Incredible Londoners. Photo & text: David Secombe.

Jerusalem Tavern and Jerusalem Passage, Britton Street, Clerkenwell. Photo © David Secombe 2010.

This week’s sad news has prompted some of us to remember pub crawls with John on his patch, and the names of the hostelries we’d encounter on the way: The Horseshoe in Clerkenwell Close, The Crown on Clerkenwell Green, The Coach and Horses in Ray Street, The Marie Lloyd in Hoxton, The Eagle on Farringdon Road, the Sekforde Arms on Sekforde Street – and, now and again, The Jerusalem Tavern on Britton Street. As this week we have been remembering a great Londoner and champion of art, it seems oddly fitting to add this nugget about an artistic promoter who operated in the same area 300 years ago, and who is now buried in Clerkenwell churchyard. D.S.

From Without the City Wall, Hector Bolitho and Derek Peel, 1951:

Britton Street was named after an incredible Londoner of the late 17th century who walked the streets by day “in his blue frock coat and with his small coal-measure in his hand”, and who by night gave concerts in his humble abode next to Jerusalem Tavern, in what is still Jerusalem Passage. In The London Magazine we read: “On the ground floor was a repository for small coal; over that was a concert room, which was very long and narrow. … Notwithstanding all, this mansion attracted to it as polite an audience as ever the opera did.. … At these concerts Dr. Pepusch and frequently Mr.Handel played the harpsichord.” When passing along the streets with his sack of small-coal on his back, Thomas Britton “was frequently accosted with such expressions as these: ‘There goes the famous small-coal man, who is a lover of learning, a performer in music and a companion for gentleman.’”

4 Comments on “Incredible Londoners. Photo & text: David Secombe.”

  1. Fond memories of probably the loveliest pub in all of London. I would pass by occasionally to meet friends at “the Artichoke” as some wag had nicknamed it. The regulars like John made it feel like a home from home.

  2. David Brown says:

    Lovely blog entry, and Thomas Britton of Small Coal fame is one of my heros – however he’s not the Britton that this street is named for – he is John Britton see, famous Antiquary and publisher who as a boy worked in the Red Lion pub – Britton Street was originally Red Lion Street. Before the Clerkenwell Road was built Britton Street extended to Clerkenwell Green, and the building on the corner opposite the Middlesex Sessions House (once the Old Session Hotel) was built on the site of the old Red Lion.

    He’s also an interesting character – towards the end of his life he was part of the pro-train travel movement, and sought to convince people that it was indeed safe to travel by train (many people at the time thought that travelling at train speeds was likely to be fatal).

  3. upprormagazine says:

    JohnO Driscoll was a genius, and probably the friendliest genius I have ever met.

  4. upprormagazine says:

    JohnO Driscoll was a genius printer of photographs, and probably the friendliest genius I have ever met and that I have had the pleasure to work with. The darkroom was legendary for it’s quality, but also had the friendliest atmosphere, with John’s wife Barbara (xx), Jason, Paul and of course Barbara Wilson. I can’t thank John enough for the helping start that he gave my brother Peter and I, when we were starting out in London and for creating that whole atmosphere of making every visit to his darkroom special.