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Three Axe Inn, Three Nun court, St Mary Aldermanbury EC2

St Mary Aldermanbury index

There is evidence that the mansion, in 1424, existed as an inn, for, in the Brewers' Company accounts for the years 1418-1440, appears the entry, "William Cokreth atte Ax yn Aldermannebury." This is the earliest mention of the inn by name, a name that was to be associated with the site of the capital mansion for five succeeding centuries, either as a brewhouse, inn or tavern.
This pub was well established by 1625 and mostly demolished and replaced by offices and warehouses by 1920. However a small pub, possibly the former Tap, survived until demolition in around 1936. The address of this pub was also given as 20 Aldermanbury; aka The Axe **

The Axe Inn, Aldermanbury in 1682 Morgans map. It backs onto St Michaels church in Bassishaw, and opposite St Mary Aldermanbury

The Axe Inn, Aldermanbury in 1682 Morgans map. It backs onto St Michaels church in Bassishaw, and opposite St Mary Aldermanbury

A listing of historical London public houses, Taverns, Inns, Beer Houses and Hotels in St Mary Aldermanbury parish, City of London.

Residents at this address

See the lmsas page 135 for this brilliant article

On the site of the newly-erected Chartered Insurance Institute in Aldermanbury, until 1932, stood the "Axe" inn, Nos. 20 and 21, with the claim that it had for its predecessors, the mansion of the barons; or, lords of the manor, dating back to the early 12th century, when the soke or manor of Aldermanbury was granted to Berengar, whose son, Reiner Fitz-Berengar, received from Henry the second, a royal confirmation of liberties over all his lands in respect of the soke. After Reiner's death, circa 1175, the soke passed through several hands, namely, Richard Fitz-Reiner, his brother, Henry; the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's; Baldwin Crispus; Simon de Aldermanbury; Alan de Aldermanbury; Gervase de Aldermanbury; Alderman Adam de Basing and his son, Thomas, Adam de Bedyk and his son, Henry, Sir Thomas Bedyk; Archdeacon Henry de Chaddesdene, whose executors, in 1357, disposed of "the Inn in Aldermanbury" to Sir John de Beauchamp.

In 1417, the manor reverted to the Crown. There is evidence that the mansion, in 1424, existed as an inn, for, in the Brewers' Company accounts for the years 1418-1440, under the date, 20th November, 3 Henry VI, there appears the entry, "William Cokreth atte Ax yn Aldermannebury." This is the earliest mention of the inn by name, a name that was to be associated with the site of the capital mansion for five succeeding centuries, either as a brewhouse, inn or tavern.

When and how the sign originated is not easy to explain; but it was certainly not adopted from the badge or arms of any of the lords of the manor. Two axes are, however, incorporated in the arms of the Coopers' Company, whose hall was situate in the immediate vicinity; but " le Ax yn Aldermannebury" existed nearly a century before the grant of arms was made to the company.
Before the 15th century, it was customary for travellers to rely upon religious houses for hospitality; but at the date to which we have now come, " le Ax yn Aldermannebury" was then a hostelry for the convenience of travellers. It had been acquired by one Raphe Collye, who, in July, 1566, bequeathed it to John Whitehorne, Clothworker. Three years later, Whitehorne died, and "was seised in his demesne as of fee of one large messuage or mansion House called ' le signe de la Ax,' lately a brewhouse. . . . " Whitehorne's son, Augustyne, conducted the business of the Inn until 1581, in which year he granted a twenty-one years' lease of it to Mathew Chamberlayne, selling the freehold two years later to Roger Wilcocks for �460 of 'all that greate messuage or tenement . . . called or knowne by the name or Signe of the Axe, now or late in the tenure or occupation of Mathew Chamberlayne . . . given to John Whitehorne by Raphe Collye'."
Wilcocks did not hold the freehold for any length of time, for, in 1584, he granted to Thomas Audley, Skinner, "the capital messuage called ' le Axe,' with all and singular house, roomes, buildings, yardes, barnes, stables and hayloftes, which messuage and tenements the said Roger Wilcocks acquired from Augustyne, son and heir of John Whitehorne . . . by bargain and sale 30 April, 25 Elizabeth."
At this time, Chamberlayne had resided in the parish for some 10 years, and still held the lease, with an unexpired term of 14 years, and, in consideration of Chamberlayne surrending the former lease, Audley agreed to grant him a ninety-nine years' lease.

In the days of the 16th century, inns formed a necessary part of the life of the people; they were to the inhabitants exactly what the coffee-houses were to the people of the 18th century. They were recognised centres of information, entertainment and resort. There exists ample evidence that the life of the tavern was extremely picturesque and pleasant, affording something approaching the home character, a cheerful fire, an inviting meal and a genial and kindly host.
Similar to other galleried inns, the "Axe" had an arched entrance, leading to a courtyard, around which the rooms and offices formed the four sides of the square, while stabling and accommodation for wagons, carts and coaches were necessary for the conveyance, warehousing and distribution of merchandise.
In the year 1598, Shakespeare went to lodge with a wigmaker named Mont joy, or Mount joy, at the corner of Silver and Monkwell Streets, about 200 or 300 yards distant from the Inn, and it is quite conceivable that he, with his friends, Condell and Heminge, frequently visited the inn and its genial host, to quaff " a pot of good double beer," as well as for the purpose of a chat concerning the latest play. The inn had become a favourite house of call, and well-known to travellers, and the first regular wagon service, from London to Liverpool, was established here about 1630.
" Dapper Dick " Brathwaite, familiarly, if unjustly, described as "Drunken Barnabee," once visited the inn, for, in Barnabee Itinerarium; or, Barnabee's Journal, our frolicsome tourist is found guilty of a tippling round, as related by him in the following rhyme:�
"Country left, I in a fury
To the Axe in Aldermanbury
First arriv'd, that place slighted
I at the Rose in Holborn lighted."
Our "dry-throated Dapper Dick" would have entered the low-pitched gateway to find himself in a rough, half-paved courtyard encumbered with loaded wagons and surrounded by galleries from which earlier visitors would be viewing the excitement of the fresh arrivals. As a hostelry and carriers' centre, it would be safe to state that few, if any, of the inns in the City transacted anything approaching the amount of business as that conducted at the "Axe."

Chamberlayne died in 1600, and three months later his widow married John Waterworte, who carried on the business of the inn until his death, when it passed to his son, John, who subsequently assigned the lease to John Griffin. In 1656, Edward Jackson acquired a 21 years' lease of "the messuage or inn called the Axe."

In the Great Fire, the "Axe" did not escape. It was rebuilt and completed, circa 1670, for, in the church records appears " 1670 Edward Jackson atte ye Axe lent �10 towards the rebuilding of the church."
The importance of the "Axe" in the years immediately following the Fire, may be gathered from its situation and dimensions being clearly defined in Ogilby and Morgan's 1677-plan of the city, while, in Morgan's 1681 map, it is shown with a courtyard surrounded by the inn buildings, said to be capable of providing sleeping quarters for over a hundred guests.

Although the inn was "substantially built, with good and sufficient materials," it was lacking in every respect the mellow appearance of its predecessor, with its heavy timbers fast crumbling away.
In Oliver and Mills' Survey of the city after the Fire, the foundations of the inn, as set out in the Survey, are shown to agree, both in alignment and measurement, with the site now occupied by the Chartered Insurance Institute building, after making allowance for ground cut off to enlarge the passage from Aldermanbury to Basingshaw, 26th November, 1669. The superficial area so appropriated for the widening of the passage now known as Three Nun Court was 180 feet, that is to say, a strip 90 feet by 2 feet.

The fact that, in 1682, it is described as a coaching inn, is clear evidence that it was rebuilt to serve the purpose of a coaching and wagon centre as well as to invite good cheer. When Jackson rebuilt the inn he caused three houses to be erected on the north-west corner of the building adjoining the George Yard entrance. Jackson died in 1675, and his widow married Robert Leigh, who remained in possession of the inn for at least 16 years. Sometime between the years 1698 and 1707, Mr. Henry Watts became the landlord, and continued in possession until 1714. Later on, George Lansdell acquired the lease, and appears to have gained the respect of the parishioners.
With the ever-increasing growth of the soft goods trade in the parish, the "Axe" had become an important meeting-place for wool merchants, at which to transact and complete deals over a glass of wine, or at the luncheon table. James Holt, of " Flying Wagon " fame, was the proprietor between the years 1790 and 1820. Up to this period, the inn carried two numbers, 20 and 21, but, owing to the demand for show-rooms, warehouse and office accommodation, the greater part of No. 21 was let to merchants, agents, etc. In 1820, Holt transferred the "Axe" to Mr. William Miller, who continued proprietor until 1826, when it was leased to Nathaniel Hartley, who held it until 1844.

At the expiration of Hartley's lease, the site having been considered too valuable for its occupancy as a tavern, new premises were erected for showrooms, and the ancient inn, which had now descended to that of a public-house, was driven from the position which it had enjoyed for several centuries fronting the main street, to an insignificant corner of the original site in Three nun court. During a period of 43 years (1846-1889) the lease of the tavern had changed hands seven times.
In 1890, Mr. C. D. Mackness obtained possession, and, after a tenancy of 23 years, it was let on a 14 years' lease, 1913-1927, and was successively under the management of Messrs. Murton, Bowman Condon and Gerrard. Upon the expiry of the lease, in 1927, the tavern was let on a further three years' agreement while Mr. Gerrard was in possession.
In 1930, Mrs. Ricketts obtained an agreement at a rent of �200 and a premium of �750; but she subsequently sub-let it to Mr. Wright, and, with his tenancy, came the end of the remnant of the ancient and one-time flourishing carriers' inn, its painted signboard to the last swinging and displaying upon its dark red field, composed of twenty-one miniature axes, a large diagonal-wise axe, with the motto, In hoc signo spes mea.

With the remorseless insistence for improvement and progress, the tavern at last closed its doors, and, by the beginning of the year 1933, nothing remained on the site upon which, during the period of seven hundred years, had successively stood a manor house, the home of barons, lords of the manor and merchant princes, hostel, brewhouse, coaching and carriers' inn, hotel and tavern.
Those days are gone, and, with them, much that was historically interesting, and the one-time famous " Axe," a place of life and bustle in the coaching days, has now been transformed into an important edifice, opened by His Majesty King George the Fifth, 28th June, 1934.

In 1625, the will of John Waterworth refers to his house being at Clerkenwell St James, as his wife Elizabeth is buried at the church there. He leaves considerable sums of money to the churchwardens and others. At this time, he refers to his Inn, the Axe, in St Mary Aldermanbury. ***

The 1637 list of carriers to London mentions the Axe, in Aldermanbury thirteen times, suggesting it as a major destination in London. Reference ***

The 1682 Morgans Map of London lists the '544 Axe Inne'

In 1708 : A New View of London by Edward Hatton lists Ax Inn on the East side of Aldermanbury, (near) against the Church.

1757/John Lowe / Hostler /../../Proceedings of the Old Bailey **

1758/Robert Park/../../../Proceedings of the Old Bailey **

1758/Thomas Prince / Hostler /../../Proceedings of the Old Bailey **

1760/James Crompton/../../../Proceedings of the Old Bailey **

1760/Robert Turner / Servant /../../Proceedings of the Old Bailey **

1805/James Holt, inn keeper and agent, Axe Inn, Aldermanbury/../../Holdens Directory

1810 , John Lockie, a descriptive London Street Directory in 1810 describes "Axe Inn, Aldermanbury, at 20, about the middle of the East side, and is that number of doors North on the Right from Cateaton street or from Milk street Cheapside."

I am writing a book at the Georgian Stagecoach, and used your site to track one Joseph Alcock from the Swan with two Necks to the Axe. He arrived in 1817 :
This from the Staffordshire Advertiser - obviously trying to pick up some coach trade. 23.8.1817 *

Joseph Alcock, From the Swan Inn, Lad lane, London,
Most respectfully acquaints his Friends and the Public, he has taken the old established Axe Inn, Aldermanbury, London, which, from its recent improvements and local situation, will be found replete with every accommodation for Private Families, Commercial Gentlemen etc.
J A Begs to assure them he has made a selection of the best Wines of the choicest villages, which for richness and flavour cannot be excelled : a plentiful larder will always be supplied, and every attention that can tend to their comfort or merit patronage, diligently observed.
NB Coaches daily to all parts of the Kingdom, Neat Post-Chaies etc
London August 12th 1817. *

1819/Joseph Alcock/../../../P.O. Directory **

Manchester Lodge Freemasons membership initiated March 29th 1820, William Miller, Tavern Keeper, Aldermanbury, 1820 to 1824

1822/William Miller, Axe Inn, 20 Aldermanbury/../../../Pigots Directory **

1825/Mr Miller/../../../Licensed Victuallers Association

1825/Mr Holt, Axe, Aldermanbury/../../Licensed Victuallers Association

1825/William Miller/../../../Pigots Directory **

1829, Hartley, Axe Inn coffee house, 20 Aldermanbury/../../Robsons Directory

1832/N Hartley/Axe Tavern & Hartleys Hotel/../../Robsons Directory

1833-34/Nathaniel Hartley, Axe Inn, 20 Aldermanbury/../../Pigots Directory

1836/Nathaniel Hartley, Axe Inn Tavern & Coffee House, 20 Aldermanbury/../../Robsons Directory

1835/N Hartley/../../../Robsons Directory **

1841/N Hartley/../../../Pigots Directory **

1842/N Hartley/../../../Robsons Directory **

1843/Nathaniel Hartley, Axe hotel, Tavern & Coffeehouse, 20 Aldermanbury /../../Kelly�s Directory

1846/J H Spear/../../../P.O. Directory

1848/John Lane, Axe hotel, 10 Aldermanbury & Three Nun Court/../../P.O. Directory

1850/John Lane/../../../P.O. Directory **

1851/John Lane/../../../Kelly�s Directory **

1851/John Lane/Hotel Keeper/51/Shorene, Kent/Census
1851/Mary Lane/Wife/50/Chatham, Kent/Census
1851/Fanny Lane/Daughter/19/Chatham, Kent/Census
1851/Charlotte Lane/Daughter/18/Chatham, Kent/Census
1851/Ellen Lane/Daughter/16/Chatham, Kent/Census
1851/John Lane/Son/9/Middlesex/Census
1851/Robert Goodchild/Servant/29/Mitcham, Surrey/Census
1851/George Barber/Servant/21/Middlesex/Census

1852/John Lane/../../../Watkin�s Directory **

May 1853/William Robinson/ Outgoing Licensee /../../The Era

May 1853/George Parsons/ Incoming Licensee /../../The Era

1856/George Parsons/../../../Post Office Directory

March 1860/William Lake Scott/Outgoing Licensee/../../Era

March 1860/William Lindsey/Incoming Licensee/../../Era

1862/William Lindsay/../../../Post Office Directory

1865/Benjamin Hayden, Axe Inn, Three Nun court, Aldermanbury EC/../../Post Office Directory

1869/B Hayden/../../../Post Office Directory

1872/Benjamin Hayden, Axe Inn, Three Nun court, Aldermanbury EC/../../Post Office Directory

1874/J J Knowles, Axe Inn, Three Nun court, Aldermanbury, EC/../../../Licensed Victualler & Hoteliers Directory

1881/Thomas J Taylor/Licensed Victualler/34/Hoxne, Suffolk/Census
1881/Kate S Taylor/Wife/35/Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk/Census
1881/Grace M Clarke/Barmaid/22/St Giles In The Fields, Middlesex/Census
1881/Ellen Carpenter/Barmaid/25/Rotherhithe, Surrey/Census
1881/Thomas McDermott/Potman/23/Londonderry, Ireland/Census

1882/Thomas John Taylor/../../../Post Office Directory

1884/Thos. J Taylor/../../../Business Directory of London **

1886/Thomas John Taylor/../../../Business Directory of London **

1891/Fanny Harvey/Barmaid/27/Fordham, Essex/Census
1891/Nellie Wright/Barmaid/34/Fordham, Essex/Census
1891/William New/Potman/23/Camberwell, Surrey/Census

1899/Charles Bonner Mackness/../../../Post Office Directory

1901/Fanny Harvey/Tavern Manageress/36/Barking, Essex/Census
1901/Nellie Wright/Barmaid/45/Barking, Essex/Census
1901/Ernest Rogers/Cellerman/27/London East/Census

1906/Chas. B Mackness/../../../Morris� Business Directory of London **

1910/Charles Bonner Mackness/../../../Post Office Directory

1911/Fanny Harvey/Barmaid/48/Fordham, Essex/Census
1911/Nellie Wright/Barmaid/58/Fordham, Essex/Census
1911/Ernest Edward Rokes/Cellerman/36/Great Parndon, Essex/Census

1921/Chas B Mackness/../../../Hughes Directory

Charles Bonner Mackness is retired at 22 Cyprus Road, Finchley, by the 1921 census. He was also living here in 1911.

* Provided By James Hobson

** Provided By Stephen Harris

*** Provided By Francis Howcutt

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