Elephant, Fenchurch 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

THE ELEPHANT, Fenchurch street.

In the year 1826 was taken down the old Elephant Tavern, which was built before the Great Fire, and narrowly escaped its ravages. It stood on the north side of Fenchurch street, and was originally the Elephant and Castle. Previous to the demolition of the premises there were removed from the wall two pictures, which Hogarth is said to have painted while a lodger there. About this time, a parochial entertainment which had hitherto been given at the Elephant, was removed to the King's Head (Henry VIII.) Tavern nearly opposite. At this Hogarth was annoyed, and he went over to the King's Head, when an altercation ensued, and he left, threatening to stick them all up on the Elephant tap-room ; this he is said to have done, and on the opposite wall subsequently painted the Hudson's Bay Company's Porters going to dinner, representing Fenchurch street a century and a half ago. The first picture was set down as Hogarth's first idea of his Modern Midnight Conversation, in which he is supposed to have represented the parochial party at the King's Head, though it differs from Hogarth's print. There was a third picture, Harlequin and Pierrot, and on the wall of the Elephant first-floor was found a picture of Harlow Bush Fair, coated over with paint.

Only two of the pictures were claimed as Hogarth's.
The Elephant has been engraved ; and at the foot of the print, the information as to Hogarth having executed these paintings is rested upon the evidence of Mrs.
Hibbert, who kept the house between thirty and forty years, and received her information from persons at that time well acquainted with Hogarth. Still, his biographers do not record his abode in Fenchurch-street. The Tavern has been rebuilt. .

A very ancient tavern was the Olde Elephant, in Fenchurch Street, whieh was built before the Great Fire, and was lucky enough to escape, although only very narrowly, as it was in almost immediate proximity to the fiercely burning houses that surrounded it.
At one time William Hogarth lodged at the Elephant ; and during his stay there (whether in payment of his board bill or not, there is no record) he embellished the walls of the tap-room with four of his highly characteristic paintings.
One represented the porters of the Hudson Bay Company, who doubtless frequented the house, which was not far away from the company's own warehouse. Another was the artist's first study for the picture he afterwards engraved and published, " Modern Midnight Conversation ; " but it differed from the print, inasmuch as it contained a representation of a circumstance very much too broad in its humour for the graver to give forth to the general public, even in those days when Mrs. Grundy was not nearly so particular as she is in this more refined age. Considering some of the scenes that Hogarth did depict in many of his well-known published pictures, it can be very well imagined this particular one must have been pretty broad. The third painting represented Harlequin and Pierrot looking across the room at the " Modern Midnight" scene, and laughing heartily at it.
The fourth was a representation of Barton Bush Fair. These were painted some time between 1724 and 1734, prior to his becoming famous.
Some years after the Fire, in the first quarter of the last century, the Olde Elephant was pulled down, and a new and more commodious tavern erected on its site. The landlord of the new house was one Mr. Hibbert, and on the front of the house, over the door, was an announcement that Henry Meux and Co.'s Entire was the beer that was drawn. This is one of the earliest outdoor records of that firm.

The still more modern house built on the site, and bearing the name of Ye Olde Elephant, is at 119, Fenchurch Street, at the corner of Culvert Court.

From the above description, the pub I list as the Elephant from 1833, at 119 Fenchurch street is an even later rebuild, but who knows, it is now just a very modern building - well it was in 2008. There is quite a good report on another site of mine (deadpubs). This also questions much of this!

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