Esoteric London

No. 655: Euston Road, NW1

Posted in London Types, Pubs by esotericlondon on August 31, 2012

Euston Road, London, NW1. Photo © Roger Dean 2012

Old and New London: Volume 4 – Edward Walford, 1878:

Charles Street and Hill Street, both on the western side of the [Berkeley] square, are handsome thoroughfares; and the houses in both have always been tenanted by the highest and noblest families. In Hayes Mews, running northwards between these two streets, there is a public-house bearing the sign of the ‘Running Footman,’ much frequented by the servants of the neighbouring gentry. Upon the sign-board is represented a tall, agile man in gay attire, and with a stick having a metal ball at top; he is engaged in running, and underneath are the words, ‘I am the only running footman.’ […]. It is obvious that the very word ‘footman,’ still in constant use for a man-servant, implies the original purpose for which such a servant was kept—namely, to run alongside his master’s carriage.

Chambers tells us in his Book of Days, that the custom of keeping running footmen survived to such recent times that Sir Walter Scott remembered seeing the state-coach of John, Earl of Hopetoun, attended by one of the fraternity, ‘clothed in white, and bearing a staff.’ It is believed that the Duke of Queensberry—the ‘Old Q.’ […]—who died in 1810, kept up the practice longer than any other of the London grandees; and Mr. Thoms tells an amusing anecdote of a man who came to be hired for the duty by that ancient but far from venerable peer. The duke was in the habit of trying the pace of candidates for his service by seeing how they could run up and down Piccadilly, watching and timing them from his balcony. They put on a livery before the trial. On one occasion, a candidate presented himself, dressed, and ran. At the conclusion of his performance he stood before the balcony. ‘You will do very well for me,’ said the duke. ‘And your livery will do very well for me,’ replied the man, and gave the duke a last proof of his ability as a runner by then running away with it.

[ I am the Only Running Footman, to give the pub its full name, is still serving drinks to this day from its ground floor bar and fine food from its upstairs restaurant. You can visit the pubs website by clicking here. R.D.]

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