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a tale of Restoration intrigue by

Molly Brown


The gardens of Holborn grew a wide variety of herbs and flowers: musk, roses, spurge olive, monk's privet, dogsbane, balsam and thorn-apple. Carrots and cabbage grew wild.

Situated between the city and open countryside, the area was known for its many coaching inns.

Harrison, A Description of England, 1577:

Travels in England, by Thomas Plater, 1599:

Fynes Morrison, Itinerary, 1617:

The Journeys of Celia Fiennes, in 1697 and 1698 (writing about an inn in Buxton which wasn't very good):

Behind the Red Lion Inn, a well-known hostelry in Holborn, were open fields known as Grays Inn Fields, comprising Red Lion Fields, Conduit Close and Lambs Conduit Fields. The fields had many beautiful walks which were popular for recreational purposes; several murders were also committed on those walks. The fields were also a popular location for duels, as well as being used for artillery practice.

The Red Lion Inn was also notorious for the body of Oliver Cromwell having been taken there on its way to be hung at Tyburn.

Holborn had yet another claim to fame: London libertines of both sexes made their way to the baths in Leather Lane to "take the cure" for venereal disease. (The cure largely consisted of alternately sweating in a tub and taking mercury over an extended period of time. A letter of Henry Savile's to Rochester, complains of "that whole stock of mercury that has gone down my throat in seven months.)

lincolns inn barts tottenham workhouse covent garden fleet prison start of tour home

(c) 1996 Molly Brown