Strolling along one morning by the river from Chiswick towards
Hammersmith Bridge, I turned from the towpath into a lane. Up
‘came a most friendly and handsome liver-and-white springer spaniel.
His greeting was so profuse that I got the impression that we
had met before, although I dismissed it as impossible. My friend
fell into step with me, and before very long I realized that he was
leading me (and I was very willing) to an inn, the outside appearance
and structure of which seemed to have charm written all over it.
In fact, a ﬁne pictorial sign indicated that I now stood on the
threshold of The Dove, and on the threshold of new friendship.
No one who is familiar with the Boat Race can be ignorant of
The Dove. Yet in an age when the radio screams its omniscience at
us daily, it was a spaniel who took me there, and it will be that
self-same spaniel, I do not doubt, who will lead my steps back from time to time.
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To enter this ﬁne riverside house is to be transported from
busy bustling London to another world. It has to be seen to be
believed. I sat and gave my modest order and looked for my friend.
He had disappeared.
I had a chat with Mine Host, who informed me that my friend
was Ajax and he had the honour of being the spaniel’s master.
There was a twinkle in his eye, and I was further enlightened and
amused to learn that, like so many others, I had fallen for the
blandishments of Ajax. It appears that Ajax feels so much in his
master’s debt for so pleasant a home that to lead custom to the
house is his especial way of showing gratitude.
So there it is. Ajax goes out into the highways and byways to
attract new customers. This interesting and novel form of retrieving
does not ﬁgure in the Kennel Glub’s curriculum, but clearly there ought to be some amendment.
Change of Name ?
The old house used to be called The Doves. But when the land-
lord acquired an eighteenth-century woodcut, inscribed “The Dove
Coffee House, Hammersmith” and displaying a Biblical dove with
an olive branch, with a rainbow and clouds in the background, he decided to revert to the singular.
Four hundred years ago The Dove was a country pub; today
it is still very much the country pub, particularly in its atmosphere
and feeling. It is small, but in no sense cramped. It is low-roofed,
but snug and airy. It has also a covered veranda over the water
which is dressed in a grape-bearing vine.
In short, it has a cottage charm, with the old-world furnishing of warming-pans and chestnut
toasters, its old benches, ﬁreplaces and old prints ﬁtting its character.
You can sip a cocktail or quaﬁ’ a beer and rub shoulders or clink
glasses with watermen and writers. In the snuggery you can play
today’s pin-table game or go on to the veranda and let your
mind travel back through the centuries with the ancient game
of bumble-puppy which, by the way, has nothing whatever to do with Ajax.
Ajax and The Dove
In the eighteenth century The Dove was a favourite resort of
men of letters and artists. Turner found inspiration for some of
his great sunsets from the terrace. The house received honourable
mention in A. P. Herbert’s Water Gypsies.
The tavern and its surroundings teem with historical associa-
tions. Was it not near here that the Merry Monarch set Nell Gwynn
up in a country house and thus made Hammersmith fashionable?
A view of the cellars of this old house is well worth while if
only to see the walled-up tunnel leading at one time to the creek,
and which was doubtless used by smugglers.
There is no need to look for this pleasant tavem; there is always
Ajax more than willing to guide all footsteps to the house of his
master, where there is ever refreshment in plenty.
(Extracted from Pups and Pubs – C,Francis Wardle 1929)