Ray Street—Bear Garden of Hockley-in-the-Hole—Amusements at Hockley—Bear-baiting—Christopher Preston Killed—Indian Kings at
Hockley—Bill of the Bear Garden—Dick Turpin.
This place was formerly one of those infamous
localities only equalled by Tothill Fields, at Westminster, and Saffron Hill, in the valley of the Fleet.
It was the resort of thieves, highwaymen, and bullbaiters. Its site was marked by Ray Street, itself
almost demolished by the Clerkenwell improvements of 1856–7. The ill-omened name of Hockleyin-the-Hole seems to have been derived from the
frequent overflows of the Fleet. Hockley, in Saxon,
says Camden, means a "muddy field:" there is a
Hockley-in-the-Hole in Bedfordshire; and Fielding makes that terrible thief-taker, Jonathan Wild,
son of a lady who lived in Scragg Hollow, Hockleyin-the-Hole. In 1756 this wretched locality was
narrow, and surrounded by ruinous houses, but the
road was soon after widened, raised, and drained.
In 1855 the navvies came upon an old pavement
near Ray Street, and oak piles, black and slimy, the
site of a City mill.
The upper portion of the thoroughfare in continuation of Coppice Row was, says Mr. Pinks,
formerly called Rag Street, in allusion, it may be,
to the number of marine-store shops. In 1774
the notorious and polluted name of Hockley-in-theHole was formally changed to that of Ray Street.
THE MONASTERY OF ST. JOHN OF JERUSALEM. CLERKENWELL.
THE GATE FROM THE WEST
GENERAL VIEW FROM THE NORTH-EAST.
THE CHAPEL FROM THE SOUTH.
On the site of the "Coach and Horses," in Ray
Street, once stood the Bear Garden of Hockley-inthe-Hole, which, in Queen Anne's time, rivalled
the Southwark Bear Garden of Elizabethan days.
Here, in 1700, the masters of the noble science of
self-defence held their combats.
The earliest advertisement of the amusements
at Hockley occurs in the Daily Post of the 10th
July, 1700. In the spring of the following year
it was announced that four men were "to fight at
sword for a bet of half-a-guinea, and six to wrestle
for three pairs of gloves, at half-a-crown each pair.
The entertainment to begin exactly at three
o'clock." The same year a presentment of the
grand jury for the county of Middlesex, dated the
4th June, 1701, complained of this place as a
public nuisance, and prayed for its suppression.
"We having observed the late boldness of a sort
of men that stile themselves masters of the noble
science of defence, passing through this city with
beat of drums, colours displayed, swords drawn,
with a numerous company of people following
them, dispersing their printed bills, thereby inviting persons to be spectators of those inhuman
sights which are directly contrary to the practice
and profession of the Christian religion, whereby
barbarous principles are instilled in the minds of
men; we think ourselves obliged to represent this
matter, that some method may be speedily taken
to prevent their passage through the city in such a
tumultuous manner, on so unwarrantable a design."
"You must go to Hockley-in-the-Hole and Marybone, child, to learn valour," says Mrs. Peachum
to Filch, in Gay's Beggar's Opera. On Mondays and
Thursdays, the days of the bull and bear baitings
at this delectable locality, the animals were paraded
solemnly through the streets.
"In 1709 a most tragical occurrence took place
at Hockley-in-the-Hole. Christopher Preston, the
proprietor of the Bear Garden, was attacked by one
of his own bears, and almost devoured, before his
friends were aware of his danger. A sermon upon
this sad event was preached in the church of St.
James's by the Rev. Dr. Pead, the then incumbent
When the bull and bears were paraded in the
street, or swordsmen were to fight, bills such as the
following were distributed among the crowd:—
"A trial of skill to be performed between two profound
masters of the noble science of self-defence, on Wednesday
next, the 13th of July, 1709, at two o'clock precisely. I, George
Gray, born in the city of Norwich, who has fought in most
parts of the West Indies—viz., Jamaica, Barbadoes, and
several other parts of the world, in all twenty-five times upon
the stage, and was never yet worsted, and am now lately
come to London, do invite James Harris to meet and exercise
at the following weapons: back-sword, sword and dagger,
sword and buckler, single falchion, and case of falchions. I,
James Harris, master of the said noble science of defence,
who formerly rid in the Horse Guards, and hath fought 110
prizes, and never left a stage to any man, will not fail (God
willing) to meet this brave and bold inviter at the time and
place appointed, desiring sharp swords, and from him no
favour. No person to be upon the stage but the seconds.
"At his Majesty's Bear Garden, in Hockley-in-the-Hole,
a trial of skill is to be performed to-morrow, being the 9th
instant (without beat of drum), between these following
masters:—I, John Terrewest, of Oundle, in Northamptonshire, master of the noble science of defence, do invite you,
William King, who lately fought Mr. Joseph Thomas, once
more to meet me and exercise at the usual weapons.—I,
William King, will not fail to meet this fair inviter, desiring
a clear stage, and, from him, no favour. Note. There is
lately built a pleasant cool gallery for gentlemen." (Advertisement in the Postboy for July 8th, 1701.)
"At the Bear Garden, Hockley-in-the-Hole, 1710.—This
is to give notice to all gentlemen gamesters, and others, that
on this present Monday is a match to be fought by two dogs,
one from Newgate Market against one from Hony Lane
Market, at a bull, for a guinea, to be spent. Five let-goes out
of hand; which goes fairest and farthest in wins all. Likewise
a green bull to be baited, which was never baited before, and
a bull to be turned loose, with fireworks all over him; also
a mad ass to be baited. With a variety of bull-baiting and
bear-baiting, and a dog to be drawn up with fireworks.
To begin exactly at three of the clock."
In 1710 the four Indian kings mentioned by
Addison came to Hockley-in-the-Hole, to see the
rough playing at backsword, dagger, single falchion,
and quarter-staff. In 1712 Steele described a
combat here, in the Spectator. The result of these
fights was, it appears, often arranged beforehand,
and the losing man often undertook to receive the
cuts, provided they were not too many or too deep.
About this time the proprietor of the Bear Garden
left Hockley, and started a new garden at Marylebone, and for a time Hockley-in-the-Hole fell
into disrepute with "the fancy." In 1715, however, there was a great backsword player here, who
boasted he had cut down all the swordsmen of the
West, and was ready to fight the best in London.
In 1716 a wild bull was baited with fireworks, and
bears were baited to death; and, in 1721, people
came to Hockley to see sparring and eat furmenty
In 1735 we find swordsmen having nine bouts
with single sword, their left hands being tied down.
When a favourite dog was tossed by a Hockley-inthe-Hole bull, his master and his friends used to
run and try to catch him on their shoulders, for
fear he should be hurt in the fall. Good sensitive
creatures! It was also the custom to stick ribbon
crosses on the foreheads of favourite bull-dogs, and
when these were removed and stuck on the bull's
forehead, the dog was cheered on till he had recovered his treasured decoration. Cowardly dogs
stole under the bull's legs, and often got trampled
to death. The really "plucky" dog pinned the
bull by the nose, and held on till his teeth broke
out or he was gored to death. There was cockfighting here too, and, in 1744, says Mr. Pinks, the
prize was a large sow and ten pigs. No game-cock
was to exceed four pounds and an ounce in weight.
The old dwelling-house that adjoined the Bear
Garden was, in later years, the "Coach and
Horses" public-house. The place is so old that
the present large room over the bar was originally
on the second storey, and the beer-cellars were
habitable apartments. Many years ago a small
valise, with wooden ends, and marked on the
lid "R. Turpin" (perhaps the famous Dick
Turpin, the highwayman) was found here, and
also several old blank keys, such as thieves wax
over to get impressions of locks they wish to
open. For the use of such "minions of the
moon," there used to be a vaulted passage, now
closed, that communicated with the banks of the