Gin, lions, and the Black Prince

According to that hugely fun website, Party Excuses, today is National Gin Day (World Gin Day is June 14), and an 18th-century act, which had its own effect on London’s street names, features in our post that includes Black Lion Lane.

Following on from an act of 1736 that imposed phenomenal fines on licences for drinking houses, there was The Sale of Spirits Act 1750 (commonly known as the Gin Act 1751), which effectively restricted the distribution of gin to larger distillers and retailers.

Other, less drastic, methods of attempting to curb gin drinking were to smooth the passage of the import of tea, and encouraging men to drink beer.

So, after all that discussion about black being a popular colour for taverns, it seems that, though there was a Black Lion inn recorded in the lane in 1668, it was probably a heraldic reference to Philippa of Hainault, queen of Edward III; her coat of arms includes black lions.

Philippa was mother of Edward, the Black Prince who gave his name to Black Prince Road in Lambeth and who, having predeceased his father by one year, has the unenviable claim of being the first English Prince of Wales not to become King of England.

Edward, whose name is likely to have come from the colour of his armour, makes an appearance as Sir William Colville in the movie A Knight’s Tale, though historical accuracy takes second place to drama.

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