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Do two Doves make a Dule?

Dule: Collective noun for a group of Doves.

It’s funny how things creep up on you. I’d finished writing my last post about the book printers, Doves Press and the disappearance of the typeface known as Doves some hours earlier and was sitting watching the TV with not a thought for what I had written, when suddenly a random thread proceeded to unravel in my head. The Doves Press and subsequent things pertaining to it’s production of books in the early 1900s were named after the pub next door, known as The Dove. So why then is everything mentioned about the company in the plural? It’s Doves Press, Doves Bindery and Doves typeface, not Dove Press etc in the singular.

The answer was surprisingly easy to find. According to writer John Warland who knows his London pubs on a level that I aspire to (it’s hard, dirty and thirsty work to get there) the pub now known as The Dove was unwittingly pluralised around the turn of the 19th century by an over zealous (or possibly drunk) sign writer. So when the two protagonists who set up the printing company took the name the pub would have been known as The Doves, hence the plurals.

The Doves 1900

The Doves 1950

The Dove 2021

I’ve never been inside the pub, so it’s my duty to change that in the near future and as the magical six letter word FULLER (my favourite brewery) appear over the door it won’t be a chore. So I decided to see what else I could find out before I make the pilgrimage.

The pub was established as a coffee house by around 1740 and had transformed into a pub by 1793. This made me smile as I had just read the blurb on Fuller’s website pertaining to The Dove, which says that “Charles II romanced and dined his mistress Nell Gwynne here“. Maps of the 1700s show the area laid out to gardens and allotments with no mention of a inn pre dating the Coffee House, so Charlie and Nellie were about seventy years too early for a cuppa and there was no sign of any alcohol unless they brought their own.

James Thompson 1700-1748

There’s obviously some artistic licence at work as far as Fullers are concerned, as with the next claim,”The poet James Thomson composed the familiar strains of ‘Rule Britannia’ here“. Rather a difficult one to substantiate, however they are on firmer ground as Thompson was known to have frequented the establishment. It is a matter of record that on the 24th 1748 Thompson hailed a ferry boat from the steps below the Coffee House and on the journey caught a chill, which he died from a few days later.

In the 1930s the writer A P Herbert frequented the pub and used it in his romantic comedy The Water Gypsies calling it “The Pidgeons“. There has certainly been an artistic clientele over the years, William Morris lived a short distance away, as did actor Alec Guinness, with Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway and Dylan Thomas all dropping in on a regular basis.

Apparently the pub has the smallest public bar in the UK measuring 1.2 x 2.4 meters. It also has a nice salutation to those that enter it portal.

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