A NEW BOOK ABOUT LONDON

Leopold Wagner

London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd: 1921
Chapter II: The Same Subject - Further Afield: Pages 58-60

Few historic hostelries within easy reach of the City have preserved their pristine freshness like "Ye Olde Spotted Dog" at Forest Gate. This picturesque, ivy-mantled wooden fabric, with gables, appears very much to-day as when Daniel Defoe referred to it in his History of the Plague. Hither, during the prevalence of that dreadful scourge, came the citizens to encamp in the fields round about, and again after the Great Fire had devastated London in the following year. But we can go even further back than the Restoration period to associate the Spotted Dog with Old England. A large painting on the west wall of the public bar, which, if cleansed, would reveal the arms of the City Corporation and the date 1603, is a memorial of the meetings of merchant princes for eight years continuously while an earlier plague carried off thirty thousand souls. This gift to the house invested it with certain pre-War privileges never enjoyed by innkeepers, notably the option of refusing refreshment or accommodation to bona fide travellers. Stretching along the east wall is the largest and queerest fire-place imaginable. In front of it the Merry Monarch and his courtiers toasted their feet when they came to visit the homeless citizens close by. The oak rafters and cross beams are black with age. Two wooden steps lead down to the sanded bar, and the saloon and parlour in the gable ends have very low ceilings. A peculiar significance attaches to the absence of a cellar, all casks having to be stored in the basement of the modern domicile built at the rear. The grounds embraced in the property are of great extent, most of them being given up to Saturday sport, when the acclamations of enthusiastic spectators make the welkin ring.

The Spotted Dog was not at first a wayside inn ministering to the wants of the inner man. Far from it. To the intense regret of everyone acquainted with its history, a huge barn-like structure in the vegetable garden running northwards at the bend of Upton Lane has of late years been wantonly sacrificed by the new proprietors in the interests of a great bottling store. This anciently enclosed the kennels for a pack of Royal hounds. When Henry VIII followed the chase in Epping Forest, he, after crossing the river from Greenwich Palace, took up the hounds here at Upton, about a mile from the toll-gate which less than two decades ago gave the name of Forest Gate to a new residential district, and much the same distance from Boleyn Castle, the ancestral home of his ill-fated Queen, which now houses the Upton Park Social and Sports Club. Accordingly, the Spotted Dog constituted the residence of the Master of the Hounds, and, like many a "Green Man" denoting the domicile of the head gamekeeper on a nobleman's estate, he enjoyed the privilege for personal profit of refreshing travellers who came that way. On this account, and the part played by it in English History, the house stands alone among the inns of the country at large as having its licence direct from the Crown. A primitive bell outside the public-bar entrance is possibly the identical one rung by the earliest guests. Until June 1913, when the freehold of the property was knocked down at auction to a well-known brewery firm for £20,100, it had been in the possession of the Vause family for a hundred and fifty years. All things considered, the Spotted Dog is the most captivating "house of call" in the environs of the Great City.