Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Drinking and Drugs - Public Houses - The Crown, Cranbourn Street

Then let him go to the corner of Cranbourn Street and Charing Cross Road on which stands the group of buildings of which the Hippodrome forms a part. Let him walk a few paces up Charing Cross Road and he will find a public house. On the site of that public-house stood The Crown, an unpicturesque tavern which was in very fact the Mermaid of the period. Why when the Hippodrome came they changed the name of the hostelry, goodness only knows! Anyhow, The Crown that I knew and that was the meeting-place of all the young "daycadongs" in letters and painting in the 'nineties is no more. I can only tell you where it stood. The truth is it was a very ordinary public house of the richer kind, not at all like the smaller one across Shaftesbury Avenue in Soho of which George Moore wrote in Esther Waters. At its northeastern corner was its saloon bar, and in that bar after eleven o'clock and until half-past twelve, closing-time, one would find poets and painters, dramatists and ballet girls (of the more serious kind), critics and patrons, novelists and hangers-on of the arts. Do not think it was an ordinary saloon bar. One entered and the narrow space opened out and disclosed a bar-parlour. The bar itself flanked one of its sides. Prosperous cab-proprietors and bookmakers' runners and the males assistants at the neighbouring music-halls and theatres stood at that bar and drank. The patrons of whom I treat had nothing to do with them. My friends were of the intelligentzia; they talked learnedly about the ballet and Walter Sickert and the latest art movement in France and Edmund Gosse's last insincerity. There were settees round the wall and we sat on them and drink hot gin and water.

Grant Richards, Memories of a Misspent Youth, 1932