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Cock Tavern, Fleet street : 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

COCK TAVERN, Fleet street.

The Apollo Club, at the Devil Tavern, is kept in remembrance by Apollo Court, in Fleet street, nearly opposite ; next door eastward of which is an old tavern nearly as well known. It is, perhaps, the most primitive place of its kind in the metropolis : it still possesses a fragment of decoration of the time of James I., and the writer remembers the tavern half a century ago, with considerably more of its original panelling. It is just two centuries since (1665), when the Plague was raging, the landlord shut up his house, and retired into the country; and there is preserved one of the farthings referred to in this advertisement: — " This is to certify that the master of the Cock and Bottle, commonly called the Cock Alehouse, at Temple Bar, hath dismissed his servants, and shut up his house, for this long vacation, intending (God willing) to return at Michaelmas next ; so that all persons whatsoever who may have any accounts with the said master, or farthings belonging to the said house, are desired to repair thither before the 8th of this instant, and they shall receive satisfaction." Three years later, we find Pepys frequenting this tavern : " 23rd April, 1668. Thence by water to the Temple, and there to the Cock Alehouse, and drank, and eat a lobster, and sang, and mightily merry. So almost night, I carried Mrs. Pierce home, and then Knipp and I to the Temple again, and took boat, it being now night." The tavern has a gilt signbird over the passage door, stated to have been carved by Gibbons. Over the mantelpiece is some carving, at least of the time of James I. ; but we remember the entire room similarly carved, and a huge black-and-gilt clock, and settle. The head-waiter of our time lives in the verse of Laureate Tennyson — "O plump head-waiter of the Cock ! " apostrophizes the " Will Water- proof" of the bard, in a reverie wherein lie conceives William to have undergone a transition similar to that of Jove's cup-bearer : —

" And hence (says he) this halo lives about
The waiter's hands, that reach
To each his perfect pint of stout,
His proper chop to each.
He looks not with the common breed,
That with the napkin dally ;
I think he came, like Ganymede,
From some delightful valley."

And of the redoubtable bird, who is supposed to have performed the eagle's part in this abduction, he says : —

" The Cock was of a larger egg
Than modern poultry drop,
Stept forward on a firmer leg,
And cramm'd a plumper crop."

The 1829 Robsons directory places William Colnett, at the Cock tavern, 201 Fleet street, and again in 1832 and 1842; although the modern address today is at 22 Fleet street from about 1888.

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 12:28:03 BST
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