Above: plaque on the wall of Child & Co.
“The Devil and St Dunstan” at 2, Fleet Street, and close to Temple Bar, was a tavern dating from at least the time of the Elizabethan playwright Ben Jonson (1572-1637). Samuel Pepys is said to have drunk here. Jonson helped to make it home to a literary dining club which met in the tavern’s Apollo Room and took the name as its own. The “rules” of the club hung over the fireplace. It’s said that in its time the club counted amongst its members William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and Dr Samuel Johnson.
Apparently, a bust of Apollo which stood over the door to the eponymous Room, and a verse of welcome on a board in gold lettering which hung on its wall, are held to this day by the bank now standing on the site.
John Timbs, in Club Life of London, Vol 1 (1866) includes an entry on the Royal Society Club:
“We must now say a few words as to the several places at which the Club has dined. The Society had their Anniversary Dinner at Pontack’s celebrated French eating-house, in Abchurch-lane, City, until 1746. (John) Evelyn notes: “30 Nov. 1694. Much importuned to take the office of President of the Royal Society, but I again declined it. Sir Robert Southwell was continued. We all dined at Pontac’s, as usual.” Here, in 1699, Dr. Bentley wrote to Evelyn, asking him to meet Sir Christopher Wren, Sir Robert Southwell, and other friends, at dinner, to consider the propriety of purchasing Bishop Stillingfleet’s library for the Royal Society.
From Pontack’s, which was found to be inconveniently situated for the majority of the Fellows, the Society removed to the Devil Tavern, near Temple Bar.”
Messrs. Child & Co., neighbours at 3, Fleet Street, purchased the site for £2,800 in 1787, and the tavern was demolished. The following year, a row of houses which came to be known as Child’s Place was built there. The Marygold by Temple Bar (1902), by George Frederick Hilton Price, tells the complete story to that date of Child & Co. and its premises.