Pub history and London

Dr Butlers Head Tavern, 5 Masons Avenue, St Michael Bassishaw

St Michael Bassishaw index

A pub was first established here in 1610, with Dr Butler acquiring the site in 1616.  ** Masons avenue is closer to Basinghall street than Moorgate street. The early address in 1851 is at White Rose court. This is confirmed by the fact that Charles Cowney is here from at least 1848 until hi death in 1883. The Great Bell alley Dr Butlers Head is at Telegraph street. The modern address is at 2 Masons Avenue, Moorgate, London EC2V 5BT; a Shepherd & Neame pub in 2007; and is a grade 2 listed building.

When M. le Due de Sully informed his Royal master, Henri Ouatre, King of France and Navarre, that James I. of England was the " wisest fool in Christendom," he was just a trifle severe. King Jamie was no doubt somewhat pedantic and eccentric in many of his ways, but he had wit enough to smell sulphur and saltpetre in the anonymous letter received by Lord Monteagle, and got the cue to checkmate Messrs. Guido Fawkes, Catesby, and Co. in carrying out their little game of "high, sky high." He evinced no lack of sagacity when he selected Dr. William Butler to be his medical adviser, notwithstanding his never having taken the degree of M.D. William Butler was born at Ipswich in 1515, and, though he held no diploma, was called not only Dr. Butler even by his brother medicos, but also the " modern Esculapius," and he was summoned to attend the King's eldest son, Arthur Prince of Wales, in his last illness. He it was who had the temerity to pronounce it as his firm conviction that his Royal patient was the victim of conspiracy, and had been poisoned — an opinion which, though disputed by some of the other medical men, was never refuted, notwithstanding that a rigid though private investigation into the whole matter was made. Evidently the King did not disapprove of the boldness of the doctor, as he not only continued his patronage, but visited the doctor at his own house long after Prince Arthur was dead and buried.

Medical men in the times of the Tudors and Stuarts had methods of treating their patients somewhat different from the practice now. It is related that on one occasion, when the doctor lived in a house on the banks of the Thames, a patient suffering from ague was brought in a boat beneath his window overlooking the river, for him to prescribe for. He sent down two of his men-servants — strong, lusty fellows — who, at a signal from him, and while he was diagnosing the case, plunged the patient into the river, and then pulled him out.
So great was the surprise — not to say fright of his sudden and unexpected bath that it cured him of his ague, which never returned. Dr. Butler invented a particular brew of ale, that went by his name and became quite a fashionable drink. He established a number of houses or taverns for its sale in various parts of London and of the country, too, to all of which he gave the name of " Dr. Butler's Head." The taste for this ale continued in vogue long after the doctor's death in 1618.
The taverns either closed altogether when the fashion for imbibing that particular brew of beer died out, or their proprietors changed the sign of their houses, and adopted other names, for all, with one notable exception, have long since disappeared and, like " the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a wrack behind." The one Dr. Butler's Head that has survived was established in 1616, two years before his death, and is now a flourishing tavern and first-class restaurant in what is now called Masons' Avenue, but was in years gone by known as Rose Court, leading from Coleman Street to Basinghall Street. As a midday dining or luncheon house it is second to none in the city, notwithstanding the fact of its being quite destitute of encaustic tiles, large mirrors, and the usual decorations now so much the rule in such establishments. Its deficiency in costly embellishments is far from being a detriment, for everything connected with the service of the table is sa/is rip/Vc/zr, and the cuisine most excellent. That these are fully appreciated is shown by the fact that the majority of its patrons are regular customers. No higher commendation is possible.

Next door is another tavern, where not only dining but sale rooms are attached, wherein taverns and public-houses and such-like are disposed of by auction " under the hammer." It is known as " Masons' Hall," and gives its name to the alley or Avenue.

A listing of historical London public houses, Taverns, Inns, Beer Houses and Hotels in  St Michael Bassishaw parish, City of London. The St Michael Bassishaw, City of London Public House Trade Directory uses information from census, Trade Directories and History to add licensees, bar staff, Lodgers and Visitors.

Ye Olde Dr Butlers Head, Masons Avenue - in January 2007

Ye Olde Dr Butlers Head, Masons Avenue - in January 2007

Kindly provided by Stephen Harris

The following entries are in this format:

Year/Publican or other Resident/Relationship to Head and or Occupation/Age/Where Born/Source.

1616/Dr William Butler/../../../.. **

1839/William Adams Larby/Dr Butlers Head, 5 Whiterose Court, Coleman Court/../../Pigot’s Directory **

1843/William Whithurst/Dr Butlers Head Tavern, 5 White Rose Court, Coleman Street/../../Post Office Directory

1848/Charles Cowney/Dr Butlers Head Tavern, 5 White Rose Court, Coleman Street/../../Post Office Directory

1851/Charles Cowney/Dr Butlers Head Tavern, 5 White Rose Court, Coleman Street/../../Kellys Directory

1851/Charles Cowney/Tavern Keeper/39/Hampton, Middlesex/Census
1851/Eliza Cowney/Wife/45/Putney, Surrey/Census
1851/Eliza Cowney/Daughter/12/East Sheen, Surrey/Census
1851/Ann Cowney/Daughter/7/Putney, Surrey/Census
1851/Timothy Fisher/Nephew/20/Putney, Surrey/Census
1851/Ann Wright/Servant/24/Basingstoke, Hampshire/Census
1851/Eliza Ellis/Servant/21/St Pancras, Middlesex/Census
1851/James Rudford/Servant/21/City of London/Census
1851/John Rudford/Servant/17/City of London/Census
1851/Johnson Tubb/Servant/17//Census

1856/Charles Cowney/White Rose Court/../../Land Tax Records

1869/Charles Cowney/../../../Post Office Directory

1874/Chas Cowney/../../../Licensed Victualler & Hotelier Directory

1881/Charles Cowney/Licensed Victualler, Widow/68/Hampton, Middlesex/Census
1881/Eliza F Cowney/Daughter/40/East Sheen, Surrey/Census
1881/Elizabeth Cowney/Sister/65/Hampton, Middlesex/Census
1881/Mary Carter/Friend/74/Hammersmith, Middlesex/Census
1881/Jane M Byrne/Housekeeper, Widow/40/Cheltenham, Gloucester/Census

1882/Chas Cowney/../../../Post Office Directory

1884/Charles Cowney/../../../Post Office Directory

September 1883/The Will with a Codicil of Charles Cowney late of "Doctor Butler's Head" Tavern 5 Masons avenue Coleman street in the City of London Tavern Keeper who died 22 July 1883 at the "Doctor Butler's Head" was proved at the Principal Registry by Eliza Fisher Cowney of "Doctor Butler's Head" Spinster the Daughter and Thomas Adolphus Amos of Rosslyn grove Hampstead in the County of Middlesex Esquire the Executors. Personal Estate £4,167 18s 11d

1899/George Goetz/../../../Post Office Directory

1921/Hy T Packman/../../../Post Office Directory

1938/Pimms Ltd/../../../Post Office Directory

1944/Pimms Ltd/../../../Post Office Directory


** Provided By Stephen Harris

References :  Lots of references are made to two sources on the internet archive :
Edward Callows, Old London Taverns &

And Last updated on: Monday, 11-Feb-2019 15:22:31 GMT