Hercules Pillars, 27 Fleet street, St Brides EC4

St Bride pub history index

HERCULES PILLARS was another famous Pepysian house occupying the site of the present No 27, Fleet Street. It is mentioned in the reign of James the First, and subsequently its court was famous for its numerous taverns. Mrs. Evans, its proprietress. about 1736, reopened the celebrated Cuper's Gardens, at Lambeth, facing Somerset House, long a rival to Vauxhall, and was closed in 1753. Hercules Pillars Alley is still a small court by the side of No. 27, Fleet Street, but is without a name.” 

A listing of historical London public houses, Taverns, Inns, Beer Houses and Hotels in  St Brides,  London.

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Hercules Pillars Alley, on the south side of Fleet street, near St. Dunstan's Church, is described by Strype as " altogether inhabited by such as keep Publick Houses for entertainment, for which it is of note." The token of the Hercules Pillars is thus described by Mr. Akerman : — " ed. oldham at y hercvles. A crowned male figure standing erect, and grasping a pillar with each hand. — R, Pillers in fleet street. In the field, his half penny, e. p. o. " From this example," illustratively observes Mr. Akerman, " it would seem that the locality, called Hercules Pillars Alley, like other places in London, took its name from the tavern.

The mode of representing the pillars of Hercules is somewhat novel ; and, but for the inscription, we should have supposed the figure to represent Samson clutching the pillars of temple of Dagon. At the trial of Stephen Colledge, for high-treason, in 1681, an Irishman named Haynes, swore that he walked to the Hercules Pillars with the accused, and that in a room upstairs Colledge spoke of his treasonable designs and feeling. On another occasion the parties walked from Richard's coffee-house to this tavern, where it was sworn they had a similar conference.

Colledge, in his defence, denies the truth of the allegation, and declares that the walk from the coffee-house to the tavern is not more than a bow-shot, and that during such walk the witness had all the conversation to himself, though he had sworn that treasonable expressions had been made use of on their way thither.

Ed Oldham at Ye Hercules Pillers in Fleet Street, his halfpenny

Ed Oldham at Ye Hercules Pillers in Fleet Street, his halfpenny

The date of this piece is early ; as subsequently Edward Old ham issued an undated token " at ye Hercules pillers, in Fleet street." Oldham is named in the wardmote returns of licensed victuallers from 1657 to 1659 ; and among the free cooks from 1660 to 1680. The Hercules Pillars tavern was in repute among the bon-vivants of this period. Pepys frequently mentions it in his Diary, as a house to which he and his friends resorted. It stood on the site of the house now 27 in Fleet street. Hercules Pillars alley is still, de facto, opposite to Clifford's-inn passage, but without name. With the extinction of the tavern, the title of the neighbouring inlet of tenements seems also to have been forgotten

Robert Cole at the In Hercules Pillers in Fleet street, 1666, his halfpenny

Robert Cole at the In Hercules Pillers in Fleet street, 1666, his halfpenny

B1072. Obverse. Robert. Cole . at. the = A man firing a cannon. His  1/2
Reverse. In . Hercules . Pillars . in . Fleet. Street .1666. 1/2

There is also a reference to a token in the Beaufoy collection:

#488 Obverse. THE HERCULES PILLERS Hercules grasping two pillars.
Reverse. IN FLEET STREETE I. M. S., in the field.

The Hercules Pillars, was on the south side of Fleet street at  number 27, and near to St Dunstans Church.

There were 5 Hearths in 1664 and 17 Hearths in 1666 (paid by Edward Oldham). These were implicit in raising revenues, and continued being collected until 1689 to pay for the rebuilding of London after the great fire in 1666. An Edward Oldham is buried in St Dunstan in West on the 23rd June 1681.

Edward Oldham burial June 1681, noting Hercules Pillars

Edward Oldham burial June 1681, noting Hercules Pillars

The Hercules Pillars tavern was also a popular haunt of Samuel Pepys, as his diary entries show, between 1660 and 1669 .

11th October 1660 : “Here, in the Park, we met with Mr. Salisbury, who took Mr. Creed and me to the Cockpitt to see “The Moore of Venice,” ... From thence with Mr. Creed to Hercules Pillars, where we drank and so parted, and I went home.”

30th October 1660 : “In the afternoon, to ease my mind, I went to the Cockpit all alone, ..., I went to Mr. Crew’s, where I had left my boy, and so with him and Mr. Moore (who would go a little way with me home, as he will always do) to the Hercules Pillars to drink, where we did read over the King’s declaration in matters of religion, ...”

4th January 1660/61 : “After dinner Mr. Moore and I to the Theatre, where was “The Scornful Lady,” acted very well, it being the first play that ever he saw. Thence with him to drink a cup of ale at Hercules Pillars, and so parted.”

30th July 1661 : “So in Fleet Street I met with Mr. Salisbury, ... I took him to Hercules Pillars to drink, and there came Mr. Whore (whom I formerly have known), a friend of his to him, who is a very ingenious fellow, and there I sat with them a good while, and so home …..”

27th March 1663 : “Thence I to the Exchequer again, and thence with Creed into Fleet Street, and calling at several places about business; in passing, at the Hercules pillars he and I dined though late, ...”

29th October 1663 : “…Being wearied with looking upon a company of ugly women, Creed and I went away, and took coach and through Cheapside, and there saw the pageants, which were very silly, and thence to the Temple, where meeting Greatorex, he and we to Hercules Pillars, ... Thence I by coach home….”

21st June 1667 : “Thence homewards, calling at my Tailor’s to bespeak some coloured clothes, and thence to Hercules Pillars, all alone, and there spent 6d. on myself, and so home and busy all the morning. At noon to dinner, home….”

6th February 1667/68 : “At last I did find my wife staying for me in the entry; and with her was Betty Turner, Mercer, and Deb. So I got a coach, and a humour took us, and I carried them to Hercules Pillars, and there did give them a kind of a supper of about 7s., and very merry, and home round the town, not through the ruines; and it was pretty how the coachman by mistake drives us into the ruines from London-wall into Coleman Street: and would persuade me that I lived there.”

20th April 1668 : “Thence with Creed, thinking, but failed, of dining with Lord Crew, and so he and I to Hercules Pillars, and there dined, and thence home by coach….”

22nd April 1668 : “Up, and all the morning at my office busy. At noon, it being washing day, I toward White Hall, and stopped and dined all alone at Hercules Pillars, ...”

28th April 1668 : “Thence with Creed to Hercules Pillars by the Temple again, and there dined he and I all alone, and thence to the King’s house….”

1st May 1668 : “Thence I by coach to the Temple, and there set him down, and then to Sir G. Carteret’s to dine, but he not being at home, I back again to the New Exchange a little, and thence back again to Hercules Pillars, and there dined all alone, and then to the King’s playhouse, and there saw “The Surprizall…”

2nd May 1668 : “At noon with Lord Brouncker in his coach as far as the Temple, and there ‘light and to Hercules Pillars, and there dined, and thence to the Duke of York’s playhouse, at a little past twelve, to get a good place in the pit……”

13th May 1668 : “Thence, at noon, to Hercules Pillars, and there dined all alone, and so to White Hall, some of us attended the Duke of York…”

23rd June 1668 : “So I away with my wife and Deb., whom I left at Unthanke’s, and so to Hercules Pillars, and there we three supped on cold powdered beef, and thence home and in the garden walked a good while with Deane, ...”

31st August 1668 : “Up, and to my office, there to set my journal for all the last week, and so by water to Westminster to the Exchequer, and thence to the Swan, and there drank and did baiser la fille there, and so to the New Exchange and paid for some things, and so to Hercules Pillars, and there dined all alone, while I sent my shoe to have the heel fastened at Wotton’s, and thence to White Hall to the Treasury chamber, where did a little business, and thence to the Duke of York’s playhouse…..”

9th November 1668 : “So I staid about the Court a little while, and then to look for a dinner, and had it at Hercules-Pillars, very late, all alone, costing me 10d. And so to the Excise Office, thinking to meet Sir Stephen Fox and the Cofferer….”

18th November 1668 : “Lay long in bed talking with my wife, she being unwilling to have me go abroad, saying and declaring herself jealous of my going out for fear of my going to Deb., which I do deny, ..., and thence to Mr. Povy’s, but he at dinner, and therefore I away and walked up and down the Strand between the two turnstiles, hoping to see her out of a window, and then employed a porter, one Osbeston, to find out this Doctor’s lodgings thereabouts, who by appointment comes to me to Hercules pillars, where I dined alone, but tells me that he cannot find out any such, but will enquire further.”

23rd November 1668 : “I took up my wife and boy at Unthank’s, and from there to Hercules Pillars, and there dined, and thence to our upholster’s, ...”

9th December 1668 : “This done, and having spent 6d. in ale in the coach, at the door of the Bull Inn, with the innocent master of the house, a Yorkshireman, for his letting us go through his house, we away to Hercules Pillars, and there eat a bit of meat: and so, with all speed, back to the Duke of York’s house, ...”

20th January 1668/69 : “Thence to my wife at Unthanke’s, and with her and W. Hewer to Hercules Pillars, calling to do two or three things by the way, and there dined, and thence to the Duke of York’s house, ...”

10th February 1668/69 : “Thence to Hercules Pillars, and there my wife and W. Hewer and I dined, and back to White Hall, where I staid till the Duke of York come from hunting, which he did by and by, ...”

12th February 1668/69 : “….and so away vexed, and called my wife, and to Hercules Pillars, Tom and I, there dined; ..."

22nd February 1668/69 : “After the play done, we met with W. Batelier and W. Hewer and Talbot Pepys, and they follow us in a hackney-coach: and we all stopped at Hercules’ Pillars; and there I did give them the best supper I could, and pretty merry; and so home between eleven and twelve at night, ...”

21st April 1668/69 : “This we were discoursing when my boy comes to tell me that his mistress was at the Gate with the coach, whither I went, and there find my wife and the whole company. So she, and Mrs. Turner, and The., and Talbot, in mine: and Joyce, W. Batelier, and I, in a hackney, to Hyde Park, ... So I carried them all to Hercules-Pillars, and there did treat them: and so, about ten at night, parted, and my wife, and I, and W. Batelier, home; and he gone, we to bed.”

30th April 1668/69 : “At noon my wife come to me at my tailor’s, and I sent her home and myself and Tom dined at Hercules’ Pillars; and so about our business again, ...”

And Last updated on: Monday, 20-Nov-2023 13:08:34 GMT