REX – THE GEORGE INN
When he died in 1290 he left his property, together with its con-
siderable -rights and liberties, to his successors in the Diocese of
The only liberty now left to Ely Place-—and it is an important
one, we may well think—is freedom from the entry of the police.
This interesting relic of another day arises from the fact that
although, territorially, it is in the City of London, it is not of London
—-hence the police may only enter by invitation.
There is a uniformed oﬁicial who keeps the place in order, and
at ten o’clock at night shuts the gates to all comers, except to those
who enjoy right of entry. He calls out the hour of the night until
ﬁve in the morning when he re-opens the gate.
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This ancient custom was and is of great interest to American
visitors who have a passion for the quaint where the ordinary
Londoner takes so much that is venerable as a matter of course.
Ely Place had yet another liberty which they lost during the
last century—a liberty which was probably cherished less then than
it would be now. This was freedom from taxation, and it was a
liberty that was lost in a curious way.
An abandoned baby was placed on the doorstep of one,of the
houses, and the tenant took it to a foundling hospital. The
authorities proceeded to intimate that as foundlings were “kept by
the rates, the owners of property in Ely Place would be taxed
accordingly. Thus was a liberty, or privilege, lost in an almost
trivial way. But we may well think that it would have been lost in
any case in course of time.
The history of Ely Place and the Palace are linked closely with
the Englands History. The Black Prince lived at Ely House and
attended the Churchin In 1357.
Henry VIII, about whom so much imperfectly informed non-
sense has been written and, ﬁlmed, brought Katharine of Aragon
to the banqueting hall of the Palace. The festivities lasted ﬁve days.
The palace was ‘the scene of many great banquets.
In. 1576, Queen Elizabeth forced Bishop Cox to lease a portion
of Ely House and lands to Sir Christopher Hatton. The consideration
for this transaction was that Sir Christopher was to pay to the
Bishop a red rose at midsummer with ten loads of hay and £10
per annum for the garden.
And from this transaction sprung the
name of Hatton Garden which is famed throughout the world,
even in these days, for its dealings in precious stones and jewellery.
In the time of Sir Christopher Hatton the crypt of the church
was used for “butteries and offices”. And then it seems that it was
used as a drinking-house, and to such an exclusive extent that the
noise of revelry seriously disturbed Divine Servicein the church
And that is why The Mitre was built in 1 54.6 for the sole use of the
Sir Christopher, in addition to having a rare gift for securing
cheap accommodation, was a keen gardener. He would not, for
example, allow a particular cherry tree of which he was very fond.
to be uprooted for the building of the tavern. It was, therefore,
built round the tree. And to this day you can still see in the bar of
Te Olde Mitre Tavern the stump of that self-same tree, encased in
The Palace was pulled down about 1772 which, one presumes,
removed the Bishop’s household from the exclusive enjoyment of
the tavern; the era of the common man was a small stage nearer,
for better or worse.
Our tavern stands proudly as when it was built, a little battered,
no doubt, but still in good heart for all that. It was at any rate,
sturdy enough to withstand the ravages of two wars and was luckier
than the church which received a hit from a high explosive bomb.
The bomb exploded on one of the seven hundred years old
To the great strength of the remaining beams
can be ascribed the fact that The Mitre still stands, with its cherry
tree, its precious old oak tables, and chairs, the prints by “Spy”
from Vanity Fair, its bronze vases, the original bottle glass windows,
its pewter mugs, and above all the wonderful atmosphere of the
And so we come to Rex, who has gone to the Valhalla of all
good dogs. His memory survives, however, in the affections of all
who knew him. I never met him, and to that you must ascribe a
certain ghost-like quality in his portrait.
He passed away with that canine complaint which has proved
fatal to so many dogs and whose secrets modern veterinary science
still cannot wholly ‘probe—distemper.