City Dog House
The City Dog House, located in northern London, was adjacent to Moorfields1 and was located outside of The Wall and the city wards.2 It was also referred to by the Lord Maiors dog-house, The Lord Mayors dogge-house, the Lord Mayors Dog-house, the Dog-house in Finsbury Field, and the Lord Mayor’s Dog-kennel. On the Agas map, it is labelled as
Dogge hous.Built in 1512, the Lord Mayor’s dog house, as it was most frequently called, housed the Lord Mayor’s hunting dogs (Hope 42). This area was popular for recreational pursuits, such as archery, as depicted on the Agas map.3 Before 1527, when Moorfields and Finsbury Field were drained, the place was also popular for ice skating (Thornbury 196). Besides having a history as a place for recreation, the Dog House was located near Finsbury Manor, which was owned by the Lord Mayor and located in the outskirts of London, where the frequently mentioned odour and noise of the Dog House would be less bothersome (Poore 336).
The hounds were looked after by an officer called the Common Hunt, who resided in or near the Dog House itself. The Common Hunt was a high-ranking position, second only to the Master Sword-bearer (Pennant 347). The Common Hunt, also called Master Common Hunt, attended to the Lord Mayor on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (Pennant 348).
By the early 1600s, the Dog House seems to have fallen into disrepair, being referred to as
verie old and reuinous and not ﬁt for habitationas well as having
stinking smelles(Waller 34). The Common Hunt writes next year
that it doth rayne into the rooms of the Dogge hous’e throughout, and that the same will, in short time,- fall downe(Waller 34). The house, however, remained standing, though we do not hear about it for some time so perhaps some repairs were finally made. After some debate on the importance of the Common Hunt’s position in preserving the history of London, the office was abolished in 1807.
The Lord Mayor allowed well-off citizens to use his hounds to hunt. These hounds were used for an event called the citizen’s common hunt (not to be confused with the officer mentioned above). Strype describes one of these common hunts on September 18th, 1562:
There was a great cry for a mile, then the hounds killed him [the fox] at St. Giles; a great hallooing at his death and blowing of horns; and the Lord Mayor and all his company rode through London to his place in Lombard Street(Strype 25).
The hounds were treated well. After a stag hunt, they were given choice pieces of meat from the dead stag, and on their return to the Dog House the hounds had their feet bathed and greased (Velten 89). The popularity of the common hunt fell until in the late eighteenth century, when the Lord Mayor’s hounds were only used once a year for the Epping Forest hunt. Previously a respectable and serious affair, the Epping hunt had become a laughingstock by 1807 when the City of London abolished the office of the Common Hunt. Without the Lord Mayor’s hounds, fewer hounds, that were of poorer breeding, were used, along with horses of lower quality. Riders were frequently drunk and the affair extremely chaotic. The Epping hunts ended in 1847 (Velten 94).
The Dog House was certainly well known in its day, as evidenced by references to it in period literature. In Thomas Dekker’s Belman of London, for example, a character refers to hounds from the City Dog House, saying,
nay my Lord Maiors Hounds at the dog-house being bidden to the funerall banquet of a dead horse, could not pick the bones cleaner(Dekker, Belman 23). It was also one of the few places where ordinary Londoners could witness hunting techniques like the practice of coupling younger and older dogs for training. Dekker describes a pair of people who
went away like a cupple of hounds from the dogge-house(Dekker, A Strange Horse-Race 24). Other literary references allow us to guess at conditions in the Dog House. For example, one Londoner claimed a prison
stinkes more then the Lord Mayors dogge-house(G.M. 13). Others mention the Lord Mayor’s Dog House as a fanciful place to commit suicide by dogs or as a place to throw someone you are not fond of. The noise and smell thus made it a proverbially frightful place for early modern Londoners (Jessey 130; Rowley 64). We can guess at the hounds’ diets from a mention in Natura Exenterata of the Dog House in Finsbury Field as being a place to acquire horse marrow, and also from Dekker’s above comment regarding the dead horse (Philiatros 216).
- Dekker, Thomas. A Strange Horse-race. London: 1613. STC 6528. Subscription. Early English Books Online.
- Dekker, Thomas. The Belman of London. London: 1608. STC 6482. Subscription.FS Early English Books Online.
- G.M.. Certaine Caracters and Essayes of Prison and Prisoners. London: 1618. EEBO. STC 18318. Subscription.
- Hope, Valerie. My Lord Mayor: Eight Hundred Years of London’s Mayoralty. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1989.
- Jessey, Henry. The Exceeding Riches of Grace. London: 1647. EEBO. Wing J688. Subscription.
- Pennant, Thomas. Some Account of London. London: 1813. Open.
- Philiatros. Natura Exenterata: or Nature Unbowelled. London: 1655. EEBO. Wing N241. Subscription.
- Poore, G. V.
London, Ancient and Modern, From a Sanitary Point of View.Public Health. 1 (1889): 335-343. Open.
- Rowley, William. A New Wonder. London: 1632. EEBO. STC 21423. Subscription.
- Strype, John. A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster: Containing the Original, Antiquity, Increase, Modern Estate, and Government of those Cities. London, 1720. Reprint. as An Electronic Edition of John Strype’s A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster. Ed. Julia Merritt (Stuart London Project). Version 1.0. Sheffield: hriOnline, 2007. Web.
- Thornbury, Walter. Old and New London. 6 vols. London, 1878. Reprint. British History Online. Web.
- Velten, Hannah. Beastly London: A History of Animals in the City. London: Reaktion Books, 2013.
- Waller, William Chapman.
The Epping Hunt.Essex Naturalist. 8 (1894): 31-35. Open.
Last modification: 2016-06-21 10:05:08 -0700 (Tue, 21 Jun 2016) (mholmes)