HISTORIC PUB CRAWL – Town of Ramsgate

TOWN OF RAMSGATE

WAPPING

62 Wapping High Street, London

LOUISA CORNELL

 

 

The first pub on this site was established during the War of the Roses (1460’s.) It was called The Hostel. The street numbers changed over the years, but the site was always home to a pub under various monikers. In 1533 it became known as The Red Cow, supposedly in honor of a barmaid with flaming red hair who worked in the establishment. At some point it was the Prince of Denmark, no idea why. In 1766 it was renamed the Ramsgate Old Town and eventually in 1811 it acquired its present name – the Town of Ramsgate.

Why the Town of Ramsgate, you ask? Good question, and I have a slightly nefarious answer. Sailors from Ramsgate in Kent landed their catches at the Wapping Old Stairs, next to the pub, in order to avoid the river taxes charged further up the river at the Billingsgate Fish Market. It is debated whether the pub was named to attract the fishermen or if the fishermen named the pub after their own safe harbor. Either way the harbor at Ramsgate as seen in 1850 graces the pub sign now and is etched into the mirror at the entrance to the pub today.

Now about those stairs.

Wapping Old Stair

Those stairs led up to the execution docks where prisoners of the Admiralty Courts were hanged on short ropes for their crimes. Why short ropes? Because short ropes took longer to finish the deed and patrons of the Town of Ramsgate often stood outside the pub to watch and cheer. Most of these prisoners were convicted of smuggling, mutiny or piracy. Not all pirates were hanged. If one looks today one can see the chains where pirates were locked on the stairs waiting for the rising tide to come in and drown them.

Old Wapping Stairs as the tide comes in

The stairs were depicted to great fame in the works of Rawlinson (cartoons) and Dibden (poems.)

Wapping Old Stairs – Thomas Rawlinson

Many returning sailors arranged to meet their sweethearts at the Wapping Old Stairs when they returned from the sea. This aspect of the history of the pub and the stairs is commemorated by the verse on the wall of the pub.

“Your Polly has never been faithless she swears, since last year we parted on Old Wapping Stairs”

The Town of Ramsgate shares a great deal of its history with the lives of England’s sailors. Many a drunk would wander from the safety of the pub to be pressed into service in the King’s Navy.

A press gang at work.

 

 

 

 

 

The pub’s cellars served as jail cells for convicts who were set to be deported to Australia.

Legend has it Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian had their last drinks before setting sail on their ill-fated trip to Tahiti at the Town of Ramsgate in 1789. Likely true, as it is documented this is where Bligh and his voyage sponsor Sir Joseph Banks met at the pub to inspect the Bounty before purchasing it for the voyage.

These days the pub is only known for lively arguments on quiz night.   

 

 

 

 

 

Should you decide to explore the alleyway to the side of the pub that leads to the Wapping Old Stairs you might encounter the local ghost, a ghost the Thames Police have reported seeing to this day. Judge George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys, (15 May 1645 – 18 April 1689) rose to prominence during the reign of James II. He became Lord Chief Justice and eventually Lord Chancellor. His loyalty to the king was without question. However, after Monmouth’s Rebellion in 1685 he was sent to the West Country to conduct the trials of those rebels who participated in the rebellion. He gained a reputation for his abuse of the attorneys of the accused, his sometimes biased application of the law and his tendency to hand out death sentences like drinks at a political rally. He became the most feared and hated judge in England.

After James II fled England and William and Mary ascended the throne, Jeffreys waited to long to follow his king to the Continent. In 1688 he disguised himself as a sailor, shaved his distinctive bushy brows, and waited at the Town of Ramsgate to catch a ship. Unfortunately, a victim of his cruelty – either an accused rebel or an attorney for same recognized the judge. He was captured by a mob at the Town of Ramsgate and narrowly missed being hanged at the top of the Wapping Stairs. He was taken to the Tower of London and died there of kidney failure in 1689.

It is said his ghost can be seen leaving the pub and trying to take the stairs down to the docks to meet the ship he missed, ever looking over his shoulder in search of the angry mob that captured him so long ago.

 

HISTORIC PUB CRAWL – The Cock Pit

THE COCKPIT                                                                                 

BLACKFRIARS

7 St. Andrew’s Hill

LOUISA CORNELL

 

 

 

The first thing one might notice about The Cockpit is the odd shape of the building. It looks rather like the prow of a ship sailing up the alleyways at the juncture of Ireland Yard and St. Andrew’s Hill.

    

There has been an inn, tavern or pub on this site since as early as 1352 when the first mention of The Oakbourn Inn is recorded. This inn was actually situated on the eastern edge of Dominican friars, or Blackfriars, monastery.

Although Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1530, most of the buildings of the Blackfriars Monastery were left intact. Interestingly enough, in 1613 the gatehouse to the old monastery was purchased by a young actor and playwright and several of his acting friends for the sum of 140 pounds to be used as a theatre and makeshift lodging for members of the troupe. The actor’s name? William Shakespeare.                                              

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst the Blackfriars Gatehouse was eventually torn down a number of establishments were built on the site.  In 1787 a tavern called The Cockpit was recorded as opening there. The building was completely renovated in 1842, but the name remained.

As the name declares, the tavern was once one of the major venues for the “sport” of cockfighting in London. Two roosters, bred and cared for as athletes, were thrown into the ring together, sometimes with knives or spurs attached to their feet, and their natural aggression towards each other was allowed to play out while crowds of gentlemen bet and bayed for blood. The match was deemed over and a victor declared once one rooster was either dead or maimed to the point he could not carry on the fight.

19th century cockfighting

When one enters the pub today one is actually walking into the combat ring. Look up towards the eighteen foot ceilings and the original balustrades of the balcony denote where the spectators stood to observe the cockfights.

Interior The Cockpit
Balcony of The Cockpit

 

Fortunately, cockfighting was made illegal and banned in England and Wales in 1849. At some point the tavern was refurbished and renamed either The Three Kings of The Three Castles. Research sources diverge on this subject. It went through another refurbishment in 1865 and sometime between then and 1984 retained the name The Cockpit once more.

The decor of the present pub pays homage to the pub’s heritage with 19th century prints of fighting cocks and even a stuffed rooster to greet visitors at the door.

     

 

 

 

 

 

As with all tales of gambling and blood sports, it is rumored The Cockpit is visited from time to time by the ghost of a lady who is seen wringing her hands over her lack of money because of her husband’s gambling debts. The story is she made the mistake of following him to The Cockpit to prevent him from placing yet another bet. Unfortunately the man was in serious need of anger management. He supposedly beat her to death in the cellar of the pub or in the alley just outside the cellar doors and went back to the cockfight as if nothing had happened. On dark and quiet nights one is said to be able to hear their final confrontation and to catch the poor lady bemoaning her fate.

The Wellington Connection: Shoes, Rather Than Boots

The French, the Prince of Wales, gunfire, political upheaval . . . really, you’d have thought the Duke of Wellington had enough on his plate, but more often than not it was left to His Grace to attend to a hundred myriad details each week regarding the military, politics, his social and his family life. Everyone turned to the Duke of Wellington for assistance and perhaps this was at least in part because he was so good at seeing to the details of a thing, as evidenced in the thread of dispatches below that deal with shoes for both human and horse. As we read, it becomes evident that Wellington had a knack for looking at a problem from every angle and for finding it’s most expedient solution. He always offered explanation and gave the whys and wherefores behind his requests in order to stress the practicalities surrounding them. Unfortunately, not everyone at the war office was as efficient, or as concerned about the day to day running of a vast army who traveled both on their stomachs and their feet.

The Dispatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington:

To the Earl of Liverpool. Cartaxo, 7th Dec. 1810.

I enclose a return of the number of men and horses required to complete the regiments of British cavalry in this country. As the appointments of the heavy cavalry are so much more weighty than those of the light dragoons, and the larger horses of the former are with difficulty kept in condition, it would have been desirable to have a larger proportion of the light dragoons, or hussars, with this army; but as the officers, the men, and their horses, are now accustomed to the food they receive, and to the climate, I do not recommend that the regiments should be changed, or that any additional regiments should be sent out, excepting possibly the remaining 2 squadrons of the 3d hussars, K.G.L., of which 2 squadrons are already at Cadiz.

Your Lordship will observe that nearly 1000 horses are wanting to complete the several regiments to the number of men they now have, and 1460 to complete to their several establishments. I would recommend that no horses should be sent for service to this country which will not be 6 years old in May; and that mares should be sent in preference to horses, as it has been found that they bear the work better than the horses.

I also beg leave to recommend that about 50 or 60 horses or mares of a superior description should be  purchased, at the price of £40 or £50 each, as a remount for the officers of the cavalry, who cannot find horses in the Peninsula at present fit for this service, and would pay this price for these horses.
As great difficulty has been experienced in making shoes and shoe nails for the horses of the cavalry by their farriers, particularly after the cavalry have been actively employed for any length of time, and many horses have been consequently lost, I recommend that 4000 sets of horse shoes, and a double proportion of horse shoe nails, should be sent to the Commissary Gen. for the use of the cavalry, of the same description with those provided for the horses of the Royal artillery. The regiments to which these shoes would be issued would of course pay for them.

A year after Wellington had done with horse shoes, it appears he turned his pen to the matter of shoes for his troops –

Selections from the Dispatches and General Orders of Field Marshall the Duke of Wellington –

To the Earl of Liverpool. Celorico, 31st March, 1811.

The demand for shoes increases to such a degree that it is desirable that 150,000 pairs should be sent to the Tagus as soon as it may be practicable. It is very desirable that the shoes sent to the army should be of the best quality for wear, and should be made of the largest size.

 

The destruction of this necessary article to a soldier is very much increased by the bad quality of the shoes sent out, and by their being in general too small: and as the operations of the army have now been removed to a distance from Lisbon, the inconvenience and difficulty of supplying their consumption are much increased; at the same time, that, as the soldiers pay for the shoes they receive, it is but just towards them that they should be of the best quality for their purpose, and should fit them.’

And yet another missive on the same subject:

A Memoir of Field-Marshal, the Duke of Wellington: with Interspersed Notices … By John Marius Wilson

“We are sadly in want of shoes, and the carts upon the road from Lisbon to Coimbra have been so ill used that I fear we cannot depend upon the communication; and if we could, I believe we should receive them sooner by sea. It will require 40 carts to bring up 20,000 pairs of shoes, which we want; and I shall be very much obliged to you if you will ask the Admiral to allow one of his ships of war to take them on board, and bring them as soon as possible to the mouth of the Mondego.”

And on arriving at Coimbra with the army, and finding there only 6,000 pairs of shoes, the Duke of Wellington felt obliged to issue general orders for economizing the distribution of them, and to write to Lord Castlereagh begging that a further supply of 30,000 pairs might speedily be sent to Lisbon, and that, at the same time, large supplies might be sent of biscuit, oats, and hay.

Supplementary Despatches and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur, Duke of Wellington, Freneda, 30th Nov., 1812 –

1. The Commander of the Forces has directed that those non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the infantry and artillery who were present at the siege of Burgos, and those who were present with their regiments in Spain between the 15th and 19th November, as well Portuguese as English, shall receive a pair of shoes gratis from the Commissary.

2. The officers commanding regiments will accordingly make requisitions for these shoes.

3. Many soldiers are probably already provided with the required quantity of shoes. The officers commanding regiments will make a list of the names of these soldiers, and will have this list lodged with the Paymaster-General, in satisfaction of the demand of the Commissary-General for as many pairs of shoes last delivered to the regiment as there will be names in the list.

4. The soldiers whose names will be in these lists are not to be charged for a pair of shoes each man last received by them from the Commissary, in their accounts with the Captain of their company.

5. Of course the requisitions for shoes under this order are not to include the names of those who will be included in the lists adverted to in Nos. 3 and 4.

6. The shoes which will be required under these orders will be delivered between this time and the 1st February next.

 

 

And next it appears that the Duke had at some point been sent the wrong kind of shoes, adding to his level of frustration:

 

To Earl Bathurst, Lesaca, 23rd August, 1813.

My Dear Lord,
——–  has sent me several pairs of his shoes, which I have endeavored to prevail upon him to desist from sending me, in terms not to mortify him. They are, in fact, of no use whatever. Those who travel on foot in this country do not wear shoes of that description. The Basques and Navarrois, and even some of the Castillians, wear sandals. The shoes worn by the common people, who do wear shoes, are made of brown leather. A man who should have on his feet, or in his possession, a pair of such shoes would be suspected immediately. They are, besides, too small for any common man. They are really quite useless, and it is better that no more should be sent.

Later in life, the Duke turned his great attention to detail upon the health and welfare of his friends and family. In the case of Miss Angela Burdett-Coutts, matters again turned to shoes. In Lady Unknown: The Life of Angela Byrdett-Coutts author Edna Healey tells us that Wellington wrote to Angela:

`Don’t forget you are to leave a pair of your shoes for me that I may have some galoshes made for you. I am in earnest with this; you like walking and appear not to mind much in which state of streets you go out in . . . all that I care about is that you must be kept dry when you go out into the wet streets.’

A pair of the Duke’s own gutta-percha galoshes are preserved at Stratfield-Saye. And in order to round out our piece on Wellington and shoes, here’s a link to an ad in a 1944 issue of Life Magazine featuring the Duke of Wellington.

HISTORIC PUB CRAWL – I Am the Only Running Footman

                                                       

 

  I AM THE ONLY RUNNING FOOTMAN

MAYFAIR

5 Charles Street

LOUISA CORNELL

 

And the award for the longest name for a pub goes to… These days it is known as The Running Footman or simply The Footman. One of the oldest pubs in London, it was originally called The Running Horse. In this guise it was frequented by the city’s footmen in service to the aristocratic houses in Mayfair.

In 17th and 18th century London there were footmen and then there were running footmen. Especially in the 17th century, the streets of London were narrow, overcrowded and apt to be blocked by carts, animals, pedestrians, and any number of other obstructions. It was the job of a running footman to run ahead of his master’s coach clearing the way and paying any tolls at bridges and toll gates ahead of the coach’s passage. At night the running footman might run head carrying a lamp to light the way.

In typical aristocratic fashion, the men who employed running footmen loved to pit theirs against those of other households in foot races upon which they would place ridiculously expensive wagers.

From the diary of Samuel Pepys:

3rd July, 1663

‘The town talk this day is of nothing but the great foot-race run this day on Banstead Downs, between Lee, the Duke of Richmond’s footman, and a Tyler, a famous runner. And Lee hath beat him; though the King and the Duke of York and all men almost did bet three or four to one upon the Tyler’s head.’

After the Great Fire (1666) the streets of London were widened and made clearer. Eventually the need for running footmen dwindled. Most households simply repurposed their running footmen to serve as carriage escorts and to run messages and letters from household to household. Everything from invitations to illicit love letters often pass through the hands of these footmen.

They did continue to congregate at The Running Horse where they commiserated about demanding employers, stingy tippers, and other travails of working in service. And, of course, every bit of gossip imaginable was passed around this haven for London’s footmen. Imagine the intrigue and news a man might acquire as he traveled from house to house in the erudite and aristocratic households of Mayfair. If those walls could talk now!

 

 

 

 

When the pub was put up for sale in 1749, one of the last men employed as an actual running footman retired and bought the establishment. He promptly renamed it after himself and catered to his fellow former runners and to the footmen employed in the wealthy houses of London. It served as a gathering place for these young men well into the early 20th century.

The pub is even memorialized in the title of one of Martha Grimes’s Richard Jury mysteries. Nothing like having the body of a murdered girl found outside a pub to attract mystery fans and the morbidly curious.

 

Today the pub is known for excellent cuisine and a more upper crust atmosphere. The Georgian bowed window remains and whilst the pub has been remodeled a few times since 1749 those brick walls have stood the test of time. As does the long moniker and perhaps the muttering voices of those young men who knew every little secret of London’s 18th and 19th century elite.

 

HISTORIC PUB CRAWL – The Jamaica Wine House

THE JAMAICA WINE HOUSE

CORNHILL, LANGBOURN

St. Michael’s Alley – London

Louisa Cornell

In 1652, a Dalmatian man named Pasqua Rosee brought Middle Eastern coffee to London. He established his shop on the spot now occupied by The Jamaica Wine House pub. If you think the name for this pub is problematic now, just imagine the fun the locals had at London’s very first coffee shop called Pasqua Rosee’s Head. Go ahead and giggle. I’ll wait.

It was a good thing people had fun with the name of the shop. With Oliver Cromwell in charge of England after the execution of King Charles I (30 January, 1649) there was not a great deal of fun to be had. Taverns and other establishments that served beer and liquor were shut down. As Cromwell considered coffee an appropriate and sobering drink the establishment of coffee houses similar to that of Mr. Rosee soon increased exponentially.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)
He looks like a real party animal, right?

 

 

 

 

 

It is generally believed Mr. Rosee’s establishment burned in the fire of 1666, but was quickly rebuilt in the same spot. At some point, either before or after the fire, the name was changed to The Jamaica Coffee House. This probably happened around 1655 after Cromwell and his forces conquered the island of Jamaica. The coffee house in St. Michael’s alley then became a meeting place for merchants and traders doing business in this new sugar colony. In fact it became such a hub for any business to do with trade in the Caribbean that many businessmen, merchants, importers, and sea captains used The Jamaica Coffee House as their business address.

A great many of these establishments sprang up in the area of St. Michael’s Alley, Newman’s Court, and Threadneedle Street because of the proximity to the London Exchange, Lloyd’s, and numerous banks. In the late 18th century The Jamaica Coffee House posted the latest news articles about insurrections in the Caribbean, notices of the ships sailing out of London and their cargoes, notices of the ships sailing into London and their cargoes, and various other pieces of information vital to the sugar trade and, as a consequence, the slave trade.

In fact, The Post Man and The Historical Account carried an advertisement in January of 1718 that a fifteen-year-old Black boy named James had run away and ‘whoever brings him back to the Jamaica Coffeehouse in Cornhill shall receive a ten shilling reward.’

A century later, some sources claim the descendants of The Jamaica Coffee House merchants met there to plot against the abolitionist movement and the work of William Wilburforce.

Coffee houses depended on subscribers to keep their businesses going, especially after the defeat of Cromwell and the return of taverns and pubs. The Jamaica Coffee House had anywhere from 250 to 350 subscribers in any given year. The subscription room in this establishment boasted the latest intelligence on trade in Madeira and the West Indies. The supplies of newspapers and shipping lists were said to be extensive. It was considered the most accurate place to acquire any information about mail packets or merchant ships heading to or coming from the West India station. Merchants and businessmen met here in the morning before they went to the Exchange or their counting offices or after their day’s work was done. Another perk offered to subscribers was food in the form of a sandwich bar, coffee, tea, wines, and other liquor.

  

Eventually The Jamaica Coffee House became The Jamaica Wine House, affectionately called The Jampot by the locals, which is also a bit of a misnomer. The first floor is a traditional pub set in the rooms that housed the coffee house. In the basement, which was in fact a wine cellar and storage area, is a wine bar. In the windows of the pub on the main floor ledgers of old transactions from the coffee house heyday are displayed in the windows. It is said Charles Dickens used The Jamaica Coffee House as the model for Ebenezer Scrooge’s office in A Christmas Carol. And, of course, the ghost of a woman in grey haunts the George and Vulture next door and has been known to accost those leaving The Jamaica Wine House by way of St. Michael’s Alley.