, that he soon
throve amain, and got a good estate."
Tavern Anecdotes, 1825.
"Green ivy bushes at the vintner's door."
Summers' Last Will And Testament.
"The good wine I produce needs no ivy bush."
Summary On Du Bartus.— To the Reader.
Rosalind's " Good wine needs no bush," in the Epilogue to As you Like It, also
refers to this same custom, though the species of bush, ivy, is not named.
* The subsequent passage seems to prove, that anciently tavern keepers kept both
a bush and a sign: a host is speaking.
"I rather will take down my bush and sign
Than live by means of riotous expence."
Good Newes And Bad Newes, by S. R. 4to. Lond. 1622.
In " England's Parnassns," 4to. Lond. 1600, the first line of the Address to the
Reader runs thus:—"I hang no ivie out to sell my wine;" and in "Brathwaite's
Strappado for the Divell," 8vo. Lond. 1615, there is a dedication to Bacchus, "
sole sovereign of the ivybush, prime founder of red lattices, &c."
And in " Vaughan's Golden Grove," 8vo. Lond. 1608, is the following passage:—"
Like as an ivy-bush put forth at a vintrie is not the cause of the wine, but a
signe that wine is to be sold there, so likewise if we see smoke appearing in a
chimney, wee know that fire is there: albeit, the smoke is not the cause of the
fire." And the following from Harris's Drunkard's Cup:— " Nay, if the house be
not worth an ivy-bush, let him have his tooles about him, nutmegs, rosemary,
tobacco, with other the appurtenances, and he knowes how of puddle-ale to make a
cup of English wine."
And as late as 1678, as we find by Poor Robin's Perambulation from Saffron
Walden to London," printed that year, ale-houses where they also sold wine,
denoted the same by hanging out a bush.
"Some ale-houses upon the road I saw,
And some with bushes, showing they wine did drawe."
Mr. Fosbroke (Dictionary of Antiquities,) mentions the Bush as the chief sign of
taverns in the middle ages, and tells us it continued until at length it was
superseded by "a thing intended to resemble one, containing three or four tiers
of hoops fastened one above another, with vine leaves and grapes richly carved
and gilt." He adds, "The owner of the Mourning Bush, Aldersgate, was so affected
at the decollation of Charles I. that he painted his bush black."
That the Mourning Bush, or rather the Bush Tavern, existed ages before the
anecdote alluded to, there are Various evidences besides the antiquity Of its
foundations, though We have no means of ascertaining its precise age. The sign
alone, would rank it amongst the earliest London taverns, as the affixing the
ivy-bush at the door, we see was a practice of remote date, and when used as the
only sign of the house it was attached to, it marked in it a still higher date.
Considering then, that the alteration by its loyal owner alone carries us back
nearly two centuries, and that it was at this period no doubt, an Old house, it
will not at all be assuming too much to suppose the bush might have been coeval
with the most nourishing times of St. Martin's-le-grand College. This conjecture
is strengthened by reverting to the then state of the neighbourhood, and the
utility such a house must have been of, so situated. When Aldersgate Street was
a mere country road from the north parts of the kingdom, bounded on its west
side the whole distance between Long Lane and Little Britain, by Bartholomew
priory wall, and the numerous alder trees which are said to have given this
thoroughfare its name; and, on its opposite side, equally dreary, was only the
great burial pound of the Jews, with scarcely a cheerful dwelling; a house for
refreshment immediately the traveller entered the city gate might be reasonably
expected; and where could such a house be so appropriately situated, as between
St. Anne's Church and the gate? All the space on the other side was occupied
with Northumberland house and gardens— the town mansion of the gallant Percies;
that is to say, when they were in town: for the business of these great peers,
was chiefly in the camp, as Pennant observes, "which they seldom quitted for
London, but to brave the sovereign or the favorite."
What public houses there were within St. Martin's Liberty, being " sanctuary,"
would be closed at nine o'clock at night, with the closing of the college gates.
We repeat, therefore, where could the traveller on entering town from the great
north road, be likely to be more commodiously and readily suited— as he may
still— than at the Bush, which besides its convenient situation, pleasantly
overlooking the " Dean's Garden," must have enjoyed an atmosphere as unconfined
and salubrious, as it does now from the open and magnificent area of the New
A few observations respecting our ancient taverns will, perhaps, be not
inappropriately introduced here, in the paucity of information which exists
relative to the Mourning Bush.
Though the " win-hous," or tavern, is enumerated amongst the houses of
entertainment in the Saxon times, and no doubt existed here much earlier, there
is reason to think, that down to a comparatively late period it was far from
common, as was the case also with public inns. Monasteries were the usual places
at these remote dates which afforded relief to the traveller. Lord Berkeley's
farm houses, in the part of the country where they stood, were used instead, in
the time of Edward I. and some who could not be otherwise accommodated, not only
enquired out hospitable persons, but even applied for entertainment at the
king's palaces. Knights lodged in barns, and John Rous, the monk, who mentions a
celebrated inn on the Warwick road, was yet forced himself to go another way for
want of one.
Their utility had become apparent before Edward II. for a statute of the 12th of
that prince, in order that the public might not be injured, forbids officers in
towns and boroughs— whose duty it was to keep assizes of wine and victuals, to
merchandize themselves for either, on pain of forfeiture to the king.
The dealers in wine at the above period, and long before, were of two
descriptions; the vinterarij and the tavernarij, that is, the vintners, who were
the merchants that imported wine from France and other places, and the taverners
who kept taverns for them, and sold it out by retail to such as came thither to
drink, or fetched it to their own houses. Of both these sellers of wine it was a
complaint as long ago as the reign of Edward III. that they mixed and corrupted
their wine, and sold that so mixed at the same price with the good, which caused
that king in the second year of his reign, to send his letters to the mayor and
sheriffs to see this abuse corrected; which was, as the expression in the said
letter is, to the scandal of the city, and the danger of the lives of the
citizens; and that they should cause it to be proclaimed, that no wine should be
sold but pure and good; and that it might be known immediately to be so, it was
ordered to be proclaimed, " That all and singular persons drinking wine in
taverns, or otherwise buying wine from them, may look as they will, whether the
wines so sold, as aforesaid in taverns, be drawn out of the hogshead, or taken
The act of parliament of the 4th of the same prince, enforces in more distinct
terms the prohibition in the proclamation as to taverners, and prescribes
various regulations for the conducting of their trade. It states:—
"Because there be more taverns in the realm than were wont to be, selling as
well corrupt wine as wholesome, and have sold the gallon at such price as they
themselves would, because there was no punishment ordained for them, as hath
been to them who sold bread and ale, to the great hurt of the people; it should
be accorded, that a cry should be made, that none be so hardy to sell wines but
at a reasonable price, regarding the price by the price at the parts from whence
the wines came; and the expences, as in carriage of the same from the said parts
to the places where they be sold; and that assay should be made of such wines
two times in every year, once at Easter, and another time at Michaelmas, and
more often if need be, by the lords of the towns, and their bailiffs, and also
by the mayor and bailiffs of the same towns; and all the wines that shall be
found corrupt, (putrified,) shall be shadde and cast out, and the vessels
broken; and the chancellor and treasurer, justices of the one bench, and the
other, and justices of assize, shall have power to enquire upon the mayor,
bailiffs, and ministers of towns, if they did not according to this statute; and
besides that, to punish as reason should require." And the more effectually to
hinder the importation of bad wines, as well as the adulteration of the good by
retailers, the same king Edward III. afterwards in the 35th of his reign, in his
letters patent for regulating the guild or company of vintners, prohibits any to
deal in Gascoigne wines '* but such alone as were enfranchised in the craft of
vintrie:" and we may here observe, in contradiction to some old writers, that
the trade are nowhere in the said letters patent called "wine-tonners," (which
is said to be the original of vintners,) but " vinteners," and " merchants
vinteners," and " merchants of vintrie."
Chaucer makes his idle city apprentice a great tavern haunter soon after this
"A prentis whilom dwelt in onr citee,—
At ev'ry bridale wold he sing and hoppe;
He loved bet' the Tavern than the shoppe,
For whan ther any riding was in Chepe,
Out of the shoppe thider wold he lepe;
And til that he had all the sight ysein
And dancid wel, he wold not com agen."
As to the retail of wines, it was ordained by statute of Richard II. " That of
wines of Gascoine, of 0sey, and of Spain, brought within the realm by
Englishmen, the gallon of the best wine should not be sold above six-pence, and
within, according to the value; and as to the Rhenish wines brought within the
Same realm," (because the vessels and the gallons of the same did not contain
any certain measure,) " it was accorded and assented, that the gallon of the
best should also not be above six-pence," and they were to be compelled to sell
them at these prices. "And it not being the king's mind to restrain taverners,
and other sellers of wines carrying the same into the country by carts, or in
any other manner, they were allowed to enhance the price accordingly, via.— a
halfpenny a gallon was to be allowed for the carriage for fifty miles of every
gallon, and so in proportion.
Agreeably to these ordinances, the ancient assize of a taverner in the city of
London states, "That he shall be non excessif taker more of the rede wyne of
every galon, but 2nd wynnyng, (profit,) and of al oder swete wynnys, but 4d.
wynnyng of the galon. And he shall set no maner of wyne a sale tyl he has sent
aftyr the officers of the towne, that is to say, the mayor or bailiff, or the
deputies assigned, for to tast it, and se that it be good and abul wyne; and his
vessels to be gaugid, and so markyd upon the heddys; and there to be sworn afore
the officers what it cost; and aftyr that, he for to sell; also he shall sell no
wine, but by measure assized and selid."
If the taverner did contrary to any of these regulations, he was to be amerced;
and if he sold "any fectife (defective) wyne, his tavern door should be selid
in," and he was to be further fined and judged according to the statute.
Not only did the importers of wines in those early times become immensely rich,
and fill the highest civic offices, but even the retailers or taverners
themselves frequently became sheriffs, and sometimes mayors— such were
Brengeveye de Oxenford, Burgoin, Parys, Roffam, &c. all sheriffs; and Richard
Bretayne, who was mayor 1 Edw. I.
The curious old ballad of London Lockpenny, written in the reign of Henry V. by
Lydgate, a monk of Bury, confirms the statement of prices of Richard the IId's
reign. He represents a countryman come up to town to see the " sights" of
London. In Eastcheap, the cooks cried hot ribs of beef roasted, pyes well baked,
and other victuals; there was clattering of pots, harp, pipe, and sawtre,
yea-by-cock, nay-by-cock, for greater oaths were spared; some sang of Jenkin and
Julian, &c. lie from hence comes to Cornhill, when the wine drawer of the Pope's
Head tavern, standing without the door in the high street, for it was then the
custom for these drawers to way-lay passengers like the barkers in Monmouth
Street, takes the same man by the hand, and says—" Sir, will you drink a pint of
wine? Whereunto the countryman answers, " A penny spend I may," and so drank his
wine. "For bread nothing did he pay"—for that was given in."*
The ballad itself states the matter different from the above account of Stowe,
making the Taverner, and not the Drawer, invite the countryman; and the latter,
instead of getting bread for nothing, complains of having to go away hungry:—
"The Taverner took me by the sleeve,
'Sir,' saith he,' will you our wine assay?'
I answered—that much can't me greve.
So that it appears, there was no eating at taverns beyond a crust to relish the
wine, which was given in; and if you wished to dine before you drank, you must
first go to the cook; and after to the vintner, or as Stowe has it—" Of old
time, when friends did meet, and were disposed to be merry, they went not to
dine and sup in taverns, for they dressed no meats to be sold, but to the
cook's, where they called for what meat pleased them, which they always found
ready dressed, and at a reasonable price."
And the historian afterwards confirms this by the following anecdote :—In the
year 1410, the 11th of Henry IV. upon the even of St. John the Baptist, the
king's sons, Thomas and John, being in Eastcheap at supper, or rather breakfast;
for it was after the watch was broken up, betwixt two or three of the clock
after midnight, a great debate happened between their men and others of the
court, which lasted one hour, even until the mayor and sheriffs, with other
citizens appeased the same; for which afterwards the said mayor, aldermen, and
sheriffs, were sent for to answer before the king, his sons and divers lords
being highly moved against the city. At which time William Gascoigne, chief
justice, required the mayor and aldermen, for the citizens, to put them in the
king's grace. Whereupon they answered, that they had not offended, but,
according to the law, had done their best in stopping debate, and maintaining of
the peace; upon which answer the king remitted all his ire, and dismissed them."
A penny can do no more than it may:
I drank a pynt, and for it did pay;
Yet sore a hung'red from thence I yede,
And wanting of money I could hot spede."
The above statements make Strype,— Survey of London, 1720, assert,
(notwithstanding the high treason of contradicting Shakespeare,) that there was
at this period "no tavern in Eastcheap. The bard, however, living within the
traditional memory of the thing, would most probably not be mistaken: It is also
said by the commentators; and we believe so far must be admitted, that the
furnishing the Boar's Head with sack in the reign of Henry IV. is an
anachronism; for the vintners kept neither sacks, muscadels, malmsies, bastards,
alicants, nor any other wines but white and claret, until 1543, and then was old
Parr, as himself relates, 60 years of age. All the other sweet wines before that
time were sold at the apothecary's shops, for no other use, but for medicine.
Taking it as the picture of a tavern a century later, we see the alterations
which had taken place:—
The single drawer or taverner of Lydgate's day is now changed to a troop of
waiters, of whom the prince jokes he can himself name half a dozen; besides
alluding to "the under skinker" or tapster. Eating was no longer confined to the
cook's row, for we find by the enumeration in Falstaff's bill— "a capon 2s. 2d.
sack, 2 gallons, 5s. 8d. anchovies and sack after supper 2s. 6d. bread, one
half-penny." And there were evidently different rooms for the guests, partly
furnished with modern conveniences, as Francis bids a brother waiter " Look down
into the Pomgranite." * For which purpose it seems they had then windows or loop
holes, affording a view from the upper to the lower apartments.
* A successor of Francis was a waiter at the Boar's Head in modern times, and
had formerly a tablet with this inscription in St. Michael's Crooked Lane
church-yard, just at the back of the tavern;
Many other particulars may be observed, tallying with the descriptions of
taverns in the reigns of Elizabeth and James; such are the introduction of Doll
Tearsheet, and the prince's simile respecting her, of the sun's being " a hot
wench dressed in flamecoloured taffita"—the mention of " Sneak's Noise," or
itinerant band of musicians, &c. "You shall there see" (viz. at the low taverns)
"a paire of harlots in taffita gowns, like painted posts', garnishing out those
dores, being better to the house than a double signe."
"Neither were they any of those with terrible "Noyses" and threadbare cloakes,
that live by red lattises and ivy-bushes, having authority to thrust into any
man's roome; only speaking but this, " will you have any musique?"
"To the memory of Robert Preston, late drawer at the Boar's Head tavern in Great
Eastcheap, who departed this life March 10, A.d. 1730, aged twenty-seven years."
Also several lines of poetry quoted in Malcolm's Londinum Redivivum, setting
forth Bob's sundry virtues, particularly his honesty and sobriety; in that—
"Tho' nnrs'd among full hogsheads he defied
The charms of wine, as well as other's pride."
He possessed also the singular virtue of drawing good wine, and of taking care
to "fill his pots," as appears by the concluding lines of admonition.—
"Ye that on Bacchus hare a like dependance,
Pray copy Bob in measure add attendance.''
Red lettuce.—The chequers at this time a common sign of a public house, as
indeed it is to this day, is originally thought to have been intended for the
kind of draught-boards called tables, and showed that there the game might be
played. From their colour, which was red, and the similarity to a lattice, it
was corruptly called red lattice.
"_ his sign pulled down, and his lattice borne away."
So in "A Fine Companion," one of Shakerly Marmion's plays:— 'A waterman's widow,
at the sign of the Red Lattice in Southwark."
Nothing has occasioned so much discussion amongst the commentators, as
Falstaff's " Sack and Sugar," sack itself being supposed to be a sweet wine.
That it was the custom, however, even in that case, to give additional sweetness
by adding sugar, is attested by several old writers. Gascoigne observes— that
"wine itself was not sufficient"— but " sugar, lemons, and spices must be
drowned in the wine, which I never observed in any other place or kingdom to be
used for that purpose." Fynes Moryson, a Scotch traveller, 1617, notices at that
day, the mixing of sugar with every species of wine:— " Gentlemen drawers," says
he, " with wine mix sugar; which I never observed in any other place or kingdom
to be used for that purpose. And because the taste of the English is thus
delighted with sweetmeats, the wine in taverns (for I speak not of merchante's
or gentlemen's cellars) are commonly mixed at the filling thereof to make them
We find also, from Sir John's comments on his favorite sack, that he added not
only sugar, but a toast to it; that he had an implacable aversion to its being
mulled with eggs, vehemently exclaiming—
"I'll no pullets sperm in my brewage;" and that he abominated its sophistication
with lime, declaring that a " coward is worse than a cup of sack with lime in
it."— An expedient which the vintners used to increase its strength and
The act 7 Edward VI "For th' avoyding of many inconveniences, muche evil rule,
and commune resorte of misruled persones, used and frequented in many taverns of
late newly sett uppe in very greate numbre in backe lanes, corners, and
suspicious places within the cytie of London, and in divers other townes and
villages within this realm;" after regulating the price and quantity of wine
which should be sold by retail dealers, viz:— that no more than 8d. per gallon,
should be taken for any French wines— " by any maner of meanes, colour, engine,
or crafte, &c." limited the yearly consumption of wine in private houses, to ten
gallons each person, unless possessed of 100 marks per annum, or 1000 marks in
property,— and ordered, that there should not be more than two licenced taverns
in any one town, nor " any more or greater number in London of such tavernes or
wine sellers by retaile, above the number of fouretye tavernes or wyne sellers;"
being less than two, upon an average to each parish. Nor did this number much
increase afterwards, for in a return made to the vintner's company late in
Elizabeth's reign, there were only one hundred and sixty-eight in the whole city
As there is no reason to suppose but that the old Bush, Aldersgate, was
continued as one of these "Select"— we may consider this as no small proof, in
addition to others, of its importance. We know at least, from Stowe's
description, that a house on this site, evidently a public one, was considerably
enlarged a few years afterwards; and there appears no place to which it will
apply but the Bush.
"This gate" (Aldersgate) "hath been at sundry times increased with building,
namely, on the south or inner side, a great frame of timber * hath been added
and set up, containing divers large rooms and lodgings,"— as these "large rooms
could only be wanted in a house of public entertainment, the fair inference is,
that this was an enlargement of the Bush; and agreeably to this fact, we find in
the earliest plan we have of the metropolis, that by Ralph Aggas, A. D. 1560, a
single house only, marked on this site, as adjoining the inner side of
Aldersgate. The delineation is rude— but bears us out in the idea that it was
intended as a representar tion of this tavern.
* A frame of timber was then synonymous with house; the houses being at this
time for the most part of wood lathed and plastered, with overhanging stories,
as we still see them in some of the old streets.
The variety of wines in Elizabeth's reign, has not since been exceeded, and
perhaps even equalled.
Harrison mentions fifty-six French, and thirty-six Spanish, Italian, and other
wines; to which must be added several home-made wines, as ipocras, clary, breket,
From this period, and including the reign of James, taverns appear to have been
very numerous ; and says bishop Erle, who wrote at the time, "to give you the
total reckoning of it, they're the busy man's recreation, the idle man's
business, the melancholy man's sanctuary, the stranger's welcome, the inns of
court men's entertainment, the scholar's kindness, and the citizen's curtesy."
He adds, (as must be the case with all such accommodations when abused,) " the
consumer and corrupter of the afternoon, and the murderer or maker away of a
The Boar's Head, Eastcheap, and the Mermaid, Cornhill— immortalized by
Shakspeare, Ben Jonson, and by Fletcher, are enumerated in a long list of
taverns given us in an old black letter 4to. of the reign of Charles I.
entitled, "Newes from St. Bartholomewe's Fayre." The title is lost, but the
following are mentioned as some of the signs:—
"There hath been great sale and utterance of wine,
Besides beere and ale and ipocras fine;
In every country, region, and nation—
Closely at Billingsgate at the Salutation,
And Bore's Head near London stone, \
The Swan at Dowgate, a taverne well knowne,
The Miter in Chepe, and then the Bull Head,
And suche like places that make noses red;
The Bore's Bead in Old Fish Street, Thrte Cranes in the Vinttee,
And now of late St. Martin's in the sentree,
The Windmill in Lothbury, the Ship at the Exchange,
King's Head in New Fish Streete, where roysters do range,
The Mermaid in Cornhill, Red Lion in the Strand,
Three Tuns Newgate Market, Old Fish Street at the Swan.
This enumeration omits the Bush, and many of the oldest London signs, as the
Pope's Head, the London Stone, the Dagger, the Rose and Crown, &c. which most
likely are mentioned in another part of it, at least they should, if it pretends
to give anything like a general catalogue of the taverns then known. From the
supposed age of different signs, it will also appear, that most of the above
were of comparatively late date; for Mr. Fosbroke tells us rightly, in his
notices of tavern signs, after stating that the Bush was the oldest,— that the
Bull, Ram, Angel, Red Lion, and such like, were of after growth, and evidently
heraldic, as supporters of arms, taken from respect to some great lord or
master, and formed upon the nature of dependants and servants wearing badges of
their lord's arms.
The Painted Tavern, adjoining the Three Cranes, in that Vintry, is mentioned by
Stowe as existing in the time of Richard II. It nearly adjoined the great house
termed the Vintry, underneath which were extensive wine vaults, for depositing
such wine as should be landed at the wharf. The story of Sir Henry Picard,
vintner and lord mayor, feasting here four kings, in 1350, is well known.
In the play— " If You Know not Me, You Know Nobody," with the "Building of the
Royal Exchange," &c. 1608, the apprentices of old Hobson, a rich citizen, in
1560, frequent the Rose and Crown, in the Poultry, and the Dagger, in Cheapside.
Enter Hobson, Two Prentices, and a Boy.
1 Pren. Prithee, fellow Goodman, set forth the ware, and looke to the shop a
little. I'll but drink a cnp of wine with a customer, at the Rose and Crown in
the Poultry, and come again presently.
2 Pren. I must needs step to the Dagger in Cheape, to send a letter into the
country unto my father. Stay, boy, you are the youngest prentice; look you to
Ben Jonson found the best canary at the "Swanne," by Charing Cross, and was so
delighted with the drawer's attention, that in some extempore lines made by him,
by way of grace, before king James, and which Aubrey has given in his "Lives,"
he contrived to lug in the lad's name with his own, as a conclusion:—
"Our king and queen the Lord God bless,
The palsgrave, and the lady Besse;
And God bless every living thing,
That lives, and breathes, and loves the king.
God bless the council of estate,
And Buckingham the fortunate.
God bless them all, and send them safe—
And God bless me, and God bless Ralph."
The king was anxious to know who Ralph was, and when informed by the poet, that
it was the drawer at the Swan, who drew him better canary than he could get any
where else, laughed, it is said, heartily at the conceit.
Many curious particulars attach to the wine houses of this period. Amongst
others, a passage in "Look About You," (1600) says "The drawers kept sugar
folded up in paper, ready for those who called for sack;" and we further find in
other old tracts, that the custom existed of bringing two cups, of silver, in
case the wine should be wanted to be diluted, and that this was done by
rose-water and sugar, generally about a penny-worth. A Sharper in the " Belman
of London," being described as having decoyed a countryman to a tavern, "calls
for two pintes of sundry wines, the drawer setting the wine with two cups, as
the custome is, the sharper tastes of one pinte, no matter which, and finds
fault with the wine, saying, 'tis too hard, but rose-water and sugar, would send
it downe merrily'— and for that purpose he takes up one of the cups, telling the
stranger he is well acquainted with the boy at the barre, and can have
two-pennyworth of rose-water for a penny of him; and so steps from his seate;
the stranger suspects no harme, because the fawne guest leaves his cloake at the
end of the table behind him,— but the other takes good care not to return, and
it is then found that he hath stolen ground, and out-leaped the stranger more
feet than he can recover in haste, for the cup is leaped with him, for which the
wood-cock, that is taken in the springe, must pay fifty shillings, or three
pounds, and hath nothing but an old threadbare cloake not worth two groats to
make amends for his losses."
Another similar low scene of villiany, and laid at one of the taverns of this
period, is told by the above old author. It is the account of a countryman, who
is is decoyed into one of those places by three associates,— and of course
"The stage on which they play their prologue, is either in Fleet Street, the
Strand, or Paule's, and most commonly in the afternoon, when countrie Clyents
are at most leasure to walke in those places, or for dispatch of their business
travel from lawyer to lawyer, through Chancerie Lane, Holborne, and such like
places. In this heat of runing to and fro, if a plaine fellowe, well and
cleanely apparrelled, either in home-spun russet or frieze, (as the season
requires,) with a side pouch at his girdle, happen to appear in his rusticall
likeness. 'There is a couzin,' says one, at which word out flyes the decoy, and
thus gives the onset upon my olde penny-father. "Sir, God save you! you are
welcome to London! How doe all good friends in the countrie? I hope they be
well? The russetting amazed at these salutations of a stranger replies,' Sir,
all our friends in the countrie are in health; but pray pardon me; I know you
not, believe me;—' No!' answers the other, 'are you not a Lancashire man?' or of
such a countrie? If he saies, 'yes,' then seeing the fish nibbles, he gives him
more line to play with; if he say,' no,' then attacks he him with another
weapon, and sweares soberly,' In good sooth, Sir, I know your face, I am sure
wee have bene merie together; I pray (if I may beg it without offence,) bestow
your name upon mee, and your dwelling-place!' The innocent man, suspecting no
poison in this gilded cup, tells bim presently his name and abiding—by what
gentleman he dwells, &c. which being done, the decoy, for thus interrupting him
in his way, and for the wrong in mistaking him for another, offers a quart of
wine. If the cozen be such an asse to goe into a Taverne, then he is sure to bee
' unkled'; but if he smack my decoy, and smell gunpowder-traines, yet wil not be
blown up, they part fairly; and to a comrade goes the decoy, discovering what he
hath done, and acquaints him with the man's name, countrie, and dwelling; who
hastening after the countryman, and contriving to cross his way and meet him
full in the face, takes acquaintance presently of him, salutes him by his name,
inquires how such and such a gentleman doe that dwell in the same town by him,
and albeit the honest hobnail wearer can by no means bee brought to remember
this new friend, yet will he, nill he, to the Taverne he sweares to have him,
and to bestowe upon him the best wine in London; and being come here, they are
soon joined by two or three associates, who drop in as strangers, and, who
having by some trick or other contrived to fleece the simpleton, and make him
completely drunke, steal off one by one, and meet at another taverne to share
their plunder;— which is the epilogue to their comedie, but the first entrance
(scene) to the poore countryman's tragedie."
The following from the "Microsmography" of Dr. Erle, could only apply to the
lowest species of tavern.—
"A taverne is a degree, or if you will, a paire of staires above an ale-house,
where men get drunk with more credit and apology. If the vintner's rose be at
door, it is sign sufficient, but the absence of this is supplied by the
And again :—
"The whole furniture of these places consists of a stool, a table, and a pot de
The concluding article of the list reminds one of Falstaff's calling out to "
empty the jordan."
That the above is mere satire, however, or that it must apply rather to
something like our modern winecellars than to taverns, will be evident from what
Dekker tells us near this very time :—
"They had," says he, "regular ordinaries, and of three kinds, namely, an
ordinary of the longest reckoning, whither most of your courtly gallants do
resort; a twelve-penny ordinary, frequented by the justice of the peace and
young knight; and a threepenny ordinary, to which your London usurer, your stale
batchelor, and your thrifty attorney doth resort."
That the conjunction of vintner and victualler had now become common, and would
require other accommodations than those mentioned by the bishop, even in the
poorest houses of entertainment, is also shewn in the play of the " New Way to
Pay Old Debts," where Justice Greedy makes Tapwell's keeping no victuals in his
house, an excuse for pulling down his sign.
"Thou never hadst in thy house to stay men's stomachs,
A piece of Suffolk cheese, or gammon of bacon,
Or any esculent, as the learned call it,
For their emoulument, but sheer drink only.
For which gross fault I here do damn thy licence,
Forbidding thee henceforth to tap or draw;
For instantly I will in mine own person,
Command the constable to pull down thy sign,
And do't before I eat.''
And the decayed vintner, who afterwards applies to Wellborn for payment of his
tavern score, answers on his enquiring who he is.
"A decay'd vintner, Sir,
That might have thriv'd, but that your worship broke me,
With trusting you with muscadine and eggs,
And five-pound suppers, with your after drinkings,
When you lodged upon the Bankside."
Another corroboration of these establishments then being on a very superior
footing, is given us also by Dekker. It was, he informs us, usual for taverns,
especially in the city, to send presents of wine from one room to another as a
complimentary mark of friendship, "Enquire," directs he, "what gallants sup in
the next room; and if they be of your acquaintance, do not, after the city
fashion, send them in a pottle of wine and your name." This custom too is
recorded by Shakespeare, as a mode of introduction to a stranger. When Bardolph
at the Castle Inn, Windsor, addressing FalstafF says, " Sir John, there's a
master Brooke below would fain speak with you, and would be acquainted with you,
and hath sent your worship a morning's draught of sack;" a passage which Mr.
Malone has illustrated by the following contemporary anecdote. "Ben Jonson," he
relates, "was at a tavern, and in comes Bishop Corbet, (but not then a prelate,)
into the next room. Ben Jonson calls for a quart of raw wine, and gives it to
the tapster. "Sirrah," says he, " carry this to the gentleman in the next
chamber, and tell him I sacrifice my service to him;" the fellow did so, and in
the same words. "Friend," says Dr. Corbet, " I thank him for his love, but
prithee, tell him from me, that he is mistaken, for sacrifices are always
Many 0f the London taverns were indeed of high respectability: the famous
Robinhood society is said, in the history of that establishment, (8vo. 1716,) to
have began from a meeting of the editor's grandfather with the great Sir Hugh
Middleton, of New River memory, at the London Stone Tavern in Cannon Street,
(therein stated, but certainly not correctly, to be the oldest in London;)
whence the society afterwards removed successively to the Essex Head, Devereux
Court, Temple, and finally to the Robinhood, Butcher Row, from whence they took
name. King Charles II. was introduced to this society, disguised, by Sir Hugh,
and liked it so well that he came thrice afterwards. "He had," says the
narrative, " a piece of black silk over his left cheek, which almost covered it;
and his eyebrows, which were quite black, he had by some artifice or other
converted to a light brown, or rather flaxen colour; and had otherwise disguised
himself so effectually in his apparel and his looks, that nobody knew him but
Sir Hugh by whom he was introduced."
The following are named as celebrated London taverns, in the newspapers of the
The Sun, Cateaton Street.
Tobacco Boll, Smithfield.
Harp and Ball, Charing Cross.
Plough, St. Paul's.
Spotted Leopard, Aldersgate Street.
The Dog and Bull, Fleet Street.
Turk's Head, Cornhill.
Anchor and Mariner, Tower Hill.
Goat's Neck, Ivy Bridge, Strand.
Hercules Pillars, Fleet Street.
Ship, St. Paul's
Greyhound Tavern, Blackfriars.
Gun, Ivy Lane.
Maidenhead and Castle, Piccadilly.
Black Spread Eagle, Fleet Street.
Stag's Head, St. Paul's.
Crown and Garter, St. Mary's Hill.
Elephant and Castle, Temple Bar.
Goat's Head, St. James's.
Hat and Feathers, Strand.
Ned Ward, London Spy, 1709, mentions the Rose tavern, Poultry, anciently the
Rose and Crown, as existing in his time, and famous for good wine.—
"There was no parting without a glass, so we went into the Rose tavern in the
Poultry, where the wine, according to its merit, had justly gained a reputation;
and there, in a snug room, warmed with brash and faggot, over a quart of good
claret, we laughed over our night's adventure."
The Angel, Fenchurch Street, and the King's Head, Chancery Lane, also come in
for a share of our author's praise :—
From hence, pursuant to my friend's inclination, we adjourned to the sign of the
Angel, in Fenchurch Street, where the vintner, like a double-dealing citizen,
condescended as well to draw carmen's comfort, as the consolatory juice of the
"Having at the King's Head well freighted the hold of our vessels with excellent
food and delicious wine, at a small expence, we scribbled the following lines
with chalk upon the wall, then took our departure, and steered for a more
"To speak the truth of my honest friend Ned,
The best of all vintners that ever was made;
He's free of his beef, and as free of his bread,
And washes down both with a glass of rare red
That tops all the town, and commands a good trade;
Such wine as will cheer np the drooping King's Head,
And brisk up the soul, though the body's half dead."
Besides uniting the business of a vintner and victualler, and even adding, as
the above extracts informs us, the drawing of " carmen's comfort," we find in
other respects the whole economy of our ancient taverns changed about this time.
Among other alterations, the facetious Ned Ward informs us, that the bar-maid,
with a number of waiters, had completely superseded the ancient drawers and
"As soon as we came to the bar, a thing started up all ribbon, lace, and
feathers, and made such a noise with her bell and her tongue together, that had
half a dozen paper-mills been at work within three yards of her, they'd have
signified no more to her clamorous voice than so many lutes to a drum, which
alarmed two or three nimble-heeled fellows aloft, who shot themselves down
stairs with as much celerity as a mountebank's mercury upon a rope from the top
of a church steeple, every one charged with a mouthful of coming, coming,
He further illustrates the qualifications of the barmaid, (generally the
vintner's daughter,) in another place, by describing her as "bred at the dancing
school, becomes a bar well, steps a minuet finely, plays sweetly on the
virginals, 'John come kiss me now, now, now,' and is as proud as she is
handsome;" in fact, a second Polly in the Beggar's Opera, only less amiable.
Tom Brown at the same time speaks of the flirt of the bar-maid:—
"That fine lady that stood pulling a rope, and screaming like a peacock against
rainy weather, pinned up by herself in a little pew, all people bowing to her as
they passed by, as if she was a goddess set up to be worshipped, armed with the
chalk and sponge, (which are the principal badges that belong to that honourable
station you beheld her in,) was the bar-maid."
And of the nimbleness of the waiters, Ward says in another place:—" That the
chief use he saw in the Monument was, for the improvement of vintner's boys and
drawers, who came every week to exercise their supporters, and learn the tavern
trip, by running up to the balcony and down again."
Owen Swan, at the Black Swan tavern, Bartholomew Lane, is thus apostrophised by
Tom Brown for the goodness of his wine:—
"Thee Owen, since the God of wine has made
Thee steward of the gay carousing trade.
Whose art decaying nature still supplies,
Warms the faint pulse, and sparkles in our ejes.
Be bountiful like him, bring t'other flask,
Were the stairs wider we would have the cask.
This pow'r we from the God of wine derive,
Draw such as this, and I'll pronounce thou'lt live."
Speaking of Queen Anne's proclamation against vice and debauchery, in 1703, the
paper called the Observer says:—" The vintners and their wives were more
particularly affected by it, some of the latter of which had the profit of the
Sunday's claret to buy them pins, and to enable them every now and then to take
a turn with the wine merchant's eldest prentice to Cupid's garden on board the
The coffee-houses about the time of the restoration first began to supersede the
old English tavern, and though it subsisted as we have shewn long after that
period, and is even now not extinct, it is under completely different
modifications. Of these coffee-houses, as also chocolate-houses, (which latter
began to spring up about the reign of Anne,) the most celebrated at the west end
of the town were,— the Cocoa Tree, and White's, St. James's; the Smyrna, and the
British Coffee House; which were all so near that in less than an hour you might
see company in them all. They were formerly carried to these places in chairs
and sedans, and then at this time had their different parties. A whig would no
more go to the Cocoa Tree or Ozindas, than a tory would be seen at the coffee
house of St. James's. The Scots generally frequented the British, and a mixture
of all sorts unto the Smyrna. There were other little coffee-houses much
frequented in this neighbourhood; Youngman's for officers, Oldman's for
stock-jobbers, paymasters, and courtiers, and Littleman's for sharpers. After
the play, the best company generally went to Tom's and Will's coffee-house, near
adjoining, where there was playing at picquet, and the best of conversation till
midnight. Here you would see blue and green ribbons and stars sitting familiarly
with private gents, and talking with the same freedom as if they had left their
quality and degrees of distance at home. The most celebrated city coffee-houses
were Tom's, Garraway's, Robin's, and Jonathan's; Button's is well known as the
resort of Addison, Pope, &c. great wits of Anne and George the first's days.
* Caper's Gardens on board the Folly, the spot where Waterloo I Road Church now
To the above we may add as a cause of the decline of taverns, the general
introduction of malt liquor as a common beverage, the high duties put upon
wines, and above all the immoderate use of ardent spirits. Gin, about the
beginning of the reign of George II. may be said to have almost inundated the
meropolis, from the cheap rate at which it was sold, and occasioned Hogarth to
attempt to counteract its pernicious effects, in his admirable prints of Gin
Street and Beer Street. In the present day we still find several respectable
houses bear the name of taverns, but the nature of their trade is totally
altered from what it was anciently, and is either merged in the more modern
business of the coffee-house keeper or that of the licenced victualler.
We return to the Mourning Bush.—
No mention occurs of this tavern in any of the publications we have met with,
from the period when the anecdote is told of its loyal owner on the beheading of
Charles I., till the year 1719, when we find its name changed to the Fountain.
Whether this was caused by any political feeling against the then exiled House
of Stuart, or was merely the capricious whim of the proprietor, we cannot learn,
possibly it might have relation to a curious spring oh this spot thus mentioned
"Also on the east side" (i. e. of the gate) "is the addition of one great
building of timber, with one large floor, paved with stone or tile, and a well
therein, curb'd with stone, of a great depth, and rising into the said room two
stories high from the ground; which well is the only peculiar note belonging to
this gate; the like perhaps not be found in the city." ^
Under this denomination of the Fountain, it is mentioned in Tom Browne's works,
satirically, with four or five topping taverns of the day, whose landlords are
charged with fully understanding the art of "doctoring" as it is called, their
wines, but whose trade nevertheless was so great that they stood fair for the
alderman's gown. The mention is contained in an article purporting to be a
letter from an old vintner in the city to a one newly set up at Covent Garden,
and is in the way of advice.— The trade of a vintner, the writer assures his
friend, "is a perfect mystery"— (for that is the term, he observes, which the
law bestows upon it.)— He adds, — "Now as all in the world are wholly supported
by hard and unintelligible terms, you must take care to christen your wines by
some hard names, the further fetched so much the better, and this policy will
serve to recommend the most execrable scum in your cellar. I could name several
of our brethren to you, who now stand fair to sit in the seat of justice, and
sleep in their golden chain at churches, that had been forced to knock off long
ago, if it had not been for this artifice. It saved the Sun from being eclipsed,
the Crown from being abdicated, the Rose from decaying, and the Fountain from
being drawn dry, as well as both the Devil's from being confined to utter
Twenty years later, viz. in Hive's large plan of Aldersgate Ward, 1739-40, we
find the Fountain changed to the original name of this house, " The Bush
Tavern," The Fire of London had evidently curtailed at this time its ancient
extent, (judging from the way it is represented in Aggas's view, as well as from
the cellarage,) and instead of reaching from Aldersgate to St. Anne's Lane, it
has, according to the scale, only about fifty feet frontage, and is divided from
the corner house or houses by a passage, which leads to the top of the ancient
alley or entry, at present forming the back way to the Mourning Bush from St.
* The Devil Tavern stood on the site of Child's Place, next Temple Bar, and is
immortalized in Ben Jonson's Leges Conviviales, which he wrote for the
regulation of a club of wits, held here, in a room he dedicated to Apollo, and
over the chimney-piece of which they were preserved. The sign was St. Dunstan
tweaking the devil by the nose with a hot pair of tongs. In Jonson's days this
tavern was kept by Simon Wadloe, whom in a copy of verses over the door of the
Apollo he dignified with the title of king of skinkers (tapsters or drawers).
"Hang up all the poor hop drinkers,
Cries old Sym. the king of skinkers."
It is said in one of Ben's trips to the Devil tavern, he observed a country lad
gaping at a grocer's shop just by, and was told by him, that he "was admiring
that nice piece of poetry over the shop." "How can you make that rhyme?" said
the bard. "Why thus," replies the lad, whose name was Ralph:
"Coffee and tea
To be s-o-1 d."
This so pleased Jonson, that Ralph was taken into his service immediately, and
continued with him till his death. Query.— was coffee or tea then in use in
England?— we think not. The anecdote, however, may apply to some later name.
The exterior of the tavern is at the same time shewn in a small marginal print
of the south side of Aldersgate. It has the precise character of the larger
houses erected after the Fire of London, being constructed of brick, with heavy
stone window frames and dressings. There are balconies to the two principal
windows of the first story; and the house from immediately adjoining the gate,
has in some measure, the effect of an attached ornamental building to it. The
view and plan are shewn in the accompanying plate.
The last notice of this house as a place of entertainment, occurs in Maitland's
History of London, (p. 767, ed. 1772,) in the account of the boundaries of
Aldersgate Ward, where it is described as the Fountain Tavern, commonly called
the Mourning Bush :—
"the Fountain, commonly called the MournIng Bush, which has a back door into St.
Anne's Lane, is seated near unto Aldersgate."
The modern fitting up of the Mourning Bush deserves to be noticed for the credit
it reflects on the talents of Mr. Cottingham, the architect, as well as on the
spirit of Mr. Williams, the proprietor; and we consider it only a tribute due to
both, for the politeness with which they have assisted our researches on this
spot, to conclude with this mention of them:—
In the basement of the house, are the original wine vaults of the old Bush
Tavern, the whole of which are judiciously retained, many of the walls being six
feet thick, and bonded throughout with Roman brick. The ground floor embraces a
spacious bar, its ceiling beautifully painted in imitation of one discovered at
Herculaneum, and dining and coffee rooms for the accommodation of the numerous
working classes whose daily avocations call them into the immediate vicinity of
the New Post Office. The one-pair floor is entirely occupied with spacious
coffee and dining rooms, capable of accommodating one hundred and fifty persons.
In the great coffee room is an elegant range of book-cases containing a
selection of the best geographical works, books of travels, &c. besides all the
reviews and periodicals of the day, accompanied by a splendid set of Smith's
large roller maps of all parts of the globe. In the two-pair are elegant dining
rooms for small parties, and lodging rooms for single gentlemen.
One of the above new rooms, forty-five feet long, and proportionably broad,
which is called "The Shakespeare Dining Room, is particularly to be admired; it
is fitted up in the most elegant manner; — on the south end is a bust of the
immortal bard, modelled from the original on his monument at
Stratford-upon-Avon: it is supported on antique trusses of winged Victories,
moulded from the celebrated examples at the British Museum, and beneath in an
elegant time-piece inlaid with scroll-work in brass ; a superb chimney glass of
large dimensions finely reflects these objects at the reverse end of the room.
It may be mentioned as rather a singular coincidence, that the old sign of this
house, the Mourning Bush, placed to commemorate the death of King Charles the
First, was revived, or in other words the house was opened again as a tavern
under its present re-licencing, on the very day of the death of King George the
Fourth— being a distance of one hundred and eighty-two years between the two
melancholy events. We wish for the landlord's sake, the new establishment may
commence as auspiciously as the new reign.
My Pub history sites.
Street names index A - Z - this includes
the 1832 and 1842 street directory
And Last updated on: Sunday, 05-Jan-2020 15:30:45 GMT