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Views of London : Inns

The Peacock, Islington 1823

North Country Mails at the Peacock, Islington. Thomas Sutherland after J.Pollard, 1823.

From the Hertfordshire Almanac 1850.
The Wonder Coach leaves the King's Arms Inn, Ampthill, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, at 8 o'clock; the George Inn, Silsoe, at half-past 8; the Red Lion, Luton, at half-past 9; the Pea Hen, St. Alban's, at 20 minutes before 11; the Wool Pack, Barnet, at a quarter before 12. The Wonder goes to the Bull and Mouth, St. Martin's-le-Grand. --- Returns from the Bull and Mouth, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, at a quarter before 2; and from the Peacock, Islington, at 2.

In Tom Brown's School Days, Tom spends a night at the Peacock before catching the 'Tally Ho' coach to Rugby.

'Tom and his father had alighted at the Peacock at about seven in the evening; and having heard with unfeigned joy the paternal order, at the bar, of steaks and oyster-sauce for supper in half an hour, and seen his father seated cozily by the bright fire in the coffee-room with the paper in his hand, Tom had run out to see about him, had wondered at all the vehicles passing and repassing, and had fraternized with the boots and hostler, from whom he ascertained that the Tally-ho was a tip-top goer--ten miles an hour including stoppages--and so punctual that all the road set their clocks by her.

'Then being summoned to supper, he had regaled himself in one of the bright little boxes of the Peacock coffee-room, on the beef- steak and unlimited oyster-sauce and brown stout (tasted then for the first time--a day to be marked for ever by Tom with a white stone); had at first attended to the excellent advice which his father was bestowing on him from over his glass of steaming brandy-and-water, and then began nodding, from the united effects of the stout, the fire, and the lecture; till the Squire, observing Tom's state, and remembering that it was nearly nine o'clock, and that the Tally-ho left at three, sent the little fellow off to the chambermaid, with a shake of the hand (Tom having stipulated in the morning before starting that kissing should now cease between them), and a few parting words.

'Tom was carried off by the chambermaid in a brown study, from which he was roused in a clean little attic, by that buxom person calling him a little darling and kissing him as she left the room; which indignity he was too much surprised to resent. And still thinking of his father's last words, and the look with which they were spoken, he knelt down and prayed that, come what might, he might never bring shame or sorrow on the dear folk at home.'

Dickens also mentions the Peacock in The Holly Tree :

'When I got up to the Peacock,--where I found everybody drinking hot purl, in self-preservation,--I asked if there were an inside seat to spare. I then discovered that, inside or out, I was the only passenger. This gave me a still livelier idea of the great inclemency of the weather, since that coach always loaded particularly well. However, I took a little purl (which I found uncommonly good), and got into the coach. When I was seated, they built me up with straw to the waist, and, conscious of making a rather ridiculous appearance, I began my journey.'

And finally, Henry Mayhew : London Labour and the London Poor (1851)

'The Jew boys, and the feebler and elder Jews, had, until some twelve or fifteen years back, almost the monopoly of orange and lemon street-selling, or street-hawking. The costermonger class had possession of the theatre doors and the approaches to theatres; they had too, occasionally their barrows full of oranges; but the Jews were the daily, assiduous, and itinerant street-sellers of this most popular of foreign, and perhaps of all, fruits. In their hopes of sale they followed any one a mile if encouraged, even by a few approving glances. The great theatre of this traffic was in the stagecoach yards in such inns as the Bull and Mouth (St. Martin’s-le-Grand), the Belle Sauvage (Ludgate-hill), the Saracen’s Head (Snow-hill), The Bull (Aldgate), the Swan -with -two-Necks (Lad-lane, City), the George and Blue Boar (Holborn), the White Horse (Fetter-lane), and other such places. They were seen too, ‘with all their eyes about them,’ as one informant expressed it, outside the inns where the coaches stopped to take up passengers - at the White Horse Cellar in Piccadilly, for instance, and the Angel and the (now defunct) Peacock in Islington. A commercial traveller told me that he could never leave town by any ‘mail’ or ‘stage’ without being besieged by a small army of Jew boys, who most pertinaceously offered him oranges, lemons, sponges, combs, pocket-books, pencils, sealing-wax, paper, many-bladed pen-knives, razors, pocket mirrors, and shaving boxes - as if a man could not possibly quit the metropolis without requiring a stock of such commodities. In the whole of these trades, unless in some degree in sponges and black lead-pencils, the Jew is now out-numbered or displaced.'

In 1857 the distinctive exterior of the Peacock was transformed with large plate shop windows and shop fittings but it continued as a public house until 1962 at 11 Islington High Street. It is presently a Domino's Pizza with accommodation above.


The Elephant and Castle 1826

The Elephant and Castle on the Brighton Road. Theodore Henry Adolphus Fielding after J.Pollard. 1826

It was an observant Frenchman who, arguing from insufficient information, was deluded by the obvious into the reflection that the omnibus system of London was arranged for the purpose, when it was not taking travellers from a public-house to a railway station or from a railway station to a public-house, of conveying passengers from one public-house to another. It is, of course, a fact that the termini of the majority of bus routes are made at public-houses, and that the average Londoner, in pointing out the way to a stranger, will punctuate his directions with references to well-known taverns. Tell the most puzzled cabman the name of the nearest hostelry, and you give him his bearings in a word. Wonderful structures are these establishments that give individuality to neighbourhoods. Islington has its 'Angel ,' Cricklewood its 'Crown,' Kilburn its 'Lord Palmerston,' Newington its 'Elephant and Castle,' Camden Town its 'Mother Red Cap,' Hendon its 'Welsh Harp,' Finsbury Park its 'Manor House,' Finchley its 'Bald-Faced Stag,' Kentish Town its 'Mother Shipton,' and Pimlico its 'Monster,' while Swiss Cottage is named after its distinguishing hostelry. No Londoner could associate any of these houses with any other neighbourhood. Structurally they may be widely different, but in their general plan and their working arrangements they are so much alike that a description of one will stand as a description of all.
George R. Sims (ed.), Living London, 1902

The Elephant and Castle has given its name to this whole area of London. The derivation of the name has been variously ascribed to an association with the society of Cutlers, whose arms show an elephant with a castle atop, and with the Infanta de Castille or Enfant de Castile, progressively corrupted to Elephant and Castle in an exotic, or perhaps drunken, anglicisation.

The Cutlers Company Coat of Arms

The arms of the Cutlers Company. The association with elephants comes from the use of ivory for the handles of knives, forks and spoons.

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