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Bay Tree Tavern, 33 & 35 St Swithins lane, St Swithin London Stone EC4

St Swithin index

Some fifty to sixty years ago a roughness — but it was a cosy roughness — pervaded, with few exceptions, the taverns and chop-houses both in the City and West End. This has since given place to a highly decorative style that does not invariably include comfort, to say nothing of cosiness.
Mirrors, coloured glass, massive brasswork, flashy furniture and encaustic tiles tend more to please the eye than to satisfy either the palate or the stomach ; the hungry and thirsty individual looks round in vain for a comfortable seat — indeed, a seat of any kind — and is compelled to adopt, nolens volens, that modern habit of standing up at a bar to eat his lunch or dinner, that the hurry-skurry of the present day has introduced. " May good digestion wait on appetite " is all very well ; but when the appetite has to be satisfied in a perpendicular position of positive discomfort, " good digestion " is very apt to take umbrage and decline the invitation.
It would seem that Master Boniface is already waking up to the fact that he has made a grave error, and that standing at his bar with no provision of seats is a mistake, for I notice that within the last few years seats both at the counter, and in what may be called inner bars are provided, and in some instances faith' comfortable ones, in several of the recently remodelled and redecorated houses.
In old times things were far different. The absence of seats was the exception ; and I can only call to mind one place in the City where a lunch was necessarily accompanied by a mild kind of combat for standing room at a bar. It was at the Bay Tree, in St. Swithin's Lane.
In the " forties," before the Gurneys had the house, a remarkably cheap and good lunch was provided and served at the bar. Huge joints of cold roast and boiled meats were cut up by two men, clad in white jackets — most dexterous fellows at carving they were.
A medium-sized plate of meat, bread, and half a pint of porter or mild ale in a pewter tankard were supplied for the modest sum of sixpence — and no waiter's fee. Extras, such as vegetables, pickles, cheese, and salad, could also be had at equally reasonable rates. There were two dining-rooms and a large smoking-room farther inside, beyond the bar. The latter was converted into a dining-room later on. In these rooms, hot joints, chops, and steaks were supplied at fairly reasonable prices.
I have seen the bar of the Bay Tree so crowded, between the hours of twelve and two o'clock, that the customers who were lucky enough to secure an empty barrel, turned upon end for a table, were regarded with envious looks by others less fortunate.
Every possible contrivance was made to provide standing accommodation for customers. Narrow shelves, only just wide enough to hold a plate safely, were erected along the walls, wherever it was possible to fix one.
Of late years these low prices were raised, and the character of the business changed ; but there was always a more or less rough-and-tumble air about the place up to tlie time when, a few years since, a fire one night broke out and cleared the old house away, to the imminent danger of the barmaids and servants, who had to escape in their robes de nuit on to the roof, from whence they were rescued by the firemen and the fire escape.
The present " up-to-date " structure was then erected.
The new Bay Tree still retains many of its special features ; notably, the supply of most excellent mild ale and porter in imperial half-pint glasses at the outer bar counter, at one penny the glass. In old times excellent sausage rolls were also supplied with the beer. It has during the last few years been considerably enlarged and improved, so as to meet the requirements of the vast number of City men in the neighbourhood.
A similar supply of ale and porter — termed by the customers sherry or port — with sausage rolls, was served at the European, that once stood at the corner of Prince's Street, opposite the Mansion House.
In future years it will be remembered that the Bay Tree was the house where the great Englishman, Cecil Rhodes, adjourned to from the offices of the Chartered Company on the opposite side of St. Swithin's Lane, for his lunch. I call him the great Englishman, as probably it will be found that he and George Stephenson have influenced the progress of the world more than any two men of the nineteenth century.

Historical London public houses, Taverns, Inns, Beer Houses and Hotels.

Residents at this address.

1795/Philip Philpot / Victualler/../../Sun Fire Office records held at Guildhall Library **

The Freemasons lodge record suggests John Philpot is born about 1770.
Lodge of Peace and Harmony Freemasons membership initiated December 24th 1809, John Philpot, Tavern Keeper, aged 39, St Swithins lane, 1814 to 1825

1811/John Philpot, Bay Tree Tavern, 33 St Swithins lane, Lombard street/../../Holdens Directory

1825/Mr Philpot, Bay Tree Tavern, St Swithins lane/../../Licensed Victuallers Association

1833-34/John Philpot, Bay Tree Tavern, 33 St Swithins lane/../../Pigots Directory

1839/John Philpot/../../../Pigot’s Directory **

1842/John Philpot / Licensed Victualler & Tavern Keeper, Dealer and Chapman/../../London Gazette, 25 January 1842 **

1843/Joseph Dowell/../../../Kelly’s Directory **

1851/Joseph Dowell/../../../Kelly’s Directory **

1851/Joseph Dowell/Licensed Victualler/46/Brandon, Durham/Census
1851/Elizabeth Dowell/Wife/40/Berwickshire/Census
1851/Joseph W Dowell/Son/17/London/Census
1851/Henry Dowell/Son/15/LondonCensus
1851/Charlotte W Dowell/Daughter/2/London/Census
1851/Margaret B Dowell/Daughter/1/London/Census
1851/Margaret Robson/Sister in Law/25/Berwickshire/Census
1851/Rebecca Chamberlin/Servant, Widow/50/Warwickshire/Census
1851/Emma Robinson/Servant/22/Bradford, Yorkshire/Census
1851/Amm Baker/Servant/19/Brackley, Nottingham/Census
1851/Elizabeth Raymond/Servant/28/Limehouse, Middlesex/Census
1851/Kezia Osmond/Servant/20/Camberwell, Surrey/Census
1851/CAroline Gilmore/Servant/29/Liverpool/Census
1851/catherine Wren/Servant/30/Liverpool/Census
1851/Bridget Linen/Servant/25/Kerry, Ireland/Census
1851/George Maybank/Servant/19/Surrey/Census
1851/James Maybank/Servant/22/Richmond, Surrey/Census
1851/_ Pawson/Lodger/25/../Census
1851/_ Birkenshaw/Lodger, Timber Surveyor/40/../Census

1865/Alexander Wood Dowell / Dining Room Keeper & Publican/../../London Gazette, 2 May 1865 **

September 1870/H Dowell, deceased/Outgoing Licensee/../../London City Press

September 1870/Jane Dowell, widow and executrix of H Dowell, deceased/Incoming Licensee/../../London City Press

1874/Jane Dowell/../../../H D Miles London & Suburban Licensed Victuallers Directory **

On the marriage certificate of a relative Margaret Logan to Walter Robert Blanks, on January 16th 1876; he is given as the manager of the Bay Tree Tavern. Margaret had been a barmaid at the Princess Royal,  37 Warwick Street. *

Walter had been involved in 1861 with the White Hart Hotel, Holywell Hill, St Albans which his father owned. *

1881/Kate Rowlunds/Manageress Hotel)/24/London, Middlesex/Census
1881/Fanny Keyes/Barmaid/31/Southwark, Surrey/Census
1881/Elizabeth Tibbet/Barmaid/26/Southall, Middlesex/Census
1881/Kate Ryan/Barmaid/31/City, Middlesex/Census
1881/Sarah Baxter/Barmaid/31/Walworth, Surrey/Census
1881/Julia Sinnet/Barmaid/23/London, Middlesex/Census
1881/Sarah Walker/Barmaid/23/London, Middlesex/Census
1881/Eliza Bumn/Barmaid/20/Lambeth, Surrey/Census
1881/Fanny Copus/Barmaid/20/Westminster, Surrey/Census
1881/Elizabeth Trowel/Barmaid/19/London, Middlesex/Census
1881/Mary Driffield/Housemaid/28/Eastham, Esse/Census
1881/Horatio Turner/Pastry Cook/23/Kennington, Surrey/Census
1881/William Pretty/Porter/18/London, Middlesex/Census

1882/Curney & Co/../../../Post Office Directory

1884/Edwin Gurney/../../../Business Directory of London **

1886/Edwin Gurney/../../../Business Directory of London **

1891/Edwin Gurney / Deceased / Died, in or about the month of May 1891/../../London Gazette, 12 December 1893 **

1906/Meyer & Bird/../../../Morris’ Business Directory of London **

1911/Mrs A M Duller/Barmaid/20/London/Census
1911/A P Filmer/Barmaid/19/London/Census
1911/R Barranca/Barmaid/20/London/Census
1911/E Wolf/Barmaid/19/London/Census
1911/M wolf/Barmaid/18/London/Census
1911/F M Bright/Barmaid/35/London/Census
1911/Charles Taylor/Waiter/20/London/Census

* Provided By Peter Logan

** Provided By Stephen Harris

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  • And Last updated on: Thursday, 25-Jan-2024 10:33:29 GMT