St George in East Index
In 1869 and earlier , this address is listed as the Angel & Crown; many
thanks to Michael Larsen for the research about the Preussische Adler /
Prussian Flag / Russian Neagle / Russian Flag and all its other names. By
1891, it is the Prussian Eagle.
A listing of historical public houses, Taverns, Inns, Beer Houses and Hotels
in St George In East, London - in East London.
Residents at this address
1827/Richard Yates, Angel & Crown, 19 Ship alley, Wellclose square/../../Pigots Directory
1829/Rd Yates, Angel and Crown, 19 Ship alley, Wellclose square/../../Robsons Directory
1833-34/Richard Hussey, Angel and Crown, 19 Ship Alley, Wellclose Square/../../Pigots Directory
1836/Thomas Toyne, Angel and Crown, Ship Alley, Wellclose Square/../../Pigots Directory
1842/Henry Gee Cross/../../../Robson’s Directory **
October 1848/Francis Pignatelle/Music License/../../Era Newspaper
1851/Francis Pignatelle/../../../Post Office Directory
1851/Frank Pignatelle/Licensed Victualler/38/Italy/Census
1851/Harriet Pignatelle/Wife/23/St George, Middlesex/Census
1851/Hy Pignatelle/Son/15/St George, Middlesex/Census
1851/Frank Pignatelle/Son/1/St George, Middlesex/Census
1851/Harriet Pignatelle/Daughter/4 months/St George, Middlesex/Census
1851/Harriet North/Servant/14/Bethnal Green, Middlesex/Census
1856/H Dittmar/../../../Post Office Directory
1862/L Goetz/../../../Post Office Directory
1869/Peter Schert/../../../Post Office Directory
The Pruessischer Adler probably started business in the middle of the
nineteenth century, and was almost certainly founded for the benefit of
German nationals working in the numerous sugar-baking houses in the
district. Later it seems to have become a home from home for German sailors,
and then a sort of night-club for foreign sailors and local residents.
1872. (14th. September). From the "Metropolitan" Magazine. "Gaslight
Wanderings. No. III": "Down East". Author Unknown.
Not far from Wellclose-square is a large tavern known by the Teutonic sign
of the "Preussischer Adler," and into this palace of dazzling light our
custodian led us. Bless you! Mr. R-- was as well known there as everywhere
else, and a few mystic words spoken to the landlord were sufficient to give
us the run of the establishment. We could hear the strains of music and the
rushing of many feet coming from the floor above, and turning to a staircase
on our left, we prepared to ascend. But a placard posted at the foot of the
steps attracts our attention, and we pause to read it - this is the
substance in brief:- "All persons are requested, before entering the dancing
saloon, to leave at the bar their pistols and knives, or any other weapon
they may have about them." Fancy such a regulation being necessary in
civilised London! At any rate, it was very reassuring to us, and with
renewed confidence we mounted to the domains of Terpsichore.
It was a long room, with tables and seats aligning the walls, the centre
being given up entirely to a crowd of dancers, who were waltzing to the by
no means bad music of half-a-dozen German players, who piped away in a
raised orchestra close by the stair-head. But what an assembly! There were
French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Dutch seamen; there were Greeks from
the Aegean Sea; there were Malays, Lascars, and even the "heathen Chinee,"
disguised in European costume, with his pigtail rolled up under a navy cap.
There were mariners in fezes and serge capotes; there were Mediterranean
dandies, girt with broad crimson scarves, and with massive gold earrings
glistening as they twirled about. No wonder it had been found necessary to
collect the knives and pistols from the hot-blooded cosmopolitan crowd. A
blow is soon given, and with weapons at hand, who can tell where a quarrel
might end? Yet I must say that, while we were present, everything was
conducted in the most orderly manner, though the animated impassioned talk
in a dozen different languages led one to imagine that a breach of the peace
was imminent at any moment. The waltz, which all alike danced admirably, had
something of the heroic about it. Each couple made three or four sharp
turns, and then came to a pause with a smart stamp and heads thrown back
defiantly. Catching the time to a nicety, they would repeat the movement;
and when I mention that there were considerably more than a hundred dancers
on the floor, the staccato effect of the stamp, coming almost
may be imagined. Of the female portion of the assemblage, I need not say
more than that they were, in nearly every instance, foreign, the German and
Flemish nationality mostly predominating. Short "Dolly Vardens,"
scrupulously clean, embroidered petticoats, and neatly-fitting high-heeled
Hungarian boots, was apparently the favourite costume. To come suddenly upon
the "Preussicher Adler's dancing saloon" out of the crowded streets of the
English metropolis has a most startling effect upon the casual visitor, who
is unprepared for any thing of the kind. It is absolutely as though one had
been transferred, magically, to a casino in the neighbourhood of the docks
of Marseilles or Genoa, or to the halls of "Tutti Nazioni" (all nations) on
the Marina of Messina. But the hour is waxing late and, if we would complete
our task, we must not linger amidst the delights of the "Preussicher Adler,"
as Hannibal did at Capua".
1879. From Charles Dickens Junior: "The London Encyclopaedia": "At the
“Preussische[r] Adler,” just by the entrance into Wellclose-square, you will
meet, as might be anticipated, German sailors."
1881. From James Greenwood: "Low-Life Deeps", London, 1875:
The keepers of the dancing and singing rooms "down Ratcliff-way" share in
the prevailing abhorrence of their class, for the objectionable persons who
cannot drink like a pig without appearing as one, and take well-considered
precautions against unpleasant results likely to arise therefrom. They
employ their own police. By way of example, let us take the case of the
Prussian Flag in Ship-alley. The Prussian Flag is probably as largely
patronized as any public-house in the neighbourhood, to which is attached a
free dancing-room. The nature of its business considered, it may claim to be
regarded as a thoroughly well-conducted house, and it is evidently
understood by those who frequent it that its managers are persons who will
stand no nonsense. On the ground-floor there is a spacious and scrupuluously
clean bar, and the bar space in front is partly occupied by a
bagatelle-table for the innocent amusement of those who have neither taste
nor talent for dancing. The dancing-room is upstairs.
On the occasion of my visit I was for a few moments in doubt as to the way
to it. But while I was hesitating there came down a flight of stairs in the
far corner two magnificent females, the one in a skirt of maroon-coloured
velvet, and with a coronet of gold and pearls, and with a yellow "bandanna"
[-122-] temporarily covering the broad expanse of shoulders, &c., which the
extremely "low" body of her dress left bare. The other lady either was, or
affected to be a daughter of Scotland, and wore a plaid silk dress, with a
broad scarf of similar material crossing her bosom and fastened with a
brooch at her hip. They were both hot and perspiring from recent exertions
and had evidently retired from the festive scene in quest of refreshment.
They passed the bar, however.
"Going to have a drop of brandy, Beller ?" remarked a hawk-eyed young fellow
with a hook-nose and a meerschaum pipe, and who was drinking at the bar.
"It won't run to it just as yet," replied Beller, ruefully.
Seated on a corner of a table by the door was an old fellow with a basket
containing something covered with a cloth, and approaching him one of the
gorgeously attired females asked him for a "penn'orth," whereon he put aside
the cloth and disclosed a tin pot full of peas boiled and still smoking hot.
A "penn'orth" was a small saucerful, peppered, and well soused with vinegar.
"A penn'orth for you too, miss ?" asked the old man to the syren in tartan.
"Ain't got the coin," as briefly she replied; "I'm goin' snacks with Poll,"
which she did, for Poll having devoured half the peas handed the saucer and
the leaden spoon to Bella, who disposed of them in three mouthfuls, and
after this economical refection the ladies made for the stairs again, I
following in their wake.
The dancing-room, if not lofty, was spacious - sixty feet by thirty at
least, with, at the far end of it, a refreshment bar resplendently painted,
and gilt with looking-glass panels. At the end nearest the door was the
space set apart for the musicians - a contrivance in shape and size closely
resembling a corn bin perched up against the wall, and containing the
performers, four in number, artistes of the street musician [-123-] type,
and who wore their caps and hats and took advantage of their short spells of
rest to smoke short pipes and regale on beer from a quart pot. Above the
heads of the musicians, dangling from nails in the wall, were four or five
gorgeous hats and bonnets, the property of as many female frequenters of the
room, and who with a praiseworthy regard for coolness as well as economy,
preferred to disport themselves with their tresses unencumbered. Of the
tender sex present, with a few exceptions, they were all of the Poll and
Bella sisterhood, in flashing silks and satins, and with bare arms and
shoulders; but one and all, and there must have been at least fifty of them,
of exactly the stamp as regards manner and language as though they were cast
in one mould. The same brutal, expressionless mouth, dead to everything but
the intaking of brandy and gin and the outletting of foulest blasphemy, the
same transparent mask of abandonment to the fun in progress, and through
which unmistakably and invariably appeared a restless impatience of all
frivolity that impeded business, and the cold, calculating sharp look-out
for the main chance, and which was no more quenched or even tamed by the
measures of strong drink, swallowed at the expense of the victims marked as
fair prey, than fire may be quenched with oil.
As for the male dancers at the Prussian Flag, it s more difficult to
describe them even than the women. In one respect only was there a striking
family likeness amongst them, and that was that they were all drunk, or
nearly-jolly and devil-may care drunk as the inebriated sailor as a rule is.
A strangely mixed company, and presenting a picture well worth the attention
of the clever artist daring enough to paint it ; quite a theatrical scene.
The painted and tricked out women as before mentioned, and the men of almost
every country and climate under the sun. Lithe-like Italians, quick as cats
and lively as kittens; bronze-complexioned fellows, with dull, jet black
lank hair and bright red coral earrings, copper-coloured men, [-124-] whose
complexion was sickly yellow, and full black Africans grinning with delight,
and perfect pinks of politeness as regards their behaviour to the ladies,
and each one, although the heat of the room was stiflingly oppressive,
wearing about his throat a bulky woollen wrapper of a gay colour for warmth
sake; all there, and a dozen others beside, to say nothing of the "white
folk," the spare-ribbed, hatchet-faced Yankee, the broad-beamed, heavy
jowled German, and the true British mercantile tar, who, to do him justice,
was rather more drunk than everybody else.
There was no attempt at ball-room attire as regarded the gentlemen. By far
the greater part were dressed in that broad ship rig, and a few cases were
to be seen of individuals who were so indifferent to, or defiant of
ball-room proprieties as to appear in their great deck boots, but no one
interfered or remonstrated with them. The "M.C's" certainly did not. Indeed,
I am not quite sure that they were entitled to be so styled. "O. P.'s" would
best apply to them, those initials standing for "officers of the peace."
There were four of them, long-backed, broad-shouldered young fellows, with
their shirt sleeves rolled back above their elbows, and who acted as
waiters, and who when not so engaged took each a seat at the corners of the
room, and blandly smoked their pipes and looked on. But their business
embraced something beyond looking out for and executing the orders of
customers. A lady sitting in company with a huge Norwegian, whose shaggy
hair, as he rested his tipsy head on the table, was dabbling in spilt rum
and water, was seen while playfully patting his hand, to be endeavouring to
relieve his little finger of the thick silver ring which adorned it.
"Stow it, Emma!" called out one of the vigilant waiters.
"It's on'y a lark," pleaded the young woman, coaxingly.
"Lark or linnet you stow it, or I shall have to show you [-125-] down
stairs," returned the waiter, civilly but firmly; and with a snarl and an
oath the young woman desisted.
Shortly afterwards there were signs of a sudden row. A lady taking offence
at her partner's-a black mm-stinginess, had forcibly expressed her
indignation by punching him in the face and cutting his lip, whereon the
other black men who witnessed the fracas hurried up to the rescue, and there
was all at once a tremendous commotion and flourishing of fists. But before
one might count twenty the four agile waiters were on the spot as well as
two of the musicians out of the corn bin - the flute and the cornopean, and
able-bodied men both, and in a jiffy all the coloured party were hustled
down stairs and out of the house, and in less than five minutes the four
waiters had resumed their corners, the flute and cornopean had returned to
their duties, and the trifling interruption was forgotten in the delights of
the mazy dance.
As the night advanced the dance grew mazier though, to the sober on-looker,
possibly less delightful, for then it was that the hard-featured, keen-eyed
women, who as before remarked, appear well-nigh invulnerable to the tipsying
effect of wine and spirits, plied their victims with heavier and more
frequent doses of potent liquor, so that they might render themselves
utterly helpless into their Lands to be led captive to the infamous dens
which abound in the neighbourhood, there to be plundered at leisure.
1881/Samuel Nassant/Licensed Victualler/38/N B S Naturalised, Germany/Census
1881/Kate Nassant/Wife/30/Bishopsgate, Middlesex/Census
1881/Adolph Nassant/Son/7 months/St Georges E, Middlesex/Census
1881/Emma Haddon/Domestic Servant/22/Oxon, Oxford/Census
20th. Cent: From: Alexander Gander (1911 - 1993): "The old Sugar Refineries
of St. George's in the East", originally printed in the "Port of London
Magazine". "Close by the dock was a large pub in Ship Alley called the
'Prussian Flag' kept by old Jack Mueller the antique dealer. He told me that
during the 1914 War he put a ladder up to the sign and chipped out the 'P'
to make it the 'Russian Flag'."
1891/John Akkersdyk/../../../Post Office Directory
1895/Samuel Nassauer/../../../Post Office Directory
1899/Jabez Penn/../../../Post Office Directory
1901/Ernest W Griffin/Licensed Victualler/27/Shepton Mallet, Somerset/Census
1901/James Gibbons/Manager/32/Hereford, Hereford/Census
1901/John Moorcroft/Barman/20/St Georges East, London/Census
1901/Harry Scullion/Cellerman/23/Whitechapel, London/Census