A convenient pub

Sometimes your characters just need a drink or meal. Mine is about to go to the office of the London Times, trying to find out about recent legislation on gasworks in 1860. My character, Sergeant Slaughter, recently fired for insubordination, needs to know about reports on Parliament. I need to know what the place was like, the people, the buildings, etc.

Looking for the history of the London Times wasn’t an easy task. I did much better looking for the place, Printing House Square. I knew approximately where it was located, but it doesn’t show on the several maps I have of 1857 or 1860. But I found this map on Wikipedia, from 1886:

I was also able to find some etchings of the square at all those places that take public domain art and charge you for it, and a photograph at Lee Jackson’s brilliant online Dictionary of Victorian London.

And at that same site were several wonderful descriptions, this from a German observer in 1853:

The young reporters take the upper house, the old guard do duty in the House of Commons, whose sittings are longer, while its motions and speeches are of greater importance, and its debates more intricate. In either house it is a rule that reporters relieve one another by turns, from half-hour to half-hour. Mr. H., for instance, takes his seat at the commencement of the sitting with Mr. C. who comes next by his side. The first thirty minutes over, Mr. H. retires; Mr. C. takes his seat, and Mr. Ft. takes the place which has just been vacated by Mr. C. The summary-man takes a position in the rear. To-morrow evening the turn commences where it left off this night, so that each reporter has an equal share of the work.

Apparently the place was hard to find. From George Augustus Sala in 1859:

The best way to reach the office is to take any turning to the south side of London Bridge, or the east of Bridge Street, Blackfriars, and then trust to chance. The probabilities are varied. Very likely you will find yourself entangled in a seemingly hopeless net-work of narrow streets; you will be jostled into chandlers’ shops, vilified by boys unctuous, black, and reeking from the printing-machine; pursued by costermongers importuning you to purchase small parcels of vegetables; and, particularly after sundown, your life will be placed in jeopardy by a Hansom cab bouncing up or down the narrow thoroughfare, of course on its way to the “Times” office, and on an errand of life and death; the excited politician inside, frantically offering the cabman (he, even, doesn’t know the way to the “Times,” and has just asked it of a grimy cynic, smoking a pipe in front of a coal and potato shed) extra shillings for speed.

That’s so good that I may make Sala a character, hanging around the place and taking notes. Turns out he was quite a character, and even wrote a pornographic book at one point.

But I digress. Take a look at the Wikipedia map. There are two places on Printing House Lane that look to be marked as restaurants. Can I find out which restaurants, and whether one was there in 1860 for my character to have a beer?

I searched the words “Printing House Lane London pub”, and ended up at the wonderful pubwiki, where I’ve been before. Lists and lists of London pubs with who owned them when, if known. I know the parish is St. Ann’s from the larger version of the map, I know it’s near Blackfriars Bridge (where for some reason my characters always end up), and I know the street name. So that’s Printing House Lane, St. Ann’s Blackfriars.

I found one, called the Lamb & Lark. Run by either Alfred Munby (1857) or James Peal (1861)–I’ll have to do some more research. But it has an address: 5 Printing House Lane. Took me a minute to see the house numbers on the map above (they’re on the street–it looks like the 3-1/2 and 4-1/2 might be the number of floors). But there it is!

It’s always nice to find a place to have a drink after archival research. I think I’ll join Sgt. Slaughter in a pint.

 

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