National Puppy Day, leopards, and medicinal waters

Update: how could I forget to mention this? There is a Baskerville Gardens in Dog Lane.

Today is National Puppy Day, so naturally I’ve had to check, and while there’s no puppy street in London, never fear. We do have Dog Lane in Neasden, a Dog and Duck Yard in Bloomsbury, and a Dog Kennel Hill in East Dulwich.

Dog Lane takes its name from the Old Spotted Dog pub that stood at the end of the lane, but it may in fact have had nothing to do with dogs. Centuries ago signs were largely pictorial, to cater for a bit part of the population who may not have been able to read.

Shop and tavern signs were then often given nicknames that reflected public opinion on the merits, or at least representational accuracy, of the painter. For instance, one proud shopkeeper had a sign painted, showing a human leg with a garter and a star (possibly to reflect the fact that he had received the Order of the Garter). To his chagrin it was not long before he discovered that his sign was referred to as the Leg and Star.

So in this case, it is likely that the spotted dog may have been a leopard from from a family coat of arms.

Dog and Duck Yard almost certainly takes its name from an inn sign, which referred either to the more common form of duck hunting with guns and retrievers, or possibly from one of Charles II’s sports, known in 1665 as the ‘Royal Diversion of Duck Hunting’. The fun of this diversion was to throw ducks, often with pinioned wings, into a pond and watch them try to escape from the spaniels that were sent in after them.

By the beginning of the 19th century the pleasure of that type of duck hunting had begun to pall and the sport went out of fashion, leaving only the name (and, no doubt, generations of traumatized ducks) behind. There has been a Dog and Duck pub in Soho’s Bateman Street since 1734, built on the site of the Duke of Monmouth’s house, and there was once a notorious Dog and Duck tavern in the St Georges Fields area of Southwark.

At first, this tavern’s claim to fame was the medicinal waters nearby, recommended in 1771 by Dr Johnson.Just a few years later, however, its reputation was in decline and after spending some time as a favoured spot for criminals and prostitutes, it was finally closed permanently by magistrates in 1799.

The Royal Bethlehem Hospital, built on the site in the early 19th century, had associations with a different kind of ‘medicinal waters’. The original hospital, once located near Moorgate, was better known as Bedlam and patients who became violent were, among other carefully considered treatments, ducked in water.

Dog Kennel Hill does (probably) have a real connection with dogs in that Prince George of Denmark had kennels for his hounds here. However, there is also a theory that an earlier landowner (date unknown), one Monsieur de Canel, resided there, and Dog Kennel is a heavily anglicized version of his name.

One thought on “National Puppy Day, leopards, and medicinal waters

  1. beetleypete March 23, 2015 / 7:38 pm

    Being from South London, the only one I know well is Dog Kennel Hill. It is the site of Dulwich Sainsbury’s, and Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. So, thanks for the other ones Elizabeth.
    Best wishes as always. Pete.

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