London Taverns. The history of signboards, from the Earliest Times to
the Present Day.
By Jacob Larwood and john Camden Hotten. (1866)
THE Greeks honoured their great men and successful commanders by erecting
statues to them; the Romans rewarded their popular favourites with triumphal
entries and ovations; modern nations make the portraits of their celebrities
serve as signs for public-houses. “Vernon, the Butcher Cumberland, Wolfe, Hawke,
Prince Ferdinand, Granby, Burgoyne, Keppel, Howe, Evil and good have had their
tithe of talk, And fill'd their signpost then, like Wellesley now.”
As Byron hints, popular admiration is generally very shortlived; and when a fresh hero is gazetted, the next new alehouse will most probably adopt him for a sign in preference to the last great man. Thus it is that even the Duke of Wellington is now neglected, and in his place we see General Havelock, Sir Colin Campbell, Lord Palmerston, and Mr Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not omitting the fair Princess of Denmark. We will not now dwell upon these modern celebrities, but rather direct our attention to those illustrious dead upon whom the signboard honours were bestowed in bygone ages.
Many signboards have an historic connexion of some sort with the place where they are exhibited. Thus the ALFRED's HEAD, at Wantage, in Berkshire, was in all probability chosen as a sign because Wantage was the birthplace of King Alfred. So the CANUTE CASTLE, at Southampton, owes its existence to a local tradition; whilst admiration for the great Scotch patriot made an innkeeper in Stowell Street, Newcastle, adopt SIR WILLIAM WALLACE's ARMs. The CAESAR’s HEAD was, in 1761, to be seen near the New Church in the Strand,” and, in the beginning of this century, was the sign of a tavern in Soho, which afterwards removed to Great Palace Yard, Westminster. Even at the present day, his head may be seen outside certain village alehouses; but this we may attribute to that provincial popularity which the Roman hero shares with Oliver Cromwell; for as the Protector gets the blame of having made nearly all the ruins which are to be found in the three kingdoms, so Caesar is generally named by country people as the builder of every old wall or earthwork the origin of which is unknown.
Notwithstanding the popular censure, CROMWELL is still honoured with signboards in places where his memory has lingered, as at Kate's Hill, near Dudley.
In most cases, however, signboard popularity is rather shortlived; “dulcique animos novitate tenebo” seems to be essentially the motto of those that choose popular characters for their sign. Had this modern tribute of admiration been in use at the time of the Preacher, it might have afforded him one more illustration of the vanity of vanities to be found in all sublunary things. Horace Walpole noticed this fickleness of signboard fame in one of his letters:—
“I was yesterday out of town, and the very signs, as I passed through the villages, made me make very quaint reflections on the mortality of fame and popularity. I observed how the Duke's Head had succeeded almost universally to Admiral Vernon's, as his had left but few traces of the Duke of Ormond's. I pondered these things in my breast, and said to myself, ‘Surely all glory is but as a sign !"
Some favourites of the signboard have, however, been more fortunate than others. HENRY VIII., for instance, may still be seen in many places; indeed, for more than two centuries after his death, almost every KING's HEAD invariably gave a portrait of Bluff Harry.
Older kings occasionally occur, but their memories seem to have been revived rather than handed down by successive innkeepers. If we are to believe an old Chester legend, however, THE KING EDGAR INN, in Bridge Street of that city, has existed by the same name since the time of the Saxon king. The sign represents King Edgar rowed down the river Dee by the eight tributary kings. The present house has the appearance of being built anterior to the reign of Elizabeth, and the sign looks almost as old, but it would be unwise to give the place or the sign a much higher antiquity. KING JOHN is the sign under whose auspices Jem Mace, the pugilist, keeps a public-house in Holywell Lane, Shoreditch. The same king also figures in Albemarle Street and in Bermondsey; whilst the great event of his reign, MAGNA CHARTA, is a sign at New Holland, Hull. JOHN of GAUNT may be seen in many places; and we may surmise that his upholders are stanch Protestants, who value his character as a reformer and supporter of Wicliffe. The BLACK PRINCE may not unlikely have come down to us in an uninterrupted line of signboards; so little was his identity sometimes understood, that there is a shop bill in the “Banks Collection” on which this hero is represented as a negro !
There is a QUEEN ELEANOR in London Fields, Hackney, probably the beautiful and affectionate queen of Edward I., buried in Westminster Abbey, 1290, in honour of whom Charing Cross, Cheapcross, and seven other crosses, were erected on the places where her body rested on its way to the great Abbey. What prompted the choice of this sign it is hard to say.
At Hever, in Kent, a rude portrait of Henry VIII, may be seen. Near this village the Bolleyn or Bullen family formerly held large possessions; and old people in the district yet shew the spot where, as the story goes, King Henry often used to meet Sir Thomas Bolleyn's daughter Anne. Be this as it may, years after the unhappy death of Anne, the village alehouse had for its sign, BULLEN BUTCHERED ; but the place falling into new hands, the name of the house was altered to the BULL AND BUTCHER, which sign existed to a recent date, and would probably have swung at this moment, but for a desire of the resident clergyman to see something different. He suggested the KING's HEAD; and the village painter was forthwith commissioned to make the alteration. The latter accepted the task, drew the bluff features of the monarch, and represented it as other King's Heads, but in his hands placed a large axe, which signboard exists to this day.
As for QUEEN ELIZABETH, she was the constant type of the Queen's Head, as her father was of the Kings Head; and, like him, she may still be seen in many places. It is somewhat more difficult to ascertain who is meant by the QUEEN CATHERINE in Brook Street, Ratcliffe Highway; whether it be Queen Catherine of Aragon, or Queen Catherine of Braganza. QUEEN ANNE, in South Street, Walworth, has evidently come down to us as the token of that house since the day of its opening, just as the QUEEN oF BOHEMIA, who, until about fifty years ago, continued as a sign in Drury Lane. This was Elizabeth, daughter of James I, married to Frederic W., Elector-Palatine, who, after her husband's death, lived at Craven House, Drury Lane, and died there, February 13, 1661, having been privately married, it is thought, to Lord Craven, who was foremost in fighting the battles of her husband.
Of KING'S HEADS, Henry VIII. is the oldest on authentic record. But this does
not prove that he was the first ; for, as there lived great men before
Agamemnon, so most kings during their reign will, in all probability, have had
their signs. Among Henry's successors, we find the head of Edward VI. on a
trades token; whilst CHARLES THE FIRST's HEAD was the portrait hanging from the
house of that scoundrel Jonathan Wild, in the Old Bailey. Even at the present
day there is a sign of CHARLES THE FIRST at Goring Heath, Reading. The MARTYR's
HEAD in Smithfield, 1710, seems also to have been a portrait of Charles I. ; so,
at least, the following allusion gives us to understand:—
“May Hyde, near Smithfield, at the Martyr's Head,
Who charms the nicest judge with noble red,
Thrive on by drawing wines, which none can blame,
But those who in his sign behold their shame;” "
which seems to be an allusion to Puritanical water-drinkers. . To this unfortunate king belongs also the sign of the MOURNING BUSH, set up by Taylor the water-poet over his tavern in Phoenix Alley, Long Acre, to express his grief at the beheading of Charles I.; but he was soon compelled to take it down, when he put up the POET's HEAD, his own portrait, with this inscription :
“There is many a head hangs for a sign;
Then, gentle reader, why not mine?”
This “Poeta Aquaticus,” as he sometimes called himself, was a boatman on the Thames, and alehouse-keeper by profession, besides being the author of fourscore books of very original poetry. At the same time that he put up his new sign of the Poet's Head, he issued a rhyming pamphlet, in which occur the following lines:—
“My signe was once a Crowne, but now it is
Changed by a sudden metamorphosis.
The crowne was taken downe, and in the stead
Is placed John Taylor's, or the Poet's Head.
A painter did my picture gratis make,
And (for a signe) I hang'd it for his sake.
Now, if my picture's drawing can prevayle,
'Twill draw my friends to me, and I'll draw ale.
Two strings are better to a bow than one;
And poeting does me small good alone.
So ale alone yields but small good to me,
Except it have some spice of poesie.
The fruits of ale are unto drunkards such,
To make 'em sweare and lye that drinke too much.
But my ale, being drunk with moderation,
Will quench thirst, and make merry recreation.
My book and signe were publish’d for two ends,
T" invite my honest, civill, sober friends.
From such as are not such, I kindly pray,
Till I send for 'em, let 'em keep away.
From Phoenix Alley, the Globe Taverne neare,
The middle of Long Acre, I dwell there.
“JoHN TAYLOR, Poeta Aquaticus.”
The MOURNING CROWN was afterwards revived, and in the last century it was the sign of a tavern in Aldersgate, where, on Saturdays, when Parliament was not sitting, the Duke of Devonshire, the Earls of Oxford, Sunderland, Pembroke, and Winchelsea, Mr Bagford the antiquary, and Britton the musical small-coalman, used to refresh themselves, after having passed the forepart of the day in hunting for antiquities and curiosities in Little Britain and its neighbourhood.
Not only was the Crown put in mourning at the death of Charles I., but also the MITRE. Hearne has an anecdote which he transcribed from Dr Richard Rawlinson:—“Of Daniel Rawlinson, who kept the Mitre Tavern in Fenchurch Street, and of whose being sequestered 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 of the Church of England. Those rogues say, this endeared him so much to the Churchmen that he soon throve amain, and got a good estate.”
CHARLES THE SECOND'S HEAD swung at the door of a “musichouse” for seafaring men and others, in Stepney, at the end of the seventeenth century. In a great room of this house there was an organ and a band of fiddles and hautboys, to the music whereof it was no unusual thing for parties, and sometimes single persons,—and those not of very inferior sort,—to dance. At the present day, that king's memory is still kept alive on a signboard in Herbert Street, Hoxton, under the name of the MERRY MONARCH. To his miraculous escape at Boscobel we owe the ROYAL OAK, which, notwithstanding a lapse of two centuries and a change of dynasty, still continues a very favourite sign. In London alone it occurs on twenty-six public-houses, exclusive of beerhouses, coffee-houses, &c. Sometimes it is called KING CHARLES IN THE OAK, as at Willen Hall, Warwickshire. The Royal Oak, soon after the Restoration, became a favourite with the shops of Iondon; tokens of some half a dozen houses bearing that sign are extant. What is rather curious is that, not many years since, one of the descendants of trusty Dick Pendrell kept an inn at Lewes, in Sussex, called the Royal Oak.
There is a trades token of “William Hagley, at the RESTORATION, in St George's Fields;” but how this event was represented does not appear. At Charing Cross it was commemorated by the sign of the PAGEANT Tavern, which represented the triumphal arch erected at that place on occasion of the entry of Charles II., and which remained standing for a year after. This was evidently the same house which Pepys calls the TRIUMPH. It seems to have been a fashionable place, for he went there, on the 25th May 1662, to see the Portuguese ladies of Queen Catherine. “They are not handsome,” says he, “and their fardingales a strange dress. Many ladies and persons of quality come to see them. I find nothing in them that is pleasing; and I see they have learned to kiss and look freely up and down already, and, I believe, will soon forget the recluse practice of their own country. They complain much for lack of good water to drink.” The Triumph is still the sign of a public-house in Skinner Street, Somers Town.
QUEEN MARY was in her day a very popular sign, as may be gathered from many of the shop-bills in the Banks Collection; whilst WILLIAM AND MARY are still to be seen in Maiden Causeway, Cambridge. The accession of the house of Brunswick produced the BRUNSWICK, still very common, particularly in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Then come the Georges, of whom GEORGE III. and GEORGE IV. still survive in nearly as many instances as their successor, WILLIAM IV. ; with them a few of the royal Dukes of CLARENCE, SUFFOLK, and, above all, “the Butcher CUMBERLAND;” until at length we come to PRINCESS VICTORIA, and, finally, the QUEEN VICTORIA, the BRITISH QUEEN, ISLAND QUEEN, &c. Under one of her signs at Coopersale, in Essex, is the following inscription:—
“The Queen some day May pass this way,
And see our Tom and Jerry.
Perhaps she'll stop,
And stand a drop,
To make her subjects merry.”
Among the foreign kings and potentates who have figured in our open-air walhalla, the Turkish sultans seem to have stood foremost. MORAT (Amurat) and SOLIMAN were constant coffeehouse signs in the seventeenth century. Trades tokens are extant, in the Beaufoy and other collections, of a coffee-house in Exchange Alley, the sign of Morat, with this distich:— “MORAT . Y" . GREAT . MEN . DID . MEE . CALL WHERE . ERE . I . CAME . I . CoNQUER'D . ALL.”
On the reverse: “Coffee, tobacco, sherbett, tea, and chocolat retal'd in Exchange Alley.” The same house figures in advertisements of the time, giving the prices of those various articles:—
“AT THE COFFEE-HOUSE in Exchange Alley is sold by Retail the right Coffee-powder, from 4s. to 6s. per pound, as in goodness: that pounded in a mortar at 3s. per pound ; also that termed the right Turkie Berry, well garbled, at 3s. per pound—the ungarbled for less; that termed the East India Berry at 20d. per pound, with directions gratis how to make and use the same. Likewise, there you may have Tobacco, Verinas and Virginia, Chocolatta—the ordinary pound-boxes at 2s. per pound; also Sherbets (made in Turkie) of Lemons, Roses, and Violets perfumed; and Tea according to its goodness, from 6s. to 60s. per pound. For all of which, if any Gentleman shall write or send, they shall be sure of the best as they shall order; and to avoid deceit, warranted under the House Seal—viz., MORAT THE GREAT,” &c.—Mercurius Publicus, March 12–19, 1662.
The GREAT MOGOL also had his share of signboards, of which a few still survive; one, for instance, in New Bartholomew Street, Birmingham. KOULI KHAN we find only in one instance, (though there were probably many more) namely, on the sign of a tavern by the Quayside, Newcastle, in 1746.” This house had formerly been called the Crown, but changed its sign in honour of Thomas Nadir Shah, or Kouli Khan, who, from having been chief of a band of robbers, at last sat himself on the throne of Persia. He was killed in 1747. One of the reasons of his popularity in this country was the permission he granted to the English nation to trade with Persia, the most chimerical ideas being entertained of the advantages to be derived from that commerce. Hanway, the philanthropist, was for some time concerned in it, but died before he could carry out the scheme; ultimately, the death of Nadir Shah himself put an end to it.
The INDIAN KING, which we meet with so frequently, is an extremely vague personage, which various Indian potentates might take for themselves as the cap fitted. It was generally set up when some king from the far East visited the metropolis, and for a short time created a sensation. Thus, in 1710, there were four Indian kings from “states between New England, New York and Canada,” who had audiences with Queen Anne, and seems to have been a good deal talked about. (See Spectator, No. 50.)
Again, in 1762, London was honoured with the visit of a Cherokee king, and thus many before and after him have created their nine days' wonder.
Visits of European monarchs were also commemorated by complimentary signs. One of the oldest was the KING of DENMARK, and few kings better than he deserved the exalted place at the alehouse door; yet, such is the ingratitude of the world, that he seems now completely forgotten. The sign originated in the reign of James I., who married a daughter of Christian IV., King of Denmark. In July 1606, the royal father-in-law came over on a visit, when the two kings began “bousing” and carousing right royally, the court, of course, duly following the example. “I came here a day or two before the Danish king came,” says Sir John Harrington, “and from that day he did come till this hour, I have been well-nigh overwhelmed with carousal and sport of all kinds. I think the Dane has strangely wrought on our English nobles; for those whom I could never get to taste good liquor, now follow the fashion and wallow in beastly delights. The ladies abandon their society, and are seen to roll about in intoxication,” &c.” So late as thirty years ago, not less than three of these signs were left, the most notorious being in the Old Bailey. It used to be open all night for the sale of creature comforts to the drunkard, the thief, the nightwalker, and profligates of every description. Slang was the language of the place, and doubtless the refreshments were mostly paid for with stolen money. On execution nights, the landlord used to reap a golden harvest; then there were such scenes of drunkenness as must have done the old king on the signboard good to survey, and made him wish to be inside. The visit of another crowned votary of Bacchus is commemorated by the sign of the CZAR's HEAD, Great Tower Street:—
“Peter the Great and his companions, having
finished their day's work, used to resort to a public-house in Great Tower
Street, close to Tower Hill, to smoke their pipes and drink beer and brandy. The
landlord had the Czar of Muscovy's Head painted, and put it up for his sign,
which continued till the year 1808, when a person of the name of Waxel took a
fancy to the old sign, and offered the then occupier of the house to paint him a
new one for it. A copy was accordingly made of the original, which maintains its
station to the present day as the Czar of Muscovy.”
The sign is now removed, but the public-house still bears the same name. PRINCE
EUGENE also was at one time a popular tavern portrait in England, more
particularly after his visit to this country in January 1712. It is named as one
of the signs in Norwich in 1750,” but is now, we believe, completely extinct in
England; in Paris there is still one surviving on the Boulevard St Martin.
The GRAVE MAURICE is of very old standing in London, being named by Taylor the water-poet as an inn at Knightsbridge in 1636; at present there are two left, one in Whitechapel Road, the other in St Leonard's Road. Who this Grave Maurice was is not quite clear. GRAVE (Ger. Graf, Dutch Graaf, i.e. COUNT,) Maurice of Nassau, afterwards Maurice, Prince of Orange, was, on account of his successful opposition to the Spanish domination in the Netherlands, very popular in this country. In Baker's Chronicles, anno 1612, we read that:—“Upon St Thomas-day, the Paltzgrave and Grave Maurice were elected Knights of the Garter; and the 27th of December, the Paltzgrave was betrothed to the Lady Elizabeth. On Sunday the 7th of February, the Paltzgrave in person was installed a Knight of the Garter at Windsor, and at the same time was Grave Maurice installed by his deputy, Count Lodewick of Nassau.” The Garter conferred on the Grave Maurice was that which had been previously worn by Henri Quatre, King of France and Navarre. The Palzgrave was Grave Maurice's nephew, the Palatine Count Frederick, by whose marriage with King James's daughter were born the brothers Rupert and Maurice, (the latter in 1620) who distinguished themselves in England during the civil wars. It was this Prince Maurice's great uncle, the Grave Maurice of Nassau, whose counterfeit presentment still gives a name to two of our taverns. Another Maurice, about this period, was very popular in England —viz, Maurice Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, who “carried away the palm of excellency in whatever is to be wished in a brave prince.” Peacham, enumerating this prince's qualifications, says that he was a good musician, spoke ten or twelve languages, was a universal scholar, could dispute, “even in boots and spurs,” for an hour with the best professors on any subject, and was the best bone-setter in the country. He gained, too, much of his popularity by his adherence to the Protestant religion during the Thirty Years' War.
The PALTSGRAVE became a popular sign at the marriage of Frederick Casimir V., Elector and Count Palatine of the Rhine, King of Bohemia, with Elizabeth, daughter of James I. Trades tokens are extant of a famous tavern, the sign of the PALSGRAVE's HEAD, without Temple Bar,” which gave its name to Paltsgrave Court, whilst the PALATINE HEAD was an inn near the French 'Change, Soho. PRINCE RUPERT, the Palsgrave's son, who behaved so gallantly in many of the fights during the Civil War, was no doubt a favourite sign after the Restoration. We have an instance of one on the trades token of Jacob Robins, in the Strand.
One of the last foreign princes to whom the signboard honour was accorded, was the KING OF PRUSSIA. This still occurs in many places. After the battle of Rosbach, Frederick the Great, our ally, became the popular hero in England. Ballads were made, in which he was called “Frederick of Prussia, or the Hero.” “Portraits of the hero of Rosbach, with his cocked hat and long pigtail, were in every house. An attentive observer will at this day find in the parlours of old-fashioned inns, and in the portfolios of printsellers, twenty portraits of Frederick for one of George II. The sign-painters were everywhere employed in touching up ADMIRAL VERNON into the KING OF PRUSSIA.”
These words of Macaulay remind us of a passage in the Mirror, No. 82, Saturday, February 19, 1780, bearing on the same subject. In 1739, after the capture of Portobello, Admiral Vernon's “portrait dangled from every signpost, and he may be figuratively said to have sold the ale, beer, porter, and purl of England for six years. Towards the close of that period, the admiral's favour began to fade apace with the colours of his uniform, and the battle of Culloden was total annihilation for him. . . . The DUKE OF CUMBERLAND kept possession of the signboard a long time. In the beginning of the last war, our admirals in the Mediterranean, and our generals in North America, did nothing that could tend in the least degree to move his Royal Highness from his place; but the doubtful battle of Hamellan, followed by the unfortunate convention of Stade, and the rising fame of the King of Prussia, obliterated the glories of the Duke of Cumberland as effectually as his Royal Highness and the battle of Culloden had effaced the figure, the memory, and the renown of Admiral Vernon. The duke was so completely displaced by his Prussian majesty, that we have some doubts whether he met with fair play. One circumstance, indeed, was much against him; his figure being marked by a hat with the Kevenhuller cock, a military uniform, and a very fierce look, a slight touch of the painter converted him into the King of Prussia. But what crowned the success of his Prussian majesty, was the title bestowed upon him by the brothers of the brush, “The Glorious Protestant Hero,” words which added splendour to every signpost, and which no British hero could read without peculiar sensation of veneration and of thirst. “For two years, ‘the glorious Protestant hero’ was unrivalled; but the French being defeated at Minden, upon the 1st of August 1759, by the army under Prince Frederick of Brunswick, the King of Prussia began to give place a little to two popular favourites, who started at the same time; I mean PRINCE FERDINAND, and the MARQUIS OF GRANBY. Prince Ferdinand was supported altogether by his good conduct at Minden, and by his high reputation over Europe as a general. The Marquis of Granby behaved with spirit and personal courage everywhere; but his success on the signposts of England was very much owing to a comparison generally made between him and another British general of higher rank, but who was supposed not to have behaved so well. Perhaps, too, he was a good deal indebted to another circumstance—to wit, the baldness of his head.” That crowned heads, as well as other human beings, were subject to the law of change on the signboard, is amusingly illustrated in an anecdote told by Goldsmith — “An alehouse keeper near Islington, who had long lived at the sign of the French King, upon the commencement of the last war, pulled down his old sign, and put up that of the QUEEN OF HUNGARY. Under the influence of her red nose and golden sceptre, he continued to sell ale, till she was no longer the favourite of his customers; he changed her therefore, some time ago, for the King of Prussia, who may probably be changed in turn for the next great man that shall be set up for vulgar admiration.” Of all great men, “bene meriti de patria,” military men appear at all times to have captivated the popular favour much more than those men who promoted the welfare of the country in the Cabinet, or who made themselves famous by the arts of peace, and the more quiet productions of their genius. We find hundreds of admirals and generals on the signboard, but we are not aware that there is one Watt, or one Sir Walter Scott; yet, what glory and pleasure has the nation not derived from their genius! Booksellers formerly honoured the heads and names of great authors with a signboard; but that custom fell into disuse when signs became unnecessary. At present, the publicans only have signs, and they and their customers can much better appreciate “the glorious pomp and pageantry of war,” than a parliamentary debate. A victory, with so many of the enemy killed and wounded, and so many colours and stands of arms captured, awakens much more thrilling emotions in their breasts than the most useful invention, or the most glorious work of art.
* The taverns of the seventeenth century appear in many instances to have been upstairs, above shops. In 1679, there was a “Mr Crutch, goldsmith, near Temple Bar, at the Palsgrave Head.” In a similar way, a bookseller lived at the sign of the Rainbow, at the same time as one Farr, who opened this place as a coffee-house. Another bookseller, James Roberts, who printed most of the satires, epigrams, and other wasp-stings against Pope, lived at the Oxford Arms, a carriers' inn in Warwick Lane. Finally, Isaac Walton sold his “Complete Angler” “at his shopp in Fleet Street, under the King's Head Tavern.”
The sea being our proper element, admirals have always had the lion's share of the popular admiration, and their fame appears more firmly rooted than that of generals. Signs of ADMIRAI DRAKE, SIR FRANCIS DRAKE, or the DRAKE ARMs, so common at the water-side in our seaports, shew that the nation has not yet forgotten the bold navigator of good Queen Bess. SIR WALTER RALEIGH has not been quite so fortunate; for though he also came in for a great share of signboard honour, yet it was less owing to his qualities as a commander, than to his reputation of having introduced tobacco into England, whence he became a favourite tobacconist's sign; and in that quality, we find him on several of the shop-bills in the Banks Collection. Signs being frequently used in the last century for political pasquinades, advantage was taken of a tobacconist's sign for the following sharp hit at Lord North :—
“To the Printer of the General Advertiser:
“SIR,-Being a smoaker, I take particular notice of the devices used by different dealers in tobacco, by way of ornament to the papers in which that valuable plant is enclosed for sale; and that used by the worthy Alderman in Ludgate Street, has often given me much pleasure, it having the head of Sir Walter Raleigh, and the following motto round it:—
“Great Britain to great Raleigh owes
This plant and country where it grows.’
To which I offer the following lines by way of contrast; the truth thereof no one can doubt:—
To Rubicon and North, old England owes
The loss of country where tobacco grows.
“I suppose no dealer will chuse to adopt so unfortunate a subject for their insignia; but perhaps, when you have a spare corner in your General Advertiser, it may not be inadmissible, which will oblige.—Yours, *c., A SMOAKER. “Feb. 1, 1783. General Advertiser, March 13, 1784.” Brave old ADMIRAL BENBOW, who held up the honour of the British flag in the reign of William III, is still far from uncommon. ADMIRAL DUNCAN, HOWE, and JERVIS still preside over the sale of many a hogshead of beer or spirits; whilst ADMIRAL VERNON seems to have secured himself an everlasting place on the front of the alehouse, by reason of his dashing capture of PORTOBELLo; the name of that town, or sometimes the PORTOBELLO ARMs, being also frequently adopted, instead of the admiral's name. ADMIRAL KEPPEL is another great favourite. There is a public-house with that sign, on the Fulham Road, where, some years ago, the portrait of the admiral used to court the custom of the passing traveller, by a poetical appeal to both man and beast:—
“Stop, brave boys, and quench your thirst;
If you won't drink, your horses murst.”
But, above all, ADMIRAL RODNEY seems to have obtained
a larger share of popularity than even NELSON himself. In Boston there is the
RODNEY AND HOOD ; and in Creggin, Montgomeryshire, the RODNEY PILLAR Inn, with
the following Anacreontic effusion on a double-sided signboard:—
“Under these trees, in sunny weather,
Just try a cup of ale, however;
And if in tempest or in storm,
A couple then to make you warm;
But when the day is very cold,
Then taste a mug a twelvemonth old.”
On the reverse — “Rest and regal yourself, 'tis pleasant;
Enough is all the present need,
That's the due of the hardy peasant
Who toils all sorts of men to feed.
Then muzzle not the ox when he treads out the corn,
Nor grudge honest labour its pipe and its horn.”
The last addition to this portrait gallery, before SIR CHARLEs NAPIER, was the head of the gallant besieger of Algiers, LORD EXMOUTH. In 1825, there was one at Barnstaple, in Devon, with the following address to the wayfarer:—
“All you that pace round field or moor,
Pray do not pass John Armstrong's door;
There's what will cheer man in his course,
And entertainment for his horse.”
Finally, there is still one sign left in honour of that deserving but
unfortunate commander, CAPTAIN COOk, murdered by the natives of Owhyhee in 1779.
His name is preserved as the sign of an alehouse in Mariner Street, London.
Though the fame of generals seems to be more short-lived than that of admirals, yet a few ancient heroes still remain. Amongst these, GENERAL ELLIOTT, or LORD HEATHFIELD, the defender of Gibraltar, seems to be one of the greatest favourites; perhaps his popularity in London was not a little increased by the present which he made to Astley, of his charger named Gibraltar; who, performing every evening in the ring, and shining forth in the circus bills, would certainly act as an excellent puff for the general's glory. This hero's popularity is only surpassed by that of the MARQUIS OF GRANBY. Though nearly a century has elapsed since the death of the latter, (Oct. 19, 1770,) his portrait is still one of the most common signs. In London alone, he presides over eighteen public-houses, besides numerous beerhouses. The first one is said to have been hung out at Hounslow, by one Sumpter, a discharged trooper of the regiment of Horse Guards, which the Marquis of Granby had commanded as colonel.
Among the generals of a later period, are GENERAL TARLETON, (or, as he is called on a sign in Clarence Street, Newcastle, COLONEL TARLTON,) GENERAL WOLFE, GENERAL MOORE, and SIR RALPH ABERCROMBIE. At a tavern of this last denomination in Lombard Street, some thirty-five or forty years ago, the “House of Lords' Club” used to meet, not composed, as might be expected from the name, of members of the peerage, but simply of the good citizens of the neighbourhood, each dubbed with a title. The president was styled Lord Chancellor; he wore a legal wig and robes, and a mace was laid on the table before him. The title bestowed upon the members depended on the fee—one shilling constituted a Baron, two shillings a Viscount, three shillings an Earl, four shillings a Marquis, and five shillings a Duke; beyond that rank their ambition did not reach. This club originated early in the eighteenth century, at the FLEECE in Cornhill, but removed to the THREE TUNS in Southwark, that the members might be more retired from the bows and compliments of the London apprentices, who used to salute the noble lords by their titles as they passed to and fro in the streets about their business. One of their last houses was the YORKSHIRE GREY, near Roll's Buildings. At present they are, we believe, extinct. In Newcastle, also, there was a House of Lords, of which Bewick the wood-engraver was a member. They used to hold their meetings in the Groat Market of that town.
The DUKE's HEAD, and the OLD DUKE, are signs that, for the last two or three centuries, have always been applied to some ducal hero or other, for the time being basking himself in the noontide sun of fame. One of the first to whom it was applied, was Monck, DUKE OF ALBEMARLE after the Restoration; then came ORMOND, MARLBOROUGH, CUMBERLAND, YORK, and, at present, WELLINGTON and the DUKE of CAMBRIDGE. The DUKE's HEAD in Upper Street, corner of Gad's Row, Islington, was the sign of a public-house kept by Thomas Topham, the strong man, who, in 1741, in honour of Admiral Vernon's birthday, lifted three hogsheads of water, weighing 1859 lb., in Coldbath Fields.”
The DUKE OF ALBEMARLE figured on numberless signboards after the Restoration; but at the same period, there existed still older signs, on which his grace was simply called Monck; as for instance, that hung out by “Will. Kidd, suttler to the Guard at St James's,” t which was the MONCK's HEAD. Kidd had probably followed the army in many a campaign in former years, and was much more accustomed to the name of General Monck than that of his Grace the Duke of Albemarle. Of the Duke of Ormond there is still one instance remaining in Longstreet, Tetbury, Gloucester, under the name of the ORMOND's HEAD. A very few Dukes of Marlborough are also left. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, the DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH’s HEAD in Fleet Street, was a tavern used for purposes very similar to those which we are accustomed now-a-days to behold at the St James and the Egyptian Halls. Among the Bagford Bills, and in the newspapers of the time, it is constantly mentioned as the place where something wonderful or amusing was to be seen— panoramas, dioramas, moving pictures, marionnettes, curious pieces of mechanism, &c., &c.:
The LORD CRAVEN was once a
very popular sign in London. It occurs amongst the trades tokens of Bishopsgate
Street Without, and even at present there is a CRAVEN HEAD and two CRAVEN ARMs
in London. These signs were in honour of William Craven, eldest son of Sir
William Craven, knt, (Sheriff of London temp. Queen Elizabeth.) This nobleman
passed the greater part of his life abroad, serving the Protestant cause in
Holland and in Germany. During the Civil War, he at various times gave pecuniary
assistance to King Charles II, who at the Restoration created him Wiscount
Craven of Uffington, &c. He is said to have been privately married to Elizabeth,
daughter of James I., the Queen of Bohemia. He died, April 19, 1697. Though his
public and military career had certainly been brilliant, yet he owed his
popularity probably more to his civic virtues, shewn during the plague period,
when he and General Monck were almost the only men of rank that remained in town
to keep order. He even erected a pesthouse at his own expense in Pesthouse
Field, Carnaby Market, (now Marshall Street, Golden Square.) His assistance
during the frequent London fires, also tended to make him a favourite with the
“Lord Craven, in the time of King Charles II., was a constant man at a fire; for which purpose he always had a horse ready saddled in his stables, and rewarded the first that gave him notice of such an accident. It was a good-natured fancy, and he did a good deal of service; but in that reign everything was turned to a joke. The king being told of a terrible fire that was broke out, asked if Lord Craven was there yet. “Oh !' says somebody by, “an't please your majesty, he was there before it began, waiting for it, he has had two horses burnt under him already.” On such occasions he usually rode a white horse, well known to the London mob, which was said to smell the fires from afar off.”
The EARL OF Essex, Elizabeth's quondam favourite, might have been met with on many signs long after the Restoration. There are trades tokens of a shop or tavern with such a sign on the Bankside, Southwark, and tokens are extant of two other shops that had the Essex ARMS. In the last century there was an Essex HEAD in Essex Street; in this tavern the Robin Hood Society, “a club of free and candid inquiry,” used to meet. It was originally established in 1613, at the house of Sir Hugh Middleton, the projector of the New River for supplying London with water. Its first meetings were held at the houses of members, but afterwards, the numbers increasing, they removed to the above tavern, and its name was altered into the “Essex Head Society.” In 1747 it removed to the Robin Hood in Butcher Row, near Temple Bar. The society attained a position of so much importance, that a history of its proceedings was published in 1764, giving an account of the subjects debated, and reports of some of the speeches. Seven minutes only were allowed to each speaker, at the expiration of which the Baker, or president, summed up. Many a young politician here winged his first flight.
In 1784, the year of his death, Dr Johnson instituted at this house a club of twenty-four members, in order to insure himself society for at least three days in the week. He composed the regulations himself, and wrote above them the following motto from Milton:—
“To-day deep thoughts with me resolve to drench In mirth which after no repenting draws.”
The house at that time was kept by Samuel Greaves, an old servant of Mrs Thrale. Each night of non-attendance was visited on the members by a fine of threepence. Members were to spend at least sixpence, besides a penny for the waiter. Each member had to preside one evening a month. That the Earl of Essex, who had taken up arms against his queen, should have continued more than a century after his death, is easily accounted for by the immense popularity he enjoyed, exceeding that of any of his cotemporaries. More difficult to explain is the presence on English signboards of the Dutch ADMIRAL VAN TROMP; yet we find him in Church Street, Shoreditch, and in St Helen's, Lancashire. His countryman, Mynheer van Donck, would certainly make a much more appropriate public-house sign.
Names of battles and glorious faits d’armes have also been much used as signs,—thus, GIBRALTAR, PORTOBELLO, the BATTLE OF THE NILE, the MOUTH OF THE NILE, TRAFALGAR, the BATTLE oF WATERLOO, the BATTLE OF THE PYRAMIDs, are all more or less common. The BULL AND MOUTH is said to have a similar origin, being a corruption of Boulogne Mouth, the entry to Boulogne Harbour, which grew into a popular sign after the capture of that place by Henry VIII. The first house with this sign is said to have been an inn in Aldgate. In less than a century the name was already corrupted into the “Bull and Mouth,” and the sign represented by a black bull and a large mouth. Thus it appears on the trades tokens, and also in a sculpture in the façade of the Queen's Hotel, St Martin's-le-Grand, formerly the Bull and Mouth Inn. Of the same time also dates the BULL AND GATE, a corruption of the Boulogne Gates, which Henry VIII. ordered to be taken away, and transported to Hardes, in Kent, where they still (?) remain. The Bull and Gate was a noted inn in the seventeenth century in Holborn, where Fielding makes his hero Tom Jones put up on his arrival in London. It is still in existence under the same name, though much reduced in size. There is another in New Chapel Place, Kentish Town; and a few imitations of it were carried to distant provincial towns by the coaches of old times.
Another sign of the same period, although not commemorative of a battle, was the GOLDEN FIELD GATE, mentioned by Taylor the water-poet, in 1632, as the sign of an inn at the upper end of Holborn. It was put up in honour of the Champ du Drap d'Or, where Henry VIII. and Francis I.,
“Those suns of glory, those two lights of men,
Met in the vale of Arde.”—Henry VIII., a. i. s. 1.
The signs of great men who have distinguished themselves in the civil walks of life are much more scarce. Archimedes we meet with as an optician's sign. He had been adopted by that class of workmen on account of the burning lenses with which he set the Roman fleet on fire at Syracuse. Various implements of their trade were added as distinctions by the several shops who sold spectacles under his auspices, such as GOLDEN PROSPECTS or PERSPECTIVES, (i.e., spectacles or any other glass that assisted the sight,) GLOBES, KING's ARMs, &c. Among the Bagford Bills there is one of John Marshall, optician on Ludgate Hill, “at the sign of the OLD ARCHIMEDES AND TWO GOLDEN SPECTACLEs, which represents Archimedes taking astronomical observations, a huge pair of spectacles being suspended on one side of the sign, and on the other a lantern.” ARCHIMEDES AND THREE PAIR OF GOLDEN SPECTACLES was the sign of another optician in Ludgate Street, 1697, who evidently had adopted Marshall's sign with the addition of one pair of spectacles, in the hope of filching some of his customers. SIR ISAAC NEWTON was another telescope-maker's sign in Ludgate Street circa 1795. At the present day he occurs on a few public-houses; but it is somewhat more gratifying for our national pride to see a coffee-house in the Rue Arcade, Paris, named after him. LORD BACON's HEAD was the sign of W. Bickerton, a bookseller, without Temple Bar, in 1735; LOCKE's HEAD, of T. Peele, between the Temple Gates, 1718; JAMES FERGUSON figured at the door of an optical instrument maker in New Bond Street in 1780.” No doubt this optician was a Scotchman, who had given preference to a national celebrity. Just so, Andrew Miller, the great publisher and friend of Thomson, Hume, Fielding, &c., took the BUCHANAN HEAD for the sign of his shop in the Strand, opposite St Catherine Street, the house where the famous Jacob Tonson had lived, in whose time it was the SHAKESPEARE's HEAD. But Miller preferred his countryman, and put up the less known head of George Buchanan, (1525–1582.) Buchanan was author of a version of the Psalms, and at various times of his life tutor to Queen Mary Stuart, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Principal of St Leonard's, preceptor to James I., director of the Chancery, Privy Seal, &c.
CARDINAL WOLSEY occurs in many places, particularly in London, Windsor, and the neighbourhood of Hampton Court. ANDREW MARVEL is still commemorated on a sign in Whitefriargate, Hull, of which town he was a native. THOMAS GRESHAM, the founder of the Royal Exchange, was a favourite in London after the opening of the first Exchange in 1566; and SIR HUGH MIDDLETON, the projector of the New River, is duly honoured with two or three signs in Islington.
There exists a curious alehouse picture, called the THREE JOHNs, in Little Park Street, Westminster, and in White Lion Street, Pentonville. The same sign, many years ago, might have been seen in Bennett Street, near Queen Square, in the former locality. It represented an oblong table, with John Wilkes in the middle, the Rev. John Horne Tooke at one end, and Sir John Glynn (sergeant-at-law) at the other. There is a mezzotinto print of this picture (or the sign may be from the print) drawn and engraved by Richard Houston, 1769. John Wilkes, on whom the popular gratitude for writing the Earl of Bute out of power conferred many a signboard, still survives in a few spots. In a small Staffordshire town called Leek-with-Lowe, there is a stanch re-publican, who to this day keeps the WILKES-HEAD as his sign; whilst another one occurs in Bridges Street, St Ives. SIR FRANCIS BURDETT is also far from forgotten, and may still be seen “hung in effigy” at Castlegate, Berwick, in Nottingham, and in a few other places.
In 1683, we find SIR EDMUNDBURY GODFREY on the picture board of Langley Curtis, a bookseller near Fleetbridge. Being the martyr of a party, he undoubtedly for a while must have been a popular sign. LORD ANGLESEY was, in 1679, adopted by an inn in Drury Lane. This, we suppose, was Arthur, second Viscount Valentia, son of Sir Thomas Annesley, (Lord Mountmorris,) and elevated to the British peerage by the title of Earl of Anglesey in 1661; he died in 1686. One of the acts which probably contributed most to his popularity was that he, with the Lord Cavendish, Mr Howard, Dr Tillotson, Dr Burnet, and a few others, appeared to vindicate Lord Russell in the face of the court, and gave testimony to the good life and conversation of the prisoner.
The bulky figure of Paracelsus, or, as he called himself, Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Paracelsus Bombastus von Hohenheim, used formerly to be a constant apothecaries' symbol. From an advertisement in the London Gazette, July 22–26, 1680, about a stolen horse “with a sowre head,” we gather that there was at that time a sign of PARACELSUS in Old Fish Street. Information about the horse with “the sowre head” would also be received at a house in Lambeth, with no less a dignitary for its sign than the BISHOP OF CANTERBURY, his grace having been thus honoured from a neighbourly feeling.
Doctor Butler, (ob. 1617) physician to James I, and, according to Fuller, “the AEsculapius of that age,” invented a kind of medicated ale, called Dr Butler's ale, “which, if not now, (1784) was, a few years ago, sold at certain houses that had the BUTLER's HEAD for a sign.” One of the last remaining Butler's Heads was in a court leading from Basinghall into Coleman Street.
That singularly successful quack, Lilly, though he ought not to be placed in such good company as the king's physician, was also a constant sign, in the last century, at the door of sham doctors and astrologers. Not unfrequently they combined the BALLS (a favourite sign of the quacks) with Lilly's head, as the BLACK BALL AND LILLYHEAD, the sign of Thomas Saffold, “an approved and licensed physician and student in astrology: he hath practised astronomy for twenty-four years, and hath had the Bishop of London's licence to practise physick ever since the 4th day of September 1674, and hath, he thanks God for it, -
great experience and wonderful success in those arts.” He promised to perform the usual tours de force.
“foretell what s'ever was
By consequence to come to pass;
As death of great men, alterations,
Diseases, battles, inundations,
Or search'd a planet's house to know
Who broke and robb’d a house below.
Examined Venus and the Moon
To find who stole a silver spoon.”
This address was “at the Black Ball and Lilly Head, next door to the Feather shops that are within Blackfriars gateway, which is over against Ludgate Church, just by Ludgate in London.””
Classic authors also have come in for their share of signboard popularity in this country, which, at the time they flourished, was about as little civilized as the Sandwich Islands in the days of Captain Cook. These signs were set up by booksellers; thus HOMER's HEAD was, in 1735, the sign of Lawton Gilliver, against St Dunstan's Church, publisher of some of Pope's works, and in 1761, of J. Walker at Charing Cross. Cicero, under the name of TULLY's HEAD, hung at the door of Robert Dodsley, a famous bookseller in Pall Mall. In a newspaper of 1756, appeared some verses “on Tully's head in Pall Mall, by the Rev. Mr G—s, of which the following are the first and the last Stanzas :-
“Where Tully's bust and honour’d name
Point out the venal page,
There Dodsley consecrates to fame
The classics of his age.
Persist to grace this humble post,
Be Tully's head the sign,
Till future booksellers shall boast
To sell their tomes at thine.”
About the same time, the favourite Tully's Head was also the sign of T. Becket, and P. A. de Hondt, booksellers in the Strand, near Surrey Street. HORACE's HEAD graced the shop of J. White in Fleet Street, publisher of several of Joseph Strutt's antiquarian works; and VIRGIL's HEAD of Abraham van den Hoeck and George Richmond, opposite Exeter Change in the Strand, in the middle of the last century. Of SENECA's HEAD two instances occur, J. Round in Exchange Alley in 1711, and Varenne, near Somerset House, in the Strand, at the same period.
A few of our own poets are also common tavern pictures. As early as 1655 we find a (Ben) JONSON'S HEAD tavern in the Strand, where Ben Jonson's chair was kept as a relic.” In that same year it was the sign of Robert Pollard, bookseller, behind the Royal Exchange. Ten years later it occurs in the following advertisement:—
WHEREAS Thomas Williams, of the society of real and well-meaning Chymists hath prepaired certain Medicynes for the cure and prevention of the Plague, at cheap rates, without Benefit to himself, and for the publick good, In pursuance of directions from authority, be it known that these said Medicynes are to be had at Mr Thomas Fidges, in Fountain Court, Shoe Lane, near Fleet Street, and are also left by him to be disposed of at the GREEN BALL, within Ludgate, the Ben Jonson's Head, near Yorkhouse,” &c.
There is still a Ben Jonson's Head tavern with a painted portrait of the poet in Shoe Lane, Fleet Street; a Ben Jonson's Inn at Pemberton, Wigan, Lancashire; and another at Weston-on-the Green, Bicester.
SHAKESPEARE's HEAD is to be seen in almost every town where there is a
theatre. At a tavern with that sign in Great Russell Street, Covent Garden, the
Beefsteak Society (different from the Beefsteak Club) used to meet before it was
removed to the Lyceum Theatre. George Lambert, scene-painter to Covent Garden
Theatre, was its originator. This tavern was at one time famous for its
beautifully painted sign. The well-known Lion's Head, first set up by Addison at
Button's, was for a time placed at this house. There was another Shakespeare
Head in Wych Street, Drury Lane, a small public-house at the beginning of this
century, the last haunt of the Club of Owls, so called on account of the late
hours kept by its members.
Addison's Lion's Head, the box for the deposition of the correspondence of the Guardian, was originally placed at Button's, over against Tom’s in Great Russell Street. “After having become a receptacle of papers and a spy for the Guardian, it was moved to the Shakespeare's Head Tavern, under the Piazza in Covent Garden, kept by a person named Tomkins, and in 1751 was for a short time placed in the Bedford Coffeehouse, immediately adjoining the Shakespeare Tavern, and there employed as a medium of literary communication by Dr John Hill, author of the “Inspector. In 1769, Tomkins was succeeded by his waiter, named Campbell, as proprietor of the tavern and Lion's Head, and by him the latter was retained till 1804, when it was purchased by the late Charles Richardson, after whose death in 1827 it devolved to his son, and has since become the property of his Grace the Duke of Bedford.”—Till, in his Preface to Descriptive Catalogue of English Medals.
The house was then kept by a lady under the protection of Dutch Sam the pugilist. After this it was for one year in the hands of the well known Mr Mark Lemon, present editor of Punch, then just newly married to Miss Romer, a singer of some renown, who assisted him in the management of this establishment. The house was chiefly visited by actors from Covent Garden, Drury Lane, and the Olympic, whilst a club of literati used to meet on the first floor.
SIR JOHN FALSTAFF, who so dearly loved his sack, could not fail to become popular with the publicans, and may be seen on almost as many signboards as his parent Shakespeare.
MILTON's HEAD was, in 1759, the sign of George Hawkins, a bookseller at the corner of the Middle Temple gate, Fleet Street; at present there are two Milton's Head public-houses in Nottingham. DRYDEN’s HEAD was to be seen in 1761, at the door of H. Payne and Crossley, booksellers in Paternoster Row. At Kate's Cabin, on the Great Northern Road, between Chesterton and Alwalton, there is a sign of Dryden's head, painted by Sir William Beechey, when engaged as a house-painter on the decoration of Alwalton Hall. Dryden was often in that neighbourhood when on a visit to his kinsman, John Dryden of Chesterton.
POPE's HEAD was in favour with the booksellers of the last century; thus the Gentleman's Magazine, Sept. 1770, mentions a head of Alexander Pope in Paternoster Row, painted by an eminent artist, but does not say who the painter was. Edmund Curll, the notorious bookseller in Rose Street, Covent Garden, had Pope's head for his sign, not out of affection certainly, but out of hatred to the poet. After the quarrel which arose out of Curll's piratical publication of Pope's literary correspondence, Curll, in May 22, 1735, addressed a letter of thanks to the House of Lords, ending thus,—“I have engraved a new plate of Mr Pope's head from Mr Jervas's painting, and likewise intend to hang him up in effigy for a sign to all spectators of his falsehood and my own veracity, which I will always maintain under the Scotch motto, ‘Nemo me impune lacessit.’” R. Griffiths, a bookseller in St Paul's Churchyard since 1750, had the DUNCIAD for his sign. He was agent for a very primitive social-evil movement; advertisements emanating from this “sett of gentlemen sympathising with the misfortunes of young girls” occur in the papers of June and July 1752. One of the regulations was,
“ None need to apply but such as are Fifteen years of age, and not above Twenty-five: older are thought past being reclaim’d, unless good Recommendations are given. Drinkers of spirits and swearers have a bad chance.”
The MAN OF Ross is at the present day a signboard at Wye Terrace, Ross, Herefordshire; the house in which John Kyrle, the Man of Ross, dwelt, was, after his death, converted into an inn. Twenty or thirty years ago the following poetical effusion was to be read stuck up in that inn:—
“Here dwelt the Man of Ross, O traveller here,
Departed merit claims the rev'rent tear.
Friend to the friendless, to the sick man health,
With generous joy he view'd his modest wealth.
If 'neath this roof thy wine-cheer'd moments pass,
Fill to the good man's name one grateful glass.
To higher zest shall memory wake thy soul,
And virtue mingle in th' ennobled bowl.
Here cheat thy cares, in generous visions melt,
And dream of goodness thou hast never felt.”
The head of ROWE, the first emendator, corrector, and illustrator of Shakespeare, was in 1735 the sign of a bookseller in Essex Street, Strand. The CAMDEN HEAD and CAMDEN ARMs occur in four instances as the sign of London publicans. Camden Town, however, may perhaps take the credit of this last sign. ADDISON's HEAD was for above sixty years the sign of the then well-known firm of Corbett & Co.—first of C. Corbett, afterwards of his son Thomas, booksellers in Fleet Street from 1740 till the beginning of this century. DR JOHNSON's HEAD, exhibiting a portrait of the great lexicographer, is a modern sign in Bolton Court, Fleet Street, opposite to where the great man lived, and which was in his time occupied by an upholsterer. It is sometimes asserted to be the house in which the Doctor resided, but this statement is wrong, for the house in which he had apartments was burned down in 1819. Finally, a portrait of Sterne, under the name of the YORICK's HEAD, was the sign of John Wallis, a bookseller in Ludgate Street in 1795.
Of modern poets LORD BYRON is the only one who has been exalted
to the signboard. In the neighbourhood of Nottingham his portrait occurs in
several instances; his MAZEPPA also is a great favourite, but it must be
confessed its popularity has been greatly assisted by the circus, by sensational
engravings, and, above all, by that love for horse flesh innate to the British
character. DON JUAN also occurs on a publican's signboard at Cawood, Selby, West
Riding; and DON JOHN at Maltby, Rotheram, in the same county; but perhaps these
are merely the names of race horses.
The latest of all literary celebrities who attained sufficient popularity to entitle him to a signboard was SHERIDAN KNOWLES, who was chosen as the sign of a tavern in Bridge Street, Covent Garden, facing the principal entrance to Drury Lane Theatre, (now a nameless eating-house.) There the Club of Owls used to meet. Sheridan Knowles was one of the patrons, and Augustine Wade, an author and composer of some fame, was chairman of the club in those days. Pierce Egan and Leman Rede were amongst its members; so that it may be conjectured that the nights were not passed in moping.”
Mythological divinities and heroes, also, have been very fairly represented on our signboards. At this head, of course, BACCHUs (frequently with the epithet of JOLLY) well deserves to be placed. In the time when the BUSH was the usual alehouse sign, or rather when it had swollen to a crown of evergreens, a chubby little Bacchus astride on a tun was generally a pendant to the crown. In Holland and Germany we have seen a Beer king, (a modern invention, certainly) named Cambrinus, taking the place of Bacchus at the beer-house door; but, according to the sixteenth century notions, Bacchus included beer in his dominions. Hence he is styled “Bacchus, the God of brew’d wine and sugar, grand patron of robpots, upsey freesy tipplers, and supernaculum takers, this Bacchus, who is head warden of Wintner's Hall, ale connor, mayor of all victualling houses,” &c.—MASSINGER's Virgin Martyr, a. ii. s. 1. Next to Bacchus, APOLLO is most frequent, but whether as god of the sun or leader of the Muses it is difficult to say. Sometimes he is called GLORIOUS APOLLO, which, in heraldic language, means that he has a halo round his head. In the beginning of this century there was a notorious place of amusement in St George's Fields, Westminster Road, called the Apollo Gardens—a Vauxhall or a Ranelagh of a very low description. It was tastefully fitted up, but being small and having few attractions beyond its really good orchestra, it became the resort of the vulgar and the depraved, and was finally closed and built over.
MINERVA also is not uncommon—probably not so much because she was the goddess of wisdom, but as “ye patroness of scholars, shoemakers, diers,” &c.; JUNO has a temple in Church Lane, Hull, and NEPTUNE of course is of frequent occurrence in a country that holds the - “Imperium pelagi saevumque tridentem.”
The smith being generally a thirsty soul, his patron VULCAN constitutes an appropriate alehouse sign, and in that capacity he frequently figures, particularly in the Black country. Amongst the quaint Dutch signboard inscriptions there is one which, in the seventeenth century, was written under a sign of Vulcan lighting his pipe:— -
MERCURY, the god of commerce, was of frequent occurrence, as might be expected. Amongst the Banks collection of shopbills there is one of a fanshop in Wardour Street with the sign of the MERCURY AND FAN. Both CUPID and FLORA were signs at Norwich in 1750, and COMUs is frequently the tutelary god of our provincial public-houses. CASTOR AND POLLUX, represented in the dress of Roman soldiers of the empire standing near a cask of tallow, was the sign of T. & J. Bolt, tallow-chandlers, at the corner of Berner Street, Oxford Street, at the end of the last century, for the obvious reason that, like the Messrs Bolt, they were two brothers that spread light over the world. Our admiration for athletic strength and sports suggested the sign of HERCULES, as well as his biblical parallel SAMSON.
As for the HERCULES PILLARS, this was the classic name for the Straits of Gibraltar, which by the ancients was considered the end of the world; in the same classic sense it was adopted on outskirts of towns, where it is more common now to see the WORLD'S END. In 1667 it was the sign of Richard Penck in Pall Mall, and also of a public-house in Piccadilly, on the site of the present Hamilton Place, both which spots were at that period the end of the inhabited world of London. The sign generally represented the demi-god standing between the pillars, or pulling the pillars down—a strange cross between the biblical and the pagan Hercules. The Pillars of Hercules in Piccadilly is mentioned by Wycherley in the “Plain Dealer,” 1676 —“I should soon be picking up all our own mortgaged apostle spoons, bowls, and beakers out of most of the alehouses betwixt the Hercules Pillars and the BOATSWAIN in Wapping.” The Marquis of Granby often visited the former house, and here Fielding, in “Tom Jones,” makes Squire Western put up —“The Squire sat down to regale himself over a bottle of wine with his parson and the landlord of the Hercules Pillars, who, as the Squire said, would make an excellent third man, and would inform them of the news of the town; for, to be sure, says he, he knows a great deal, since the horses of many of the quality stand at his house.” In Pepys' time there was a Hercules Pillars tavern in Fleet Street. Here the merry clerk of the Admiralty supped with his wife and some friends on Feb. 6, 1667–8; his return home gives a good idea of London after the fire — “Coming from the Duke of York's playhouse I got a coach, and a humour took us and I carried them to the Hercules Pillars, and there did give them a kind of supper of about 7s. and very merry, and home round the town, not through the ruins. And it was pretty how the coachman by mistake drives us into the ruins from London Wall unto Coleman Street, and would persuade me that I lived there. And the truth is, I did think that he and the linkman had contrived some roguery, but it proved only a mistake of the coachman; but it was a cunning place to have done us a mischief in, as any I know, to drive us out of the road into the ruins, and stop, while nobody could be called to help us. But we came home safe. ATLAS carrying the World was the very appropriate sign of the map and chart makers. In 1674 there was one in Cornhill, and under a print of Blanket fair (the fair held on the Thames when frozen over) occurs the following imprint —“A map of the river Thames merrily called Blanket-fair, as it was frozen in the memorable year 1683–4, describing the Booths, Footpaths, Coaches, Sledges, Bull-baitings, and other remarks. Sold by Joseph Moxon on the West side of Fleet ditch, at the sign of the ATLAS.” Equally appropriate was ORPHEUS as the sign of the music shop of L. Peppard, next door to Bickerstaffe's coffeehouse, Russell Street, Covent Garden, 1711. No fault either can be found with the GoLDEN FLEECE as the sign of a woollen draper—Jason's golden fleece being an allegory of the wool trade; but at the door of an inn or public-house it looks very like a warning of the fate the traveller may expect within—in being fleeced. In the seventeenth century there was a FLEECE Tavern in St James's — st RARE Consort of four Trumpets Marine, never heard of before in England.” If any person desire to come and hear it, they may repair to the Fleece Tavern near St James's about 2 o'clock in the afternoon every day in the week except Sundays. Every consort shall continue one hour and so to begin again. The best places are 1 shilling, the others sixpence.”—London Gazette, Feb. 1–4, 1674. This is amongst the earliest concerts on record in London. Another example of this sign worth mentioning was the Fleece Tavern, (in York Street) Covent Garden, which, says. Aubrey, “was very unfortunate for homicides; there have been several killed—three in my time. It is now (1692) a private house. Clifton, the master, hanged himself, having perjured himself.”
Pepys does not give this house a better character:—“Decemb.
1, 1660. Mr Flower did tell me how a Scotch knight was killed basely the other
day at the Fleece in Covent Garden, where there had been a great many formerly
killed.” On the Continent, also, this symbol was used; for instance, in 1687, by
Jean Camusat, a printer in the Rue St Jacques, Paris; his colophon represented
Jason taking the golden fleece off a tree, with the motto—“TEGIT ET QUOS TANGIT
INAURAT.” Another sign, of which the application is not very obvious, is Pegasus
or the FLYING HORSE, unless it refers to this rhyme —
“If with water you fill up your glasses,
You'll never write anything wise;
For wine is the horse of Parnassus,
Which hurries a bard to the skies.”
“John Gay, at the Flying Horse, between St Dunstan's Church and Chancery Lane, 1680,” is an imprint under many ballads. John Gay undoubtedly had adopted this sign as a compliment to the Templars, in whose vicinity he lived, and whose arms are a Pegasus on a field arg. As for the poor balladmongers, whose works Gay printed, they certainly put Pegasus too much to the plough, to imagine that he alluded to theirs as a Flying Horse. Instead of the Flying Horse, a facetious innkeeper at Rogate, Petersfield, has put up a parody in the shape of the FLYING BULL.
The HOPE and the HOPE AND ANCHOR are constant signs with shop and tavern
keepers. Pepys spent his Sunday, the 23d September 1660, at the Hope Tavern, in
a not very godly manner; and his account shews the curious business management
of the taverns in the time —
“To the Hope and sent for Mr Chaplin, who with Nicholas Osborne and one Daniel come to us, and we drank of two or three quarts of wine, which was very good; the drawing of our wine causing a great quarrel in the house between the two drawers which should draw us the best, which caused a great deal of noise and falling out, till the master parted them, and came up to us and did give us a long account of the liberty he gives his servants, all alike, to draw what wine they will to please his customers; and we eat above two hundred walnuts.”
In consequence of these excesses Master Pepys was very ill next day, but the particulars of the illness, though very graphically entered into the diary, are “unfit for publication.”
The FORTUNE was adopted from considerations somewhat similar to those that prompted the choice of the Hope. It occurs as the sign of a tavern in Wapping in 1667. The trades tokens of this house represent the goddess by a naked figure standing on a globe, and holding a veil distended by the wind,— a delicate hint to the customers, for it is a well-known fact that a man who has “a sheet in the wind” is as happy as a king. Doubtless the name of the ELYSIUM, a public-house in Drury Lane about thirty years ago, had also been adopted as suggestive of the happiness in store for the customers who honoured the place by their company.
Ballads, novels, chapbooks, and songs, have also given their contingent. Thus, for instance, the BLIND BEGGAR of BETHNAL GREEN—still a public-house in the Whitechapel Road—has decorated the signpost for ages. The ballad was written in the reign of Queen Elizabeth; but the legend refers to Henry de Montfort, son of the Earl of Leicester, who was supposed to have fallen at the battle of Evesham in the reign of Henry III. Not only was the Beggar adopted as a sign by publicans, but he also figured on the staff of the parish beadle; and so convinced were the Bethnal Green folks of the truth of the story, that the house called Kirby Castle was generally pointed out as the Blind Beggar's palace, and two turrets at the extremity of the court wall as the place where he deposited his gains.
Still more general all over England is GUY OF
WARWICK, who occurs amongst the signs on trades tokens of the seventeenth
century: that of Peel Beckford, in Field Lane, represents him as an armed man
holding a boar's head erect on a spear. The wondrous strange feats of this
knight form the subject of many a ballad. In the Roxburgh Collection there is
one headed, “The valiant deads of chivalry atchieved by that noble knight, Sir
Guy of Warwick, who, for the love of fair Phillis, became a hermit, and dyed in
a cave of a craggy rock a mile distant from Warwick. In Normandy stoutly won by
fight the Emperor's daughter of Almayne from many a valiant, worthy knight.”
His most popular feat is the slaying of the DUN Cow on Dunsmore Heath, which act
of valour is commemorated on many signs.
“By gallant Guy of Warwick slain Was Colbrand, that gigantick Dane. Nor could this desp'rate champion daunt A dun cow bigger than elephaunt. But he, to prove his courage sterling, His whinyard in her blood embrued; He cut from her enormous side a sirloin, And in his porridge-pot her brisket stew'd, Then butcher'd a wild boar, and eat him barbicu'd.” Huddersford Wiccanical Chaplet. A public-house at Swainsthorpe, near Norwich, has the following inscription on his sign of the Dun Cow — “Walk in, gentlemen, I trust you'll find The Dun Cow's milk is to your mind.” Another on the road between Durham and York:— “Oh, come you from the east, Oh, come you from the west, If ye will taste the Dun Cow's milk, Ye'll say it is the best.”
The KING AND MILLER is another ballad-sign seen in many places. It alludes to the adventure of Henry II, with the Miller of Mansfield.” Similar stories are told of many different kings: of King John and the Miller of Charlton, (from whom Cuckold's Point got its name;) of King Edward and the tanner of Drayton Basset; of Henry VIII. ; of James W. of Scotland, (the guidman of Ballageich;) of Henry IV. of France and the pig-merchant; of Charles W. of Spain and the cobbler of Brussels; of Joseph II. ; of Frederick the Great; and even of Haroun-al-Raschid, who used to go about incognito under the name of Il Bondocani. The most frequent of all ballad signs is unquestionably ROBIN HOOD AND LITTLE JOHN, his faithful accolyte. Robin Hood has for centuries enjoyed a popularity amongst the English people shared by no other hero. He was a crack shot, and of a manly, merry temper, qualities which made the mob overlook his confused notions about meum and tuum, and other peccadilloes. His sign is frequently accompanied by the following inscription —
“You gentlemen, and yeomen good,
Come in and drink with Robin Hood.
If Robin Hood be not at home,
Come in and drink with Little John.”
Which last line a country publican, not very well versed in ballad lore, thus
corrected — “Come in and drink with Jemmie Webster.” At Bradford, in Yorkshire,
the following variation occurs:— “Call here, my boy, if you are dry, The fault's
in you, and not in I. If Robin Hood from home is gone, Step in and drink with
Little John.” At Overseal, in Leicestershire — “Robin Hood is dead and gone,
Pray call and drink with Little John.” Finally, at Turnham Green — “Try
Charrington's ale, you will find it good. Step in and drink with Robin Hood. If
Robin Hood,” &c. And to shew the perfect application of the rhyme, mine host
informs the public that he is “Little John from the old PACK HoRSE,” (a
public-house opposite.) One of the ballads in Robin Hood's Garland has given
another signboard hero, namely, the PINDAR OF WAKEFIELD, The “pindar” was the man who took
care of stray cattle, which he kept in the pinfold, or pound, until it was
claimed and the expenses paid.
“In Wakefielde there lives a jolly Pindar,
In Wakefielde all on the greene.
“There is neither knight nor squire, said the Pindar,
“Nor baron so bold, nor baron so bold,
Dares make a trespass to the town of Wakefielde,
But his pledge goes to the Pinfold.’”
Drunken Barnaby mentions the sign in Wakefield in 1634:—
“Straight at Wakefielde I was seen, a’,
Where I sought for George-a-Green, a',
But could find not such a creature,
Yet on sign I saw his feature.
Whose strength of ale had so much stirr'd me,
That I grew stouter far than Jordie.”
There was formerly a public-house near St Chad's Well, Clerkenwell, bearing this
sign, which at one period, to judge from the following inscription, would seem
to have been more famous than the celebrated Bagnigge Wells hard by. A stone in
the garden-wall of Bagnigge House said:—
S. T. THIS IS BAGNIGGE HOUSE. NEARE THE PINDAR A WAKEFEILDE. 1680.
more uncommon ballad signs, we find the BABES IN THE WOOD at Hanging Heaton,
Dewsbury, West Riding. JANE SHORE was commemorated in Shoreditch in the
seventeenth century, as we see from trades tokens. VALENTINE AND ORSON we find
mentioned as early as 1711,” as the sign of a coffee-house in Long Lane,
Bermondsey; and there they remain till the present day. Other chapbook
celebrities are MOTHER SHIPTON, Kentish Town, and Low Bridge, Knaresboro'; which
latter village disputes with Shipton, near Londesborough, the honour of giving
birth to this remarkable character in the month of July 1488. The fact is duly
commemorated under her signboard in the former place:—
“Near to this petrifying wall +
I first drew breath, as records tell.”
Her life and prophecies have at all times been a favourite theme in popular literature. If we may believe her biographers, she predicted the fall of Cardinal Wolsey, the dissolution of the monasteries, the establishment of the Protestant religion under Edward VI, the cruelty of Queen Mary, the glorious reign of Queen Elizabeth, the defeat of the Armada, the Plague and Great Fire, and many things not yet come to pass. Like the Delphic oracles, her predictions were given in metre, and veiled in mystery. The plague and fire, for instance, are thus foretold:—
“Triumphant death rides London thro',
And men on tops of houses go.”
She is represented as of a most unprepossessing appearance; although we certainly might have expected better from the daughter of a necromancer, or “the phantasm of Apollo, or some aerial daemon who seduced her mother;”—“her body was long, and very big-boned; she had great goggling eyes, very sharp and fiery; a nose of unproportionable length, having in it many crooks and turnings, adorned with great pimples, and which, like vapours of brimstone, gave such a lustre in the night, that the nurse needed no other light to dress her by in her childhood.”
Another necromancer, Merlin, shares renown with Mother Shipton, both in chapbooks and on signboards. MERLIN's CAVE is the sign of a public-house in Great Audley Street, and in Upper Rosomon Street, Clerkenwell, in which places he doubtless still plays his old pranks, of changing men into beasts. Innumerable romances and histories of Merlin were printed in the middle ages. He appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth as early as the twelfth century, and Alain de l'Isle gave an ample explanation of his prophecies in seven books, printed in 1608. “This Merlin,” says M. de la Monnoye, “tout magicien et fils du diable que l’on l'a cru,” has by the good Carmelite, Baptiste Mantuanus, been metamorphosed into a saint. At the end of his “Tolentinum,” a poem in three books, in honour of St Nicholas, (anno 1509) he thus speaks of Merlin:—
“Vitae venerabilis olim
Wir fuit et vates, venturi praescius aevi,
Werlinus, laris infando de semine cretus.
Hic satus infami coitu pietate refulsit
Eximia superum factus post funera consors.”
Once there was a man who led a holy life, and was a prophet, who could see what would come to pass; his name was Merlin, and he was the offspring of an evil and fiendish spirit. But though born from such a father, he shone forth in virtue, and after his death, became a companion of the Saints.
His prophecies were also translated into Italian, and printed at Venice in 1516. The annotators say it was reported that Merlin, by his enchantments, transported from Ireland those huge stones found in Salisbury plain. His cave was in Clerkenwell, on the site where the alehouse now stands, and was in the reign of James I., one of the London sights strangers went to see.*
We have a well-known chapbook hero in JACK OF NEWBURY, who had already attained to the signboard honours in the seventeenth century, when we find him on the token of John Wheeler, in Soper Lane (now Queen Street, Cheapside) whilst at present, he may be seen in a full-length portrait in Chiswell Street, Finsbury Square. This Jack of Newbury, alias Winchcombe, alias Smallwoode, “was the most considerable clothier England ever had. He kept an hundred looms in his house, each managed by a man and a boy. He feasted King Henry VIII. and his first Queen Catherine at his own house in Newbury, now divided into sixteen clothiers' houses. He built the Church of Newbury, from the pulpit westward to the town.” At the battle of Flodden in 1513, he joined the Earl of Surrey with a corps of one hundred men, well equipped at his sole expense, who distinguished themselves greatly in that fight. He is buried in Newbury, where his brass effigy is still to be seen, purporting that he died February 15, 1519. An inn bearing his sign in Newbury, is said to be built on the site of the house where he entertained King Harry. Thomas Deloney, the ballad-writer, wrote a tale about him, entitled, “The pleasant history of John Winchcomb, in his younger years called Jack of Newberry, the famous and worthy clothier of England, declaring his life and love, together with his charitable deeds and great hospitalitie. Entered in the Stationers' Book, May 7, 1596.”
WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT is still very common, not only in London but in the country also. Sometimes the cat is represented without her master, as on the token of a shop in Longacre, 1657, and on the sign of Warney, a seal-engraver in New Court, Old Bailey, 1783, whose shopbill: represents a large cat carved in wood holding an eye-glass by a chain. The story of Whittington is still a favourite chapbook tale, and has its parallel in the fairy tales of various other countries. Straparola, in his “Piacevole Notte,” is, we believe, the first who mentions it. The earliest English narrative occurs in Johnson's “Crown Garland of Golden Roses,” 1612, but there is an allusion to “Whittington and his Puss” in the play of “Eastward Hoe I’ 1603. For more than a century it was one of the stock pieces of Punch and his dramatic troop. Sept. 21, 1688, Pepys went to see it : “To Southwark Fair, very dirty, and there saw the puppet-show of Whittington, which is pretty to see ; and how that idle thing do work upon people that see it, and even myself too.” Foote, in his comedy of the “Nabob,” makes Sir Matthew Mite account for the legend by explaining the cat as the name of some quick-sailing vessels by which Whittington imported coals, which should have been the source of the Lord Mayor's wealth. In the Highgate Road there is a skeleton of a cat in a public-house window, which by the people who visit there is firmly believed to be the earthly remains of Whittington's identical cat. The house is not far distant from the spot where the future Lord Mayor of London stopped to listen to the city bells inviting him to return. It is now marked by a stone, with the event duly inscribed thereon.
King Arthur's ROUND TABLE is to be seen on various publichouses. There is one in St Martin's Court, Leicester Square, where the American champion, Heenan, put up when he came to contest the belt with the valiant Tom Sayers. The same sign is also often to be met with on the Continent. In the seventeenth century there was a famous tavern called la Table Roland in the Vallée de Misère at Paris. JOHN-o'-GROAT’s HOUSE is also used for a sign; there was one some years ago in Windmill Street, Haymarket; and at present there is a JOHN o'-GROAT's in Gray Street, Blackfriars Road. Both these and the Round Table contain, we conceive, some intimation of that even-handed justice observed at the houses, where all comers are treated alike, and one man is as good as another.
DARBY AND JOHN, a corruption of Darby and Joan, and borrowed from an old nursery fable, is a sign at Crowle, in Lincolnshire; and HOB IN THE WELL, with a similar origin, at Little Port Street, Lynn; whilst SIR JOHN BARLEYCORN is the hero of a ballad allegorical of the art of brewing, &c. A favourite ballad of our ancestors originated the sign of the LONDON APPRENTICE, of which there are still numerous examples. How they were represented appears from the Spectator, No. 428, viz., “with a lion's heart in each hand.” The ballad informs us that the apprentice came off with flying colours, after endless adventures, one of which was that like Richard Coeur-de-Lion— he “robbed the lion of his heart.” The ballad is entitled “The Honour of an Apprentice of London, wherein he declared his matchless manhood and brave adventures done by him in Turkey, and by what means he married the king's daughter of that same country.”
The Essex SERPENT is a sign in King Street, Covent Garden, and in Charles Street, Westminster, perhaps in allusion to a fabulous monster recorded in a catalogue of wonders and awful prognostications contained in a broadside of 1704,” from which we learn that, “Before Henry the Second died, a dragon of marvellous bigness was discovered at St Osyph, in Essex.” Had we any evidence that it is an old sign, we might almost be inclined to consider it as dating from the civil war, and hung up with reference to Essex, the Parliamentary general; for though we have searched the chroniclers fondest of relating wonders and monstrous apparitions, we have not succeeded in finding any authority for the St Osyph Dragon, other than the above-mentioned broadside.
Literature of a somewhat higher class than street ballads, has likewise contributed material to the signboards. One of the oldest instances is the LUCRECE, the chaste felo-de-se of Roman history, who, in the sixteenth century, was much in fashion among the poets, and was even sung by Shakespeare. We find that “Thomas Berthelet, prynter unto the kynges mooste noble grace, dwellynge at the sygne of the Lucrece, in Fletestrete, in the year of our Lorde 1536.” In 1557, it was the sign of Leonard Axtell, in St Paul's Churchyard; and in the reign of Charles I, of Thomas Purfoot, in New Rents, Newgate Market, both booksellers and printers.
The COMPLETE ANGLER was the usual sign of fish-tackle sellers in the last century, and the essays of the Spectator made the character of SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY very popular with tobacconists. DOCTOR SYNTAX hangs at the door of many public-houses, as at Preston, Oldham, Newcastle, Gateshead, &c.; the LADY OF THE LAKE at Lowestoft; DANDIE DINMONT at West Linton, Carlisle; PICKWICK in Newcastle; the RED ROVER, Barton Street, Gloucester; * TAM o' SHANTER, Laurence Street, York, and various other towns; ROBIN ADAIR, Benwell, Newcastle. Popular songs also belong to this class, as the LASS o' GowRIE, Sunderland and Durham; AULD LANG SYNE, Preston Street, Liverpool; TULLOCH-GoRUM and LOCH-NA-GAR, both in Manchester; ROB ROY, Titheburn Street, Liverpool; FLOWERS OF THE FOREST, Blackfriars Road. On the whole, however, this class of names is much more prevalent in the northerly than in the southerly districts of England. In the south, if we except THE OLD ENGLISH GENTLEMAN, who occurs everywhere, the great JIM CROW is almost the only instance of the hero of a song promoted to the signboard. ROBINSON CRUSOE is common to all the seaports of the kingdom, whilst UNCLE TOM, or UNCLE TOM's CABIN, is to be found everywhere, not only in England, but also on the Continent. Any little underground place of refreshment or beer-house difficult of access, is considered as fittingly named by Mrs Beecher Stowe's novel.
A very appropriate, and not uncommon public-house sign is the TOBY PHILPOTT. That he well deserves this honour, appears from the following obituary notice, (in the Gent. Mag., Dec. 1810:)— “At the Ewes farm-house, Yorkshire, aged 76, Mr Paul Parnell, farmer, grazier, and maltster, who, during his lifetime, drank out of one silver pint cup upwards of £2000 sterling worth of Yorkshire Stingo, being remarkably attached to Stingo tipple of the home-brewed best quality. The calculation is taken at 2d. per cupful. He was the bon-vivant whom O'Keefe celebrated in more than one of his Bacchanalian songs under the appellation of Toby Philpott.”
Between St Albans and Harpenden, there was, some years ago, and perhaps there is still, a public-house called the OLD ROSON. This name also appears to be borrowed from the well-known song, “Old Rosin the Beau,” beginning thus:—
“I have travell'd this wide world over,
And now to another I'll go,
I know that good quarters are waiting
To welcome old Rosin the Beau (ter.)
When I am dead and laid out on the counter,
A voice you will hear from below,
Singing out brandy and water
To drink to old Rosin the Beau (ter.)
You must get some dozen good fellows,
And stand them all round in a row,
And drink out of half-gallon bottles,
To the name of old Rosin the Beau,” &c.
These stanzas, and one or two more to the same import, were quite sufficient to make the old Beau a fit subject for the signboard, irrespective of his other amiable qualities held forth in the song. The very common OLD HOUSE AT HOME, too, is borrowed from a once-popular ballad, the verse of which is too well known to need quotation here.
The equally common HEARTY GOOD FELLOW is adopted from a Seven Dials ballad:—
“I am a hearty good fellow,
I live at my ease,
I work when I am willing,
I play when I please.
With my bottle and my glass,
Many hours I pass,
Sometimes with a friend,
And sometimes with a lass,” &c.
Of signboards portraying artists, but few instances occur; and when they do, they are almost exclusively the property of printsellers. We have only met with three: REMBRANDT's HEAD, the sign of J. Jackson, printseller, at the corner of Chancery Lane, Fleet Street, 1759; and of Nathaniel Smith, the father (?) of J. T. Smith, in Great May's Buildings, St Martin's Lane. Another member of that family, J. Smith, who kept a printshop in Cheapside, where several of Hogarth's engravings were published, assumed the HOGARTH's HEAD for his sign. The third is the VAN DYKE's HEAD, the sign of C. Philips, engraver and print publisher in Portugal Street, in 1761. Hogarth also had a head of Van Dyke as his trade symbol, made from small pieces of cork, but being gilt, he called it the G)LDEN HEAD.
In old times, more than at present, music was deemed a necessary adjunct to tavern hospitality and public-house entertainment. The fiddlers and ballad singers of the “tap” room, however, gave way to the newer brass band at the doors, and this, in its turn, is now gradually fading before the “music hall” and so-called “concert” arrangement. Singing, it may be remarked, is one of the first follies into which a man falls after a too free indulgence in the cup. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that musical signboards should have swung from time to time over the alehouse door. PAGANINI, who contributed so much to the popularity of that well-known part of the “Carnival de Venise”—still the shibboleth of all fiddlers—is of very common occurrence.
The love for music is also eloquently expressed by the sign of the FIDDLER's ARMs, Gornal Wood, Staffordshire. JENNY LIND seems to be the only musician of modern times who has found her way to the signboard. In the last century, HANDEL's HEAD was common; but at the present moment, no instance of its use remains. The MAID AND THE MAGPIE, a very common tavern title, is believed to be the only sign borrowed from an opera. In Queen Anne's time, there was a PURCELL's HEAD in Wych Street, Drury Lane, the sign of a music-house. It represented that musician in a brown, full-bottomed wig, and green nightgown, and was very well painted. Purcell, who died in 1682, greatly improved English melody; he composed sonatas, anthems, and the music to various plays. His “Te Deum” and “Jubilate” are still admired.
Actors, and favourite characters from plays, have frequently been adopted as signs. The oldest instance we find is TARLETON, or DICK TARLETON, who, in the sixteenth century, seems to have been common enough to make Bishop Hall allude to him in his “Satyres,” (b. vi., s. 1)—
- “O honour far beyond a brazen shrine,
To sit with Tarlton on an ale-post's sign.”
Tarleton is seen on the trades token of a house in Wheeler Street, Southwark; and it is only within a very few years that this sign has been consigned to oblivion. Richard, or “Dick” Tarleton was a celebrated low-comedy actor, born at Condover in Shropshire, and brought to town in the household of the Earl of Leicester. He first kept an ordinary in Paternoster Row, called the CASTLE, much frequented by the booksellers and printers of St Paul's Churchyard. Afterwards, he kept the TABOR, in Gracechurch Street. He was one of Queen Elizabeth's twelve player, in receipt of wages, and was at that time living as one of the grooms of the chamber at Barn Elms, but lost his situation by reason of some scurrilous reflections on Leicester and Raleigh. He probably also performed at the Curtain in Shoreditch, in which parish he was buried, September 3, 1588. “The great popularity which Tarlton possessed may be readily seen from the numerous allusions to him in almost all the writers of the time, and few actors have been honoured with so many practical tokens of esteem. His portrait graced the ale-house, game-cocks were named after him, and a century after his death, his effigy adorned the jakes.”* The portrait of this famous wit is prefixed to the edition of his jests, printed in 1611, where he is represented in the costume of a clown playing on the tabor and pipe. Another portrait of him occurs as an accompaniment to the letter T, in a collection of ornamental letters,t with the following rhymes:—
“This picture here set down within his letter T, Aright doth shew the forme and shape of Tharleton unto thee. When he in pleasaunt wise the counterfeit expreste, Of clowne with cote of russet hew, and startups wth the reste; Who merry many made when he appear'd in sight, The grave, the wise, as well as rude, att him did take delight. The partie now is gone, and closlie clad in claye; Of all the jesters in the lande, he bare the praise awaie. Now hath he plaied his parte, and sure he is of this, If he in Christe did die to live with Him in lasting bliss.”
SPILLER's HEAD was the sign of an inn in Clare Market, where one of the most famous tavern clubs was held. This meeting of artists, wits, humorists, and actors originated with the performances at Lincoln's Inn, about the year 1697. They counted many men of note amongst their members. Colley Cibber was one of the founders, and their best president, not even excepting Tom d'Urfey. James Spiller, it should be stated, was a celebrated actor circa 1700. His greatest character was “Mato the Mint,” in the Beggar's Opera. He was an immense favourite with the butchers of Clare Market, one of whom was so charmed with his performances, that he took down his sign of the BULL AND BUTCHER, and put up SPILLER's HEAD. At Spiller's death, (Feb. 7, 1729) the following elegiac verse was made by one of the butchers in that locality:—
“Down with your
marrow-bones and cleavers all,
And on your marrow-bones ye butchers fall!
For prayers from you who never pray'd before,
Perhaps poor Jimmie may to life restore.
‘What have we done?’ the wretched bailiffs cry,
‘That th' only man by whom we lived should die!’
Enraged they gnaw their wax and tear their writs,
While butchers' wives fall in hysteric fits;
For, sure as they're alive, poor Spiller's dead.
But, thanks to Jack Legar / we’ve got his head.
He was an inoffensive, merry fellow,
When sober, hipp'd, blythe as a bird when mellow.” .
A ticket for one of his benefit representations, engraved by Hogarth, is still a morceau recherché amongst print collectors, as much as £12 having been paid for one. “Spiller's Life and Jests” is the title of a little book published at that time.
GARRICK's HEAD was set up as a sign in his lifetime, and in 1768 it hung at the door of W. Griffiths, a bookseller of Catherine Street, Strand. It is still common in the neighbourhood of theatres. There is one in Leman Street, Whitechapel, not far from the place of his first successes, where, in 1742, he playe at the theatre in Goodman's Fields, and “the town ran horn-mac after him,” so that there were “a dozen dukes of a night at Goodman's Fields sometimes.””
ROXELLANA was, in the seventeenth
century, the sign of Thomas Lacy, of Cateaton Street, (now Gresham Street) City.
It was the name of the principal female character in “The Siege of Rhodes,” and
was originally the favourite part of the handsome Elizabeth Davenport, whose
sham marriage to the Earl of Oxford, (who deceived her by disguising a trumpeter
of his troop as a priest) is told in De Grammont's Memoirs. After she had found
out the Earl's deception, she continued under his protection, and is
occasionally mentioned, (always under the name of Roxellana) with a few words of
encomium on her good looks by that entertaining gossip, Pepys. Formerly there
was a sign of JOEY GRIMALDI at a public-house nearly opposite Sadler's Wells
Theatre; not only had it the name, but addidit vultum verbis, in the shape of a
clown with a goose under his arm, and a string of sausages issuing from his
pocket. Joey's name being less familiar to the public of the present day, the
house is now called the CLOWN. This, we think, is the last instance of an actor
being elevated to signboard honours. ABEL DRUGGER is one of the dramatis
personae in Ben Jonson's comedy of the Alchymist, and from the character given
him by his friend Captain Face, we get some curious information
concerning the mysteries of the tobacco trade of that day:—
“This is my friend Abel, an honest fellow,
He lets me have good tobacco, and he does not
Sophisticate it with sack lees or oil,
Nor washes it with muscadel and grains,
Nor buries it in gravel underground,
Wrapp'd up in greasy leather or p— clouts,
But keeps it in fine lily pots, that open'd
Smell like conserve of roses, or French beans.
He has his maple block, his silver tongs,
Winchester pipes, and fire of juniper.
A neat, spruce, honest fellow, and no goldsmith.”
This worthy was, in the end of the last century, the sign of Peter Cockburn, a tobacconist in Fenchurch Street, formerly shopman at the SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY, as he informs the public on his tobacco paper." According to the custom of the times, and one which has yet lingered in old-fashioned neighbourhoods, this wrapper is adorned with some curious rhymes —
“At DRUGGER's HEAD, without a puff,
You’ll ever find the best of snuff,
Believe me, I'm not joking;
Tobacco, too, of every kind,
The very best you’ll always find,
For chewing or for smoaking.
Tho' Abel, when the Humour's in,
At Drury Lane to make you grin,
May sometimes take his station;
At number Hundred-Forty-Six,
In Fenchurch Street he now does fix
His present Habitation.
His best respects he therefore sends,
And thus acquaints his generous Friends,
From Limehouse up to Holborn,
That his rare snuffs are sold by none,
Except in Fenchurch Street alone,
And there by Peter Cockburn.”
FALSTAFF, whom we have already mentioned when speaking of Shakespeare, and PAUL PRY, are both very common. The last is even of more frequent occurrence than “honest Jack” himself.
Lower down in the scale of celebrities and public characters,
we find the court jester of Henry VIII., OLD WILL SOMERS, the
sign of a public-house in Crispin Street, Spittalfields, at the present day. He also occurs on a token issued from Old Fish
Street, in which he is represented very much the same as in his
portrait by Holbein, viz., wearing a long gown, with hat on his
head, and blowing a horn. Under an engraving of this picture
are the following lines:—
“What though thou think'st me clad in strange attire,
Knowe I am suted to my own deseire;
And yet the characters described upon mee
May shew thee that a king bestowed them upon mee.
This horn I have betokens Sommers' game,
Which sportive tyme will bid thee reade my name,
All with my nature well agreeing too,
As both the name, and tyme, and habit doe.”
Formerly there used to be in the town a wooden figure of Will with rams' horns and a pair of large spectacles; and the story was told that he never would believe that his wife had presented him with the “bull's feather” until he had seen it through his spectacles. Two portraits of Sommers are preserved at Hampton Court, one in a picture after Holbein, representing Henry VII. with his queen, Elizabeth, and Henry VIII, with his queen, Jane Seymour. Will is on one side, his wife on the other. The other portrait is by Holbein, three-quarter life size, where he is represented looking through a closed window.” He also figures in Henry VIII.'s illuminated Psalter, in which King Henry's features are given to David, and those of Will Sommers to the fool who accompanies him. Sommers was born at Eston Neston, Northamptonshire, where his father was a shepherd. His popularity arose from his frankness, which is thus eulogised by Ascham in his “Toxophilus:”—“They be not much unlike in this to Wyll Sommers, the kingis foole, which smiteth him that standeth alwayes before his face, be he never so worshipful a man, and never greatlye lokes for him which lurkes behinde another man's backe that hurte him indeede.”
We next come to BROUGHTON, the champion pugilist of England in the reign of George II. He kept a public-house in the Haymarket, opposite the present theatre; his sign was a portrait of himself, without a wig, in the costume of a bruiser. Underneath was the following line, from AEneid, v. 484 —
“HIC VICTOR CAESTUS, ARTEMQUE REPONO.”
Numerous public-houses already retail their good things under the auspices of the great TOM SAYERs. One in Pimlico, Brighton, deserves especial mention, as it is reported to be the identical house in which the mighty champion made his entry on the stage of this world, for the noble purpose of dealing and receiving the blows of fistic fortune. But, as in the case of Homer's birthplace, the honour is contested; almost every house in Pimlico lays claim to his nativity, and unless the great man writes his life and settles this mooted point, it is likely to give serious trouble to future historiographers.
Another athlete, TOPHAM, “the strong man,” had also his quantum of signboards. “The public interest which his extraordinary exhibitions of strength had always excited did not die with him. His feats were delineated on many signs which were remaining up to 1800. One in particular, over a public-house near the Maypole, in East Smithfield, represented his first great feat of pulling against two dray horses.””
Thomas Topham was born in London in 1710. His strength almost makes the feats of Homer's heroes credible, for, besides pulling against two dray horses, in which he would have been successful if he had been properly placed, he lifted three hogs. heads of water, weighing 1836 lbs, broke a rope two inches in circumference, lifted a stone roller, weighing 800 lbs., by a chain with his hands only, lifted with his teeth a table six feet long, with half a hundredweight fastened to the end of it, and held it a considerable time in a horizontal position, struck an iron poker, a yard long and three inches thick, against his bare left arm until it was bent into a right angle, placed a poker of the same dimensions against the back of his neck, and bent it until the ends met, and performed innumerable other remarkable feats.
In DANIEL LAMBERT, whose portly figure acts as sign to a coffee-house on Ludgate Hill, and to a public-house in the High Street, St Martins, Stamford, Lincolnshire, we behold another wonder of the age. This man weighed no less than 52 stone 11 lb. (14 lbs. to the stone.) He was in his 40th year when he died, and the circumstances of his burial give a good idea of his enormous proportions. His coffin, in which there was great difficulty of placing him, was 6 ft. 4 in long, 4 ft. 4 in. wide, and 2 ft. 4 in. deep. The immense size of his legs made it almost a square case. It consisted of 112 superficial feet of elm, and was built upon two axletrees and four clogwheels, and upon them his remains were rolled into the grave, a regular descent having been made by cutting the earth away for some distance slopingly down to the bottom. The window and part of the wall had to be taken down to allow his exit from the house in which he died. His demise took place on June 21, 1809.
Over the entrance to Bullhead Court, Newgate Street, there is a stone bas-relief, according to Horace Walpole once the sign of a house called THE KING's PORTER AND THE DWARF, with the date 1660. The two persons represented are William Evans and Jeffrey Hudson. Evans is mentioned by Fuller.” Jeffrey Hudson, the dwarf, had a very chequered life. He was born in 1609 at Okeham in Rutlandshire, from a stalwart father, keeper of baiting bulls to the Duke of Buckingham. Having been introduced at court by the Duchess, he entered the Queen's service. On one occasion, at an entertainment given by Charles I. to his queen, he was served up in a cold pie; at another time at a court ball, he was drawn out of the pocket of Will Evans, the huge door porter, or keeper, at the palace. In 1630 he was sent to France to bring over a midwife for the queen, but on his return was taken prisoner by Flemish pirates, who robbed him of £2500 worth of presents received in France. Sir John Davenant wrote a comic poem on this occasion entitled “Jeffereidos.” During the civil wars Jeffrey was a captain of horse in the royal army; he followed the queen to France, and there had a duel with a Mr Crofts (brother of Lord Crofts) whom he shot, for which misdemeanour he was expelled the court. Taken prisoner by pirates a second time, he was sold as a slave in Barbary. When he obtained his liberty he returned to London, but got into prison for participation in the Titus Oates plot, and died shortly after his release in 1682. Walter Scott has introduced him in his “Peveril of the Peak.”
Jeffrey is not the only dwarf who has figured on a signboard, for in the last century there was a DWARF TAVERN in Chelsea Fields, kept by John Coan, a Norfolk dwarf. It seems to have been a place of some attraction, since it was honoured by the repeated visits of an Indian king. “On Friday last the Cherokee king and his two chiefs, were so greatly pleased with the curiosities of the Dwarf's Tavern in Chelsea Fields, that they were there again on Sunday at seven in the evening to drink tea, and will be there again in a few days.”—Daily Advertiser, July 12, 1762. Two years after we find the following advertisement:—“Yesterday died at the Dwarf Tavern in Chelsea Fields, Mr John Coan, the unparalleled Norfolk Dwarf.”—Daily Advertiser, March 17, 1764.
name of DIRTY DICK, which graces a public-house in Bishopsgate Without, was
transferred to those spirit stores from the once famous DIRTY WAREHOUSE formerly
in Leadenhall Street, a hardware shop kept in the end of the last century by
Richard Bentley, alias Dirty Dick, in which premises, until about fifteen or
twenty years ago, the signboard of the original shop was still to be seen in the
window. Bentley was an eccentric character, the son of an opulent merchant, who
kept his carriage and lived in great style. In his early life he was one of the
beaux in Paris, was presented at the court of Louis XVI., and enjoyed the
reputation of being the handsomest and best dressed Englishman at that time in
the capital of France. On his return to London he became a new, though not a
better, man. Brooms, mops, and brushes were rigorously proscribed from his shop;
all order was abolished, jewellery and hardware were carelessly thrown together,
covered by the same shroud of undisturbed dust. So they remained for more than
forty years, when he relinquished business in 1804. The outside of his house was
as dirty as the inside, to the great annoyance of his neighbours, who repeatedly
offered Bentley to have it cleaned, painted, and repaired at their expense; but
he would not hear of this, for his dirt had given him celebrity, and his house
was known in the Levant, and the East and West Indies, by no other denomination
than the “Dirty Warehouse in Leadenhall Street.” The appearance of his premises
is thus described by a contemporary:—
* Fuller's Worthies, voce Monmouthshire.
“Who but has seen, (if he can see at all,)
'Twixt Aldgate's well-known pump and Leadenhall,
A curious hardware shop, in generall full
Of wares from Birmingham and Pontipool?
Begrimed with dirt, behold its ample front,
With thirty years' collected filth upon’t;
In festoon'd cobwebs pendant o'er the door,
While boxes, bales, and trunks are strew'd around the floor.
Behold how whistling winds and driving rain
Gain free admission at each broken pane,
Safe when the dingy tenant keeps them out,
With urn or tray, knife-case or dirty clout !
Here snuffers, waiters, patent screws for corks, ,
There castors, cardracks, cheesetrays, knives and forks;
There empty cases piled in heaps on high,
There packthread, papers, rope, in wild disorder lie.”
&c. &c. &c. The present Dirty Dick is a small public-house, or rather a tap of a wholesale wine and spirit business in Bishopsgate Street Without. It has all the appearance of one of those establishments that started up in the wake of the army at Warna and Balaclava, or at newly-discovered gold-diggings. A warehouse or barn without floorboards; a low ceiling, with cobweb festoons dangling from the black rafters; a pewter bar battered and dirty, floating with beer; numberless gas-pipes, tied anyhow along the struts and posts, to conduct the spirits from the barrels to the taps; sample phials and labelled bottles of wine and spirits on shelves,—everything covered with virgin dust and cobweb, indeed, a place that would set the whole Dutch nation frantic.
Yet, though it has been
observed that cleanliness of the body is conducive to cleanliness of the soul,
and vice versa, the regulations of this dirty establishment, (hung up in a
conspicuous place,) are more moral than those of the cleaner gin-palaces, —as,
for instance —“No man can be served twice.” “No person to be served if in the
least intoxicated.” “No improper language permitted.” “No smoking permitted;”
whilst the last request, for fear of this charming place tempting customers to
lounge about, says, “Our shop being small, difficulty occasionally arises in
supplying the customers, who will greatly oblige by bearing in mind the good old
maxim — “When you are in a place of business,
Transact your business
And go about your business.
By a trades token we see that OLD PARR's HEAD was already in the seventeenth century the sign of a house in Chancery Lane. Circa 1825, a publican in Aldersgate put up the old patriarch, with the following medical advice —
“Your head cool,
Your feet warm,
But a glass of good gin
Would do you no harm.”
Thomas Parr was born in 1483, and dying November 15, 1635, at the age of 152, had lived in the reigns of ten several princes,— viz., Edward IV, Edward V., Richard III, Henry VII, Henry VIII., Edward VI, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I. He was not the only one of the family who attained to a great age, for the London Evening Post, August 24, 1757, has the following note —“Last week died at Kanne, in Shropshire, Robert Parr, aged 124. He was great-grandson of old Thomas Parr, who died in the reign of King Charles I., and lies buried in Westminster Abbey. What is very remarkable is, that the father of Robert was 109; the grandfather 113; and the great-grandfather, the said Thomas, is well known to have died at the age of 152.” Signs of old Parr are still remaining at Gravesend and at Rochester.
Thomas Hobson, (Hobson's Choice) the benevolent old carrier, is the sign of two public-houses in Cambridge,—the one called OLD HOBSON, the other HOBSON's HOUSE. His own inn in London was the BULL INN in Bishopsgate Street, where he was represented in fresco, having a £100 bag under his arm, with the words, “The fruitful mother of an hundred more.” There is an engraving of him by John Payne, his contemporary, which also represents him holding a bag of money. Under it are these lines:—
“Laugh not to see so plaine a man in print;
The shadow's homely, yet there's something in't.
Witness the Bagg he wears, (though seeming poore,)
The fertile Mother of a thousand more.
He was a thriving man, through lawful gain,
And wealthy grew by warrantable faime.
Men laugh at them that spend, not them that gather,
Like thriving sonnes of such a thrifty father.”
The print also informs us that he died at the age of eighty-six, in the year 1630. Milton, who wrote two epitaphs upon him, says, that “he sickened in the time of his vacancy, being forbid to go to London by reason of the plague.”
Among this class of minor celebrities we may also place those who put up their own head for signs. Taylor, the water poet, (see Mourning Crown, pp. 49) was one of the first. Next to him followed PASQUA ROSEE ; according to his handbill, “the first who made and publicly sold coffee-drink in England.” His establishment was “in St Michael's Alley, in Cornhill, at the sign of his own head.” This handbill largely enters into the virtues of the “coffee-drink,” gives the natural history of the plant, prescribes how to make the drink, and advises that “it is to be drunk, fasting an hour before, and not eating an hour after, and to be taken as hot as possibly can be endured; the which will never fetch the skin off the mouth, or raise any blisters by reason of that heat.” The next enters upon a glowing description of all the evils cured by that drink, as fumes, headaches, defluxions of rhumes, dropsy, gout, scurvy, king's-evil, spleen, hypochondriac, winds, stone, &c. This coffee-house was opened in 1652.
LEBECK's HEAD was another instance of the owner setting up his own head as a sign; and though his name has not filled the trumpet of fame, yet had he many times bravely stood the fire, and filled the mouths of his contemporaries, for he kept an ordinary (about 1690) at the north-west corner of Half-moon Passage, (since called Bradford Street.) The sign seems to have found imitators at the time, and is even yet kept up by tradition. There is Lebeck's Head in Shadwell, High Street; a Lebeck's Inn and Lebeck's Tavern in Bristol; and a LEBECK AND CHAFFCUTTER at a village in Gloucestershire.
A still more famous house was the PONTACK's HEAD, formerly called the WHITE BEAR, in Christ Church Passage, (leading from Newgate Street to Christ Church.) This tavern having been destroyed by fire, Pontack, the son of a president of the parliament of Bordeaux, opened a new establishment on its site, and assuming his father's portrait as its sign, called it the Pontack's Head. It was the first fashionable eating-house in London, was opened soon after the Restoration, and continued in favour until about the year 1780, when it was pulled down to make room for the building of the vestry hall of Christ Church. De Foe describes it as “a constant ordinary for all comers at very reasonable prices, where you may bespeak a dinner from four or five shillings a head to a guinea, or what sum you please.”” In the beginning of the eighteenth century the dinners had become proverbially extravagant —
“Now at Pontack's we'll take a bit,
Shall quicken Nature's appetite.
Here, shew a room ! what have you got?
The waiter (cries) What have we not?
All that the season can afford,
Fresh, fat, and fine, upon my word
A Guinea ordinary, sir.”
This Guinea ordinary was —
The waiter, however, gives the menu, which contains—Bird's nest soup from China; a ragout of fatted snails; bantam pig, but one day old, stuffed with hard row and ambergris; French peas stewed in gravy, with cheese and garlick; an incomparable tart of frogs and forced meat; cod, with shrimp sauce; chickens en surprise, (they had not been two hours from the shell,) and similar dainties.” Pontack contributed much towards bringing the French wines in fashion, being proprietor of some of the Bordeaux vineyards which bore his name.
About the same time another tavern flourished, with its master's head for sign; this was CAVEAC'S, celebrated for wine; of him Amhurst sang :
“Now sumptuously at Caveac's dine,
And drink the very best of wine.”
Though it cannot be said that DON SALTERO put up his portrait for a sign, yet his coffee-house was named after him, and is still extant under the same denomination in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. This house was opened in 1695 by a certain Salter, who had been servant to Sir Hans Sloane, and had accompanied him on his travels. Chelsea at that time was a village, full of the suburban residences of the aristocracy, and the pleasant situation of Salter's house soon made it the resort of merry companions, on their way to or from friends' villas, or Vauxhall, Jenny Whin's, and other places of public resort in the neighbourhood. Vice-Admiral Mundy, on his return from the coast of Spain, amused with the pedantic dignity of Salter, christened him Don Saltero, and under that name the house has continued till this day.
From his connexion with the great Sir Hans Sloane, and the tradition of a descent from the Tradescants, Salter was of course in duty bound to have a museum of curiosities, which, by gifts from Sir Hans and certain aristocratic customers in the army and navy, soon became sufficiently interesting to constitute one of the London sights. It existed more than a century, and was at last sold by auction in the summer of 1798. From his catalogue; (headed with the words, “O RARE I’’) we gather that the curiosities fully deserved that name, for amongst them we find: “a piece of St Catherine's skin;” “a painted ribbon from Jerusalem, with which our Saviour was tied to the pillar when scourged, with a motto;” “a very curious young mermaidfish;” “manna from Canaan, it drops from the clouds twice a year, in May and June, one day in each month;” “a piece of nun's skin;” “a necklace made of Job's tears;” “the skeleton (sic) of a man's finger;” “petrified rain;” “a petrified lamb, or a stone of that animal;” “a starved cat in the act of catching two mice, found between the walls of Westminster Abbey when repairing;” “Queen Elizabeth's chambermaid's hat,” &c.
A most amusing paper in the Tatler, No. 34, gives a full length portrait of
Salter, who appears to have been an “original.” Music was his besetting sin, and
with very little excuse for it. In that paper the museum, too, is taken to task.
Richard Cromwell used to be a visitor to this house, where Pennant's father,
when a child, saw him, “a very neat old man, with a placid countenance.”
Franklin also, when a printer's apprentice, “one day made a party to go by water
to Chelsea in order to see the college, and Don Saltero's curiosities.” There is
a rather amusing advertisement of the Don's in the Weekly Journal for June 23,
“SIR,-Fifty years since to Chelsea great,
From Rodnam on the Irish main,
I stroll'd with maggots in my pate,
Where much improved they still remain.
Through various employs I’ve past,
Toothdrawer, trimmer, and at last,
I'm now a gimcrack whim-collector.
Monsters of all sorts here are seen,
Strange things in nature as they grew so;
Some relicks of the Sheba queen,
And fragments of the famed Bob Cruso;
- Knicknacks to dangle round the wall,
Some in glass cases, some on shelf;
But what’s the rarest sight of all,
Your humble servant shows himself.
On this my chiefest hope depends.
Now if you will the cause espouse,
* This motto was: “Misura della Colonna di Christo no,” i.e., Measure of the column of our Saviour.
+ A brother Boniface, Adams, “at the ROYAL SwAN in Kingsland Road, leading from Shoreditch Church,” (1756) had also a knackatory, which, from his catalogue, looks very like a parody on the Don's. He exhibited, for instance, “Adam's eldest daughter's hat;” “the heart of famous Bess Adams, that was hanged with Lawyer Carr, January 18, 1736-37;” “the Vicar of Bray's clogs;” “an engine to shell green peas with ;” “teeth that grew in a fish's belly;” “Black Jack's ribs;” “the very comb that Adam combed his son Isaac's and Jacob's head with;” “rope that cured Captain Lowry of the headach, earach, toothach, and bellyach;” “Adam's key to the fore and back door of the garden of Eden,” &c., &c., and 500 other curiosities.
In journals pray direct your friends To my Museum-Coffeehouse; And in requital for the timely favour I’ll gratis bleed, draw teeth, and be your shaver. Nay, that your pate may with my noddle tally, And you shine bright as I do—marry shall ye. Freely consult my revelation Molly; Nor shall one jealous thought create a huff, For she has taught me manners long enough. “Chelsea Knackatory. DON SALTERO.”
At the end of his catalogue a list of the donors is added, most of whom, doubtless, also frequented his house. Amongst them the following names appear:—the Duke of Buccleuch, the Earl of Sutherland, Sir John Balchen, Sir Rob. Cotton, Bart, Sir John Cope, Bart, Sir Thomas de Weil, Sir Francis Drake, Lady Humphrey, Sir Thomas Littleton, Sir John Molesworth, the Hon. Capt. William Montague, Sir Yelverton Peyton, George Selwyn, the Hon. Mr Werney, Sir Francis Windham, &c., besides numbers of naval and military officers.
THE MOTHER REDCAP is a sign that occurs in various places, as in Upper Holloway, in the High Street, Camden Town, in Blackburn, Lancashire, in Edmund's Lowland, Lincolnshire, &c. : whilst there is a FATHER REDCAP at Camberwell Green, but he is merely a creature of the publican's fancy. From the way in which Brathwaite mentions this sign in his “Whimsies of a new Cast of Characters,” 1631, it would seem to have been not uncommon at that time. “He [the painter] bestows his pencile on an aged piece of decayed canvas, in a sooty alehouse where MOTHER REDCAP must be set out in her colours.” Who the original Mother Redcap was, is believed to be unknown, but not unlikely it is an impersonification of Skelton's famous “Ellinor Rumming,” the alewife.
The Mother Redcap at Holloway is named by Drunken Barnaby in his travels. Formerly the following verses accompanied this sign:—
“Old Mother Redcap, according to her tale,
Lived twenty and a hundred years by drinking this good ale;
It was her meat, it was her drink, and medicine besides,
And if she still had drank this ale, she never would have died.”
At one time the Mother Redcap, in Kentish Town, was kept by an old crone, from her amiable temper surnamed Mother Damnable.” This was probably the same person we find else where alluded to under the name of Mother Huff, as in Baker's “Comedy of Hampstead Heath,” 1706, a. ii. s. 1. “Arabella.— Well, this Hampstead’s a charming place, to dance all night at the Wells, and be treated at Mother Huff’s.”
Only a few more celebrities now remain to be disposed of; but they are of such a varied character, and so heterogeneous, that they can scarcely be ranged under any of the former divisions: thus we meet with the stern reformer, MELANCTHON's HEAD, as the sign of an orthodox publican, in Park Street, Derby. Pretty NELL GWYNN occurs on several London public-houses: one in Chelsea, where she must have been well known, since her mother resided in that neighbourhood, and popular tradition allows Nell to have been one of the principal promoters of the erection of the famous hospital there. Another house, named after Charles II.'s favourite mistress, may be observed in Drury Lane, in which street she lived, and where Pepys, on May-day, 1667, saw her “standing at her lodgings door, in her smock sleeves and boddice,” and thought her “a mighty pretty creature.”
The SIR JOHN OLDCASTLE was a tavern, in Coldbathfields, in the beginning of the last century; near this house, Bagford and a Mr Conyers, an antiquarian apothecary of Fleet Street, discovered the skeleton of an elephant in a gravel pit.” This house is also named in the following bill:—
“All gentlemen, who are lovers of the ancient and noble exercise of archery, are hereby invited, by the stewards of the annual feast for the Clerkenwell Archers, to dine with them at Mrs Mary Barton's, at the sign of Sir John Oldcastle, upon Friday, the 18th day of July 1707, at one of the clock, and to pay the bearer, Thomas Beaumont, Master of the Regiment of Archers, two shillings and sixpence, and to take a sealed ticket, that the certain number may be known, and provision made accordingly. Nathaniel Axtell, Esq. } Stewards.” Edward Bromwick, Gent.
Opposite this house stood the LORD COBHAM's HEAD, as appears from the Daily Advertiser for August 9, 1742, which contains an advertisement puff of this place, praising its beer at 3d. a tankard, and mentioning the concert and illuminations. The correspondent concludes his letter by saying: “Note.—In seeing this great preparation, I thought it a duty incumbent upon me to inform my fellow-citizens and others, that they may distinguish this place from any pretended concerts, which are nothing but noise and nonsense, in particular, one that is rightly-styled the Hog-concert,” &c. Both these houses were named after “the Good Lord Cobham,” —Sir John Oldcastle, who married the heiress of the Cobham family —the first author, as well as the first martyr of noble family in England. Being one of the Lollards, he was accused of rebellion, hanged in chains, and burned alive at St Giles in the Fields, in December 1417. Lord Cobham's estates were close to the site of these two public-houses, which were supposed to comprise a part of the ancient mansion of that nobleman.
The SIR PAUL PINDAR public-house, in Bishopsgate Street Without, is all that remains of the splendid mansion of the rich merchant of that name, who had here a beautiful park, well stocked with game. The house continues almost in its original state, in the Cinque Cento style of ornament; the best part of it is the façade. In “Londiniana,” ii. p. 137, is an engraving of a lodge, standing in Half-Moon Alley, ornamented with figures, which tradition says was the keeper's lodge of Sir Paul Pindar's Park. Mulberry trees, and other park-like vestiges, were still within memory in 1829. In Pennant's time it was already a public-house, having for a sign, “a head, called that of the original owner.” Sir Paul was a contemporary of Gresham, the founder of the Exchange. He travelled much, and by that means acquired many languages, which, at that time, was a sure way to advancement. James I. sent him as ambassador to the Sultan, from whom he obtained valuable concessions for the English trade throughout the Turkish dominions. After his return, he was appointed farmer of the customs, and frequently advanced money to King James, and afterwards to Charles I. In 1639 he was esteemed worth £236,000, exclusive of bad debts. He expended £19,000 in repairing St Paul's Cathedral, and contributed large sums to various charities, yet, strange to say, died insolvent, Aug. 22, 1650, the year after his royal master had been beheaded. His executor, William Toomes, was so shocked at the hopeless state of Sir Paul's affairs, that he committed suicide, and was buried with all the degrading ceremonies of a felo-de-se, -
The WELCH HEAD was the sign of a low public-house in Dyot Street, St Giles. In the last century there was a mendicants' club held here, the origin of which dated as far back as 1660, at which time they used to hold their meetings at the THREE CROWNs in the Poultry. Saunders Welch was one of the justices of the peace for Westminster, and kept a regular office for the police of that district, in which he succeeded Fielding. He died Oct. 31, 1784, and lies buried in the church of St George's, Bloomsbury. He was a very popular magistrate: a story is told that in 1766 he went unattended into Cranbourne Alley, to quell the riotous meetings of the journeymen shoemakers there, who had struck for an advance of wages. One of the crowd soon recognised him, when they at once mounted him on a beer barrel, and patiently listened to all that he had to say. He quieted the rioters, and prevailed upon the master shoemakers to grant an additional allowance to the workmen. This little incident, joined to his well-known benevolence, and skill in capturing malefactors, gave him that popularity which rewards by a signboard fame.
The BEDFORD HEAD, Covent Garden, represented the head of one of the Dukes
of Bedford, ground landlords of that district. Pope twice alludes to this
tavern, as a place where to obtain a delicate dinner. This house Mr Cunningham”
suspects to have occupied the north-east corner of the Piazza, and there it
appears in a view of old Covent Garden, about 1780, preserved in the “Crowle
Pennant,” (vii. p. 25.) There was another Bedford Head in Southampton Street,
which was kept by Wildman, the brother-in-law of Horne Tooke. A Liberal club
used to meet at this house, of which Wilkes was a member, for several years.
There is still a Bedford Head in Maiden Lane, hard by, at which the Reunion
Literary Club is held. Under the historical signs may be ranged a class of more
modern signs, referring to local celebrities,—“mighty hunters before the Lord”
probably—such as CAPTAIN HARMER, White Horse Plain, Yarmouth; CAPTAIN Ross on
CLINKER, at Natland, a village in Westmoreland; CAPTAIN DIGBY (the name of a
vessel wrecked), at St Peter's, Margate; COLONEL LINSKILL, Charlotte Street,
North Shields, &c. The DON COSSACK, so frequently seen, dates from the
celebrity acquired by those troops in the extermination of the unfortunate
half-starved and frozen soldiers, on their retreat from Moscow; though a more
intimate acquaintance with the formidable Cossacks, during the Crimean campaign,
considerably damaged their ancient reputation. The signs of the DRUID, the
the DRUID AND OAK, and the ROYAL ARCH DRUID, are more to be attributed to
various kinds of masonic brotherhoods, than as a mark of respect paid to our
aboriginal clergy. The UNION originated with the union of Ireland with this
kingdom; the JUBILEE dates from the centenary of the revolution of 1688, held
with considerable pomp and national rejoicing, in 1788. The HERO OF SWITZERLAND,
Loughborough Road, Brixton, and in a few other places, refers to William Tell;
and the SPANISH PATRIOT, (Lambeth Lower Marsh and White Conduit Street) dates
from the excitement of our proposed intervention in the Spanish Succession
question, in 1833. The SPANISH GALLEON, Church Street, Greenwich, simply owes
its origin to the pictures of our naval victories in the Greenwich Hospital.
These, then, are some of the principal and most curious historic signs. From the perusal of this catalogue, we can draw one conclusion—namely, that only a few of what we have termed “historical signs,” outlive the century which gave them birth. If the term of their duration extends over this period, there is some chance that they will remain in popular favour for a long time. Thus, in the case of most heroes of the last century, few publicans certainly will know anything about the Marquis of Granby, Admiral Rodney, or the Duke of Cumberland, yet their names are almost as familiar as the Red Lion, or the Green Dragon, and have indeed become public-household words. Once that stage past, they have a last chance of continuing another century or two—namely, when those heroes are so completely forgotten, that the very mystery of their names becomes their recommendation; such as the Grave Morris, the Will Sommers, the Jack of NewDury, &c.