A rather elegant pub stands in Cowcross Street, tucked away just north of Smithfield Market. It has a unique story to tell about its past. The earliest record of the tavern was in 1809 which would mean it was founded in late Georgian times.
Some time around 1820 George IV was gambling incognito at a cock-fight. Having lost all his money, he wanted to raise a small amount to return home and managed to persuade the landlord to take his watch as security. This was agreed and, on returning to the palace, the king sent a messenger to redeem the watch and, to show his gratitude, a document was issued permitting the licence to the pub ‘for ever’.
Above: The pawnbroker’s sign hanging outside the pub.
The pub is the only one in London to have a pawnbroker’s licence and the well-known sign of ‘three golden balls’ is to be seen hanging outside to this day. Whether anyone has tested the process recently – to see if the current publican is still prepared to issue money against an item of value like a watch – is not known.
The address of the tavern is 34-35 Cowcross Street, EC1. It stands on the north side of Cowcross Street, at the junction with Turnmill Street – just a short distance from the old Farringdon Underground Station and the newly-built Farringdon Station. The latter is a station on the Thameslink Line (between Brighton and Luton) but it will soon be opening as an additional pair of platforms on the Crossrail Line which we will have to get used to calling it by its new name of ‘Elizabeth Line’.