Sam-The Mitre

SAM THE MITRESAM,
The Mitre, Craven Terrace, W.2

IN any consideration of The Mitre (and there are always plenty
of people more than ready to consider it) Sam must come an easy
first.
This fine bulldog was the only canine pal of Tommy Handley.
It was when Sam was a puppy that he was introduced to That Man.
They struck up a firm friendship as from that first day of meeting
“-“Boxing Day, I947, Sam having been presented to the manageress
of the house on Christmas Eve of the same year.
Sam never belonged to Tommy, but no one will think less of
Sam, if, in his innermost heart, he thought of himself as Tommy’s
own. Certainly, in those happy days, it did seem as if when That
Man was not entertaining us, he was being entertained by Sam’s
antics.

 

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The Mitre

One occasion I well remember. Tommy had agreed to be
photographed for a national advertising campaign. It was essential
that -Tommy should be photographed with a dog. And that is
how Sam ultimately became known to lovers of pets throughout
the country.
Incredible though it may seem, I may say that Sam received
a substantial fan mail as a result, mostly from bulldog owners.
Sometimes the letters were addressed thus:
Sam,
The Bulldog,
c/o Mr. Tommy Handley,
B.B.C.,
London.

If there is one thing that distinguishes bulldogs from lesser
breeds without the Law that, by the way, is how bulldogs are apt
to regard their brothers and sisters under the canine skin”it is
their amazing resemblance to humans. Like men and women, bull-
dogs react quickly to environment. If they are told off, they become
moody and depressed; and you can soon see when a bulldog sulks.
Haven’t we all seen it?

Sam is no exception in that respect. He has most decided tastes.
Playful though he is, a woman’s hat raises the very dog in him.
He can stand it, and no more, provided the hat is kept on the head,
but let it be placed on a seat and the trouble starts: an expensive
business to Sam’s mistress. She daren’t leave a hat unattended
within his purposeful reach. In this hatred of women’s hats, Sam
has something in common with many men.

 It is quite different with shoes. He becomes quite attached to
them, but not too attached.
Another of Sam’s agreeable traits is a love of cats. Anyone
who has seen Sam in action against a woman’s hat will hardly
believe that Sam’s stout heart is ,owing with love for cats. I some-
times wonder what would happen to the dog who chased a cat on
the premises of The Mitre.

Sam the Bulldog

We take a respectful leave of Sam, with the firm advice to
women patrons to leave their hats at home”-for Sam’s sake.
The popularity of The Mitre, in a sense, is due to the Princess
Anne in the reign of William III. She it was who made the neigh-
bourhood fashionable by living on Craven Hill in what was once
Lord Craven’s house. The hill is not a stone’s throw from Craven
Terrace. Later, Princess Anne established herself in a mansion on
Campden Hill.

The Craven area was popular then, not because of its easy
accessibility to the City, but because one could enjoy the fine air
and the fair prospect on the North side. It lay on the busy main
coach route between London, Uxbridge and Oxford. There was
an hourly coach service.
In short, it was the district, or at least, one of them. It seems
di,icult now to believe that the area round Portobello Road was
famed as a health resort. But we must not think of Portobello Road
as it is now, but as it was then:
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit tree wila;
White hawthorn and the pastoral eglantine. . . .

The Craven Hill district abounded in rich personalities. There
were many Forsytes, who came up from the country and who died
rich as a result of turning pleasant fields into London suburbs.
Another agreeable and pardonably vain custom was for the
builder or merchant to build a substantial street and name it after
himself. Thus, Mr. Orme, having made a fortune selling prints in
Bond Street, built the square which now bears his name.

Nor was he content with that. It had to be given individuality; no one will
quarrel with that desire in these days. So Mr. Orme erected a little
column in his square, surmounted by a bird. Presumably, it was
meant to be the image of the kingly eagle, but in sad fact the bird
has a pronounced resemblance to the more useful, homely duck.
The intention, at any rate, was there.

St. Petersburgh Place

Our Mr. Orme’was not finished with that. He was nothing
if not patriotic, even if his ornithology was perhaps a trite sketchy.
He proceeded to build a private chapel in St. Petersburgh Place,
in the Moscow Road, in honour of the Czar Alexander, who paid
a colourful, but not wholly successful, visit to this country in 1,814.
There are other names in the district. Sir Rowland Hill, the
Post O,ice reformer, lived in Orme Square, wondering doubtless
where his bustling assistant, Mr. Anthony Trollope, had betaken
himself, for they did not always see eye to eye.

But let us return to Sam, who can lick a stamp with the best
of them, just as he can (in his own estimation) lick any dog within
reach.

Sam is not unlike the average Englishman in another respect:
he is fond of his tea, much given to the mastication of bread and
butter. And it has to be butter; margarine is less than the dust to
Sam. If anyone is su,iciently ill-advised to offer the lesser product,
Sam will stick out his jaw with a Churchillian gesture.

So, au revoir to The Mitre, with the firm conviction that Sam
is cutting a niche in the history of the district in which this delightful
tavern exists for the enjoyment of all who seek to possess the.best
things in life.

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