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

Open location in Google Maps: 51.513588, -0.110565

11 Annotations

First Reading

Glyn  •  Link

23 mentions in the Diary from October 1660 to April 1669.

It was also used by the famous philosopher John Lock - he was almost exactly the same age as Pepys so perhaps they bumped into each other there a few times.

The Hercules Pillars was built during the reign of James I and stood on the south side of the road at Number 27 Fleet Street, nearly opposite St Dunstan's Church. The owner was an Edward Oldham from before 1657 to at least 1674.

There were some drinks sold here that even contemporary Londoners considered to be strange, for instance 'wormwood ale' and 'scurry grass ale'.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Literary History of the second Pillars of Hercules

Lacking the heritage of Our Sam or John Locke, the present Pillars of Hercules pub at 7 Greek Street in Soho must make do with more recent worthies ...

"Referred to by Charles Dickens in 'A Tale of Two Cities,' there has been a Pillars of Hercules on this site since 1733, the present pub dating from 1910, although it's stylised to look much older. ..."
-- Source:…

"A rather grand name for what is basically a tatty little old boozer, albiet a very likable one. ... Dickens referred to it in 'A Tale of Two Cities' and one of the characters from that book, Dr Manette, was celebrated by the naming of Manette Street -- the road at the side of the pub through the arch. ...

"[T]his place has a pleasantly scruffy feel. ... Literary lovies such as Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan ... were all once regulars here."


Grahamt  •  Link

Re: Wormwood ale:
Strange as it may sound, the use of Wormwood in drinks is quite common. The French name for wormwood is Absinthe, and the Italian is Vermouth: two very well known alcoholic concoctions.

Grahamt  •  Link

Perhaps "Wormwood Scrubs" was an area where wormwood grew, before they built the prison?
Here's why Wormwood ale existed:
"With the exception of Rue, Wormwood is the bitterest herb known, but it is very wholesome and used to be in much request by brewers for use instead of hops. "…

JWB  •  Link

Originally a German concoction specific vs. intestinal worms. Absinthe is an infusion of wormwood containing "tujone"-a habit forming, psychoactive substance. Vermouth contains no tujone.

Sjoerd  •  Link

Scurvy grass ale

This seems to have been not so very unheard of: sailors used it for treating scurvy, maybe they even took some with them on their voyages ?…

Nix  •  Link

From Henry Shelley's "Inns and Taverns of Old London”… --

By far the most outstanding feature of the Fleet Street of to-day is the number and variety of its newspaper offices; two centuries ago it had a vastly different aspect.

"From thence, along that tipling street,
Distinguish'd by the name of Fleet,
Where Tavern-Signs hang thicker far,
Than Trophies down at Westminster;
And ev'ry Bacchanalian Landlord
Displays his Ensign, or his Standard,
Bidding Defiance to each Brother,
As if at Wars with one another."

How thoroughly the highway deserved the name of "tipling street" may be inferred from the fact that its list of taverns included but was not exhausted by the Devil, the King's Head, the Horn, the Mitre, the Cock, the Bolt-in-Tun, the Rainbow, the Cheshire Cheese, Hercules Pillars, the Castle, the Dolphin, the Seven Stars, Dick's, Nando's, and Peele's.

Second Reading

Antiquarian  •  Link

This tavern is one of the many mentioned in Pepys' diary that are known to have issued contemporary trade tokens.

In the case of The Hercules Pillars two separate tokens are recorded. Firstly a brass farthing, possibly issued by the landlord John Symonds and his wife in the mid-1650s. The second token, a copper half penny, was issued in the name of a later landlord, Edward Oldham and his wife. This second token appears to date on stylistic grounds to the mid-1660s. Edward Oldham appears to have been the landlord of The Hercules Pillars from c.1657 to at least 1666. In the Hearth Tax return for the latter mentioned year Edward Oldham is recorded as occupying a property with 17 hearths close to St Dunstand's Church (which was on the opposite side of Fleet Street to The Hercules Pillars). Such a number of hearths appears to be a typical number for a larger sized London tavern of this period.

There is an image and description of the first of the above mentioned tokens on the following site; http://pepyssmallchange.wordpress….

Bill  •  Link

Locke the philosopher, in his letter of advice to a foreigner about visiting England, 1679, speaking of "the home-made drinks of England," says, "There are also several sorts of compounded ales, as cock-ale, wormwood-ale, lemon-ale, scurvy-grass-ale, college-ale, etc. These are to be had at Hercules' Pillars, near the Temple."
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.

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