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The Bell, at the southern end of King Street, was a well-known tavern both before Pepys' time and for many years afterwards. Its location made it a convenient place to stay when visiting the royal palace or Westminster. It seems to have been more expensive than neighbouring taverns - for instance, in the 15th century it charged eight pence for a gallon of ordinary red or white wine when the normal price was six pence.
The Bell is known to have been in existence on this site in 1400 when its landlord was a Thomas Nightingale, and Sir John Howard stayed here in 1466. The inn appears on a survey of 1611 adjoining a tavern called The Sun, and it is also listed in the Vintners' Company Poll Tax of 1641.
The Bell was a favourite of Samuel Pepys and first appears in his diary on 6 March 1660 when he had a very tasty meal there (in his younger years Pepys ate out more often than he ate at home).
After Pepys' lifetime it became associated with Tory MPs (a club was founded here in 1710 for Tory Members of Parliament)and was a popular venue for various clubs and societies including Freemasons (who were just gaining acceptance in Sam's time).
The Bell was demolished in about 1750 as part of the general redevelopment when Westminster Bridge was built.
Unfortunately and confusingly, there was for some years TWO Bell Inns in King Street. This one gave its name to Bell Alley, which appears in contemporary maps. The Bell Inn that was further north along King Street gave its name to Bell Yard, and survived until about the 1890s when it was demolished and replaced by government buildings.
[Copied from Nix's annotation for 23 June 1660: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1660/06/23/#c5572 ]
"Then there was that other house in King Street, the Bell, upon which the diarist bestowed some of his patronage. On his first visit he was caught in a neat little trap. 'Met with Purser Washington, with whom and a lady, a friend of his, I dined at the Bell Tavern in King Street, but the rogue had no more manners than to invite me, and to let me pay my club.' Which was too bad of the Purser, when Pepys' head and heart were full of infinite business.' The next call, however, was more satisfactory and less expensive. He merely dropped in to see 'the seven Flanders mares that my Lord has bought lately.' But the Bell had a history both before and after Pepys' time. It is referred to so far back as the middle of the fifteenth century, and it was in high favour as the headquarters of the October Club in the reign of Queen Anne."
H. Shelley, Inns and Taverns of Old London (1908)
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.