Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Drinking and Drugs - Public Houses - Coaching inns

The Bull and Mouth inn, opposite the post-office in St. Martin's le Grand, formerly represented the eastern centre, as the Regent Circus did the Western, of the travelling world; but since the empire of iron roads, these vast caravansaries, where met and parted the migratory world of London, are shorn of their beams : the gilded bull over the gateway now laughs rather on the wrong side of his mouth; the Saracen's Head looks daggers from his eminence on Snowhill, as the railway "bus" gathers a load; the Swan with Two Necks discover to his sorrow that his crop might be better filled if he boasted but one; and the Spread Eagle looks as pitiful as as a carrion crow gibbeted over a barn door! But the tide of travel, no longer rushing through the gateway of the great London inns, is only more diffusive than before. The effect produced upon intercommunication by the now almost universal agency of steam has not merely facilitated travel but has created travellers. When time and space are literally anihilitated, and when, without labour or fatigue, we can breakfast at a not unreasonable hour in Bristol, arrive in London to lunch, and return again to Bristol to a six o'clock dinner, who would not see a little of the world?

The World of London, by John Murray, in Blackwoods Magazine, July 1841

see also Timbs' Curiosities of London - click here


Within the past twelve months the north side of Holborn has suffered a complete change; and now the last of its once famous coaching inns is about to be pulled down. A site for a further extension of the Prudential Assurance Company's offices was cleared by the demolition of Furnival's Inn and "Woods's" Hotel, both built about eight years ago, the former standing on the site of the block erected in Charles I.'s reign, the latter on the site of the Hall of the Inn. The demolition for the company's offices has embraced "Ridler's Hotel" which in the days of its chiefest fame as a coaching house was known as the "Bell and Crown," and had retained its pristine aspect of old-fashioned comfort, together with ye two quaint houses, with three shallow bayed fronts at the corner of Leather-lane. At the lane's opposite corner have just been erected new premises for a well-known company of outfitters. Next eastwards, a Great Western Railway Company's receiving office replaces the "Old Bell," distinguished by its courtyard surrounded with "galleries" and "boxes," and by ye coat-of-arms of Gregge of Bradley, Cheshire, and Starkye of Stretton, quartered, upon its red-brick front.
    . . . . . Then next next east stands the "Black Bull" of which the site is offered for sale, on a building lease. The "Black Bull" has upon its front a large and finely-executed sign of a black bull, somewhat out of proportion with the later fortunes of the hostelry, of which the inn yard was taken some years ago for the erection of tenements for the working classes. Its destruction will involve the disappearance of the last survivor of the old coaching inns in Holborn. 

Municipal Journal, established as "London", January 19, 1900