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a tale of Restoration intrigue by

Molly Brown

Tottenham Court

Tottenham Court was famous for its taverns and tea-houses. It was a favourite place for Sunday and holiday expeditions, with cream cakes and beer as well as hot drinks available.

Poor Robin's Almanack, May 1676:

Where Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road meet, a boundary stone marked the end of the parish. There was an annual ceremony of "Beating the Bounds" in which the clergyman of the parish and his parochial officers, followed by the boys of the parish schools and their masters, walked the boundaries of the parish, the boys striking the boundary stones with peeled willow wands. Sometimes the boys themselves were whipped at the stopping points, supposedly to "make them remember".

The gallows used to stand at the corner of Oxford Street (then known as Tyburn Road) and Tottenham Court Road, before it was moved to Tyburn (now Marble Arch). Condemned criminals on their way to Tyburn were allowed to stop at the gate of St Giles's hospital, close to the church, to drink from a large bowl of ale, known as St Giles's Bowl.

Beyond Southampton House, on the north side of Southampton Square (now Bloomsbury Square) open fields known as Babers Field and the Long Field gave an uninterrupted view towards Hampstead and Highgate. It was claimed that if a maiden found a piece of coal underneath a plantain root in these fields on midsummer's day, then placed the coal underneath her pillow that night, she would dream of her future husband. Every year on midsummer's day, the fields were filled with young women on their hands and knees, digging for coal.

covent garden holborn lincolns inn st james academy st giles tyburn start of tour home

(c) 1996 Molly Brown