No. 600: Argyll Street, W1
The Argyll Arms, Argyll Street, London, W1. Photo © Roger Dean 2011
Fifty Years Ago – Walter Besant, 1890:
The Tavern! We can hardly understand how large a place it filled in the lives of our forefathers, who did not live scattered about in suburban villas, but over their shops and offices. When business was over, all of every class repaired to the Tavern. Dr. Johnson spent the evenings of his last years wholly at the Tavern; the lawyer, the draper, the grocer, the bookseller, even the clergy, all spent their evenings at the Tavern, going home in time for supper with their families. You may see the kind of Tavern life in any small country town to this day, where the shopkeepers assemble every evening to smoke and talk together. The Tavern was far more than a modern club, because the tendency of a club is to become daily more decorous, while the Tavern atmosphere of freedom and equality of all comers prevented the growth of artificial and conventional restraints. Something of the Tavern life is left still in London; but not much. The substantial tradesman is no longer resident; there are no longer any clubs which meet at Taverns; and the old inns, with their sanded floors and great fireplaces are nearly all gone. The Swan with Two Necks, the Belle Sauvage, the Tabard, the George and Vulture, the Bolt-in-Tun – they have either ceased their existence, or their names call forth no more associations of good company and good songs. The Dog and Duck, the Temple of Flora, Apollo’s Gardens, the Bull in the Pound, the Blue Lion of Gray’s Inn Lane – what memories linger round these names? What man is now living who can tell us where they were?