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Kings Head, 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


No. 53 is a place of historic interest ; for, the Princess Elizabeth, having attended service at the church of Allhallows Staining, in Langbourn Ward, on her release from the Tower, on the 19th of May, 1554, dined off pork and peas afterwards, at the King's Head in Fenchurch Street, where the metal dish and cover she is said to have used are still preserved. The Tavern has been of late years enlarged and embellished, in taste accordant with its historical association ; the ancient character of the building being preserved in the smoking-room, 60 feet in length, upon the walls of which are displayed corslets, shields, helmets, and knightly arms.

The 1829 Robsons directory places Thomas Payne, at the Kings Head Tavern, 53 Fenchurch street; apparently demolished in 1876

Leaving the Ship and Turtle, with its interesting associations, and taking our way down Billiter Street into Fenchurch Street, we come upon the elaborately decorated building at the corner of Star Alley and Mark Lane, now called the London Tavern, but till within a very short time back, known ever since the time of the Tudors as the King's Head.

This is now a sumptuous restaurant with resplendent bars, dining-rooms (public and private), smoking and billiard rooms, and everything this fin-de-siecle age regards as indispensable to a high-class house, not even forgetting an oyster bar round the corner in Mark Lane.

I knew it years ago — at least forty — and it was then a notable house ; and a very genial landlord, named King, presided over its destinies. It was during King's reign a high-class establishment, and noted for the excellence of its wines and liquors.

This house has a special historic interest. When the Princess Elizabeth, afterwards " Queen Bess," was liberated from the Tower on 19th May, 1554, she proceeded first to Allhallows Staining Church, where she attended divine service, and offered up thanks for her safe deliverance, for she stood in great fear of either the block or the stake, from the creatures around her terrible sister, Mary. From church she wended her way to the tavern of the King's Head, in Fenchurch Street, where she enjoyed her first free dinner, upon gaining her liberty. The meal was but a homely one, consisting of boiled pork and pease-pudding, which was served on a metal dish. This, together with a metal cover, is still preserved. Who can describe the relish with which the great Gloriana enjoyed that plain repast ; with what a sense of freedom, and an absence of all fear of poison, she must have relished every mouthful?

Also see the Kings Head pages

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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