Pall Mall East and Suffolk Street

Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

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Edward Walford, 'Pall Mall East and Suffolk Street', Old and New London: Volume 4, (London, 1878), pp. 226-235. British History Online [accessed 20 June 2024].

Edward Walford. "Pall Mall East and Suffolk Street", in Old and New London: Volume 4, (London, 1878) 226-235. British History Online, accessed June 20, 2024,

Walford, Edward. "Pall Mall East and Suffolk Street", Old and New London: Volume 4, (London, 1878). 226-235. British History Online. Web. 20 June 2024,

In this section



The University Club-house and the Royal College of Physicians—The Society of Painters in Water-Colours—Benjamin West's Chefs d'Œuvres—Messrs. Colnaghi's and Messrs. Graves' Print-shops—The Assassination of Thomas Thynne—Grant of Land to Edward Russeli in 1692—The Old Horse-pond—Suffolk House—Suffolk Street—Miss Vanhomrigh and Dean Swift—Stanislaus, King of Poland—Mr. Chenevix's Toyshop—The "Cock Tavern" and Mr. Pepys—The "Calves' Head Club"—The Gallery of British Artists—Suffolk Place and "Moll Davis"—Dorset Place and Whitcomb Street—Hedge Lane—Supposed Remains of the Old Royal Mews—Oxendon Street Chapel—The Attack on Sir John Coventry—James Street—The Royal Tennis Court—Fawkes, the Conjuror—Orange Street Chapel—Sir Isaac Newton's Residence—Panton Street—Goldsmith's and Burke's Visit to the Puppets—Hamlet, the Jeweller—Messrs. Ambroise and Brunn's Entertainments—The Société Franeaise de Bienfaisance—A Singular Atmospheric Phenomenon—Arundell Street—Coventry Street—Coventry House—Sights and Amusements—Messrs. Wishart's Tobacoo and Snuff Manufactory—The Kilted Highlander as a Sign for Snuff-shops.

Extending eastward from the southern end of Her Majesty's Theatre to Trafalgar Square, and skirting the northern end of Cockspur Street, is Pall Mall East. Here, at the corner of Suffolk Street, stands the United University Club-house, of which we have already spoken (fn. 1) in our chapter on "Clubland," and also the principal front of the Royal College of Physicians, described in the previous volume.†

At No. 5 are the rooms of the old Society of Painters in Water-Colours. Externally the building possesses nothing to call for special mention, excepting, perhaps, a new and elegant doorway, which was erected in 1875; this, alike in design and workmanship, is worthy of the gallery to which it gives access. The society itself originated in 1808, when its first exhibition of water-colour drawings took place. It was at first blended with that of the Royal Academy; but in 1821 the painters in this branch of art determined to exhibit their productions separately from other artists, and erected the house in Pall Mall East expressly for the purpose. The exhibition is open during the greater part of the year, and comprises usually about 500 pictures of various kinds, among which, as might be expected, landscapes generally predominate. This society has always limited the exhibition entirely to its own members; but the body of artists showed a gradual and steady increase.

Here, in the year 1819, were exhibited the chefs d'æuvres of Benjamin West, President of the Royal Academy, including his "Christ rejected by the Jews," and "Death on the White Horse." The former contains nearly two hundred figures, in their appropriate costumes, all these displaying some passion of grief, pity, astonishment, revenge, exultation, or total apathy. The principal figures of Christ, the High Priest, Pilate, and many others, taken as single objects, are scarcely to be equalled in the entire compass of art. It is enriched with a splendid frame, carved after the model of the gate of the Temple of Theseus at Athens.

From its central position, Pall Mall East has always been a favourite locality in the world of art; and the two old-established shops for the sale of prints and engravings—that of Messrs. Colnaghi, adjoining the College of Physicians, and of Messrs. Graves, close by the Royal Opera Arcade—have tended to keep up its reputation in this respect. At No. 9, on the north side of the street, are the offices of the Palestine Exploration Fund, to which Biblical scholars are so largely indebted for bringing to light many objects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, which throw light on the narrative of the Holy Scriptures, as well as on the manners and customs of the Jewish people two thousand years ago.

Nearly opposite the south-west corner of what is now the Opera House, on Sunday, February 12th, 1681, Mr. Thomas Thynne was "most barbarously shot with a musketoon in his coach, and died next day." The instigator of this crime, as we have already related in describing Thynne's monument in Westminster Abbey, (fn. 3) was Count Köningsmark, who was in hopes of gaining the hand of the rich heiress, Lady Elizabeth Ogle, to whom Thynne was either already married or else contracted. The sentiment of Köningsmark on this occasion furnishes a curious insight into the ideas as to violence current in the days of the early Stuarts. We learn from the "State Trials" that he "allowed that the assassination of Mr. Thynne by his bravoes was a stain on his blood, but only such a one as a good action in the wars . . . would easily wash out!" Three of the ruffians whom he hired to do the deed were tried at the Old Bailey, found guilty, and hanged on the spot whereon the murder was committed. The cowardly villain, the Count himself, however, escaped the just punishment of his crime, getting off by securing the favour of a corrupt jury. Strangely enough, the jury who acquitted the real and principal agent, condemned the actual perpetrator of the deed, Colonel Vrats, who was hung, and, being of good family in Holland, was allowed to have his body embalmed and carried thither; so Evelyn, at least, tells us in his "Diary."

Two parcels of waste ground—no doubt, a part of the old site of the Royal Mews, containing about three acres, bounded on the east by the once rural Hedge Lane, by the Haymarket on the west, and by Cockspur Street on the south, including Suffolk and Little Suffolk Streets—were granted by the Crown, in 1692, to Edward Russell, no fine being taken "on account of the eminent services" of the grantee. It may be added, in excuse for the grant, that in the good old days before George III. was king, when Leicester Square was Leicester Field—a "dirty place where ragged boys used to assemble to play at chucks"—between the bottom of the Haymarket and "the King's Mews" there was a horse-pond, where stray horses were taken to water, and in which pickpockets were ducked when caught in the act.

Mr. Peter Cunningham considers that in early times there was a town mansion of the Earls of Suffolk on the site of what is now Suffolk Street; and quotes, in support of his views, the commencement of the ballad of Suckling, already given above on page 219. The Suffolks, however, subsequently became possessed of what was afterwards Northumberland, but was for a time called Suffolk, House, at Charing Cross, when they removed to their new quarters.

In this street, which now consists almost entirely of modern houses, and has been transformed partly into Pall Mall East, and partly into Dorset Place, formerly resided the unhappy Miss Vanhomrigh, the poor "Vanessa" of Dean Swift, a lady who died of a broken heart through her unfortunate attachment to the Dean. The witty Dean, when in London on the affairs of the Irish Church, made the acquaintance of this young lady and her mother, the widow of a Dutch merchant, and became so constant a visitor at their house, as to leave there "his best gown and cassock for convenience." As he was a man of middle age, while she was not twenty, it was thought quite a matter of course that he should direct her studies; but this direction of her reading soon ripened into quite another affair, and it was only when Miss Vanhomrigh's affections were deeply and irrevocably engaged that she discovered, on following the Dean back to Ireland, that he had a wife living—his "Stella." This discovery was shortly afterwards followed by the young lady's death.


While the melancholy fate of Miss Vanhomrigh was the common topic of conversation in London circles, and while every one was reading the Dean's "Cadenus and Vanessa," somebody is said to have remarked to Mrs. Swift, or rather to Mrs. Johnson—for she was always known by the latter, and never by the former name—that surely "Vanessa" must have been an extraordinary woman to have inspired the Dean to write such fine verses upon her. "That's not at all clear," said the lady, offended with and yet proud of her husband, and hurt besides in her own vanity, "for it is very well known that the Dean could write finely upon a broomstick."

Malcolm tells us that the last and most unfortunate King of Poland, Stanislaus Augustus, lodged, in 1754, in Suffolk Street, at the house of a Mr. Cropenhole. We also learn incidentally that "over against Suffolk Street, Charing Cross," in the reign of George II., was the celebrated toy-shop of Mr. Chenevix, where tickets for most of the West-end "shows" and exhibitions were sold.

In Suffolk Street was an old hostelry, the "Cock," much praised by Samuel Pepys, who thus writes, under date March 15, 1669: "Mr. Hewes and I did walk to the Cocke, at the end of Suffolk Street, where I never was (before): 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." It would appear that on the whole the diarist was well pleased with the accommoda tion; for in less than a month afterwards he took his wife and some other friends thither, where they were "mighty merry," the house being "famous for good meat, and particularly for pease-porridge."


A tavern in this street—possibly the "Cock," already mentioned—appears to have been at one time the head-quarters of the famous, or rather infamous, "Calves' Head Club," established by the Puritans and Roundheads in ridicule of the memory of Charles I. At all events, here, on one occasion, was held one of the meetings of this club, which, in the year 1735, produced a serious riot. At this meeting it is said by tradition that a bleeding calf's head, wrapped in an old napkin, was thrown out of the window into the street below, while the members of the club inside were drinking the pious toast of confusion to the Stuart race! Lord Middlesex, however, who was one of those present on the occasion, denies the truth of this indictment in a letter to Mr. Spence, which is published in "Spence's Anecdotes." In this letter he says that there happened to be a bonfire of straw made by some boys in the street under the windows, and that some of the company, "wiser or soberer than the rest," proposed drinking some loyal and popular toasts to the mob outside, and that the only toasts drank by the members were the King, the Queen, the Royal Family, the Protestant Succession, Liberty and Property, and the present Administration. Stones were then flung, the windows of the tavern were broken, and a regular row ensued, which was only suppressed by the arrival, an hour later, of "the justice, attended by a strong body of guards, who dispersed the populace."

The author of the "Secret History of the Calves' Head Club, or the Republicans Unmasked" (supposed to be "Ned Ward," of alehouse memory), ascribes the origin of this association to Milton and other partisans of the Commonwealth, who, in opposition to Bishop Juxon, Bishop Sanderson, and other loyalists, used to meet together on the 30th of every January, having compiled for their own use a form of prayer for the day, not very unlike that which was till lately to be found in the Book of Common Prayer. "After the Restoration," observes the writer of this pamphlet, "the eyes of the Government being on the whole party, they were obliged to meet with a great deal of precaution; but in the reign of King William they met almost in a public manner, apprehending no danger. . . . They kept in no fixed house, but moved about from place to place, as they thought convenient." The place where they met when his informant was present was in a blind alley near Moorfields, where "an axe was hung up in the clubroom, and was reverenced as a principal symbol in this diabolical sacrament. Their bill of fare was a large dish of calves heads, dressed in several ways, by which they represented the king, and his friends who had suffered in his cause; a large pike with a smaller one in his mouth, as an emblem of tyranny; a large cod's head, by which they intended to represent the person of the king singly; a boar's head with an apple in his mouth, to represent the king as bestial, as by their other hieroglyphics they had made him out to be foolish and tyrannical. After the repast was over, one of their elders presented an 'Icon Basilicé,' which was with great solemnity burnt on the table, whilst anthems were being sung. After this, another produced Milton's 'Defensio Populi Anglicani,' upon which all present laid their hands, and made a protestation in form of an oath ever to stand by and maintain the same. After the table-cloth was removed, the anniversary anthem, as they impiously called it, was sung, and a calf's skull, filled with wine or other liquor, and then a brimmer, went about to the pious (?) memory of those worthy patriots who had 'killed the tyrant,' and relieved their country from his arbitrary sway; and lastly, a collection was made for the mercenary scribbler [probably meaning John Milton], to which every man contributed according to his zeal for the cause and the ability of his purse. The company consisted only of Anabaptists and Independents; and the famous Jeremy White—formerly chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, who, no doubt, came to sanctify with his pious exhortations the ribaldry of the day—said grace before and after dinner." "Although no great reliance," says Wilson, in his "Life of Defoe," "is to be placed upon the faithfulness of Ward's narrative, yet in the frighted mind of a high-flying Churchman, continually haunted by such scenes, the caricature would easily pass for a likeness. It is probable, therefore, that the above account must not be accepted without many grains of salt to qualify it. The name and idea of the club is sufficiently disgusting, and a lasting dishonour, not to the murdered king, but to its founders."

At the corner of Suffolk Street and Pall Mall East is the Gallery of British Artists. The building, which was completed in 1824, is entered by a Doric portico, designed by Mr. Nash, and consists of a suite of six octagonal galleries, all on one floor, and lighted from above, designed by Mr. James Elmes.

In consequence of the limited size of the rooms at Somerset House, where the Royal Academy held its exhibitions, the Society of British Artists was instituted in 1823 for the annual display of the works of living artists in the various branches of painting, sculpture, architecture, and engraving. The fund raised for the erection of the building, &c., was by donations and subscriptions, which were divided into eight classes, and admissions awarded in accordance with the amount given or subscribed.

In a notice of the building printed in the Mirror, in 1824, it is stated that it was "intended as a building for the reception of ancient models, casts, &c., and students; the ground storey is occupied by a portico of the Grecian Doric, having coupled antæ, the proportions, apparently, from the Temple of Theseus, at Athens; the upper storey is a continuation of the antæ throughout the front; in the centre is a window with a pediment, frieze, architrave, &c., from the Temple of Erectheus, at Athens, ornamented with pateræ, as are also the antæ; the ornaments are of terra cotta, the whole surmounted by a bold cornice."

Suffolk Place, leading to Suffolk Street, is mentioned by Strype as consisting of handsome houses. They do not, however, appear to have been aristocratically tenanted. At all events, here lived the notorious "Moll Davis," in a mansion which Charles II. had furnished expensively for her—an arrangement of which even Pepys speaks as "a most infinite shame;" she kept also, as he tells us, "a mighty pretty fine coach."

Running up northwards from Pall Mall East, in the rear of Suffolk Street, are Dorset Place and Whitcomb Street, its continuation, which leads towards Coventry Street. This follows the course of the old "Hedge Lane," which, till about 1830, commemorated the once rural character of the neighbourhood of the Haymarket and Leicester Fields.

It is related of Steele, Budgell, and Phillips, that one evening, when they were coming out of a tavern or coffee-house in Gerrard Street, they were warned that there were some suspicious characters waiting to waylay any stray foot-passengers in Hedge Lane. "Thank ye," said the wits, and each hurried off home by a different way.

Hedge Lane is marked in the map of Ralph Aggas, temp. Elizabeth, and was, even in the days of Charles II., what the name implied—a lane running into the fields, and bordered by hedges. The Duke of Monmouth is said to have lived here before taking up his abode in Soho, where we have already seen him located. According to Mr. Peter Cunningham, Maurice Lowe, the painter, was also a resident of this lane. It was still called Hedge Lane in the days of Dr. Johnson, of whom Boswell tells us that, in April, 1778, on his way to dine at the West-end, he got out of the hackney-coach at the bottom of Hedge Lane in order to leave a letter containing charitable aid for a "poor man in distress," probably a hungry author.

The Royal Mews, already mentioned, in the reign of Henry VIII., as standing near the bottom of the lane, was burnt in 1534, and some remains (or what were supposed to be remains) of its charred walls were discovered in 1821.

Oxendon Street, which runs parallel to the Haymarket, from north to south, about half way between it and Leicester Square, contains, on its western side, a Nonconformist chapel, to which a history is attached. It was built by no less a man than that "prince of Independents," Richard Baxter, "adjoining the wall of the house of Mr. Secretary Coventry," to whom Baxter's principles were so unpalatable that it is said he caused the soldiers to beat drums under the chapel windows to drown the preacher's voice. The Secretary was so far successful in this outrageous conduct that he forced Baxter to give up the chapel, which afterwards became a chapel-of-ease to the parish in which it stood. The following curious notice respecting it will be found in the Spectator, under date November 30, 1711: "This is to give notice to all promoters of the holy worship, and to all lovers of the Italian tongue, that on Sunday next, being the 2nd of December, at five in the afternoon, in Oxendon Chapel, near the Haymarket, there will be divine service in the Italian tongue, and will continue every Sunday at the aforesaid hour, with an Italian sermon, preached by Mr. Casotti, Italian minister, author of a new method of teaching the Italian tongue to ladies," &c. Malcolm, in his "Londinium Redivivum," after quoting the advertisement, adds a waggish remark, to the effect that the chapel is still (1807) in use, though "not for the above purpose of teaching the Italian language." We learn that the chapel, after serving as a "tabernacle" or chapel-of-ease to St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, passed into the hands of the "Scottish Secession."

It was in this street that Sir John Coventry was living at the time of the attack made on him in the Haymarket, as noticed in the preceding chapter. It appears that Sir John had been supping with some friends at the Cock Tavern in Bow Street, and was, at the time, on his way home. A motion had recently been made in the House of Commons to lay a tax on playhouses. The Court opposed the motion. The players, it was said (by Sir John Birkenhead), were the king's servants, and a part of his pleasure. Coventry asked, "Whither did the king's pleasure lie, among the men or the women that acted?" perhaps recollecting more particularly the king's visit to Moll Davis in Suffolk Street, where Charles had furnished a house for her, provided her with "a mighty pretty fine coach," and given her a ring of £700, "which," says the page (like Pepys), "is a most infinite shame." The king determined to leave a mark upon Sir John Coventry for his freedom of remark, and he was marked on his way home. "He stood up to the wall," says Burnet, "and snatched the flambeau out of the servant's hands; and with that in one hand, and the sword in the other, he defended himself so well, that he got more credit by it than by all the actions of his life. He wounded some of them, but was soon disarmed, and "they cut his nose to the bone, to teach him to remember what respect he owed to the king." Burnet adds, that "his nose was so well sewed up, that the scar was scarcely to be discerned."

Eastward from the Haymarket, a little north of the theatre, stretches James Street, on the south side of which is a building which was till lately occupied by the Royal Tennis Court. Tennis, if we may trust old writers, derives its name from the French Hand-ball or Palm-play, and was played in London as far back as the sixteenth century, in covered courts erected for that special purpose. Henry VII. and Henry VIII. were both fond of tennis; the latter added a tennis-court to his palace at Whitehall. James I., we know, recommended tennis to his son as a game well becoming the dignity of a prince. Charles II. was an accomplished master of the game, and had a particular dress which he wore when playing it here. Timbs tells us that there was another tennis-court not far off, in Windmill Street, belonging to and attached to Piccadilly Hall. He also mentions "one called Gibbons's in Clare Market, where Killigrew's comedians sometimes performed," and others in Holborn, Blackfriars, and Southwark, where there were (and possibly still are) small thoroughfares still bearing the name of Tennis Courts. The court in James Street, it may be added, was one of the favourite haunts of Charles II. It was closed about the year 1863, and has lately been converted into a storehouse for military clothing.

In this street, in the reign of George II., the conjuror Fawkes used to locate his "show" in the intervals between the various London and suburban fairs, at which he put in his appearance, anticipating the tricks of Colonel Stodare of our own time.

The eastern end of James Street is continued by Orange Street—so called after the Prince of Orange, William III.—which is crossed by St. Martin's Street, running northwards into the centre of the south side of Leicester Square. The corner of Orange and St. Martin's Street is occupied by a Nonconformist chapel. Next to the chapel stands a house which is still visited by pilgrims from all parts of the world, as having been the last London residence of Sir Isaac Newton. He removed hither in 1710 from Jermyn Street, but did not die here, as is erroneously said by Dr. Burney in an anecdote related to Boswell, and mentioned in his "Life of Johnson." The house is now an hotel; on its roof was till lately a small observatory built by a subsequent tenant, but often supposed to have been Newton's own. The house had subsequently as its tenants Dr. Burney and his daughter Frances, who here composed her once (and still) popular novel, "Evelina." Frances Burney (Madame D'Arblay) dates from this house many of the letters published in her diaries; and Mr. Henry Thrale—Johnson's friend and host—writing to Miss Burney, playfully styles the inmates of the house his "dear Newtonians."

Panton Street, which forms one of the connecting links between the Haymarket and Leicester Square, was so called after its ground landlord, Colonel Panton, of whom we have spoken in the preceding chapter as having won his money at the card-table, and refusing to touch a card again. It has been said, though erroneously, that the street received its name from a kind of horse-shoe called a panton; but the derivation was long accepted on account of its immediate proximity to the Haymarket, where horses must constantly have required the farrier's art.

Forster tells us in his "Life of Goldsmith" that poor Oliver and Edmund Burke once paid a visit to some very ingenious puppets exhibited here. Burke praised in particular the dexterity of one puppet, who tossed a pike with military precision. "Psha!" remarked Goldsmith, with some warmth, "I could do it better myself." Boswell adds that Goldsmith afterwards went home to supper with Burke, and broke his shin by attempting to show the company how much better he could jump over a stick than the puppets.

In a large room in Panton Street, Messrs. Ambroise and Brunn gave a "variety entertainment," consisting of "Ombres Chinoises," "danses de caractère," and sundry "metamorphoses" by a veritable magician; this being patronised by the Court, the price of admission was raised to five shillings. This same room was occupied, in a subsequent season, by the conjuror Breslau.

It is, perhaps, worth noting that Hamlet, the great jeweller of the time of the Regency, who had nearly all the aristocracy on his books, and of whom we have already spoken in our notice of Cranbourn Alley, Leicester Square, at one time had his business in Panton Street. He made a colossal fortune, but afterwards hastening to be rich in excess, he lost it through unfortunate speculations.

At No. 5 in this street was established, in 1842, a charitable institution, entitled the Société Française de Bienfaisance, for the relief of the distressed French in London. Its chief operations consist in giving temporary help in money and bread to numerous French artisans out of work.

Before quitting Panton Street, we may add, on the authority of Hughson's "London," that in the afternoon of the 9th of June, 1803, a most singular phenomenon happened here. He writes: "The inhabitants were alarmed by a violent and tremendous storm of rain and hail, which extended only to Oxendon Street, Whitcomb Street, Coventry Street, and the Haymarket, a space not exceeding 200 acres. For about seven minutes the torrent from the heavens was so great that it could only be compared to a cataract rushing over the brow of a precipice. In the midst of the hurricane an electric cloud descended in Panton Street, which struck the centre of the coachway, and sunk in to a great depth, forming a complete pit, in which not a vestige of the materials which had before occupied the space could be found. The sulphurous odour from the cloud was so powerful that for several seconds the persons near the spot were almost suffocated. No further damage was done, except filling the neighbouring kitchens and cellars with water, which soon escaped through the gulf formed by the electric fluid."

Arundell Street, which leads from Panton Square to Coventry Street, preserves the memory of its original ground landlord, Lord Arundell of Wardour; but the freehold has long since passed away from the family.


Coventry Street derived its name from Mr. Henry Coventry, Secretary of State in the reign of Charles II., whose private mansion stood on its south side, with a garden wall running down behind what now is the west side of Oxendon Street. In the London Gazette for July—August, 1674, is an advertisement offering a reward for the recovery of a white, long-haired landspaniel, lost between London and Barnet, on application to "the porter at Mr. Secretary Coventry's house in Pickadilly." Coventry House, according to Pennant, stood on the site of a building called in the old plans of London "The Gaming House."

The Secretary, it may be added, died here in 1686, and was buried in the church of St. Martin's in-the-Fields. Coventry Street was continued eastwards beyond Leicester Square into St. Martin's Lane about the year 1842; the compensation paid to the freeholder of the ground, the Marquis of Salisbury, exceeded £70,000.

Like the rest of this neighbourhood, Coventry Street in its time has had its places of amusement. At one of these, in 1835, was exhibited the "Parisian infernal machine." This extraordinary exhibition comprised a likeness of the murderer Gerard (alias Fieschi), before and after the perpetration of his crime, attempting to assassinate the French king and his sons; also a model of the room and of the infernal machinery, taken from drawings made on the spot by distinguished artists, sent to Paris expressly for that purpose. The advertisements announcing this place of entertainment state that "Ladies may visit this exhibition, where the most serupulous attention has been observed not to wound the most fastidious delicacy."

In 1851, one of the most popular exhibitions, perhaps, was that of a French wizard, named Robin, whose performance took place in a building at the end of Coventry Street.

One of the oldest establishments in Coventry Street is the tobacco and snuff manufactory of Messrs, Wishart. The "card" of the firm a century and a half ago, and still used, is a curiosity in its way. A facsimile of it is here given.

Mr. J. Larwood humorously remarks in his "History of Sign-boards," "Since the Highlander's love of snuff and whisky was such, that he wished to have a Ben Lomond of the former and a Loch Lomond of the latter, nobody could make a better public-house sign than the 'Highland Laddie,' nor a better sign for a snuffshop than the kilted Highlander, who generally stands guard at the door of these establishments."

The following skit appeared shortly after the Rebellion of 1745, when every effort was made to suppress the nationality of the Scotch, down to their ballads and their kilts:—"We hear that the dapper wooden Highlanders who so heroically guard the doors of snuff-shops intend to petition the Legislature in order that they may be excused from complying with the Act of Parliament with respect to the change of dress, alleging that they have ever been faithful subjects to his Majesty, having constantly supplied his guards with a pinch out of their mulls when they marched by; and so far from engaging in any rebellion, they have never entertained a rebellious thought: whence they humbly hope that they shall not be put to the expense of buying new clothes."


The "Two Heads" in this street was, in 1760, the sign of an advertising dentist, who thus makes known his profession in the London Evening Post:
"Ye beauties, beaux, ye pleaders at the bar,
Wives, husbands, lovers, every one beside
Who'd have their heads deficient rectify'd,
The dentist famed, who by just application
Excels each other operator in the nation,
In Coventry's known street, near Leicester Fields,
At the 'Two Heads,' full satisfaction yields.
Teeth artificial he fixes so secure,
That as our own they usefully endure;
Not merely outside show and ornament.
But every property of teeth intent;
To eat as well as speak, and form support
To falling checks and stumps from further hurt.
Nor is he daunted when the whole is gone,
But by an art peculiar to him known,
He'll so supply, you'll think you've got your own.
He scales, he cleans, he draws; in pain gives case,
Nor in each operation doth fail to please.
Doth the foul scurvy fierce your gums assault?
In this he also rectifies the fault
By a fam'd tincture. And his powder, nam'd
A Dentifrice, is also justly fam'd.
Used as directed, 'tis excellent to serve
Both teeth and gums—cleanse, strengthen, and preserve.
Foul mouth and stinking breath can ne'er be lov'd;
But by his aid these evils are remov'd."

In this street, towards the close of the last century, if the tradition runs aright, there was a famous fish-shop which numbered Sir Joshua Reynolds (who lived hard by in Leicester Square) among its daily customers. The great painter would generally stroll so far before breakfast, examine the fish that lay on the leads, turn them over and reverse their position; then, having chosen what was to his taste, he would go back to breakfast, report the state of the fish-market, and send his sister to effect the purchase. "Miss Reynolds," the old fishmonger used to say, "never chose; Sir Joshua never paid; and both were good hands at driving bargains."


  • 1. See above, p. 146.
  • 2. See Vol. III., p. 142.
  • 3. See Vol. III., p. 419.