The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

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9 Annotations

First Reading

Nix  •  Link

The Bear --

Established 1319, demolished 1761.

There is a lengthy passage on the Bear in chapter 1 of Henry Shelley's "Inns and Taverns of Old London" which is at Project Gutenberg:…

It includes a discussion of the Bear's great antiquity (established by a man named Drinkwater!), a poem by John Suckling, several paragraphs on Samuel's visits, and an assignation between the Duke of Richmond and a royal mistress.

There is also a facsimile version of this chapter, including a picture of the Bear, at…

This chapter also deals with the more famous Southward inn, Chaucer's Tabard.

Glyn  •  Link

The Bear was in an ideal position in old London: it was at the foot of London Bridge at the beginning of the London to Canterbury road; it was the first place that you could catch sailing boats to Greenwich and the English Channel; and it was at the landing point for ferries from across the river. “Moreover, the shooting of the arches of the bridge was ordinarily such a perilous enterprise that the landlord of the Bear Inn derived no small part of his custom from half-drowned passengers whose boats had been swamped or overturned in the process.”

And – at least in Elizabethan times but possibly not in Puritan times - Southwark was the illegal, “red light” district of London, with lots of brothels (mostly on church-owned land!), bear-baiting pits, and theatres (including Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre). The Bear was within walking distance of all of these “attractions”.

Cornelius Cooke was the owner from 1648 onwards. Earlier during the Civil War he became a captain of a local militia, rising to the rank of Colonel in Comwell’s army. Although later a church warden, his nonconformist tendencies got him into trouble when he and a gang of others pulled down the altar rails for which he was put in the pillory and heavily fined. The curate claimed that the gang insisted on the curate giving them the sacrament sitting after 500 others had received it kneeling, and they told the curate that if he did not, they would drag him about the church by the ears. Sounds like the ideal temperament for a man who runs a pub!

Source: “Taverns and Tokens of Pepys’ London” (published in 1976) George Berry

Glyn  •  Link

Abraham Browne took over the Bear in late 1666 after the White Horse tavern in Lombard Street had burned down in the Great Fire, and of course Pepys had drunk in both of them (you have to admire his stamina).

Browne occupied the White Horse as early as 1641 - his first wife Penelope died in 1652 and he married again to Frances, having children by both wives.

It appears that Abraham was significantly older than his second wife Frances. On 8 March 1666 Sam wrote/will write after a visit to the White Horse: "Here by chance I saw the mistresse of the house I have heard much of, and a very pretty woman she is indeed, and her husband the simplest-looking fellow and old that ever I saw".

Sadly, Frances later drowned herself in the Thames by flinging herself from a window at the Bear as recorded by Pepys on 24 February 1667: "This night going through bridge by water, my waterman told me how the mistress of the Beare tavern, at the bridge-foot, did lately fling herself into the Thames, and drowned herself; which did trouble me the more, when they tell me it was she that did live at the White Horse tavern in Lumbard Streete, which was a most beautiful woman, as most I have seen. It seems she hath had long melancholy upon her, and hath endeavoured to make away with herself often."

Abrahame himself died in 1672 in Cheriton, Kent.

Source: “Taverns and Tokens of Pepys’ London” (published in 1976) George Berry

Pedro  •  Link

More on the Bear (Book of Days)

It was the house to which travellers resorted who wished to pass by water to Gravesend in the 'tilt-boats' which, in about two days, conveyed them to that—then—far-off locality. Of such convenience was this house to voyagers, that in 1633, when others were closed, this was exempted, 'for the convenience of passengers to Greenwich.'
The antiquity of the house is noted in a poem of 1691, entitled 'The Last Search after Claret in Southwark:'
We came to the Bear, which we soon understood,
Was the first house in Southwark built after the flood.'
It took its sign, doubtless, from the popular sport of bear-baiting, which was indulged in by the Londoners in the Southwark bear gardens, and the 'token' issued by one of the owners of this hostelry exhibits a chained and muzzled bear, as may be seen in our cut issued from the original in the British Museum. Cornelius Cook, who issued this coin, was connected with the parish of St. Olave's as early as 1630; he was a captain in the civic trainband, and afterwards a colonel in Cromwell's army; but at the Restoration he subsided into private life as mine host of the Bear, and took to the mintage of his own coin, like other innkeepers and traders.

Ric Jerrom  •  Link

"Old Abram Brown is dead and gone.." : nursery song/rhyme. I've never come across a convincing origin. Perhaps the larger than life landlord of the Bear?

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Bear (The) at the Bridge Foot, a celebrated tavern at the Southwark end of old London Bridge, on the west side of High Street. It was pulled down in December 1761, when the houses on the bridge were removed and the bridge widened. One of the earliest references to it is in the printed accounts of Sir John Howard, under 1463-1464.
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

You can see here an engraving from 1616 which shows a view as Pepys would have mostly seen it. It helps to click on it to enlarge it:…

The view is from Southwark looking north across the Thames to the City of London.
On the bottom left is the edge of Southwark Cathedral.
The "Bear" is the pale building next to London Bridge on the left of the road.
The large building on the other side of the Thames on the right is the Tower of London which is close to Seething Lane.
Tower Stairs were an important set of stairs to the river. They were adjacent to the Tower of London and they were to the east of London Bridge, therefore if you were travelling to places along the east of the Thames (e.g. Greenwich) by using Tower Stairs you would avoid having to pass through the narrow arches of London Bridge, where the fast flow of water through a narrow gap was always a risk. They were close to both the Tower and Seething Lane.

Note a couple of things about London Bridge: one is how narrow its arches are, which makes the passage of water difficult and risky -- people who dared to sail under it called the experience "shooting the Bridge".

Another point of interest unknowable these days is seeing the heads of executed criminals and traitors on long poles on the top of London Bridge gatehouse just by the "Bear".

But see how much undeveloped land was behind The City's Wall. Much of that would be housing and factories and market gardens in Pepys' day.

In the 1650s the Cavaliers wrote a ballad about sailing into exile from The Bear:

"Farewell Bridge Foot and Bear thereby,
And those bald pates that stand so high,
We wish it from our very souls,
That other heads were on those poles."

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.