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Saracen's Head Inn - Snow Hill, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 31.018 W 000° 06.174
30U E 701001 N 5711295
Quick Description: This blue plaque is on the wall of the police station in Snow Hill.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 3/21/2012 1:02:49 PM
Waymark Code: WME1H4
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member Marky
Views: 1

Long Description:
The plaque reads:
On the top edge:
"The Corporation of"
On the bottom edge:
"The City of London"
In the centre:
"Site of the / Saracen's Head / Inn / Demolished / 1868".

Old and New London: Volume 2 of 1878 had this to say about the Inn:
"Next to St. Sepulchre's, on Snow Hill, used to stand the famous old inn of the "Saracen's Head." It was only swept away within the last few years by the ruthless army of City improvers: a view of it in course of demolition was given on page 439. It was one of the oldest of the London inns which bore the "Saracen's Head" for a sign. One of Dick Tarlton's jests makes mention of the "Saracen's Head" without Newgate, and Stow, describing this neighbourhood, speaks particularly of "a fair large inn for receipt of travellers" that "hath to sign the 'Saracen's Head.'" The courtyard had, to the last, many of the characteristics of an old English inn; there were galleries all round leading to the bedrooms, and a spacious gateway through which the dusty mail-coaches used to rumble, the tired passengers creeping forth "thanking their stars in having escaped the highwaymen and the holes and sloughs of the road." Into that courtyard how many have come on their first arrival in London with hearts beating high with hope, some of whom have risen to be aldermen and sit in state as lord mayor, whilst others have gone the way of the idle apprentice and come to a sad end at Tyburn! It was at this inn that Nicholas Nickleby and his uncle waited upon the Yorkshire schoolmaster Squeers, of Dotheboys Hall. Mr. Dickens describes the tavern as it existed in the last days of mail-coaching, when it was a most important place for arrivals and departures in London:—

"Next to the jail, and by consequence near to Smithfield also, and the Compter and the bustle and noise of the City, and just on that particular part of Snow Hill where omnibus horses going eastwards seriously think of falling down on purpose, and where horses in hackney cabriolets going westwards not unfrequently fall by accident, is the coach-yard of the 'Saracen's Head' inn, its portals guarded by two Saracen's heads and shoulders, which it was once the pride and glory of the choice spirits of this metropolis to pull down at night, but which have for some time remained in undisturbed tranquillity, possibly because this species of humour is now confined to St. James's parish, where doorknockers are preferred as being more portable, and bell-wires esteemed as convenient tooth-picks. Whether this be the reason or not, there they are, frowning upon you from each side of the gateway; and the inn itself, garnished with another Saracen's head, frowns upon you from the top of the yard; while from the door of the hind-boot of all the red coaches that are standing therein, there glares a small Saracen's head with a twin expression to the large Saracen's head below, so that the general appearance of the pile is of the Saracenic order."

To explain the use of the Saracen's head as an inn sign various reasons have been given. "When our countrymen," says Selden, "came home from fighting with the Saracens and were beaten by them, they pictured them with huge, big, terrible faces (as you still see the 'Saracen's Head' is), when in truth they were like other men. But this they did to save their own credit." Or the sign may have been adopted by those who had visited the Holy Land either as pilgrims or to fight the Saracens. Others, again, hold that it was first set up in compliment to the mother of Thomas à Becket, who was the daughter of a Saracen. However this may be, it is certain that the use of the sign in former days was very general."

Source: (visit link)
Blue Plaque managing agency: The Corporation of the City of London

Individual Recognized: Saracen's Head Inn

Physical Address:
5 Snow Hill
London, United Kingdom
EC1A 2DP


Web Address: [Web Link]

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