Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The White Lion Inn, Putney

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Loretta reports:

Most of the locations in A Duke in Shining Armor are real—or as real as I can make them. Some once existed but no longer do, some have changed beyond recognition, and some are there, looking more or less the same. None are quite the same, of course. For one thing, the extant buildings have indoor plumbing. And electricity.

The White Lion Inn, where several important early scenes occur, did and does exist, although my characters wouldn’t recognize it today, and may not have even known it by that name.

What I saw, when studying my copy of the Panorama of the Thames, was the Putney Hotel, which a note in the text referred to as the Red Lion Inn. But it seems to be the same building Ralph Rylance refers to in his 1815 guidebook, The Epicure’s Almanack, as the White Lion. (More about the book here, here, and here.)
White Lion.
“Continuing on your way to town you come to the village of Putney, at the bottom of which, close to the Fulham Bridge, is the White Lion.[2] You may have a good dinner drest here to order, in which order you ought not to forget to include stewed eels, or fried flounders. The people here have a live stock of them in the wells of the peter-boats moored off the village.”
The footnote explains further:

[2] “The White Lion near Fulham Bridge (now Putney Bridge) dated from the early C17 and was rebuilt in 1887; it is still operating, as the ‘Australian Walkabout Inn,’ at nos. 14-16 Putney High Street.” (p. 203)
View of Putney in 1829

On my investigative tour of Putney, last summer, we came upon what seemed to be the right building.  At the time, though, I wasn’t sure this was the place, because it looked like a late Victorian era structure, and closer inspection confirmed an 1880s date. Still, the big lion on top was a clue, and I asked Walter to take some photos. Once home, with various books at hand, I felt more certain of its identity. This did seem to be the White Lion, extensively renovated and decorated or maybe entirely rebuilt.  I can also confirm that it (1) is no longer the Australian Walkabout Inn, (2) was closed, and (3) had been closed for some time. But everything about its location did fit my mental images for the story. Obviously, for the interior and stable yard scenes, I had to use a combination of imagination and research into 18th and 19th century coaching inns.

Photograph at top by Walter M. Henritze, III. The image of 1829 Putney is a screen shot from the fabulous website connected with the Panorama of the Thames, a gorgeous book. I strongly recommend your visiting the website, for larger images, and tons of information. You can scroll along for the river view or search by specific locations.

More images of the White Lion here at the Victorian Web and here at Wikimedia Commons.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it. Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Have you seen Phoenix SEO said...

Fascinating. That 'panorama' website is cool; especially as it allows historical window shopping - viz floating idly along, gazing enviously at the riverside mansions... And I see the Star and Garter in Putney looks little different from how it did in the 80s when I used to drink there. Nostalgia has it.

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