SHAMUS IN LONDON | Fleet Street, The Tipperary

The Tipperary, 66 Fleet Street, London

"The line sputtered and died. I put the telephone back in its cradle and cleared my breath off the window glass. Twenty feet below, Fleet Street was quiet as a prayer, newsrooms dark and presses shut down for the holiday. Parked as close to the curb as the snowfall allowed, a Daimler limousine waited with its sidelights burning, fanning exhaust across the sidewalk. I was curious. Curious that a City councilor with a problem would send his car to collect me first, and then telephone me second. Curious that he would double my rate and not ask what my rate was, or even how I voted. If all you want is a delivery made and some questions asked, it’s a lot of trouble to go to. I got my jacket and coat off the floor and went down to the waiting car. Not out of curiosity. Not even for the siren call of an open checkbook. In the end, just to get some air on a night turned airless. That and because I thought I could be back before daylight, weary enough for sleep." [Shamus Dust Chapter 1.]

Muirhead's Short Guide to London 1947

The orange dot on Muirhead's 1947 map above shows a short row between Bouverie and Whitefriars Street, where Newman, our shamus lives, above a one-room saloon bar on Fleet Street which he calls The Tipperary.

The Tipperary's one-room bar looking onto Fleet Street.

Hands up though! In 1947, at the time of our story the bar was known as The Irish House and the moniker stuck right up until 1997. Before that - for centuries - it was known as The Boar's Head. It's first mentioned in a document dated 1442: "A messuage (building) so called in parish of St. Dunstan in Fletestrete abutting south on the stone wall of the house of the Carmelite Friars in Fletestrete", making it one of London's oldest bars.

You can still see the religious landholdings on the 1538-40 map below. The Boar's Head is possibly the one marked in white (to the right of the orange plot) since it's main entrance at one time was on Whitefriars Street rather than Fleet Street.

Fleet Street at the Reformation 1538-40. The Boar's Head is possibly the one marked in white (to the right of the orange plot).

The Great Fire of London 1666 destroyed most of Fleet Street and took the Boar’s Head with it. Rebuilt it was back in business as usual within a couple of years.

At back of the Boar’s Head, during that time, the rectangle of land running down to the Thames, bounded by the Temple, and Whitefriars Street was known as “Alsatia” - a kind of No Man's Land holding tight to sanctuary privileges granted when it was the Carmelites’ friary, right up until they were abolished in 1697. It was a place to tread carefully with debtors on the lam, cheats and false witnesses, forgers and highwaymen around every corner.

In 1775 there was a complaint against Sarah Fortescue, widow and victualler of the Boar’s Head alehouse in Fleet Street, for keeping her house open at unseasonable hours, frequently the greatest part of the night, and for harbouring and entertaining “lewd women and other infamous and disorderly persons to the great disquietude and disturbance of her neighbours.” Perhaps that's why when the Boar's Head became the fourth of the Mooney’s Irish House chain in London in 1895 there was a rule: no barmaids! Except for a brief experiment around 1963 the serving staff were all male and all Irish.

Enemy bombing in WWII, passed The Irish House by but the next-door building wasn't so lucky and had been bombed flat - a near escape!

66 Fleet Street. The Tipperary with the bombed out buildings next door rebuilt as offices after 1947.

"One side of my door was a cleared bombsite. The Tipperary’s saloon bar was on the other, dark as a cloister at an hour when drinking migrates to backrooms like flocks to winter pasture. I put a key in the lock and climbed the stair, went in my apartment and on into the lounge. Streetlight filtered at the windows, enough to find a match and put it to the gas fire at the end of the room. I loosed my necktie, dropped my coat and jacket on the sofa, sat down beside them and listened to the hearth ticking softly, just it and me. My toes touched the bottom of an ocean before my shoulder hit the cushions." Shamus Dust Chapter 9.

Did you know?

  • Back in the 13th century, the land on which the Tipperary now stands pious monks spent considerable time and effort brewing ale. The plot was occupied by the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as Carmelites or Whitefriars.

  • There's a Fleet Street link to the song “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary”. In 1914 a Daily Mail reporter, in France, cabled his news editor, that British soldiers were all singing the song as they marched from Boulogne to the front. The editor cottoned on to ‘Tipperary’ as a great national morale booster - a British ‘Marseillaise’! The owner of the Daily Mail, Lord, Northcliffe thought so too and so the lyrics and the music of what had started out as music hall song got pride of place in the Mail. The rest, is history.

Time Gentlemen Please!

Here's a sad postscript. Through 2020 the Tipperary struggled to keep going with fewer and fewer office workers visiting lunchtimes or after work. In December it closed its doors.for the last time. Except, it seems for a few squatters. My latest photo shows a notice of possession posted in its window saying that an Interim Possession Order was issued in the County Court on 9 August and that the premises have been “re-entered and secured”. Even the squatters had to drink up and find another home.

Janet Roger is the author of SHAMUS DUST : HARD WINTER, COLD WAR, COOL MURDER - available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US

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