The Fortune of War (public house)

The Fortune of War was an ancient public house in Smithfield, London. It was located on a corner originally known as Pie Corner, today at the junction of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane where the Golden Boy of Pye Corner resides, the name deriving from the magpie represented on the sign of an adjoining tavern.[1] It is allegedly the place where the Great Fire of London stopped, after destroying a large part of the City of London in 1666. The statue of a cherub, initially built in the front of the pub, commemorates the end of the fire.[2]


In 1761, the tenant of the house Thomas Andrews was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to death, but was pardoned by King George III in one of the first cases of public debate about homosexuality in England.[3]

Until the 19th century, the Fortune of War was the chief house of north of the River Thames for resurrectionists, being officially appointed by the Royal Humane Society as a place "for the reception of drowned persons".[4] The landlord used to show the room whereon benches round the walls were placed with the snatchers' names waiting till the surgeons at St Bartholomew's Hospital could run round and appraise them.

The public house was demolished in 1910.

The public house is mentioned in William Thackeray's Vanity Fair (1848) in a chapter entitled "How to Live Well on Nothing a Year" (ch. 37):

The bill for servants' porter at the Fortune of War public house is a curiosity in the chronicles of beer. Every servant also was owed the greater part of his wages, and thus kept up perforce an interest in the house. Nobody in fact was paid. Not the blacksmith who opened the lock; nor the glazier who mended the pane; nor the jobber who let the carriage; nor the groom who drove it; nor the butcher who provided the leg of mutton; nor the coals which roasted it; nor the cook who basted it; nor the servants who ate it: and this I am given to understand is not infrequently the way in which people live elegantly on nothing a year.

It is also mentioned by Charles Dickens in his novel A Tale of Two Cities, where Jerry Cruncher of Tellson's Bank moonlights as a body snatcher. The Italian Boy by Sarah Wise has an excellent historical account of the infamous murder by Williams, Bishop and May to provide anatomical subjects for surgeons.


  1. Cobham Brewer, Ebenezer (1898). "Pie Corner (London)". Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
  2. , History Magazine - The Golden Boy of Pye Corner
  3. Rictor Norton, ed. (2004). "The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England: Letters and Editorials in the London Evening Post concerning the Case of Captain Jones, 1772". Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. Archived from the original on 2008-03-05. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
  4. Forbes, Thomas Rogers (1978). "Crowner's Quest". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. American Philosophical Society. 68 (1): 1–52. doi:10.2307/1006152. JSTOR 1006152.

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.