Some history of the Horse and Groom on Great Portland Street in Fitzrovia in London.


The Horse and Groom is located at 128 Great Portland Street and, as a result, forms part of the western boundary of Fitzrovia, the former Bohemian quarter nestled between Marylebone and Bloomsbury.

London : Map extract showing the location of the Horse and Groom on Great Portland Street in Fitzrovia [1894]
© Crown Copyright. Reproduced with kind permission of the National Library of Scotland under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

I have marked the location of the Horse and Groom on the above map extract published in 1894. At that time the building adjoined All Souls' School for Girls and Infants. Most of the school fronted Gosfield Street, formerly George Street, but the school also occupied No.126 Great Portland Street next door to the Horse and Groom. The first and second floor housed the head mistresses of the different departments, a curate living upstairs at the top of the building. Because there was no playground, the children used to march in pairs along Great Portland Street, round Langham Street and returning to the school by way of Gosfield Street.¹ In 1907 the schools were condemned as unfit and a new school building was built between Foley Street and Union Street, opening during November of the following year.² No.126 Great Portland Street was rebuilt in 1898, the upper elevation being in a Queen Anne revival style.

London : Philharmonic Hall on Great Portland Street in Fitzrovia [1917]
© Adolphe Augustus Boucher, Bedford Lemere and Company and reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

The site of another building marked on the 1894 map extract has seen considerable change over the years. On the map it is marked as St. Paul's Church. Designed by Stiff Leadbetter, it was also known as the Portland Chapel. When the building was prepared for demolition in 1906, an inscription on the clock proved that the church was erected by the Duke of Portland in 1764.³ Once cleared, a new concert venue, known as Saint James's Hall was erected on the site. This was a successor to a hall of the same name in Regent Street, a building demolished in 1905 for the Piccadily Hotel. The foundation stone was laid by the Lord Mayor of London on April 20th, 1907.⁴ They did not muck about in those days and the new hall, designed by Arthur Blomfield Jackson, opened twelve months later on April 25th, 1908.⁵ The building underwent some remodelling, and was redecorated towards the end of 1913, when new owners changed the name to the Philharmonic Hall.⁶ The BBC later occupied the hall. Today the building is known as Brock House and contains office suites.

The earliest development along Great Portland Street took place in the early 18th century at the southern end of the thoroughfare, then known as John Street. This commemorated John Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle. As development crept northwards, the thoroughfare north of Margaret Street was called Great Portland Street, the street names commemorating Margaret Cavendish Harley, wife of William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland. John Street was not merged with Great Portland Street until 1858, resulting in re-numbering of the properties. An early form of the Horse and Groom was previously No.50.⁷

London : The Tower on the corner of Westminster Bridge Road and Tower Street in Lambeth [c.1906]
© Photo taken by author on June 8th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

The frontage of the Horse and Groom is absolutely delightful. It has seen much change over the years, the pub having been rebuilt, remodelled, along with alterations for various owners. The site was leased in 1759 by the mason, George Mercer, to Philip Keys, a carpenter and builder. This was almost certainly a sub-letting of land owned by the Portland estate. The lease was for an inn with stabling and yard. Philip Keys was possibly responsible for some of the construction, though John Winstanley was the bricklayer. The house was not as wide as today's building as part of the site was a carriage way to the yard and stable block. It is thought that the sign was originally the New Inn when opened in 1761.⁷

Certainly, the tavern was known by the sign of the Horse and Groom by August 1763. On the 14th of September, landlord Philip Keys, appeared at the Old Bailey as prosecutor in a case against a widow named Ann Jourdan. The court recorded that "The prosecutor keeps the Horse and Groom in Portland Street." During the proceedings it was stated that when Ann Jourdan called for a pint of beer "she was observed by John Nesbit, who was there, to take a pint tin jack, and a knife, and conceal them under her clothes, and was stopped after she went out, and they were found upon her." One of the Jury, knowing the prisoner, said she was often out of her mind. As a result, she was acquitted.⁸

CAMRA's entry for the Horse and Groom on their What Pub? site states that the Horse and Groom is "said to date to 1792 when the Sun Fire Office records note a Mr. Davidson, victualler, in occupation." As can be seen from the Old Bailey records, the hostelry is some 30 years older than this suggested date. The Sun Fire Office records do indeed mention the name of Davidson as a victualler. However, the principal entry, dated September 3rd, 1792, seems to be for the shoemaker John Marson. Perhaps this marked a change of occupancy at the tavern.⁹ A will dated 1812 records a John Marson as victualler at the Northumberland Arms on Goswell Road at Clerkenwell, possibly the same publican.

The insurance records of the Sun Fire Office shows that the house was occupied by John Nicholas Lentz in July 1822. The victualler had married Mary Aburn Shayer earlier that year in January. It was his second marriage. He had married Elizabeth Millard at St. Martin's in the Fields, in June 1784. The couple had six children before her death in 1809. At that time the couple were living at No.2 Waterman's Court at Chelsea.¹⁰ It was at that address that John Nicholas Lentz was recorded as a musician.¹¹ Elizabeth Lentz did not live to see her son, George, sentenced to death in January 1814 on two counts of forgery and theft.¹² This was commuted to transportation for life. He was placed on the convict ship Indefatigable 2 and arrived in New South Wales in April 1815.¹³ Twenty-two years later he was granted a pardon after which he went on to become an architect in Sydney. His father, publican of the Horse and Groom in the early 1820s, died in 1826 at Church Street, Islington. By this time the Horse and Groom was being kept by Samuel and Mary Ann Walls. In January 1828 the couple faced a charge of assault, accused by Arran Coles, John Harris, a tailor, and William Spring, plumber, both of Great Portland Street.¹⁴

Timothy Fisher was publican of the Horse and Groom in April 1833. He appeared as a witness in a court case when John Barnett was charged with indecent assault on Charles White, aged 16, working as a pot boy at the public-house. Police-Constable John McGill was also called as a witness in the case, the details of which were not published in the press due to the gravity of the offence. Timothy Fisher was sentenced to two years' hard labour.

London : Meeting of the Borough of Marylebone Reform Association at the Horse and Groom on Great Portland Street [1839]
Extract from page 2 of "The Morning Advertiser" published on Friday May 10th, 1839.

By 1841 Timothy Fisher, along with his wife Ann, were running the Camden Arms on Great Randolph Street in Camden Town.¹⁵ Here at the Horse and Groom, John Woodyatt was mine host. He and his wife Ann had previously kept the Royal Oak at Lisson Grove before moving to the Devonport Arms on Somers Mews at Paddington. Ann Woodyatt died at the latter house in March 1839 so the move to the Horse and Groom may have represented a fresh start for the publican. However, he retained the lease of the Devonport Arms. This was determined within his will dated 1844, a document that reveals he also held the freehold of the Grapes Inn at Llangollen in Denbighshire.

London : Notice for an auction of the lease to the Horse and Groom on Great Portland Street [1839]
Extract from page 4 of "The Morning Advertiser" published on Saturday March 23rd, 1844.

The executors of the will of John Woodyatt, which included the brewer, Robert Banbury, instructed auctioneers to dispose of the lease for the Horse and Groom. The notice published in the Morning Advertiser shows that the house was free-of-tie and operating independently. The winning bid was probably placed by Samuel Blake as he was recorded at the premises shortly after this date. The premises may have featured a skittle ground but the old stables had fallen into disrepair by the 1840s and, towards the end of that decade the premises were rebuilt for Samuel Blake, the building extending across the old carriage way and fronted with a gault-brick façade.⁷

Born in 1791 at Thurlton in Norfolk, Samuel Blake was also proprietor of The Cally at St. Pancras. When he died in 1855 the Horse and Groom passed to his nephew, Samuel Riches, who had been running the house with his uncle for a number of years. Also hailing from Norfolk, Samuel Riches married Charlotte Grimes at Saint Giles In The Fields in December 1849. They would enjoy a highly successful business life together. When Samuel Riches died in 1880 his estate was considerable. At that time he and Charlotte were running the Coningham Arms on Uxbridge Road at Shepherd's Bush.

The reconstructed Horse and Groom, when little more than a decade old, had to be rebuilt again following a disastrous fire in March 1859. Three people lost their lives in the terrible conflagration.

Victorian Fire Engine
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

Samuel and Charlotte Riches had left before the dreadful fire. They had moved to the George and Dragon at Buckingham Place. The publican running the Horse and Groom in 1859 was James Price. He and his family managed to escape from the building but Robert Moon, the pot-man, aged 28, Sarah Jones, a servant, aged 25, and a lodger named Jasper Partis, aged 43, died in the fire. Several other people were seriously injured and had to be conveyed to the Middlesex Hospital. At the inquest on the following Wednesday afternoon the landlord deposed that he could not identify the bodies, as they were so much charred and burnt. He told the deputy coroner that the last time he saw his deceased lodger, Jasper Partis, was one o'clock on Sunday morning, the 6th of March, in his tap-room, and also his servant, Sarah Jones, who was cleaning out the tap-room at the same time. The pot-man had at that time retired to bed.

The brother of the deceased pot-man and sister of the lodger deposed to the identity of the bodies. The evidence, which was gone into at some length, went to show that at five minutes past three o'clock on Sunday morning, policeman 96E, saw smoke coming from over the house, rang the bell of the Horse and Groom violently, and sprung his rattle. The first policeman that came up was sent for the fire escape, which arrived a few minutes afterwards, and was the means of saving from the second floor window the lives of two men, one woman, and two children. At twenty-three minutes past three the first engine arrived, and was followed shortly after by several others in succession. Just about that time a loud crash of glass was heard, and man was discovered to have jumped out of a back-room window, and had fallen through a skylight. He was immediately rescued by Paul Girard, engineer of the Wells Street fire station, and sent away to the hospital.

Mrs. Jane Price, wife of the publican, deposed that at the time of the fire there were nine persons in the house, Mr. Price, herself, two children; Samuel, the barman; Sarah Jones, the servant; the pot-man Moon, and Partis and Cooper, lodgers. She told the deputy coroner and jury that the family slept at the front of the second floor. They occupied two rooms. Samuel slept on the same floor, and Jones, Partis, Cooper, and the pot-man slept on the floor above. She and her husband were the last to go up to bed, about one o'clock on Sunday morning. Partis and Cooper had gone up before, and they were not sober, Sarah Jones, after the gas was put out, went down to the cellar to turn the gas off at the meter, and she came up and said she had done it. James Price had previously turned the gas off upstairs. The landlady said that she was first awoke by a sense of suffocation, and the room seemed full of smoke. She said that her husband was very deaf so she shook him violently, and called out, "Oh, dear me, the house is on fire." He replied, "Oh, you are dreaming." She then heard a cracking noise as of wood burning and an alarm in the street, and on her husband jumping out of bed and opening the room door the staircase was in flames. He shut the door, and cried out, "For God's sake, put something on you and get to the window with the children." He then opened them, and screamed out "Fire, fire." They were almost suffocated with smoke, but could hear the springing of rattles and shouts of the people below, The escape appeared a long tine coming, but it did come, and the children were first taken, and then James and Jane Price were saved.¹⁶

After the fire was extinguished and the ruins had cooled sufficiently, a search was instituted by the fireman who found the body of Sarah Jones near the window of the middle room of the third floor. The body of Robert Moon was found in another room on the same floor. In the same room the body of the lodger, Jasper Partis, was discovered in a kneeling posture on the bed with his arms clasped around the bed clothes. The bodies of the unfortunates were placed in shells without delay, and were taken to the Marylebone workhouse, where they were viewed by the coroner's jury on Wednesday, and presented a frightful spectacle. After a number of witnesses had been examined, the deputy coroner recommended an adjournment of the inquest, as it was necessary to have a post-mortem examination of one of the bodies, as it was impossible at that time to determine whether death was produced by suffocation or otherwise, and also because the evidence of two persons who were the house at the time of the fire might be most valuable to enable them to elucidate the cause of the melancholy occurrence, but whose evidence could not be obtained as they were lying the hospital suffering from the injuries they had received.¹⁷

When re-examined James Price told the deputy coroner that a few days before the fire, on the 3rd of March, he had effected an insurance in the Sun Fire-Office for £1,300, a previous insurance existing in the Royal Exchange. The jury returned a verdict that the deceased persons were suffocated during the fire, but how such a fire originated there was no evidence. The jury, however, had no reason to believe that the fire was the result of any criminal act. They desired to express their high appreciation of the promptitude and courage displayed by Henry Mitchlin, the fire-escape conductor, the fire brigade, and the police.¹⁷

London : Notice for an auction of the lease and goodwill of the newly-built Horse and Groom on Great Portland Street [1860]
Extract from page 8 of "The Morning Advertiser" published on Monday January 16th, 1860.

The rebuilding of the Horse and Groom was conducted with some speed. Just ten months after the fire, an auction of the lease and goodwill of the newly-built public-house was being advertised. Robert Norrish may have been an interim licensee holder. In August 1860 the licence of the Horse and Groom was transferred from him to Charles Talbot. However, Norrish may have had his lease agreement terminated following a quarrel in the tavern on July 2nd that resulted in the death of William Allansby, a 36-year-old former steeplechase rider. His death was caused by a fractured skull. A man named John Field was taken into custody but was liberated when it was determined he was not the right man.¹⁸ At the inquest held in Marylebone Workhouse, the jury exonerated the landlord, believing he had done his best to prevent the fight. It was stated that, although the incident started in the pub, the cause of death did not take place there but in the street outside.¹⁹

London : Advertisement for Extra Dublin Stout by James Potter and Co. of Hemingford Road at Islington [1859]
Extract from page 3 of "The London Daily Chronicle" published on Saturday February 26th, 1859.

Dating from 1859, this advertisement shows that James Potter and Co. were attempting to break into the lucrative stout market. At the time of the above advert the business was based at the Huntingdon Arms on Hemingford Road, Islington. James Potter had earlier kept the Bakers' Arms at Warner Place on Hackney Road, Bethnal Green. The family, traditionally engaged in the grocery trade, were involved in a number of public-houses, including the Horse and Groom. It was his son, Alfred Potter, who kept the house during the early 1860s. Prior to moving to Great Portland Street, and despite his relatively young age, he had succeeded his elder brother as licensee of the Eight Bells, a pub next to Saint Alfege Church at Greenwich.

Bog Oak Tankard with carving based on the work of Lorenza Adelaide Percy [Courtesy of the Royal Collection Trust]
© Royal Collection Trust and reproduced with kind permission.

On June 5th, 1865, Alfred Potter, licensed victualler of the Horse and Groom married Lorenza Adelaide Percy at Marylebone Parish Church. She was the daughter of the noted artist Edward Lorenzo Percy. He was born in Dublin around 1797. He was admitted to the Dublin Society's Schools in 1810. Four years later he exhibited pen-drawings at the Hibernian Society of Artists. It was under the patronage of the Dublin Society that he gave instructions in pen-drawing. His work would form the basis of several important pieces. Courtesy of the Royal Collection Trust, the above photograph shows a bog-oak tankard made by West of Dublin. The carving is based on a drawing of Donnybrook Fair by Lorenzo Percy. The tankard was presented by the Marquess of Anglesey to King William IV.²⁰

After moving to London, Lorenzo Percy worked as a portrait artist. In the early 1850s he lived with his family at Great College Street. It was at that address that the census enumerator recorded the birthplace of daughter, Lorenza, as Kingstown, an earlier British name for Dún Laoghaire.²¹ In 1851 Edward Percy was involved in the commission by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to design a centrepiece based on illustrations of Alhambra for the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. The Alhambra Table Fountain was created by R. & S. Garrard [Goldsmith] and today forms part of the Royal Collection Trust.²²

By 1861 the Potter family had moved to a residence in Bolsover Street where Lorenzo was recorded as a professor in fine art.²³ With the house being in close proximity to Great Portland Street, this is almost certainly how the timelines of Lorenza Percy and Alfred Potter collided. Following their wedding, the couple only kept the Horse and Groom for a short period as Alfred died in April 1868. Lorenza was the sole beneficiary of a substantial will. The licence of the Horse and Groom was transferred to her on July 6th, 1868.²⁴

Bog Oak Tankard with carving based on the work of Lorenza Adelaide Percy [Courtesy of the Royal Collection Trust]
Digitised image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum and reproduced with kind permission.

In November 1869 Lorenza Potter re-married to the master mariner, Edward Wardle Holbrooke. Thanks to the National Maritime Museum's digitisation project, we can view the certificate of competency as second mate issued to Dublin-born Edward Holbrooke in September 1858. At the age of 15 he had been apprenticed in the Merchant Navy to serve on the Fortitude of Scarbro'. One of the things that Lorenza Potter and Edward Holbrooke had in common was that both of their fathers were artists. The mariner's father was the engraver John Holbrooke.

Listings in trade directories suggest that the licence of the Horse and Groom was retained by Lorenza Holbrooke. Her mother-in-law, Ruth, a widow, moved into the building, along with three of her children. Combined with live-in employees, William Pickett as barman, George Heritage as pot-man, and Elizabeth Jones as a domestic, it was a fairly full household.

Lorenza Holbrooke died in February 1874, the licence of the house passing to her husband. He remained at the helm until the mid-1880s. He re-married in 1884 to the widow Sarah Lydia Menthell but the couple divorced two years later, both accusing the other of abusive behaviour and violent conduct. The publican later emigrated to Australia where he died in March 1907.

Annie Marion Dewsbury was the landlady of the Horse and Groom by 1890. Born in Birmingham around 1834, she spent some of her formative years in Claines near Worcester. She married Richard Wheeler in 1857 but was a widow soon afterwards. She married again in December 1863 to Thomas Asbury Dewsbury who worked on the railways. They occupied premises on the High Street at Evesham where Thomas was a corn merchant. He would become a wine merchant in London, the couple successfully running the Equestrian Tavern on Blackfriars Road.

Thomas Dewsbury died in June 1886. Widow Annie, armed with a significant amount of money from her husband's will, moved to the Horse and Groom. In 1895-6 she instructed the architect William Henry White to design a new ground-floor frontage, along with a new bar interior. Other work included knocking some upstairs rooms together.⁷ For some reason, not after the alterations were completed, Annie Dewsbury removed to the Kensington Arms on Abingdon Road, the licence being transferred to her in January 1896.


Licensees of the Horse and Groom

1763 - Philip Keys
1792 - John Marson
1822 - John Nicholas Lentz
1826 - Samuel Walls
1833 - Timothy Fisher
1839 - George Wilder
1841 - John Woodyatt
1848 - Samuel Blake
1856 - Samuel Riches
1859 - James Price
1860 - Robert Norrish
1860 - Charles Talbot
1862 - James Potter & Co.
1868 - Lorenza Adelaide Potter
1874 - Edward Wardle Holbrooke
1890 - Annie Marion Dewsbery
1899 - Martin Scholles
1910 - Arthur Edward Romer
1915 - Louisa Romer
1921 - Nell Stuart Holland
1938 - Walter George Howes
1944 - Harold Arthur Clarke
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub. The dates of early licensees are sourced from trade directories, census data, electoral rolls, rate books and newspaper articles. Names taken from trade directories may be slightly inaccurate as there is some slippage from publication dates and the actual movement of people.

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"Yesterday evening an Inquest was held at the Horse and Groom, Great Portland Street, Portland Place, before Mr. Stirling and a respectable Jury, on the body of Mrs. Mary Horn, aged 43. It appeared from the evidence that the deceased was the wife of a professional gentleman, residing in Great Portland Street, and the mother of a family of children. She had been frequently visited with an aberration of intellect, and was at different periods placed in an asylum for lunatics. The fatal event occurred on Friday morning last after Mr. Horn had left home to attend to his professional duties. The unfortunate lady was discovered suspended to a rail of the bedstead with a silk scarf by one of her daughters, who gave an instant alarm, and her brother came to her assistance, and cut his mother down. Life was quite extinct. Verdict - "Temporary mental derangement."
"Coroner's Inquest"
The Morning Post : December 2nd 1834 Page 4

"The members and friends of Court Cavendish celebrated their second anniversary on Tuesday evening last, at the court-room, Horse and Groom, Great Portland Street, Marylebone. The room was tastefully decorated, and several members were attired in the costume and regalia of the order. The chair was occupied by P.C.R. Watson, and the vice-chair by C.R. Penny. After the removal of the cloth, the chairman gave the usual toasts, and congratulated those present on the harmonious and prosperous state of the order. The meeting was addressed also by P.D.C.R. Boyce, P.C.R. Phipps, Brothers Mathew, Lanens, and others. In the course of the afternoon, Brother Dunlap was presented by the chairman with a chased silver medal, as a testimonial from the court for his past services. Several excellent songs were sung; and shortly after twelve o'clock the chairman vacated his seat, and the meeting separated."
"Anniversary Of Court Cavendish"
Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper : August 1st 1847 Page 5

1. "Reminiscences Of A Head Mistress" : Marylebone Mercury; October 8th, 1932. p.5.
2. "All Souls' Church Schools" : St. Pancras Guardian and Camden and Kentish Towns Reporter; November 6th, 1908. p.8.
3. "Two Marylebone Churches Coming Down" : Marylebone Mercury; August 18th, 1906. p.4.
4. "Memoranda For The Coming Week" : The Graphic; April 20th, 1907. p.6.
5. "St. James's Hall - Successful Opening Performance" : The Stage; April 30th, 1908. p.15.
6. "St. James's Hall To Reopen With New Name" : London Daily News; December 3rd, 1913. p.3.
7. "Great Portland Street" Page 43 within Survey of London by the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London <>, Accessed June 10th, 2024.
8. "Ann Jourdan. Theft; petty larceny" within The Proceedings of The Old Bailey <>, Accessed June 11th, 2024.
9. "Insured: John Marson, the Horse and Groom, Great Portland Street, shoemaker" from the Collection of the Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Group held by London Metropolitan Archives <>, Accessed June 11th, 2024.
10. Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials for Chelsea and Kensington; June 11th, 1809.
11. "Court For Relief Of Insolvent Debtors" : Law Chronicle, Commercial and Bankruptcy Register; November 25th, 1813. p.5.
12. "George Lentz. Deception; forgery. 12th January 1814." within The Proceedings of The Old Bailey <>, Accessed June 11th, 2024.
13. "Details for the ship Indefatigable [2] [1815]" at Claim A Convict <>, Accessed June 11th, 2024.
14. "Middlesex Sessions Of The Peace" held by London Metropolitan Archives <>, Accessed June 11th, 2024.
15. 1841 England Census HO 107/683 : Middlesex > St. Pancras > Kentish Town > District 1, Page 15.
16. "Another Calamitous Fire In Great Portland Street" : Marylebone Mercury; March 19th, 1859. p.4.
17. "The Late Fire And Loss Of Life In Great Portland Street" : Morning Chronicle; March 19th, 1859. p.8.
18. "Police Intelligence" : West Middlesex Advertiser and Family Journal; July 14th, 1860. p.3.
19. "The Alleged Manslaughter In Marylebone" : London Morning Herald; July 11th, 1860. p.6.
20. Strickland, Walter George [1913] "A Dictionary Of Irish Artists" Dublin : Maunsel & Company Limited.
21. 1851 England Census HO 107/1497 : Middlesex > St. Pancras > Camden Town > District 7, Page 59.
22. "The Alhambra Table Fountain" at the Royal Collection Trust <>, Accessed June 12th, 2024.
23. 1861 England Census HG 9/70 : Middlesex > St. Marylebone > All Souls > District 14, Page 22.
24. "Licensed Victuallers" : The Era; July 12th, 1868. p.7.

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