Friday 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.
At 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.