Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Marylebone and Paddington Taverns


Smith, in his very amusing Book for a Rainy Day, tells us that in 1772, beyond Portland Chapel, (now St. Paul's,) the highway was irregular, with here and there a bank of separation; and having crossed the New Road, there was a turnstile, at the entrance of a meadow leading to a little old public-house—the Queen's Head and Artichoke—an odd association: the sign was much weather-beaten, though perhaps once a tolerably good portrait of Queen Elizabeth: the house was reported to have been kept by one of Her Majesty's gardeners.

A little beyond was another turnstile opening also into the fields, over which was a walk to the Jew's Harp Tavern and Tea Gardens. It consisted of a large upper room, ascended by an outside staircase for the accommodation of the company on ball-nights. There were a semicircular enclosure of boxes for tea and ale drinkers; and tables and seats for the smokers, guarded by deal-board soldiers between every box, painted in proper colours. There were trap-ball and tennis grounds, and skittle-grounds. South of the tea-gardens were summer-houses and gardens, where the tenant might be seen on Sunday evening, in a bright scarlet waistcoat, ruffled shirt, and silver shoe-buckles, comfortably taking his tea with his family, honouring a Seven Dials friend with a nod on his peregrination to the famed Wells of Kilburn. Such was the suburban rural enjoyment of a century since on the borders of Marylebone Park.

There is a capital story told of Mr. Speaker Onslow, who, when he could escape from the heated atmosphere of the House of Commons, in his long service of thirty-three years, used to retire to the Jew's Harp. He dressed himself in plain attire, and preferred taking his seat in the chimney-corner of the kitchen, where he took part in the passing joke, and ordinary concerns of the landlord, his family and customers! He continued this practice for a year or two, and thus ingratiated himself with his host and his family, who, not knowing his name, called him "the gentleman," but from his familiar manners, treated him as one of themselves. It happened, however, one day, that the landlord of the Jew's Harp was walking along Parliament-street, when he met the Speaker, in his state-coach, going up with an address to the throne; and looking narrowly at the chief personage, he was astonished and confounded at recognising the features of the gentleman, his constant customer. He hurried home and communicated the extraordinary intelligence to his wife and family, all of whom were disconcerted at the liberties which, at different times, they had taken with so important a person. In the evening, Mr. Onslow came as usual to the Jew's Harp, with his holiday face and manners, and prepared to take his seat, but found everything in a state of peculiar preparation, and the manners of the landlord and his wife changed from indifference and familiarity to form and obsequiousness: the children were not allowed to climb upon him, and pull his wig as heretofore, and the servants were kept at a distance. He, however, took no notice of the change, but, finding that his name and rank had by some means been discovered, he paid his reckoning, civilly took his departure, and never visited the house afterwards.

The celebrated Speaker is buried in the family vault of the Onslows, at Merrow; and in Trinity Church, Guildford, is a memorial of him—"the figure of the deceased in a Roman habit," and he is resting upon volumes of the Votes and Journals of the House of Commons. The monument is overloaded with inscriptions and armorial displays: we suspect that "the gentleman" of the Jews' Harp chimney-corner would rather that such indiscriminate ostentation had been spared, especially "the Roman habit." If we remember rightly, Speaker Onslow presented to the people of Merrow, for their church, a cedar-wood pulpit, which the Churchwardens ordered to be painted white!

To return to the taverns. Wilson, our great landscape-painter, was fond of playing at skittles, and frequented the Green Man public-house, in the New-road, at the end of Norton-street, originally known under the appellation of the "Farthing Pye-house;" where bits of mutton were put into a crust shaped like a pie, and actually sold for a farthing. This house was kept by a facetious man named Price, of whom there is a mezzotinto portrait: he was an excellent salt-box player, and frequently accompanied the famous Abel, when playing on the violoncello. Wilkes was a frequenter of this house to procure votes for Middlesex, as it was visited by many opulent freeholders.

The Mother Redcap, at Kentish Town, was a house of no small terror to travellers in former times. It has been stated that Mother Redcap was the "Mother Damnable" of Kentish Town; and that it was at her house that the notorious Moll Cutpurse, the highway-woman of the time of Oliver Cromwell, dismounted, and frequently lodged.

Kentish Town has had some of its old taverns rebuilt. Here was the Castle Tavern, which had a Perpendicular stone chimney-piece; the house was taken down in 1849: close to its southern wall was a sycamore planted by Lord Nelson, when a boy, at the entrance to his uncle's cottage; the tree has been spared. Opposite were the old Assembly-rooms, taken down in 1852: here was a table with an inscription by an invalid, who recovered his health by walking to this spot every morning to take his breakfast in front of the house.

Bowling-greens were also among the celebrities of Marylebone: where, says the grave John Locke (Diary, 1679), a curious stranger "may see several persons of quality bowling, two or three times a week, all the summer." The bowling-green of the Rose of Normandy Tavern and Gaming-house in High-street is supposed to be that referred to in Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's memorable line; and it is one of the scenes of Captain Macheath's debaucheries, in Gay's Beggar's Opera.

The Rose was built some 230 years ago, and was the oldest house in Marylebone parish: it was originally a detached building, used as a house of entertainment in connection with the bowling-green at the back; and in 1659 the place was described as a square brick wall, set with fruit-trees, gravel walks, and the bowling-green; "all, except the first, double set with quickset hedges, full-grown, and kept in excellent order, and indented like town walls." In a map of the Duke of Portland's estate, of 1708, there are shown two bowling-greens, one near the top of High-street, and abutting on the grounds of the Old Manor House; the other at the back of this house: in connection with the latter was the Rose Tavern, once much frequented by persons of the first rank, but latterly in much disrepute, and supposed to be referred to by Pennant, who, when speaking of the Duke of Buckingham's minute description of the house afterwards the Queen's Palace, says: "He has omitted his constant visits to the noted Gaming-house at Marybone; the place of assemblage of all the infamous sharpers of the time;" to whom his Grace always gave a dinner at the conclusion of the season; and his parting toast was, "May as many of us as remain unhanged next spring meet here again."

These Bowling-greens were afterwards incorporated with the well-known Marylebone Gardens, upon the site of which are now built Beaumont-street, part of Devonshire-street, and Devonshire-place. The principal entrance was in High-street. Pepys was here in 1688: "Then we abroad to Marrowbone, and there walked in the Gardens: the first time I was ever there, and a pretty place it is." In the London Gazette, 1691, we read of "Long's Bowling-green, at the Rose, at Marylebone, half a mile distant from London." The Gardens were at first opened gratis to all classes; after the addition of the bowling-greens, the company became more select, by one shilling entrance-money being charged, an equivalent being allowed in viands.

An engraving of 1761 shows the Gardens in their fullest splendour: the centre walk had rows of trees, with irons for the lamps in the stems; on either side, latticed alcoves; and on the right, the bow-fronted orchestra with balustrades, supported by columns; with a projecting roof, to keep the musicians and singers free from rain; on the left is a room for balls and suppers. In 1763, the Gardens were taken by Lowe, the singer; he kept them until 1769, when he conveyed the property by assignment, to his creditors; the deed we remember to have seen in Mr. Sampson Hodgkinson's Collection at Acton Green: from it we learn that the premises of Rysbrack, the sculptor, were formerly part of the Gardens. Nan Cattley and Signor Storace were among the singers. James Hook, father of Theodore Hook, composed many songs for the Gardens; and Dr. Arne, catches and glees; and under his direction was played Handel's music, followed by fireworks; and in 1772, a model-picture of Mount Etna, in eruption. Burlettas from Shakspeare were recited here in 1774. In 1775, Baddeley, the comedian, gave here his Modern Magic Lantern, including Punch's Election; next, George Saville Carey his Lecture on Mimicry; and in 1776, fantoccini, sleight of hand, and representations of the Boulevards at Paris and Pyramids of Egypt.

Chatterton wrote for the Gardens The Revenge, a burletta, the manuscript of which, together with Chatterton's receipt, given to Henslow, the proprietor of the Gardens, for the amount paid for the drama, was found by Mr. Upcott, at a cheesemonger's shop, in the City; it was published, but its authenticity was at the time doubted by many eminent critics. (Crypt, November, 1827.)

Paddington was long noted for its old Taverns. The White Lion, Edgware-road, dates 1524, the year when hops were first imported. At the Red Lion, near the Harrow-road, tradition says, Shakspeare acted; and another Red Lion, formerly near the Harrow-road bridge over the Bourn, is described in an inquisition of Edward VI. In this road is also an ancient Pack-horse; and the Wheatsheaf, Edgware-road, was a favourite resort of Ben Jonson.[47]

Kilburn Wells, a noted tea-drinking tavern and garden, sprang up from the fame of the spring of mineral water there.

Bayswater had, within memory, its tea-garden taverns, the most extensive of which were the "physic gardens" of Sir John Hill, who here cultivated his medicinal plants, and prepared from them his tinctures, essences, etc. The ground is now the site of noble mansions. The Bayswater springs, reservoirs, and conduits, in olden times, brought here thousands of pleasure-seekers; as did Shepherd's Bush, with its rural name. Acton, with its wells of mineral water, about the middle of the last century, were in high repute; the assembly-room was then a place of great fashionable resort, but on its decline was converted into tenements. The two noted taverns, the Hats, at Ealing, were much resorted to in the last century, and early in the present.

[47] Robins's Paddington, Past and Present.

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. II
London, 1866