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Old Swan, Thames street : London coffee houses and taverns
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THE OLD SWAN, THAMES-STREET,
Was more than five hundred years ago a house for public entertainment : for, in
1323, 16 Edw. II., Rose Wrytell bequeathed " the tenement of olde tyme called
the Swanne on the Hope in Thames-street," in the parish of St. Mary-at-hill, to
maintain a priest at the altar of St. Edmund, King and Martyr, " for her soul,
and the souls of her husband, her father, and mother :" and the purposes of her
bequest were established ; for, in the parish book, in 1499, is entered a
disbursement of fourpence, " for a cresset to Rose Wrytell' s chantry."Eleanor
Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, in 1440, in her public penance for witchcraft and
treason, landed at Old Swan, bearing a large taper, her feet bare, etc.
Stow, in 1598, mentions the Old Swan as a great brew-house. Taylor, the
Water-poet, advertised the professor and author of the Barmoodo and Vtopian
tongues, dwelling "at the Old Swanne, neare London Bridge, who will teach them
at are willing to learne, with agility and facility."
In the scurrilous Cavalier ballad of Admiral Deane's Funeral, by water, from
Greenwich to Westminster, in June, 1653, it is said : —
" The Old Swan, as lie passed by,
Said she would sing him a dirge, lye down and die :
Wilt thou sing to a bit of a body ? quoth I,
Which nobody can deny."
The Old Swan Tavern and its landing stairs were destroyed in the Great Fire ;
but rebuilt. Its Token, in the Beaufoy Collection, is one of the rarest, of
Where the Fishmongers' Hall now stands, at the corner of London Bridge, there
was in olden times a very ancient tavern on the water side, of the name of the
Swan, which gave its name to the present Old Swan Pier.
So long ago as 1323 a woman named Rose Wrytell left in her will, " the tenement
of Old Tyme, called Ye Swanne, on the Hope in Thames Street," in the parish of
St. Mary-at-Hill, to trustees to maintain a priest at the altar of St. Edmund,
King and Martyr, " for her sowle, and the sowle of her husband, her father, and
mother." In the parish book, under date 1499, is entered a payment of fourpence,
" for a cresset to Rose Waytell's charitey."
In 1440 Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester (who was sentenced to do public
penance for witchcraft and treason, and to be banished to the Isle of Man),
landed at the Old Swan Stairs, carrying a large lighted taper, clad in a white
sheet and barefooted.
The Old Swan Tavern and its landing stairs were destroyed in the Great Fire of
1666, on the second day, but were afterwards rebuilt.
In the Beaufoy collection at the British Museum is one of the tokens issued by
the landlord of the Old Swan, and it is one of the rarest and largest among
them. Though the hurrying passengers to and from the steamboats now plying from
the pier pass by without one thought or the slightest notice, the Old Swan
Tavern is there all the same.
Lots of references are made to two sources on the
Edward Callows, Old London Taverns &
John Timbs, Club life of London Volume 2
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