I saw this sign on an office building on Fleet Street in London, and was intrigued.
You don’t see pubs called “The Devil” much these days, even though Britain is actually much less religious now than it was in the 18th century.
How did this long-gone boozer get its distinctive name? Well, it was originally called “The Devil and St Dunstan”, but St Dunstan got dropped. Samuel Pepys mentions the Devil Tavern several times in his diaries.
Here’s a bit on the history of the pub:
The noisy “Devil Tavern” (No. 2, Fleet Street) had stood next the quiet goldsmith’s shop ever since the time of James I. Shakespeare himself must, day after day, have looked up at the old sign of St. Dunstan tweaking the Devil by the nose, that flaunted in the wind near the Bar. Perhaps the sign was originally a compliment to the goldsmith’s men who frequented it, for St. Dunstan was, like St. Eloy, a patron saint of goldsmiths, and himself worked at the forge as an amateur artificer of church plate. It may, however, have only been a mark of respect to the saint, whose church stood hard by, to the east of Chancery Lane.
Quotation from: ‘Fleet Street: General Introduction’, Old and New London: Volume 1 (1878), pp. 32-53. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=45023 . Date accessed: 04 June 2007.
In the November 1854 edition of Fraser’s Magazine, there is a fascinating article called simply “London Stout”. It paints a vivid picture of how a mid-Victorian London pub would have looked:
One of the earliest things to strike our country cousins is the universal appearance of the names of certain firms, painted in the largest letters upon the most florid backgrounds of the numerous public house signs of the metropolis. “What does ‘Reid’s Entire’ mean?” asked a fair friend of ours the other day, looking up with her brown eyes as though she had asked something very foolish, and pointing to the puzzling inscription on a neighbouring signboard.
Later, the writer describes a street porter-seller “with his little rack of quart mugs brimmed with the frothy liquid, or rattling the shiny pots against the rails by their suspended strap”.
The best section, to my mind, is a detailed description of the interior of the brewery of Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and Co at Spitalfield, East London.
After the process of mashing the wort is pumped up into a large copper, of which ther are five, containig from 300 to 400 barrels each, where the wort is boiled with the hops, of which often two tons are used in a-day. The boiling beer is now pumped up to the coolers. To get a sight of these the visitor has to perform a climbing process similar to that required get at the upper gallery of St Paul’s, and, when he has reached the highest point ladders are capable of taking him, he finds his nose on a level with a black sea, whose area presents a surface of 32,000 square feet.
Photo adapted from an original by , and used at the Wikipedia article on the Black Eagle Brewery, on Brick Lane.
On June 12 1841, The Times ran a story about how the duke of Wellington was greeted by the staff and management of the famous India pale ale brewery at Wapping.
On Monday last (says a correspondent) during the aquatic procession of the Trinity Board on the river, the firm of Hodgson and Abbot, pale ale brewers in Wapping, adopted a novel mode of complimenting the Duke of Wellington, Master of the Trinity-house, as he passed their premises on his way to Deptford to be sworn in according to the annual custom for the ensuing year. The river frontage was decorated with flags and banners from the corners of which hung bottles of India pale ale.
A Party of Conservative gentlemen in the drawing-room [of the brewery]… drank the health of his Grace when the shallop in which he was seated was opposite the window… in Herculean glasses of strong pale ale, each holding a bottle and a half, and his grace appeared much pleased with the compliment, and bowed to the gentlemen assembled.
Those glasses sound cool. How strong was the strong ale…?
This advertisement from 1905 is for beer in stoneware jugs. The distributors, based in South Tottenham, London, promised to deliver a minimum of six jugs to your house in their Own Vans. I love that they claim “Ladies prefer it”, and that the “medical profession” supports it.
I also find myself eager to try their Extra Nourishing Stout.
We found another book that mentions Pimlico Ale, which I spoke about in this post a few days ago.
William Carey, in his weird, limited edition history of the area, published in 1986, writes:
The most popular ale drunk in London between 1570 and 1700 was ‘Pimlico Ale’ otherwise known as ‘Derby Red Cap’ from the pink tinge of its frothy head. At first produced only in Derbyshire at a farm location named “Pimlico”, it was brought to London in huge barrels down the Watling Way.
This is very interesting. What makes the head pink/red? Fruit could, but the head on some imperial stouts is reddish brown. More research needed – in books on Derbyshire, perhaps…?