Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
Its sign may have been a copy of the three cranes or storks of the Poulters
And as the tavern was on the street known as "Poultry" one can see why this would have been appropriate. It's likely that they would have been selling chickens, ducks, geese etc from stalls right outside the tavern.
Until it moved the tavern was in Upper Thames Street (Warrington).
There was a “Three Cranes” in Paternoster Row…
'Lost upon the 13th inst., a little blackamoor boy in a blew livery, about 10 years old, his hair not much curled, with a silver collar about his neck, inscribed "Mrs. Manby's blackamoor, in Warwick Lane." Whoever shall give notice of him to Mrs. Manby, living in the said lane, or to the "Three Cranes," in Pater-Noster Row, shall be well rewarded for his peynes.'—1664.
Curious advertisements, the Book of Days.
N.B. Cranes at the Stocks? so sayeth the diary
Henry Shelley's "Inns and Taverns of Old Londoner" (http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/6699/pg6699...) mentions Samuel dining (badly) at a Three Cranes Tavern in the Vintry (the wine merchants' dock) on Upper Thames Street, but no mention of an establishment in the Poultry --
Within easy distance of Eastcheap, in Upper Thames Street, which skirts the river bank, there stood, in Shakespeare's day and much later, a tavern bearing the curious name of the Three Cranes in the Vintry. John Stow, that zealous topographer to whom the historians of London owe so large a debt, helps to explain the mystery. The vintry, he tells us, was that part of the Thames bank where "the merchants of Bordeaux craned their wines out of lighters and other vessels, and there landed and made sale of them." He also adds that the Three Cranes' lane was "so called not only of a sign of three cranes at a tavern door, but rather 'of three strong cranes of timber placed on the Vintry wharf by the Thames side, to crane up wines there." Earlier than the seventeenth century, however, it would seem that one crane had to suffice for the needs of "the merchants of Bordeaux," and then the tavern was known simply as the Crane. Two references, dated respectively 1552 and 1554, speak of the sign in the singular. Twenty years later, however, the one had become three.
Ben Jonson, whose knowledge of London inns and taverns was second, only to that of Pepys, evidently numbered the Three Cranes in the Vintry among his houses of call. Of two of his allusions to the house one is derogatory of the wit of its patrons, the other laudatory of the readiness of its service. "A pox o' these pretenders to wit!" runs the first passage. "Your Three Cranes, Mitre, and Mermaid men! Not a corn of true salt, not a grain of right mustard amongst them all." And here is the other side of the shield, credited to Iniquity in "The Devil is an Ass":—
"Nay, boy, I will bring thee to the bawds and roysters At Billingsgate, feasting with claret-wine and oysters; From thence shoot the Bridge, child, to the Cranes in the Vintry, And see there the gimblets how they make their entry."
Of course Pepys was acquainted with the house. He had, indeed, a savage memory of one meal under its roof. It was all owing to the marrying proclivities of his uncle Fenner. Bereft of his wife on the last day of August, that easy-going worthy, less than two months later, was discovered by his nephew in an ale-house, "very jolly and youthsome, and as one that I believe will in a little time get him a wife." Pepys' anticipation was speedily realized. Uncle Fenner had indulged himself with a new partner by the middle of January, and must needs give a feast to celebrate the event. And this is Pepys' frank record of the occasion: "By invitation to my uncle Fenner's, where I found his new wife, a pitiful, old, ugly, ill-bred woman, in a hatt, a midwife. Here were many of his, and as many of her relatives, sorry, mean people; and after choosing our gloves, we all went over to the Three Cranes taverne, and (although the best room of the house) in such a narrow dogg-hole we were crammed, (and I believe we were near forty) that it made me loath my company and victuals; and a sorry, poor dinner it was."
In justice to the Three Cranes, Pepys must not be allowed to have the last word. That particular dinner, no doubt, owed a good deal of its defects to the atmosphere and the company amid which it was served. At any rate, the host of the Black Bear at Cumnor—he of Sir Walter Scott's "Kenilworth"—was never weary of praising the Three Cranes, "the most topping tavern in London" as he emphatically declared.
"Madeira for the Lawyers, Absinth for the Inns of Court."
Popular local phrase illustrating the illicit deliveries of strong drink after dark by small boat into the Temple and thus avoiding the duty. This was carried up the wet steps from the river and handed to figures in dark doorways.
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