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Running Footman, Mayfair : 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 sign, in Charles street, Berkeley Square, carries us back to the days of bad roads, and journeying at snail's pace, when the travelling equipage of the nobility required that one or more men should run in front of the carriage, chiefly as a mark of the rank of the traveller ; they were likewise sent on messages, and occasionally for great distances.

The running footman required to be a healthy and active man ; he wore a light black cap, a jockey-coat, and carried a pole with at the top a hollow ball, in which he kept a hard-boiled egg and a little white wine, to serve as refreshment on his journey ; and this is supposed to be the origin of the footman's silver-mounted cane. The Duke of Queensberry, who died in 1810, kept a running footman longer than his compeers in London; and Mr. Thorns, in Notes and Queries, relates an amusing anecdote of a man who came to be hired for the duty by the Duke. His Grace was in the habit of trying their paces, by seeing how they could run up and down Piccadilly, he watching them and timing them from his balcony. The man put on a livery before the trial ; on one occasion, a candidate, having run, stood before the balcony. "You will do very well for me/' said the Duke. ". And your livery will do very well for me," replied the man, and gave the Duke a last proof of his ability by running away with it.

The sign in Charles-street represents a young man, dressed in a kind of livery, and a cap with a feather in it; he carries the usual pole, and is running; and beneath is " I am the only running Footman," which may relate to the superior speed of the runner, and this may be a portrait of a celebrity.

Kindred to the above is the old sign of " The Two Chairmen," in Warwick street, Charing Cross,* recalling the sedans or chairs of Pall Mall ; and there is a similar sign on Hay Hill.

* The old Golden Cross Inn, Charing Cross, stood a short distance west of the present Golden Cross Hotel, No. 452, Strand. Of the former we read: "April 23,1643. It was at this period, by order of the Committee or Commission appointed by the House, the sign of a tavern, the Golden Cross, at Charing Cross, was taken down, as superstitious and idolatrous."
In Suffolk-street, Haymarket, was the Tavern before which took place " the Calves' Head Club " riot.— See Vol. L, p. 27.

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: Tuesday, 26-Apr-2022 01:16:41 BST
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