White Conduit House (1760)

Woty, William
Edward Henry Dixon, Old White Conduit House (1831). London Metropolitan Archives.


"... Human beings here,
In couples multitudinous assemble,
Forming the drollest group that ever trod
Fair Islingtonian plains. ..."


"And to White Conduit House
We will go, will go, will go"

Wish'd Sunday's come :- mirth brightens ev'ry face,
And paints the rose upon the housemaid's cheek,
Harriott, or Moll more ruddy. Now the heart
Of prentice, resident in ample street,
Or alley, kennel-wash'd, Cheapside, Cornhill,
Or Cranbourne, thee for calcuments renown'd,
With joy distends. His meal meridian o'er,
With switch in hand, he to White Conduit House
Hies merry-hearted. Human beings here,
In couples multitudinous assemble,
Forming the drollest group that ever trod
Fair Islingtonian plains. Male after male,
Dog after dog succeeding,-husbands, wives,
Fathers, and mothers, brothers, sisters, friends,
And pretty little boys and girls. Around,
Across, along, the garden's shrubby maze,
They walk, they sit, they stand. What crowds press on,
Eager to mount the stairs, eager to catch
First vacant bench, or chair, in long room plac'd
Here prig with prig holds conference polite,
And indiscriminate the gaudy beau
And sloven mix. Here he, who all the week
Took bearded mortals by the nose; or sat
Weaving dead hairs, and whistling wretched strain,
And eke the sturdy youth, whose trade it is
Stout oxen to contund, with gold-bound hat
And silken stocken strut. The red arm'd belle
Here shows her tasty gown, proud to be thought
The butterfly of fashion: and forsooth
Her haughty mistress deigns for once to tread
The same unhallow'd floor.-Tis hurry all,
And rattling cups and saucers.-Wajter, here,
And waiter there, and waiter here and there,
At once is call'd ;-Joe -Joe--Joe-Joe Joe- 
Joe, on the right-and Joe upon the left,
For ev'ry vocal pipe re-echoes Joe!
Alas! poor Joe! Like Francis in the play
He stands confounded, anxious how to please
The many-headed throng. But shou'd I paint
The language, humours, customs of the place,
Together with all curts'ys, lowly bows,
And compliments extern, 'twould swell my page
Beyond its limits due. Suffice it then,
For my prophetic muse to say, "So long
As fashion rides upon the wing of time;
While tea and cream, and butter'd rolls can please;
While rival beaux and jealous belles, exist;
So long, White Conduit House, shall be thy fame."


Text cited in Henry C. Shelley, Inns and Taverns of Old London (Europaischer Hochschulverlag Gmbh & Co. Kg, 2011), pp. 185-186.  Also see Peller Malcolm, Anecdotes of the manners and customs of London during the eighteenth century. London, Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1810, p. 224-226. Full book by HATHITRUST.