London Taverns. The history of signboards, from the Earliest Times to
the Present Day.
By Jacob Larwood and john Camden Hotten. (1866)
BIRDS AND FOWLS
THOMAS CORYATT, a gentleman from Somerset, who travelled over a great part of Europe in the reign of King James I, and wrote an amusing account of his travels, gives a curious instance of the prevalence of signs in Paris representing birds. Speaking of the bridges over the Seine, he says one of them is “the Bridge of Birdes, formerly called the Millar's Bridge. The reason why it is called the Bridge of Birdes is because all the signes belonging unto shops on each side of the streete are signes of birdes.”” They never were so general in England, though certainly the Cock and the Swan appear to have found more votaries than any other signboard animals. The EAGLE is not nearly so common; some we have mentioned in a former part as undoubtedly of heraldic origin. From this source the GOLDEN EAGLE may be derived; it was the emblem of the Eastern Empire, and occurs in various family arms; but it is also a fera naturae. It was, in 1711, the sign of James Levi, a bookseller in the Strand, near the Fountain Tavern. The EAGLE AND BALL, of which there are two in Birmingham, was suggested by the imperial eagle standing on the globe, or the spread eagle with the globe in his talon. The EAGLE AND SERPENT, or the EAGLE AND SNAKE, is a mediaeval emblem of courage united to prudence. Mythical birds also have been in great favour. The burning and reviving of the PHOENIX, for instance, like the salamander and the dragon, typified certain transformations obtained by chemistry, whence he was a very general sign with chemists, and may still be seen on their drug-pots and transparent lamps. The firm of Godfrey and Cooke, for instance, have adhered to it ever since the opening of their establishment, A.D. 1680. Persons of a highly imaginative turn will probably shudder to think of the awful quantities of physic prepared by this house in those 184 years. The pills, if piled up like cannon-balls, would make pyramids higher than those of Gizeh; the draughts would be sufficient to cover the earth with a nauseous deluge; and the powders, if blown about by an evil wind, levelling valleys and mountains, would change the whole of Europe into a medicated desert. The original shop referred to by the date 1680 stood in Southampton Street, and there phosphorus was first manufactured by the predecessor of this firm, Hanckwitz, a Pole or Russian by birth, who advertised it wholesale at 50s, and retail at £3 the ounce. Ambrose Godfrey was his successor.
Not only apothecaries used this emblem, but all kinds of shops adopted it. In the time of James I. it was the sign of one of the places where plays were acted in Drury Lane,—sometimes also called the Cockpit Theatre. This was destroyed by the unruly apprentices during one of their saturnalia. Being rebuilt, it was sacked a second time by the Parliamentary soldiers. In Charles II.'s piping times of peace Killigrew's troop of “the king's servants” played in it, until they removed to the theatre in Lincoln's Inn.
The character ascribed to the PELICAN was fully as fabulous as that of the Phoenix. From a clumsy, gluttonous, piscivorous water-bird, it was transformed into a mystic emblem of Christ, whom Dante calls “nostro Pellicano.” St Hieronymus gives the story of the pelican restoring its young ones destroyed by serpents, as an illustration of the destruction of man by the old serpent, and his salvation by the blood of Christ. The “Bestiarium,” in the Royal Library at Brussels, says:
* “Phisiologus tells us that the Pelican is very fond of his young ones, and when they are born and begin to grow, £ rebel in their nest against their parent and strike him with their wings, flying about him and beat him so much till they wound him in his eyes. Then the father strikes again and kills them. And the mother is of such a nature that she comes back to the nest on the third day and sits down upon her dead young ones, and opens her side with her bill and pours her blood over them, and so resuscitates them from death, for the young ones by their instinct receive the blood as soon as it comes out of the mother, and drink it.”—Bibl. Nat. Belg. No. 10074.
In the Armory of Birds by Skelton, a similar notion is expressed:
“Than sayd the Pellycane,
When my Byrdts be slayne,
With my Bloude I them reuyue,
Scrypture doth record
The same dyd our Lord,
And rose from deth to lyue.”
There is still an old stone carving of the Pelican walled in the front of a
house in Aldermanbury, and as a sign the bird appears to be a great favourite at
the present day. An anecdote is told of Jekyl's dissatisfaction at the prices at
the Pelican Inn, Speenham Land, and of his writing the following epigram upon
the Saline :-
“The Pelican at Speenhamland,
That stands below the hill,
May well be called the Pelican,
From his enormous bill.”
Longfellow made a similar epigram on the RAVEN INN at Zurich:—
“Beware of the raven of Zurich,
'Tis a bird of omen ill,
With a noisy and unclean breast,
And a very, very long bill.”
It is amusing to see how wit runs in the same channel. In “Scrapeana, a Collection of Anecdotes, 1792,” a similar anecdote is fathered upon Foote.
“Pray what is your name?” said Foote to the Master of the Castle Inn at
Salthill. “Partridge, sir!”—“Partridge! it should be Woodcock by the length of
But the coincidence is most amusing in the case of Longfellow. It is observed by a contributor to Notes and Queries,” that the verses may be a plagiarism; at anyrate they have a strange family resemblance to the following, said to have been written by a commercial traveller on an inside window shutter of the GOLDEN LION, Brecon, kept by a Mr Longfellow, alias Tom Longfellow:—
“Tom Longfellow's name is most justly his due,
Long his neck, long his bill, which is very long too;
Long the time ere your horse to the stable is led,
Long before he's rubbed down, and much longer till fed.
Long indeed may you sit in a comfortless room,
Till from kitchen, long dirty, your dinners shall come.
Long the often-told tale that your host will relate,
Long his face while complaining how long people eat,
Long may Longfellow long ere he see me again,
Long 'twill be ere I long for Tom Longfellow's inn.”
And long, doubtless, was his face when he read the above.
The RAVEN, or the BLACK RAVEN, is still a common inn sign. There is one in
Bishopsgate yet in existence, of which trades tokens of the seventeenth century
are extant ; and on the Great Western Road between Murrell Green and
Basingstoke, the Raven Inn is still, or was not many years ago, to be seen, in
which Jack the painter, alias James Aitken, the man who set fire to Portsmouth
Dockyard, Dec. 7, 1776, was taken prisoner.
This house was built in 1653, and has preserved much of its original appearance. In 1711 the RAVEN or the BLACK RAVEN was the sign of S. Popping, bookseller in Paternoster Row; and about the same time John Dunton published at the BLACK RAVEN, in the Poultry, the earliest printed review of literary works, under the name of “Literature from the North, and News from all Nations.” What the work was worth we may judge from D'Israeli's description of the man : “a crack-brained, scribbling bookseller, who boasted he had a thousand projects, fancied he had methodised six hundred, and was ruined by the fifty he executed.” Notwithstanding this, his autobiography, under the name of the “Life and Errors of John Dunton,” is one of the most curious works in existence.
In Molesworth Street, Dublin, there is a sign of the THREE RAVENS, which may
be called a living sign, for there are always some ravens kept on the premises.
The Raven was the badge of the old Scotch kings, and thus may have been adopted
as a kind of Jacobite symbol. To this may be attributed its frequency on the
signboard as well as some other sable birds. The common occurrence of the
BLACKBIRD and the COCK AND BLACKBIRD as signs had long puzzled us, till one day
turning over some old Scotch ballads we came upon one, which Allan Ramsay gives
as a favourite old Scotch song. We shall merely quote the first two stanzas,
(there are six in all)— quite sufficient, as far as the poetry is concerned:—
“Upon a fair morning for soft recreation,
I heard a fair lady was making her moan,
With sighing and sobbing, and sad lamentation,
Saying, my blackbird most royal is flown.”
My thoughts they deceive me,
Reflections do grieve me,
And am o'erburthen'd with sad misery.
Yet if death should blind me,
As true love inclines me,
My blackbird I’ll seek out wherever he be.
“Once in fair England my blackbird did flourish,
He was the chief blackbird that in it did spring,
Prime ladies of honour his person did nourish,
Because he was the true son of a king.
But since that false fortune,
Which still is uncertain,
Has caused this parting between him and me,
His name I'll advance,
In Spain and in France,
And I'll seek out my blackbird wherever he be.”
To which dark-haired prince of the Stuart family the song alludes is not known; but there is a passage in a letter of Sir John Hinton, physician to Charles II., which seems to imply that the black boy was a nickname for Charles II.
“The day before General Monk went into Scotland he dined with me; and after dinner he called me into the next room, and after some discourse, taking a lusty glass of wine, he drank a health to his bonny black boy, (as he called Your Majesty,) and whispered to me, that if ever he had power, he would serve Your Majesty to the utmost of his life.”
What lends strength to the supposition is the occurrence of such a sign as the CROW IN THE OAK, at Foleshill, Coventry, which seems to have been a covert way of representing the royal oak during the times of the Commonwealth, the disguise continuing after there was no more need of it, similar to the “Cat and Wheel,” and other signs dating from the same period, for no other reason than because the house had become known by them.
In the same manner the OAK AND BLACK DOG, (at Stretton on Dunsmoor) if not a combination of two signs, may have been put up in derision of the Prince in the Royal Oak. The CROW or the BLACK CROW, is also a common sign; so are the THREE BLACKBIRDs; then there is the CHOUGH, at Chard in Sommerset, the THREE CHOUGHS at Yeovil; the THREE CROWs,—all of which belong to the same family, and seem to have the same origin. On Friday, August 27, 1770, at the Three Crows in Brook Street, Holborn, the coroner sat on the body of Thomas Chatterton, and the ten jurymen returned a verdict of felo de se. One cannot think of this sign and the crowner (as the vulgar still term this officer) sitting on the body of poor Chatterton without calling to mind the ballad of the three corbies; but the poor suicide had 1 o “fallow doe” that “buried him before the prime, And was dead herself ere even-song time.” He was interred in the burying ground of Shoelane workhouse; at the present day Farringdon market-place occupies the spot.
The STORK now is of frequent occurrence, although it does not occur among the older English signs. Coryatt thus speaks of these birds :—
“There, [at Fontainebleau] I saw two or three birds that I never saw before; yet I have much read of admirable things of them, in Aelianus the Polyhistor, and other historians, even Storckes, which do much haunt many cities and towns of the Netherlands, especially in the sommer. For in Flushing, a towne of Zeland, I saw some of them, those men esteeming themselves happy in [on] whose houses they harbour, and those most unhappy whom they forsake. It is written of them that when the old one is become so old that it is not able to helpe itselfe, the young one purveyeth foode for it, and sometime carryeth it about on his backe, and if it seeth it so destitute of meate, that it knoweth not where to get any sustemance, it casteth out that which it hath eaten the day before, to the end to feede his damme. This bird is called in Greeke TréAapyos where hence cometh the Greeke word ávriteXapyév which signifieth to imitate the stork in cherishing our parents.” .
This fabled virtue of the stork suggested the sign to many Continental
booksellers and printers. The Two STORKS was the sign of Martin Nutius of
Antwerp, 1550, and his son, Philip Nutius. Their colophons, which were varied
continually, all represent a young stork feeding an old one, sometimes carrying
him on his back, with the motto: “PIETAS HOMINI. TUTISSIM.A. VIRTUS.” A similar
sign was used, circa 1682, by Franciscus Canisius; and, in 1651, by Joan. Bapt.
Verdussen, both of Antwerp. The Parisian booksellers adopted it as well, for we
find it on the titlepages of Sebastien Nivelle, and of Sebastien Cramoisy, the
king's printer, of the Rue St Jacques, 1636. He used a Scripture motto with it:
“HoNoFA PATREM TUUM ET MATREM TUAM UT SIs LoNGAEvus SUPER TERRAM, Ecc. xx.” In
the Banks' Collection of Bills there is one of the STORK HOTEL at Basle, of the
end of the last century. It gives the address in four languages. The English
stands thus:—Christophe Imhoff, “a the Seigne off the Storgk at Basel.” The
THREE CRANEs was formerly a favourite London sign. With the usual jocularity of
our forefathers, an opportunity for punning could not be passed, so instead of
the three cranes, which in the vintry used to lift the barrels of wine, three
birds were represented. The Three Cranes in Thames Street, or in the vicinity,
was a famous tavern as early as the reign of James I. It was one of the taverns
frequented by the wits in Ben Jonson's time. In one of his plays he says:“A pox
o' these pretenders to wit, your Three Cranes, Mitre and Mermaid men not a corn
of true salt, not a grain of right mustard among them all !”—Bartholomew Fair,
a. i. s. 1.
On the 23d of January 1663, Pepys suffered a strong mortification of the flesh in having to dine at this tavern with some poor relations. The sufferings of the snobbish secretary must have been intense:-
“By invitation to my uncle Fenner's and where I found his new wife, a pitiful, old, ugly, ill-bred woman in a hatt, a midwife. Here were many of his and as many of her relations, sorry mean people; and after choosing our gloves we all went over to the Three Cranes Taverne, and though the best room of the house in such a narrow dogghole we were crammed, and I believe we were near 40, that it made me loath my company and victuals and a very poor dinner it was too.”
Opposite this tavern people generally left their boats to shoot the bridge, walking round to Billingsgate, where they would reenter them. The COCK occurs almost as frequently on the signboard as alive at the head of his family in the farm yard. It is one of the oldest signs, already in use at the time of the Romans, who record that one Eros, a freeman of Licius, Africanus Cerealis, kept an inn at Narbonne at the sign of the Cock—“a gallo gallinaceo.” In Christian times the sign acquired a new prestige. The cock is thus mentioned in “The Armory of Byrdes:”—"
“The Cocke dyd say
I use alway
To crow both first and last.
Lyke a Postle I am,
For I preche to Man,
And tell hym the nyght is past.
“I bring new tydynges
That the Kyng of all Kynges,
In tactu profudit chorus:
Then sang he mellodious
This bird, in the legends of the middle ages, was surrounded with a mystical, religious halo:—
“It was about the time of cock-crowing when our Saviour was born,— the
circumstance of the time of cock-crowing being so natural a figure and
representation of the Morning of the Resurrection; the Night as shadowing out
the night of the Grave; the third Watch being as some suppose the time our
Saviour will come to judgment at; the noise of the cock awakening sleepy man and
telling him as it were the night is far spent, and the day is at hand,
representing so naturally the voice of the Archangel awakening the dead and
calling up the righteous to everlasting day; so naturally does the time of
cock-crowing shadow out these things, that probably, some good, well meaning men
might have been brought to believe that the very devils themselves when the cock
crew and reminded them of them did fear and tremble and shun the light.”" Ideas
such as these continued a long time in the popular mind, for Aubrey tells us
that in his younger days people “had some pious ejaculation too when the cock
did crow, which put them in mind of ye Trumpet at ye Resurrection.”
One of the oldest Cock taverns in London is the COCK in Tothill Street, Westminster, lately re-christened as the COCK AND TABARD. An ancient coat of arms, carved in stone, England quartered with France, discovered in this house, is now walled up in the front of the building. In the back parlour is a jolly, bluff-looking man in a red coat, said to represent the driver of the first mail to Oxford, which started from this tavern. Tradition says that the workmen employed at the building of Westminster Abbey, in the reign of Henry VII., used to receive their wages at this house. It was formerly entered by steps; the building now exhibiting traces of great antiquity, and appears at one time to have been a house of considerable pretensions. The rafters and timber are principally of cedar wood. There is a curious hiding-place on the staircase, and a massive carving of Abraham about to offer his son Isaac ; and another, in wood, representing the Adoration of the Magi, said to have been left in pledge, at some remote period, for an unpaid score. The cock may have been adopted as a sign here on account of the vicinity of the Abbey, of which St Peter was the patron, for in the middle ages a cock crowing on the top of a pillar was often one of the accessories in a picture of the apostle. This certainly was a very unkind allusion for the poor saint, particularly when accompanied with such a sneering rhyme as that under the sign of the RED COCK in Amsterdam in 1682. On the one side was written:—
On the obverse:“When the cock began to crow St Peter began to cry.”
Reverse:“The cock does not crow for nothing; Ask St Peter, he can tell you.”
The Cock in Bow Street witnessed a disgraceful scene in the reign of Charles II. :—
“Sackville, who was then Lord Buckhurst, with Sir Charles Sedley and Sir Thomas Ogle, got drunk at the Cock, in Bow Street, by Covent Garden, and going into the balcony, exposed themselves to the public, in very indecent postures. At last, as they grew warmer, Sedley stood forth naked, and harangued the populace in such profane language, that the public indignation was awakened. The crowd attempted to force the door, and being repulsed, drove in the performers with stones, and broke the windows of the house. For this demeanour they were indicted, and Sedley was fined £500. What was the sentence of the others is not known. Sedley employed Killigrew and another to procure a remission of the king, but (mark the friendship of the dissolute ) they begged the fine for themselves and exacted it to the last groat.”
It was on his way home from supper at this house, December 21, 1670, that Sir John Coventry was attacked by several men, and had his nose cut to the bone. Sir John had remonstrated in the House of Commons against the improper distribution of public money, and proposed to lay a tax on the theatres; this was opposed by the Court, the players being “the king's servants and a part of his pleasure;” upon which Sir John asked “whether the king's pleasure lay among the men or among the women that acted ?” The assault was committed by Simon Parry, Miles Reeves, O'Brian, and Sir Thomas Sandys, instigated by the Duke of Monmouth.
Pepys much praises the Cock in Suffolk Street:— “15th March 1669.—Mr Hewes and I did walke to the Cocke, at the end of Suffolke Street, where I never was, a great ordinary mightily cried up, and there bespoke a pullet, which, while dressing, he and I walked into St James's Park, and thence back and dined very handsome with a good soup and a pullet for 4s. 6d. the whole.” This first visit evidently had given great satisfaction, for, three weeks after, he took Mrs P. and some friends there, and was, as usual, “mighty merry, this house being famous for good meat, and particularly pease porridge.”
At the same period there was another celebrated Cock Tavern in Fleet Street, near Temple Bar, properly called the COCK AND BOTTLE, a sign still of daily occurrence, which seems to be a figurative rendering of liquor on draught and in bottle, cock being an old English, and still provincial word for the spigot or tap in a barrel. The sign is, however, generally represented by a cock standing on a bottle. The present sign of the house, still conspicuous in gilt over the door, is said to have been carved by no less a hand than Grinling Gibbons. During the plague time of 1665, the following advertisement appeared in the Intelligencer :
THIS is to certify that the Master of the Cock and Bottle, commonly - called the Cock alehouse, at Temple Bar, hath dismissed his servants and shut up his house for this long vacation, intending (God willing) to return at Michaelmass next so that all persons who have any accounts or farthings belonging to the said house are desired to repair thither before the 8th of this instant July and they shall receive satisfaction.”
Certainly those were dull times, and well might that fashionable establishment close for the “long vacation,” for the plague was then coming to its highest pitch; all the gallant customers had fled town, and according to Defoe's computation, “not less than 10,000 houses were forsaken of the inhabitants in the city and suburbs:”—
“There was not so much velvet stirring as would have bene a cover to a little booke in octavo, or seamde a Lieftenant's Buff-doublet; a French hood would have been more wondered at in London, than the Polonyans with their long-tayld Gaberdynes; and, which was most lamentable, there was never a Gilt spur to be seene all the Strand over, never a feather wagging in all Fleet Streete, vnlesse some country Fore-horse came by, by meere chaunce with a Raine-beaten Feather in his costrill; the streete looking for all the world like a Sunday morning at six o'Clocke, three hours before service, and the Bells ringing all about London, as if the Coronation day had beene a half a yeare long.”
But there was a good time coming after the plague and fire, when troops of gay courtiers might quaff their wine and sparkling ale, as happy as the “merry monarch” himself. Amongst them, our friend Pepys, who informs us, that on the 23d of April 1668, he went “by water to the Temple, and then to the Cockalehouse, and drank and eat a lobster, and sang, and mighty merry. So almost night, I carried Mrs Pierce home, and then Knipp and I to the Temple again and took boat, it being darkish, and to Foxhall, it being now night, and a bonfire burning at Lambeth for the king's coronation day.” Exactly one hundred years later, the Cock is named with encomiums on its porter, in the “Art of Living in London;” but it is to be hoped the porter was better than the poetry:—
“Nor think the Cock with these not on a par,
The celebrated Cock of Temple Bar,
Whose Porter best of all bespeaks its praise,
Porter that's worthy of the Poet's lays.”+
In William Waterproof's Monologue, the fame of a waiter of this tavern is
handed down to posterity in the harmonious verses of the Poet Laureate.
Jackson the pugilist, who has a pompous epitaph on his grave in the Brompton burial-ground, kept for some time the Cock alehouse, Sutton, on the Epsom Road; but being patronised by the Prince of Wales and a great many of the leading members of the “nobility and gentry,” he was in a very short time enabled to retire with a £10,000 fortune. Finally, some twenty years ago, there was a Cock and Bottle public house in Bristol kept by a man named John England, who added to his sign the wellknown words:—
“England expects every man to do his duty.”
The sign of the THREE COCKs occurs in the following advertisement :—
“ ALL persons that have any Household Goods, Plate, Rings, Watches, Jewels, Wearing Apparel, etc., in the hands of Thomas Bastin, at the THREE Cocks in St John's Lane, Pawnbroker, which were pledged to him before the 25th of December 1709, are desired to fetch them away by the 25th of March next, or they will be disposed off.”—London Gazette, Jan. 18-21, 1711.
From this and innumerable other similar advertisements, it appears that
pawnbrokers in those days did not always rigorously adhere to the Three Balls;
that is to say, they were occasionally goldsmiths, and in that capacity used any
It is rarely that the sign of the Cock designates any particular colour. There is a BLACK COCK in Owen Street, Tipton; a cock of this colour was always considered something more than an ordinary bird; with the Greeks it was a grateful sacrifice to Esculapius and Pluto, and in the middle ages it played a promiment part in matters of witchcraft. The BLUE COCK is a sign at Leicester; but neither colour is common. At Hargrave, near Bury St Edmunds, there is a COCK's HEAD, put up either in imitation of a nag's,—bull's,—bear's, -or boar's head, or as the crest of a fool's cap, which, in old times, usually terminated with a cock's head.
Though some sort of religious prestige may at first have prompted the choice of the cock, more profane ideas latterly contributed to make it popular, such as the pastimes of cock-throwing, or “shying,” and cock-fighting. To this first practice alludes the sign of William Brandon, on Dowgate Hill, which was called, HAVE AT IT; his token representing a man about to throw a stick at a cock. This cruel game was very common in alehouses in former times; the whole sport consisting in throwing a stick at an unfortunate cock tied to a stake; if the animal was killed it was the thrower's property; if not, he forfeited the small sum paid for each “shy.” What a slaughter of cocks was carried on in this way may be judged from the following:—
“Last Tuesday a Brewer's servant in Southwark took his walk round Towerhill, Moorfield, and Lincoln's Inn Fields, and knocked down so many cocks that by selling them again, he returned home twenty shillings odd pence richer man than he came out.””
Medals are extant of the reign of William III, on which John Bull is represented throwing sticks at the French cock: not a very lofty allegory, it must be confessed; but in those days the public taste was not very refined; thus, after the victory of Blenheim, the simile was in equal bad taste, the same idea being expressed by a huge lion tearing an unfortunate cock in pieces.
Cock-fighting was a favourite diversion with the Romans, and we find continual traces of it during their occupation here. Fitz-Stephen says, it was the sport of schoolboys in his time; but as they grew up it seems the taste adhered to them. That sturdy bluebeard-king, Henry VIII., though always ready to chop off the heads of his subjects, felt his heart melt at the miseries of the cocks, and made edicts against cock-fights, yet with the inconsistency that marked his other tastes built a cockpit unto himself at Whitehall. James I, also, was a great amateur. Though habitually suppressed by various sovereigns, the evil would always break out again, till it was finally abolished by an Act of Parliament in the 12 & 13 Queen Victoria. In Staffordshire, and other counties where this sport is still practised “on the sly,” the FIGHTING CoCKs is a favourite sign.
The cock occurs in innumerable combinations with all kinds of heterogeneous objects, many of which seem merely selected for their oddity: among the most explicable is the Cock and Bottle, of which we have offered a solution, and which again occurs in the following title:—
“JUST PUBLISHED, “A full account of the Life and Visions of Nicholas Hart who has every year in his Life past, on the 5th of August, fall'n into a Deep Sleep and cannot be awaked till 5 Days and Nights are expired, and then gives a surprising Relation of what he hath seen in the other World. Taken from his own mouth in September last; after he had slept 5 days in St Bartholomew's Hospital, the August before. By William Hill, of Lincoln's Inn. The Truth of all which the said Nicholas Hart hath attested under his Hand, the 3d Day of August 1711, before several credible Witnesses, and declared his Readiness to take oath of the same. He began to sleepe as usual the 5th Day of this instant August 1711 at Mr Dixies at the Cock and Bottle in Little Britain. Entered according to Law. Printed for J. Baker, at the Black Boy, in Paternoster Row, price 2d.” This same book, under the title of “Life and Visions of William Hart, in which are particularly described the state of the Blessed Spirits in the Heavenly Canaan, and also a Description of the Condition of the Damned in a State of Punishment, etc., by Will. Hill, senior of Lincoln's Inn, London,” is still sold as a chapbook by the “running stationers.” The Spectator did not believe in Nicholas Hart, and introduced the subject to the public with his usual humour in No. 191. Hart seems to have tested the truth of the proverb which says, that fortune comes whilst we are sleeping, for he certainly made more by sleeping than many others by waking. Stow tells a similar story of one William Foxley, potmaker to the mint, who slept full fourteen days and fifteen nights, and when he woke up “was in all points found as if he had slept but one night.”
The COCK AND TRUMPET is a common sign, typifying those ideas about the cock
expressed on p. 205. This simile is constantly used by the poets; and most
beautifully enlarged upon by Shakespeare:— “The Cock that is the Trumpet of the
morn,” &c.—Hamlet, a. i. sc. 1.
“And now the Cock, the morning's trumpeter,
Play'd hunt's up to the day-star to appear.”—Drayton.
“All the night shrill chaunticler,
Day's Proclaiming Trumpeter,
Claps his wings and loudly cries,
Mortals, mortals, wake, arise.”—Nativity Hymn.f
The COCK AND BELL, if not a simple combination of two signs, may be derived from a custom formerly practised in some parts of England, for boys to have cock-fights on Shrove Tuesday; the party whose cock won the most battles, was held victorious in the cock-pit, and gained the prize—a small silver bell suspended to the button of the victor's hat, and worn for three successive Sundays. It is an old sign, and occurs on a Birchin Lane trades token between 1648 and 1672.
The COCK AND BREECHEs originated in a favourite form of gilt gingerbread at Bartholomew Fair, although the very objectionable anecdote of Joe Miller concerning such a sign is generally believed to have had something to do with its origin. The COCK AND BULL is still frequently seen, but though the meaning of the phrase is well understood, neither its origin, nor the meaning of the two animals on the signboard, have as yet been properly explained. As we have no sound theory to offer, we shall abstain from entering on the subject, for fear of giving an illustration of what a cock-and-bull story is, rather than clearing up the mystery of the signboard. It occurs amongst the seventeenth century trades tokens. The COCK AND DOLPHIN was the sign of one of the London carriers' inns —
“JAMES NEVIL'S Coach to Hampstead comes to the Cock and Dolphin in
Gray's Inn Lane, in and out every day.”—De Laune's Present State of London,
Hatton, in 1708, placed this inn “on the east side of Gray's Inn Lane, near the middle.” At the present day it is a publichouse sign in Kendal, Westmoreland. It is more likely to be a combination of two signs, than to refer to the French Cock and the Dolphin in the arms of the Dauphin. The same applies to the COCK AND ANCHOR in Gateshead and Dublin; the COCK AND SWAN, and the COCK AND CROWN, both in Wakefield; and the COCK AND BEAR at Nuneaton; whilst the COCK AND HOUSE in Norwich may originally have been the cocking-house of the district, —that is, the house where cock-fights were held.
Fully as general as the sign of the Cock is that of the SWAN ; the reason why, is perhaps truly, though coarsely, expressed under an old Dutch signboard :—
“De Swaan voert ieder kroeg, zoowel in dorp als stad,
Om dat hyaltyd graag is met de bek in't nat.”
“The reason why so many alehouses in town and country have the sign of the swan, is because that bird is so fond of liquid.”
[No English translation can convey the peculiar significance of the original. The above gives only the bare sense.]
Not only is there a conformity of aesthetic symbolism in various parts of Europe, observable in the constant recurrence of the same objects on signboards, but even the same jokes are found. Thus the Swan at Bandon, near Cork, has the following rhymes, nearly akin to the Dutch epigram above, but strongly flavoured with Hibernian wit:— w
“This is the Swan
That left her pond,
To Dip her Bill in porter,
Why not we,
As well as she
Become regular Topers.”
Another Milesian at Mallow, also near Cork, has it thus modified:—
“This is the Swan that dips her neck in Water, Why not we as well as she, drink plenty of Beamish and Crawford's Porter.”
In London it was always a favourite sign by the river side:—
“‘I find the Swan to be your usual sign by the River, said I. “Why, yes, replied George. “I don't know what a Coach or a Waggon and Horses or the High-mettled Racer have to do with our River.’ ‘Pray, now, said I to my oracle, “do enumerate the signs of the Swan remaining [this was in 1829] on the Banks of the River, between London and Battersea Bridges.” “Why, let me see, Master, there's the Old Swan at London Bridge, that's one—there’s the Swan in Arundel Street, two-then ours here, (Hungerford Stairs) three,—the Swan at Lambeth; that's down though. Well, then the Old Swan at Chelsea, but that has long been turned into a Brewhouse, though that was where our people [the Water men] rowed to formerly, as mentioned in Doggett's will; now they row to the sign of the New Swan, beyond the Physick Garden; we'll say that’s four, then there's the two Swan signs at Battersea, six.”
The Swan, by London Bridge, was a very ancient house, and gave a name to the Swan stairs. Trades tokens of this house are extant, representing a Swan walking on Old London Bridge, with the date 1657. This feat was performed by the Swan on the token, to intimate that it was the Swan above the Bridge in contradistinction to another tavern known as the Swan below the Bridge. Pepys once dined at this house; and though always very ready to be pleased, he has not much good to say about it. “27 June, 1660. Dined with my Lord and all the officers of his regiment, who invited my Lord and his friends, as many as he would bring to dinner, at the Swan at Dowgate, a poor house and ill dressed, but very good fish and plenty.” The landlady of this tavern is mentioned in a curious manner in a tract printed in 1712, entitled “The Quack Wintners:”—
“May the chaste widow prosper at the Swan Near London Bridge, where richest wines are drawn, And win by her good humour and her trade, Some jolly son of Bacchus to her bed.”
Previous to 1598 there was a SWAN THEATRE on the Bankside, near the Globe; so named from “a house and tenement called the Swan,” mentioned in a charter of Edward VI, granting the manor of Southwark to the City of London. It fell into decay in the reign of James I., was closed in 1613, and subsequently only used for gladiatorial exhibitions. Yet, in its time, it had been well frequented, for a cotemporary author says—“it was the Continent of the world, because half the year a world of beauties and brave spirits resorted to it.” One of the oldest Swan signs on record is that of the old printer, Wynkyn de Worde, assistant, and finally successor to Caxton, who, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, issued some works “emprynted at the signe of the Swane in Fletestrete.”
From an anecdote preserved by Aubrey, iii. 415, it appears that Ben Jonson
did not always “go to the Devil,” but was also in the habit of having his cup of
sack at a Swan tavern near Charing Cross:— “A GRACE BY BEN JONSON EXTEMPORE, BEFORE KING
“Our king and queen, the Lord God blesse,
The Palsgrave and the Lady Besse,
And God blesse every living thing
That lives and breathes and loves the King.
God blesse the Councill of Estate,
And Buckingham the fortunate.
God blesse them all and keep them safe,
And God blesse me, and God bless Ralph.
“The king was mighty inquisitive to know who this Ralph was. Ben told him 'twas the drawer at the Swanne Taverne by Charing crosse, who drew him good canarie. For this drollerie, his Ma" gave him an hundred poundes.”
Tokens of this house of the plague year are extant, representing a Swan with a sprig in its mouth, and the inscription, “Marke Rider at the Swan against the Mewes,” 1665. His Halfe Penny.”
The Swan at Knightsbridge had a reputation which we should call “fast.” It was well known to young gallants, and was the terror of all such jealous husbands and fathers as the Sir David Dunce who figures in Otway’s “Soldier of Fortune,” 1681 :—
“I have surely lost and never shall find
her more. She promised me strictly to stay at home till I came back again; for
ought I know, she may be up three pairs of stairs in the Temple now, or it may
be taking the air as far as Knightsbridge with some smoothfaced rogue or
another; ’tis a damned house that Swan; that Swan at Knightsbridge is a confounded
Tom Brown also alludes to it; Peter Pindar (Dr Woolcot) commemorates a vestry dinner there —
“At Knightsbridge at a Tavern called the Swan,
Churchwardens, Overseers, a jolly clan,
Order'd a dinner for themselves,
A very handsome dinner,” &c.
The old house was pulled down in 1788, and its name transferred to a public-house in Sloane Street, which, with three other houses, occupies the site of the old Swan.
The Swan tavern in Exchange Alley, Cornhill, was well known among the musical world in the last century. In this house, some celebrated concerts were given, at a time when there were no proper concert-rooms; they commenced in 1728, under the management of one Barton, formerly a dancing-master, and continued for twelve years, when the place was burnt down ; at the rebuilding, it was christened the King's Head.
In 1825, the landlord of the Swan tavern at Stratford, near London, recommended the charms of his place in the following poetical strain:—
“At the Swan Tavern kept by Lound
The best accommodation's found,
Wine, Spirits, Porter, Bottled Beer,
You'll find in high perfection here.
If in the Garden with your lass
You feel inclin'd to take a glass,
There Tea and Coffee of the best,
Provided is for every guest.
And females not to drive from hence,
The charge is only fifteen pence.
Or if disposed a Pipe to smoke,
To sing a song or crack a joke,
You may repair across the Green,
Where nought is heard, though much is seen.
There laugh, and drink, and smoke away,
And but a mod’rate reckoning pay.
Which is a most important object
To every loyal British subject.
In short, The best accommodation's found
By those who deign to visit Lound.”
The BLACK SWAN, though formerly considered a rara avis in terris, may now be seen in every town and village, swinging at the door of mine host, the picture painted just as fancy may have suggested, long before the actual bird was brought over from Australia. At the Black Swan tavern in Tower Street, the Earl Rochester, when banished from the Court, took lodgings under the name of Alexander Bendo, his profession that of an Italian quack, and there he had those comical adventures with the waiting-maids of the Court. Hamilton says in his “Memoires de Grammont,” that the adventures Rochester had in this disguise are by far the most amusing given in his works. Another Black Swan alehouse is named in a broadside of 1704 —
“A most strange but true account of a very large sea monster that was found last Saturday in a common-shore in New Fleet Street in Spittlefields, where at the Black Swan alehouse thousands of people resort to see it,” &c.
This dreadful monster was simply “a dead Porpoise of a very large size, it being above Four Foot in length, and Three Foot about,” and the fact of it “leaving the deep to rove up into Fresh Water Rivers, and more especially to crawl up so far a commonshore,” prognosticated, it was thought, some dire calamities, which are told in not very parliamentary language.
The SWAN WITH TWO NECKs is another lusus naturae observable on the signboard, said to owe its origin to the corruption of the word nick into neck.”
This explanation, however ingenious, is somewhat “suffet a caution,” for this reason: it is a well-known and established fact that the London signs of old had no inscriptions under them. Now, considering the small size of the nicks in question, they would scarcely have been perceptible at the height on which the sign was generally suspended, and even if visible, would never have been sufficiently noticed or understood to give a name to the sign. We shall not venture to propose another solution, as nothing of a sufficiently distinct character occurs to us: but it is just possible that a sign of two swans represented swimming side by side may have given rise to the “Swan with two necks,” or that the symbol of two birds' necks encircled by a coronet which was used by a foreign publisher—taken, it has been conjectured, by him from the arms of some trade company—may have been the origin. Machyn, in his “Diary,” mentions the sign of “the Swane with the ij nekes at Mylke Street end,” in 1556, when on the 5th of August, a woman living next door to that sign drowned herself in Moorfields.
These nicks were little horizontal, vertical, and diagonal notches cut in the swan's bill, in order that each owner might know his own swans. In the Archaeologia for 1812, a roll of 219 swan marks is given, together with the ordinances respecting swans on the river Witham, in Lincoln, belonging to various gentlemen ; this paper bears the date of June 1570. The nicking was done by swanherds, appointed by the king's licence, who kept a register of all the various marks. None but freeholders were to have marks, and these were to be perfectly distinct from those used by other gentlemen. The Corporation of London had the right of keeping swans on the Thames for fourteen leagues above and below bridge, and their flocks seem to have been very numerous, for Paulus Jovius describing the approach to London in 1552, says, “This river abounds in swans swimming in flocks, the sight of which, and their noise, are very agreeable to the fleets that meet them in their course.” Those of the company of the vintners had two nicks or marks on their bill, it is said, and hence the popular explanation of the sign. This nicking of swans on the river was formerly a matter of great state. The members of the Corporation of London used annually to go up the Thames in the month of August, in gaily decorated barges, and after the swans were nicked and counted, to land off Barn Elms, and there partake of a collation in the open air, ending which, history informs us, they used to dance, but it would require very reliable authority to convince us that an alderman could find enjoyment on the “light fantastic toe,” particularly after a hearty collation.
In 1636, the TWO NECKED SWAN was already to be seen in Berkshire, at the town of Lamburne, where Taylor the water poet names it as the sign of a tavern. In later years it was a famous carriers' inn in Lad Lane, Cheapside, whence, for more than a century and a half, passengers and goods were despatched to the North. To this inn the following couplet alludes:
“True sportsmen know nor dread nor fear,
Each rides, when once the saddle in,
As if he had a neck to spare,
Just like the Swan in Ladlane.” Huddersford Cape Hunt.
Notwithstanding the “double bill” suggested by the two heads, it still continues a favourite inn sign. Four is rather an unusual number on the signboard, but we have this quadruple alliance in one solitary instance, the FOUR SWANs, Bishopsgate, which is internally one of the best remaining examples of those famous galleried inns of old London.
The SWAN AND BOTTLE, Uxbridge, is a variation of the Cock and Bottle; the SWAN AND RUMMER was a coffee-house near the Exchange, during the South Sea bubble—the Rummer, a common addition, being simply joined to the Swan, to intimate that wine was sold; the SWAN AND SALMON are combined on many signs, doubtless in honour of the two ornaments of our English rivers. The very name is sufficient to call up a pleasant picture.
The SWAN AND HOOP, Moorfields, was the birthplace of Keats the poet. The Swan on the Hoop, “on the way called old Fysshe Strete,” is mentioned as early as 1413.” The same combination may still be seen on London signboards.
With regard to the SWAN AND SUGARLOAF, which occurs amongst the trades tokens, and is still seen, (as in Fetter Lane, for instance) the sugarloaf was at first added by a grocer, whose sign having gained popularity as a noted landmark, or from other causes, was imitated by rivals or juniors, particularly on account of its presenting the favourite alliteration. Combinations with the sugarloaf are very common, all arising from its being the grocer's sign: thus the THREE CROWNS AND SUGARLOAF, Kidderminster; WHEATSHEAF AND SUGARLOAF, Ratcliff Highway, seventeenth century, (trades token;) TOBACCO ROLL AND SUGARLOAF, Gray's Inn Gate, Holborn;" the THREE COFFINS AND SUGARLOAF, Fleet Street, 1720.
In the sign of the SWAN AND RUSHES, at Leicester, the rushes were merely a pictorial accessory, placed in the background to bring out the white plumage of the Swan, whilst the SWAN AND HELMET, at Northampton, no doubt originated from a helmet with a Swan for crest.
In one instance, a DRAKE occurs as a sign, namely, on the token of Will. Johnson, at “ye Drake in Bell Yard,” near Temple Bar, 1667. The Duck is only to be seen in company with the Dog ; in one instance it accompanies a Mallard. This last animal was otherwise well known to the Londoners, since in 1520, amongst “the articles of good gouernâce of the cite of London,” it was recommended to magistrates—“also ye shall enquyre, yf ony person kepe or norrysh hoggis, oxen, kyen, or mallardis within the ward in noying of ther neyhbours.” The DUCK AND MALLARD was the sign of a lock (and probably gun-) smith in East Smith, field in 1673.:
The PIGEON was a tavern at Charing Cross in 1675; The THREE PIGEONs were very common; there still exists an inn of this name at Brentford:—
“It is a house of interest as being in all likelihood one of the few haunts of Shakespeare now remaining; as being indeed the sole Elizabethan tavern existing in England, which in the absence of direct evidence, may fairly be presumed to have been occasionally visited by him.”
It was kept at one time by Lowin, one of the original actors in Shakespeare's plays, and is often named by the old dramatists:
“Thou art admirably suited for the Three Pigeons at Brentford. I swear I know thee not.”—The Roaring Girl.
will turn our courage to Braynford, westward,
My Bird of the Night—to the Pigeons.”
Ben Jonson's Alchymist.
There, also, George Peel played some of his merry pranks. In the parlour is an old painting dated 1704, representing a landlord attending to some customers seated at a table in the open air, with these lines — “Wee are new beginners And thrive wee would fain, I am honest Ralph of Reading, My wife Susana to name.”
Bat Pidgeon, the famous hairdresser, immortalised by the Spectator, lived at the sign of the Three Pigeons, “in the corner house of St Clement's Churchyard, next to the Strand.” There he remained as late as 1740, when he cut the “boyish locks” of Pennant.
In 1663 it was the sign of a bookseller in St Paul's Churchyard,” and in 1698 of John Newton, also a bookseller over against Inner Temple Gate, Fleet Street.
The Dove was the sign of a coffeehouse on the riverside, between the two malls at Fulham. “In a room in this house, Thomson wrote part of his “Winter. He was in the habit of frequenting the house during the winter season, when the Thames. was frozen and the surrounding country covered with snow. This fact is well authenticated, and many persons visit the house to the present day.”
The STOCKDOVE is a sign at Romiley, Stockport; the DOVECOTE is a public-house at Laxton, Carlton-on-Trent, probably on account of the pigeons constantly flying out and in; and there is a PIGEON BOX at Prior's Lee, near Shiffmall. The pigeon-shooting matches may have something to do with the selection of this sign.
The FALCON was another of the devices used by Wynkyn
de Worde over his shop in Fleet Street. Falcon Court, in that locality, perhaps
derives its name from this house. Subsequently, Gordobuc, the earliest English
tragedy, was “imprynted at London, in Flete Strete, at the sign of the Faucon,”
no doubt Wynkyn's house, by William Griffiths in 1565; and in 1612, Peacham's
“Garden of Heroical Devises” was published by Wa. Dight at the sign of the
Falcon in Shoe Lane. These booksellers, perhaps, borrowed their device from the
stationers' arms, which are, argent on a chevron between three bibles, or, a
falcon volant between two roses, the Holy Ghost in chief; it was also a badge of
some of the kings. At the Falcon inn, Stratford-on-Avon, there is still a
shovelboard on which William Shakespeare is said often to have
played. Another Falcon Tavern connected with Shakespeare's name used to stand on
the Bankside, where he and his companions occasionally refreshed themselves
after the fatigues of the performances at the Globe. It long continued
celebrated as a coaching inn for all parts of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, till it
was taken down in 1808. The name is still preserved in the Falcon Glasshouse,
which stands opposite its site, and in the Falcon Stairs. There was another
Falcon Inn in Fleet Street, bequeathed to the company of cordwainers, by a
gentleman named Fisher, under the obligation that they were yearly to have a
sermon preached in the Church of St Dunstan, in the West, on the 10th of July.
Formerly, on that day, sack and posset used to be drunk by those concerned, in
the vestry of the church, if not to the health, at least to the “pious memory”
of this Fisher; but that good custom has long since been abandoned.
The FALCON ON THE HOOP is named in 1443. “In the xxj yer of Kyng Harry the vi',” the brotherhood of the Holy Trinity received “for the rent of ij yere of Wyllym Wylkyns for the Sarrecyn Head v li vj s. viijd., paynge by the yer lijs. iiijd, and of the Faucon on the Hope, for the same ijyer vili, that is to say paynge by the yer iij li.” Rent, it must be confessed, seems small, and landlords exceedingly accommodating in those days. Six days before that period, there is an entry in the churchwardens' accounts for “kervyng and peinting of the seigne of the Faucon vish.” This mention of the sign clearly shows that it was not a picture, but a carved and coloured falcon, suspended in a hoop, whence the name of the sign.
The MAGPIE being a bird of good omen, was, on that account, very often chosen; with this another reason concurred, namely, the sign of the eatable pie falling into disuse, it was transformed into the Magpie, (see Cock and Pie;) and this transition was so much the easier as the original name of the magpie was pie, (Latin pica, French pie) and only subsequently for its knowing antics, did it receive the nickname of maggoty pie, which gradually was abbreviated into Magpie. The full form of the epithet is preserved in the nursery rhyme:—
“Round about, round about,
My father loves good ale
And so do I.” - "
The MAGGOTY PIE was an inn in the Strand during the reign of James I. : it is alluded to in Shirley's Comedy of “The Ball,” a. i. sc. 1, where Freshwater, the Italianised Englishman, says:—
“I do ly at the signe of Dona Margaretta de Pia in the Strand.”
which his man Gudgin explains to mean, “the Maggety Pie in the Strand, sir.”
As late as 1654, we find the name “maggoty pie” used in “Mercurius Fumigosus, or the Smoking Nocturnal,” July 26 to August 3, where the Welshman's arms are described as a fly, a maggoty pie, &c. The MAGPIE AND STUMP represents the magpie sitting on the stump of a tree; it was the sign of one of the Whig pothouses in the Old Bailey during the riots of 1715. There is still an old house with such a sign in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. The MAGPIE AND PEWTER PLATTER, in Wood Street, originated from a magpie standing by a dish and picking out of it. The MAGPIE AND CROWN, says the author of “Tavern Anecdotes,”(1825) is a ridiculous association; but when once joined is not to be separated without injury to the concern, as it happened in the case of a Mr Renton, who was originally waiter at a house of this name in Aldgate, famous for its ale, which was sent out in great quantities. The landlord becoming rich, pride followed, and he thought of giving wing to the Magpie, retaining only the royal attribute of the crown. The ale went out for a short time, as usual, but it was not from the Magpie and Crown, and the customers fancied it was not so good as usual; consequently the business fell off. The landlord died, and Renton purchased the concern, caught the Magpie, and restored it to its ancient situation; the ale improved in the opinion of the public, and its consumption increased so much, that Renton, at his death, left behind him property amounting to £600,000, chiefly the profits of the Magpie and Crown ale. This danger of altering a sign is also illustrated by another example. When Joseph II, emperor of Germany, was at Maestricht, in the Netherlands, he stayed at the GRAY ASS Inn, (L'Ane Gris) in honour of which imperial visit the landlord discarded his humble quadruped sign, and put up the EMPEROR'S HEAD.
The customers seeing the Old Gray Ass gone, thought the business had fallen into other hands, and so went to various inns in the neighbourhood, and particularly to a NEW GRAY ASS, which had just then opened in the same street. The landlord seeing his business falling off, through the change of his sign, yet unwilling to part with his Emperor's head, after long thinking and pondering, at last hit upon a clever compromise: he kept up the portrait of the Emperor, but wrote under it, “At the Original Gray Ass, (au veritable Ane Gris.)”
The PARROT, or POPINJAY, is an old sign now almost out of fashion, the GREEN PARROT, Swinegate, Leeds, being one of the few remaining. Andrew Maunsell, a bookseller and printer, resided at the Parrot in St Paul's Churchyard in 1570, and continued to trade under this sign till 1600. Taylor, the water poet, mentions the POPINJAY at Ewell, in 1636. It was a very appropriate sign for quacks, and one of these, at all events, had candour enough to adopt it. His handbill begins in a grandiloquent style:”—
“NOBLE or IGNOBLE, you may be foretold anything that may happen to your Elementary Life: as at what time you may expect prosperity; or if in Adversity the End thereof, or when you may be so happy as to enjoy the Thing desired. Also young Men may foresee their Fortunes as in a Glass, and pretty Maids their Husbands in this Noble, yea, Heavenlie art of Astrologie. At the sign of the Parrot opposite to Ludgate Church within Blackfriars' Gateway.””
The PARROT AND CAGE, in St Martin's Lane, Strand, advertised in 1711 as a “just and substantial office of insurance” on marriages, births, &c. This office, apparently, had chambers in some bird-fancier's house, at all events to that class of the community the sign belonged more exclusively. In 1787, there was one near the monument, the sign of a cagemaker who sold “likewise parrots and other forring birds.”
The PEACOCK, in
ancient times, was possessed of a mystic character. The fabled incorruptibility
of its flesh led to its typifying the Resurrection; and from this
incorruptibility, doubtless, originated the first idea of swearing “by the
Peacock,” an oath that was to be inviolably kept. Its first introduction on the
signboard is lost in the unrecorded wastes of time; but the oath was a common
one in early times, especially on occasions of military adventures. Near the
Angel in Clerkenwell, there is the PEACOCK public-house, which bears the date
1564. This was
formerly a great house of call for the mail and other coaches travelling on the
Great North Road, much the same as the Elephant and Castle was for the southern
counties. The PEACOCK AND FEATHERS was a sign in Cornhill in 1711.
The OSTRICH seems more common at present than in ancient times. There is one on a stone-carved sign in Bread Street, probably the sign of a feather shop. Generally, the ostrich is represented with a horseshoe in his mouth, in allusion to its digestive powers; for this reason Cade says to Iden:—
“I’ll make thee eat iron like an ostrich, and swallow my sword like a great pin.”—Henry VI, 2d Part, a. iv. sc. 10.
The landlord of an alehouse at Calverley, near Leeds, has put his premises under the protection of Minerva's bird, the OWL. At St Helens, Lancashire, there is a still more curious sign, viz., the OWL'S NEST, or the Owl in the Ivy Bush. A bush or tod of ivy was formerly supposed to be a favourite place for the owl to make its nest in. The old dramatists abound in allusions to this:
“Michael von Owle, how dost thou? In what dark barn or tod of aged ivy Hast thou been hid?”—Beaumont and Fletcher, a. iv. sc. 3. In a masque of Shirley's, entitled “The Triumph of Peace,” 1633, one of the scenes represented a wild, woody landscape, “a place fit for purse-taking,” where, “in the furthest part was seene an ivy-bush, out of which came an owle.” Opinion, one of the dramatis personae, informed the public, that this scene was intended for “a wood, a broad-faced owl, an ivy-bush, and other birds beside her.”
In districts where GROUSE and MOORCOCK are found, these birds frequently court the patronage of the thirsty sportsman at the village alehouse door. One publican, at Upper Haslam, Sheffield, invites at once the follower of Nimrod and of Walton : his sign is the GROUSE AND TROUT. The last bird-sign which remains to be noticed, is unquestionably the most puzzling of all. It occurs on an old trades token of Cornhill, and is there called “THE LIVE VULTURE.” That the man should have kept a live vulture at his door seems very improbable. The only explanation which occurs to us, is the possibility that, at some period or other, a live vulture had been exhibited at this house, and that from this event its name was derived.
A curious instance of a tradesman exhibiting a living bird as an attraction to his house, is supplied us in a recent letter of a Paris correspondent, which gives at the same time an amusing anecdote of the well-known Alexandre Dumas. The writer, speaking of a magnificent new café which had recently been completed, says:
“Writing of this newly started restaurant naturally recals the fact of the disappearance of the historic pavilion of Henry IV. at St Germain-en Laye, kept for many years by the Duchess of Berry's maitre d'hôtel, Collinet. He was the pupil of Carème, and learnt to make sauces from Richout, saucemaker to the last of the Condés, and pastry from Heliot, “Ecuyer ordinaire de la bouche de Madame la Dauphine,” a title I have vainly searched for in the list of the queen's household. The result of this combination of culinary instructions was that his “Bifsteaks à la Bearnaise,” and his woodcock pies, attracted not only all the fashionable world, but a brilliant galaxy of literary celebrities to the “Pavillon Henry IV.” Alexandre Dumas's château of Monte Christo was close to St Germain. He sent daily for his cutlets to Collinet, who let his bill run on till it amounted to 25,000f. (£1000), in payment of which the distinguished chef received an autograph letter from the great novelist, accompanied by a live eagle. Alexandre Dumas expressed his regret at not being able to pay the bill, but suggested his exhibiting the eagle and the letter, which exhibition would inevitably attract crowds to his hotel, and there I myself have seen the eagle and read the letter.”