Archive for the ‘pubs’ Category

Magazines and adverts in Fleet Street

April 20, 2020


Fleet Street has run with printing ink ever since Wynkyn de Worde moved Caxton’s press from Westminster into Shoe Lane, just off the east end of the street, in the 1490s. This coloured postcard tells of much of that history.

The view looks east along Fleet Street across Ludgate Circus and through the railway viaduct that once spanned Ludgate Hill up to St Paul’s Cathedral. The church spire in front of the cathedral’s dome is St Martin’s Ludgate, a church that, like St Paul’s, was rebuilt by Christopher Wren after the 1666 Great Fire of London. Ludgate Hill station closed in 1929, but the bridge was not demolished until 1990 as part of the construction of Thameslink, the line that crosses the capital to join the south coast with the Midlands.


Newspaper seller by Poppin’s Court

Bride Lane is to the right and a newspaper seller stands on the left at the archway leading into Poppin’s Court. Shoe Lane would be behind to the left.

At least three pubs can be seen. The King Lud is in front of the rail bridge on the left. Today, it’s split into a Santander branch and a Leon fast food joint. There’s a plaque up on the wall on the Ludgate Hill side of the Leon marking the site of publication of the first regular English daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, in 1702. The pub was named after the king who, legend has it, founded London and gave his name to Ludgate. A statue of Lud and his sons that was once part of the gate now stands in the porch of St Dunstan-in-the West church at the other end of Fleet Street.


A detail from the photograph used for the coloured postcard. Signs for Smith’s Advertising Agency (SAA), Quiver magazine and Tit-Bits, probably in May 1914

On the right of the postcard, can just be made out the square white sign for the Punch Tavern (No 99). It can be seen better, left, in the photograph on which the postcard is based. The Punch Tavern was called the Crown and Sugar Loaf, but took the new name after Punch magazine moved to 85 Fleet Street in 1845. The pub developers Saville & Martin rebuilt the pub in 1890s and it is now grade II listed. Smith’s, one of the biggest advertising agencies, occupied the offices above the Punch Tavern, named Publicity House. The SAA lettering can be seen on the corner of a building it occupied from 1885 to at least 1936. Coming back in this direction on the right is Bride Lane, home to both the journalists’ church and the  St Bride’s Institute and Printing Library. There’s then an awning with a shop frontage below and a white sign for Ye Olde Bell Tavern (No 95).

Today, the newsagents under the awning is gone and there is a fancy windowed frontage to the Old Bell, but photographs show there used to be just a tiled entrance way into the pub (like the Punch Tavern today).

Above the Old Bell are two hoardings. The lower one with a green background is for Tit-Bits, promoting ‘£500 in simple cricket competition’.

The larger hoarding shows a poster for The Quiver, a popular monthly, headed up with the words ‘Special mothers’ and daughters’ number’. The name Annie S Swan tops the billing. Swan was a famous romantic fiction writer, and editor of Women at Home from 1893 to 1917. She was also a founder of the Scottish National Party. The Quiver serialised Swan’s Corroding Gold from early 1914 and Cassell published the book that same year. The poster appears to be advertising the May issue, suggesting the photograph was taken at that time.

Other writers on the Quiver list include Amy B Barnard LLA (author of The Girls’ Encyclopaedia), the author Mrs George de Horne Vaizey,  Mrs Elizabeth Sloan Chesser MD, and Helen Wallace. 


The Quiver, February 1914. The cover lines are for Arnold Bennett’s ‘mental stocktaking’ and the romantic serial ‘Heart’s Desire’ by Mrs George de Horne Vaizey

The Quiver, which ran from 1861 to1926, was published and printed by Cassell at La Belle Sauvage Yard, a few hundred yards away near the foot of Ludgate Hill. Cassell was a publishing house that pioneered cheap reprints of classic books and hit it big in 1883 with Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines two years later. The Quiver was originally ‘designed for the defence and promotion of biblical truth, and the advancement of religion in the homes of the people’, what would have been called ‘Sunday reading’, but became more general in its coverage in the Edwardian era. The name Cassell is now associated only with books, but the company was also one of the biggest magazine publishers of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and sold its titles to Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press in the late 1920s. Its titles included Cassell’s Magazine, the short-lived Woman’s World (edited by Oscar Wilde), Cassell’s Saturday Journal, Chums, the Penny Magazine, New Magazine and The Story-Teller.

La Belle Sauvage Yard no longer exists, but John Cassell moved his publishing and printing offices there in 1852, when it was part of one of the oldest inns in the City of London, The Bell Savage, dating back to 1380. According to The Story of the House of Cassell, the name derives from a combination of William Savage and the name of the hostelry he owned, Savage’s Inn, otherwise called the Bell on the Hoop. It later became a theatre and coaching inn.

The book places the Francification of the name to La Belle Sauvage at the door of no less a literary figure than Joseph Addison, co-founder of the original daily Spectator in 1711. In issue 82 of the Spectator, despite customers finding their ale at ‘the Sign of a Savage Man standing by a Bell’ he writes about ‘the reading of an old Romance translated out of the French, which gives an account of a very beautiful Woman who was found in a Wilderness, and it is called in the French La Belle Sauvage.’

Cassell gradually took over the yard and rebuilt it. The entrance was through an arch off Ludgate Hill. The inn was demolished in 1873 to make way for the railway viaduct. The rest of La Belle Sauvage was destroyed, like much of Fleet Street, by bombing in 1941.

Notice how prolific the advertising signs are. The Bovril sign atop the building on the far side of Ludgate Circus was there from about 1900 for 40 years. Below are promotions for Schweppes and the Isle of Man office with its Legs of Man logo.

Finally, the postcard demonstrates image manipulation, not only because it was a black-and-white photograph that has been coloured, but part of the view has been edited. Compare the bottom-right corner of the postcard with the close-up photograph of the Quiver poster; you’ll see that the lorry with the Robin starch advertising on its canvas side has been removed and painted over with pedestrians, probably because it was felt to detract from the card.

When Brad Pitt celebrated his wedding in Soho’s French House pub

March 14, 2017
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied

Watched the film Allied on the jet from Sydney to Hong Kong the other day in which the Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard characters get married and celebrate in the York Minster pub. She’s French (in the film as well as in real life) and it’s in London. I thought, can that be Soho? Sure enough it was the York Minister in Dean Street, as became clear from the interior scenes – though it’s amazing how they made it look so big!


The French House in Soho 

The York Minister was the meeting house for the Free French in London during the Second World War but had gained the nickname ‘The French House‘ because of Gaston Berlemont, the landlord (though he was, in fact, Belgian). De Gaulle is supposed to have written his famous BBC rallying speech there. In 1984, it changed its name to the nickname.

John Taylor, founder of Man About Town magazine drank in the French House, York Minster, in Soho

John Taylor, founder of Man About Town

The Minster was always popular with writers and artists. Also, among the many pictures that cover the walls is supposed to be a photograph of John Taylor, the founder of Man About Town magazine and editor of Tailor & Cutter, the world’s most influential style magazine for much of the past century. I’ve never spotted it though.

I was in The French House a few weeks ago with a couple of friends. Highly recommended is a bottle of the house red and a plate of bread and cheese with homemade chutney. Lunch for three for £30!

It was also The French House that gave me my favourite piece of graffiti, on a theme that has been much in evidence since the US presidential election.

Pulp fiction and off-the-shelf thriller plots

December 31, 2015
Miles Jupp on pulp writer William Wallace Cook and Plotto, his 'Master Book of All Plots'

Miles Jupp expounds on US pulp writer William Wallace Cook and Plotto, his ‘Master Book of All Plots’

Miles Jupp set out on BBC Radio 4 this morning to answer the question: How many stories are there in the world? In Miles Jupp and the Plot Device he investigates the ideas of William Wallace Cook, an American writer of pot-boilers and stories for pulp fiction magazines in the 1920s. According to Cook there were 1,462 plots and he laid them all out in Plotto, his ‘Master Book of All Plots’, in 1928.

Any writer stuck for inspiration could leaf through Plotto to discover plots like ‘a ventriloquist, captured by savages and threatened with death, makes an animal talk and is given his freedom’ or ‘a reporter, writing up an imaginary interview as fact, quotes a man as being in town on a certain day. The man, subsequently accused of a crime, establishes an alibi through an interview innocently faked by the reporter.’

Cook hailed his own book as ‘an invention which reduces literature to an exact science’ and it worked for him, turning out up to 50 novels a year. Perry Mason creator Earl Stanley Gardner is mentioned as having ‘borrowed liberally’ from Plotto and Alfred Hitchcock had a copy. Jub reckons that pulp plots cover just about every episode of both Downton Abbey and Mad Men.

Jupp enlists the help of crime writers Val McDermid and John Harvey in his investigation. Harvey has written more than 100 thrillers. McDermid – writer of 40 books – reckons thrillers are character-driven, rather than by plot, which is why Plotto falls down for her. However, she does reckon it has a role in prompting plot ideas.

Such writers filled the pages of the popular weekly and monthly magazines in Britain and the US for most of the 20th century; the serials were then turned into books (and the other way round when the writers became popular). Cook’s output pales into insignificance when compared with the most prolific British writers – Ursula Bloom (560 romance novels in her 91 years), Barbara Cartland (359 romances in 98 years) and King Kong inventor Edgar Wallace, regarded as the most widely read author in the world in the 1920s with 170 novels (but then he died while working on the film King Kong at the age of just 57).  Presumably, they just got on with writing and never read any books!

You can still hear Miles Jupp and the Plot Device on the BBC website. Or, better still, pop into the Edgar Wallace pub off Fleet Street for a New Year pint and listen to it on your laptop.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

I peed on my shoes laughing before Pravda landed on the streets of Thatcher’s Britain

October 8, 2015
The first issue of Pravda monthly in English in 1986

The first issue of Pravda monthly in English in 1986

It’s 29 years ago and the latest monthly magazine to hit the news-stands is an English-language version of Pravda – the newspaper of the Communist party of the Soviet Union. The 44-page, A4 magazine proudly boasts it was founded by Lenin in 1911, on the 5th of May to be precise, and announces its battle cry ‘Workers of the world unite’.

This was still the Cold War. Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s prime minister and Mikhail Gorbachev was the Russian president facing up to Ronald Reagan in the US. A headline inside, ‘How Star Wars flouts the law’,  attacks the US strategic defence initiative with its bluster about energy weapons mounted on satellite systems. BBC Radio 4 is presently serialising Thatcher’s official biography by arch Tory Charles Moore, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and Spectator magazine, where he writes the weekly Notes column.

Besides Star Wars weapons and the Chernobyl fallout (also the subject of a recent Radio 4 series), it was the era of my favourite piece of grafitti, seen on the wall of the otherwise spotless men’s loo of the French House pub, underneath the pavement in Soho’s Dean Street. In 1984, in the run-up to the election battle against Walter Mondale, someone had scrawled: ‘Lee Harvey Oswald, where are you, when your country needs you most?’ Not a Reagan fan then, but the former actor won by a landslide. I peed on my shoes laughing.

Badges from the Pravda title

Badges from the Pravda title

The Pravda masthead shows two Lenin badges and the hammer and sickle in front of what I take to be the battleship Potemkin –  scene of the failed mutiny of 1905 made famous by Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 film.

Nowadays, you can read Pravda on the web.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

John Bull magazine at the Angel in Rotherhithe

December 19, 2014
Detail from John Bull magazine cover of marching policemen with the Angel pub at Rotherhithe in the background

Detail from John Bull magazine cover of marching policemen with the Angel pub at Rotherhithe in the background

It was the detail in the background that caught my eye in this 1952 John Bull cover by Royal Academy artist Alfred Thomson. The line of marching policemen points to the lit-up Angel, clearly a pub. And not just any pub I reckoned, but the Angel in Rotherhithe.

John Bull cover by Alfred Thomson from September 1952

John Bull cover from September 1952 showing the full painting by Alfred Thomson

The Angel is right on the Thames river wall, in fact at high tide the terrace is a foot under water and the waves splash up against the windows.

There’s no police station nearby now, but a look at a map and a web search fills in the details. The painting’s view is looking north up Cathay Street to the river. The police station, no longer in use, was on the corner with Paradise Street.

The bobbies are all eyes left towards the waiting woman with her dog, apart from the PC at the end of the line.

I like the caption, which fills in the story behind the scene, inside the weekly magazine:

One of the pleasures for AR Thomson, RA, is a pint and a friendly game of darts at a favourite pub. On his way recently to one of his haunts in London, he passed a local police station and saw the scene he has depicted on the cover painting. ‘The girl was obviously waiting for her PC 49 to come off beat,’ he writes. ‘My guess is he got a ribbing when his relief arrived.’

John Bull was a fiction-based, large format weekly published by Odhams, with offices in High Holborn. It was founded in 1906 by the notorious MP and swindler Horatio Bottomley who was only brought to book in 1922. It relaunched with colour covers in 1946 and became Today in 1960. Odhams was one of the companies that merged to form IPC, now Time UK.

Today, the Angel is run by Samuel Smith, with a restaurant upstairs, and, as with all the Yorkshire brewer’s premises, you’ll find just about the cheapest beer in London.

Kitchener or Cavell – the WWI coin controversy

January 24, 2014
Royal Mint's Kitchener coin is based on Alfred Leete's cover from LOndon Opinion

Royal Mint’s Kitchener coin is based on Alfred Leete’s cover from London Opinion

The Royal Mint has announced several coins to mark the Great War, one of which features Kitchener’s face with the words ‘Your Country Needs You’ – an image by Alfred Leete for London Opinion magazine. It’s sparked a row and a petition campaign for a coin featuring the executed First World War British nurse Edith Cavell. Kitchener is a hero for the organisational skills that underpinned the British empire in the Sudan, South Africa, Egypt, India and, of course, in defeating Germany. However, he is also a controversial figure, and not just for introducing concentration camps during the Boer War.

In 1968, Leeete’s Kitchener image was revived for the Back Britain campaign, which riled Daily Mail columnist Anne Scott-James:

To invoke Lord Kitchener – an arch imperialist, a foul personality, a man who quarrelled with politicians, viceroys, officers and men, and who had the Mahdi’s head made into an inkstand – is to revive the crassest attitudes of World War I … Let’s hope the Kitchener campaign will be laughed out of court, for the British have grown up since 1914 and remained wonderfully civilised through all the agonies of World War II.

Anne Scott-James in the French pub in Soho from a Daily Telegraph biography

The journalist Anne Scott-James in the French House pub in Soho from a Daily Telegraph biography

Scott-James was one of Fleet Street’s most experienced journalists, having been woman’s editor on Picture Post during the war, editor of Harper’s Bazaar and a star columnist on the Sunday Express. She was married to Osbert Lancaster, who had designed the jacket for Philip Magnus’s 1958 biography, Kitchener: Portrait of an Imperialist. Her mention of the Mahdi’s head refers to the 1899 controversy over Kitchener having the body of Mohammed Ahmed, leader of the Sudan uprising, taken from its tomb and thrown into the Nile. The desecration was defended on the grounds that a cult might grow up around the grave and lead to another uprising. Magnus describes how the ‘great howl of rage’ in the press over the skull being taken caused Kitchener to write to Queen Victoria expressing his regret at any distress he had caused and saying: ‘I had thought of sending [the head] to the College of Surgeons where, I believe, such things are kept. It has now been buried in a Moslem cemetery.’

Cavell is the antithesis of Kitchener. She had run a training school for nurses in Belgium for seven years before the Germans invaded and she treated combatants of all nationalities. Her downfall was in helping allied wounded escape to Holland. While papers in Britain called for vengence after her execution, Cavell herself was reported as saying as she awaited her fate: ‘Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.’ She was hailed as a heroine and martyr with statues just off London’s Trafalgar Square and in Norwich, near where she was born. The Cavell Nurses’ Trust that helps nurses in time of need was set up in her name in 1917.

The Royal Mint’s Kitchener coin commentary does not even mention Leete and it gets its facts wrong, stating: ‘This design was selected to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War because the poster [my emphasis] has come to be strongly associated with the outbreak of the war.’ But this image was produced by Alfred Leete as a London Opinion magazine cover. Only later did it become a poster (and never an official one with the ‘Your country’ wording). It’s a surprise that the Royal Mint is inaccurate on such a point and such errors damage its credibility when it says how carefully its committee has made it choice of subjects.