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Castle Tavern, Holborn : London coffee houses and taverns

A historical site about early London coffee houses and taverns and will also link to my current pub history site and also the London street directory


This noted tavern, described by Strype, a century and a half ago, as a house of considerable trade, has been, in our time, the head-quarters of the Prize Ring, kept by two of its heroes, Tom Belcher and Tom Spring. Here was instituted the Daffy Club ; and the long room was adorned with portraits of pugilistic heroes, including Jem Belcher, Burke, Jackson, Tom Belcher, old Joe Ward, Dutch Sam, Gregson, Humphreys, Mendoza, Cribb, Molyneux, Gulley, Randall, Turner, Martin, Harmer, Spring, Neat, Hickman, Painter, Scroggins, Tom Owen, etc. ; and among other sporting prints, the famous dog, Trusty, the present of Lord Camelford to Jem Belcher, and the victor in fifty battles. In Cribb 1 s Memorial to Congress is this picture of the great room : —

"Lent Friday night a bang-up set
Of milling blades at Belcher's met,
All high-bred heroes of the Ring,
Whose very gammon would delight one ;
Who, nurs'd beneath the Fancy's wing,
Show all her feathers but the white one.
Brave Tom, the Champion, with an air
Almost Corinthian, took the chair,
And kept the coves in quiet tune,
By showing such a fist of mutton
As on a point of order soon
Would take the shine from Speaker Sutton.
And all the lads look'd gay and bright,
And gin and genius flashed about ;
And whosoe'er grew unpolite,
The well-bred Champion serv'd him out."

In 1828, Belcher retired from the tavern and was succeeded by Tom Spring (Thomas Winter), the immediate successor of Cribb, as Champion of England. Spring prospered at the Castle many years. He died August 17, 1851, in his fifty-sixth year ; he was highly respected, and had received several testimonials of public and private esteem ; among which were these pieces of plate: — 1. The Manchester Cup, presented in 1821. 2. The Hereford Cup, 1823. 3. A noble tankard and a purse, value upwards of five hundred pounds. 4. A silver goblet, from Spring's early patron, Mr. Sant.

Spring's figure was an extremely fine one, and his face and forehead most remarkable. His brow had something of the Greek Jupiter in it, expressing command, energy, determination, and cool courage. Its severity was relieved by the lower part of his countenance, the features of which denoted mildness and playfulness. His actual height was five feet eleven inches and a half; but he could stretch his neck so as to make his ad measurement more than six feet.

The 1829 Robsons directory places Thomas Springer, at the Castle Tavern, 25 High Holborn; and later (after 1851), it is renamed to the Napier until about the turn of the century.

References :  Lots of references are made to two sources on the internet archive :
Edward Callows, Old London Taverns &
John Timbs, Club life of London Volume 2

And Last updated on: Friday, 15-Sep-2023 12:28:02 BST
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