AVIS – THE RICHMOND ARMS
The Richmond Arms, Old Brompton Road, S.W.7
I F you are ever around the neighbourhood of Earl’s Court
Stadium to view an ice hockey match—or indeed any other form
of entertainment staged in that vast arena-—there is every reason
to believe that you will be in need of a warming drink that hasn’t
necessarily come out of the teapot or the coﬂ’ee-pot.
There is, in that case, a strong possibility that you will pass
through the doors of The Richmond Arms. If so, you will meet a
grandmother of ﬁne dogs—an Alsatian named Avis.
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At the age of four and a half, Avis has established something
like a record in that she has given birth to twenty-two youngsters
in two litters, the ﬁrst comprising thirteen and the second nine,
with only one death in the second litter.
If you have had the pleasure, as I have had, of meeting Avis,
you can be assured of a most friendly welcome——that is, provided
you are there within the permitted hours; she has, it seems, a rooted
objection to being disturbed during her rest hours, like any other
member of the staﬁ‘. She most certainly considers herself as much
on duty as anybody else in,
The Richmond Arms.
Alsatians are a grand breed to have as guard dogs, as we shall
have occasion to note during our wanderings in pubdom.
On account of the ferocity of their appearance, some people
seem to think that they have the temperament of wolves. Nothing
could be further from the truth. They are no more wolf than the
English fox terrier.
In the country of their origin they are known as the German
shepherd dog. Indeed in that and any other country they are
second to none as police dogs. They are full of intelligence and
are easily trained. They make friends easily, and to them they
are faithful, docile,and steadfast—not bad qualiﬁes in man or
beast. And, of course, they are extremely handsome.
To be frank, it was after hours when I called to see Avis, and
she wanted to know all about me from Mine Host before she would
shake hands. That’s her job. But we became quite friendly in the
course of time until I produced my drawing board and pencils. I
think she thought I was the vet. But whatever she thought she kept
quite to herself, and retired under the table. And in that position, as you
can see, I had to portray her.
If Avis had been living in the Earl’s Court district round about
1784 she might have had more than one artist only too willing
to look at her. In the late eighteenth century Earl’s Court derived
its fame largely through the residence there of John Hunter, the
anatomist and surgeon.
Hunter-—still the most revered name in surgery
despite the advances brought about in the past hundred years—bought some
ground in this part of London. Here he built a house with special
facilities for the dissection in which he excelled. In the garden
he kept all sorts of animals, including leopards, in cages.
When one died he dissected its body in pursuance of his investigations.
It was while he was in Earl’s Court that he acquired something
very different in the way of exhibits. This was none other than
the body of a man known as O’Brien, an Irish giant of seven feet
seven inches. This colossus went into his collection.
When Hunter died in 1793 his collection was bought by the
Government of the day and given to the Royal College of Surgeons
to be the nucleus of what was to become the greatest anatomical
collection in existence. Much of it was destroyed when the Hunterian
Museum was hit during an air raid. But those who, like myself,
have been privileged to visit the Royal College will not fail to have
noted the loving care that has gone to the rebuilding of the
collection, and, indeed, of the College itself.
Had Avis lived in the ’eighties of the last century she would
have had plenty of room in which to exercise. In those days Earl’s
Court was a vastly different “country” than it is today. It was the
exhibitions of that time which put it on the map. The exhibitions
opened with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Shows. The following year
saw the Italian Exhibition, and then a Spanish exhibition. More
of the open ground was taken to make room for the Big Wheel,
the Water Chute, and other excitements.
The huge Exhibition Buildings are now a landmark in West
London. Completed in 1937, they have several ﬂoors and various
halls—Cromwell, Warwick and Richmond—an adaptable swimming
pool, and many other ingenious devices. They are among the
most remarkable buildings of their kind in the world.
Opposite The Richmond Arm is the Brompton Cemetery. Oﬂicially
styled the West London and Westminster Cemetery, it was opened
in 1840 and is the resting-place of ‘many famous men and women,
some of them actors.
The cemetery is divided by a drive half a mile long, which
leads to the chapel, and in doing so passes the cloisters that were
an architectural feature of this hallowed ground. Sad to relate,
these were damaged during air raids.
Should you ever be in the vicinity, take a look at the cemetery,
and you will see names that were once familiar and are now
You have only to visit Earl’s Court to see that it is in many
respects of Victorian growth. Here you will see little streets that
will remind you of the back-to-back horrors of some of the York-
shire towns; and over there a row of houses, curved pleasingly in a
pale crescent-moon formation, which housed the merchants of the
upper middle class.
Earl’s Court indeed is a suburb of contrasts which make it the
object of much interest to the intelligent visitor, the sports enthusiast,
And at The Richmond Arms all are welcome.