Little slices of London's history

Chinese New Year, Horse and Dolphin Yard, and Bridgerton

Horse & Dolphin YardFriday the 12th of February saw the start of the Chinese New Year and, by happy coincidence, the street sign photos that I mentioned in my last post include one of Horse and Dolphin Yard. Yes, it’s the Year of the ox, not horse or dolphin, but this little alleyway is in the heart of London’s Chinatown and the sign shows the name in Chinese characters as well as English.

The yard takes its name from a coaching inn built in 1685 at the Macclesfield Street entrance to Horse and Dolphin Yard. The derivation of the name is unclear: the horse is a common emblem on tavern signs, nearly always either qualified, such as Trotting Horse, or in conjunction with something else, such as Horse and Groom. Dolphin is also not uncommon in signs, either as the friendly creature who brought luck to sailors, or as the dauphin, the eldest son of the king of France, but there is no apparent connection between horse and dolphin.

Horse & DolphinAt one point the inn was owned by bare-knuckle pugilist Bill Richmond, who bought the inn with his winnings from boxing. Richmond who was born into slavery in New York, caught the attention of Earl Percy, General of the British forces in New York during the American Revolution. Percy arranged for Richmond’s freedom, transportation to northern England, literacy education, and an apprenticeship with a cabinet maker in Yorkshire.

Richmond, who was selected to act as an usher at the coronation of George IV in 1821, is represented by Will Mondrich, the boxer in TV show Bridgerton.

The inn, rebuilt in 1890 and renamed The Macclesfield, was leased to a retired Dutch sea captain called Papa De Hem who ran it as an oyster-house. It was later renamed De Hems and now prides itself on being London’s only authentic Dutch pub, once used by Dutch sailors and and an unofficial headquarters of the Dutch World War II resistance.

4 responses to “Chinese New Year, Horse and Dolphin Yard, and Bridgerton”

  1. Despite knowing Chinatown well, I have no connection to offer on this occasion. I have never even been in the Dutch pub, though I have heard mention of it over the years. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Wow, Pete, that’s got to be a first! Thanks for the continued support. All the best, Elizabeth

  2. Horse and Dolphin – Equleus and Delphinus

    Star Constellation as depicted by Johannes Hevelius (published 1690)

    It appears London had four pubs with a ‘Horse and Dolphin’ connection

    Horse and Dolphin, Maxfield Street, near St. Ann’s, London 1737

    Black Horse and Dolphin, Mansfield Street, Soho, London 1765

    Dolphin and Horseshoe, Lamb’s Conduit Passage, Red Lion St., Holborn, London, 1765

    Horse and Dolphin, St. Martin’s Street, Leicester Square, London 1785

    1. Thank you for that. Always fun and interesting to see other connections.

About Me (and my Obsession)

My obsession with London street names began in the early 90s when I worked in the Smithfield area and happened upon Bleeding Heart Yard. In my wanderings around London, I kept adding to my store of weird and wonderful street names. Eventually it was time to share – hence my blog. I hope you enjoy these names as much as I do.
– Elizabeth


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