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Three Cups Inn (Bread Street)


The Three Cups Inn was located in Bread Street Ward at the southwest intersection of Bread Street and Watling Street. It was east of Friday Street and north of Pissing Lane, situated between St. John the Evangelist church and All Hallows, Bread Street church. Though the inn is not labelled on the Agas map, other early modern maps did identify it; the 1682 Morgan map (London &c. Actually Survey’d) calls it the Three Cupps Inne, and the 1773 Noorthhouck map identifies it as the 3 Cupps Inn.

Early History and Etymology

The earliest reference to the Three Cups Inn may be from 10 August 1363 in the will of Thomas le Neve (d. c. 1363):
To John Michel, vintner, a tavern with two solars, a garyt, &c., at the corner of Bredstret, parish of All Hallows, for a term of twenty years next after his decease; remainder to Stephen his son in tail; remainder in trust for sale for pious and charitable uses. (Sharpe)
The etymology of the inn’s name is unclear; however, the Three Cups was described by Wheatley and Cunningham as a favorite London sign, and it served as the name of no fewer than five inns around London:
Gap in transcription. Reason: (AW)[…] on the east side of St. John Street, near Hick’s Hall; on the west side of Bread Street, near the middle; on the east side of Goswell Street, near Adlersgate Street. A fourth is mentioned by Beaumont and Fletcher:— You know our meetings, At the Three Cups in St. Giles. Beaumont and Fletcher’s Works, by Dyce, vol. iv. p. 42. And a fifth (in Holborn), by Winstanley, in his Lives of the Poets[.] (Cunningham and Wheatley 378)
In the fifteenth century, William Estfield, a Mercer and one time Sheriff and Alderman, and twice Mayor of the City of London, left the Three Cups to the Worshipful Company of Mercers:
By another codicil of the same date he leaves to the Wardens of the Mistery of Mercery of the City of London a tenement called le Three Coupes upon le hoop in the parish of All Hallows in Bredestrete. (Francis 511)
Into the late seventeenth century, alternate spellings of cup were used. In the registers of All Hallows Church, a baptism record for 6 April 1694 reads: William Horn, his father being at sea, his mother coming from Bristo, was brought to bed at ye three Coup’s (Bannerman 44).

Importance in Early Modern London

The Three Cups was a home to generations of people. Births, marriages and deaths were common occurrences within its walls. The registers of All Hallows Church give the names of some of the people who lived and worked at the Three Cups. During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, for instance, the Rutts were inn holders of the Three Cups, and Rowland Rutt (d. 1610) is named as such in the church register entries for christenings and burials of children born at the inn. See, for instance, the following burial record on 7 March 1599:
at pouls, a crysome1 childe that borne in the howse of Mr Rowland Rutt at the three cups by one Elyn Jhonsone, his servant. (Bannerman 169)
When Rowland Rutt died on 10 August 1610, he is recorded as an Inholder (Bannerman 173). He left his wife with six children under seven years of age to care for, in addition to the running of the Three Cups.2 She is listed as the head of the household for burials of those whoe died in the house of Mrs. Rutt at the three cups in All Hallows Church register (Bannerman 174, 175).
The precise relationship between Mrs. Rowland Rutt (c. fl. 1590-1630) and Lawrence Rutt (c. d. 1643) is unclear; however, it is clear that he took over as innholder around 1630. He was married to Mary Lowland (c. fl. 1610-1650) on 27 December 1627 in Bishop’s Gate (London Metropolitan Archives P69/BOT4/A/001/MS04515, Item 001) and, before moving into the Three Cups, had at least two children, Mary and Margeret, both of whom died young and were buried in the vault at All Hallows at some expense:
1633 June 3 Mary d. Lawrens Rutt, Inkeep [in the vault. 11s 4d] 1635 April 7, in the vault, Margerett d. Lowrens Rutt, Inkeep [10s 8d]. (Bannerman 186)
In midst of these tragedies, Lawrence Rutt had three more children, one of whom also died in infancy.3 Like Rowland Rutt before him, Lawrence did not live to see his children grow up, as his will is dated 16 February 1643 (London Metropolitan Archives Ms 9172/51).
Over a century later, the Three Cups continued to be a family home for the innholder. William J. James (c. fl. 1730-1780), the innholder of Three Cups in the 1760s, sent his sons, William James (b. 1756) and Samuel James (b. 1755), to St. Paul’s School located only a few blocks away, as can be seen in the school admission records: son[s] of William J., inn holder of the Three Cups Inn, Bread Street, admitted May 16, 1764 (Gardiner 130). Children working, playing and growing would have been a common sight at the Three Cups throughout its history.
We know the names of some of the servants of the Three Cups because they are mentioned in local death and marriage records. For example, Thomas Redwaye died 27 July 1593 of the plague while in service.4 On a more positive note, we also have the marriage records for two of the servants:
1577 Aug 10th Henrye Scippard & Isabell Helliatt, s’vant at ye three cups[.] 1598 June 13th Richard Wilborne of St. Sepulchers & Joane Rance of this p’ish, s’vant to Mr. Rutt5 at ye three cups[.] (Bannerman 99, 100)
Servants, children, and innholders were all important residents at the inn during its early modern history

Carriers and the Postal Service at The Three Cups Inn

From very early in its history, the Three Cups and other London inns also hosted carriers, who were part of the early modern postal service. The Three Cups would have allowed for pickup and delivery of items to transport as well as a place for carriers and their horses to rest. The Water Poet, John Taylor, mentions the Three Cups at least six times in his 1637 Carriers’ Cosmography, which describes the London locations for coaches and carriers travelling to various parts of the country:
The Carriers of Bathe doe lodge at the three cups in breadstreet they come on fridaies and goe on saturdaies. (Taylor sig. A4r)
He indicates that carriers from Bristol, Cheltenham, Camden, Chipping Norton, Tewksbury and Winchcombe all lodged at the Three Cups (Taylor). By 1749, the Three Cups advertised a coach leaving for Bath twice a week during winter and three times a week during the summer, with a carrier leaving three days a week and a pack horse on Saturdays. An advertisement in 1752 details the pricing for The Bath Flying Coach:
Each passenger to pay 20s. to Bath, and 23s. to Bristol, and to allow 20lb weight to each passenger, goods, and all above to pay Three Half pences per Pound. (Daily Advertiser)
By 1786 the Royal Mail had established a mail route to Windsor from the Three Cups:
The following (excluſive of thoſe on the Crosſ Poſt-Roads,) are Mail Coaches already eſtabliſhed Gap in transcription. Reason: (AW)[…] To Windsor, from the Three Cups, Bread-Street. (Whitehall Evening Post)

A Neighbourhood Landmark

According to Stow, a prison house for debtors was located in the same block as the Three Cups during the sixteenth century:
Now on ye West side of Bredstréet, amongst diuers fayre and large houses for merchants, and faire Innes for passengers, had yee one prison house pertaining to the Sheriffes of London, called the compter in Bredstréete[.] (Stow 1598, sig. T6v)
Stow goes on to explain that the Bread Street Counter was moved to Wood Street in 1555, though another source claims the Bread Street Counter was not moved until 1622:
In 1518, there was a prison in Bread Street, Cheapside, belonging to the Sheriffs court, for small debts, which, in 1622, was removed to Wood Street, called the New Compter. (Feltham 200)
The Bread Street Counter’s close location may suggest that the Three Cups was a place frequented by those involved in criminal justice. Indeed, in 1625, at least one royal legal commission examined witnesses at the inn, as can be seen in the following letter from a commissioner to an unknown recipient referred to as Right ho[ne]r[a]ble:
Whereas I have received the Kings Ma[jes]ties most ho[ne]r[a]ble l[ett]res of Comision and your Lords directed unto mee and unto one R:C:6 gent for the examinacon of witnesses in a cause dependinge before your honor betweene M:W: pl[aintif]f and E:P: def[endant] Soe it is right ho[ne]r[a]ble that accordinge to the tenor of the said Comission I repared to the signe of the 3 Cupps in Bread streete in the Citty of London vppon the 2 day of M: by nyne of the Clocke in the morninge for the execucion of the said Comissioners and Then and there in the absence of the said Rich: C the other Comissioner p[er]ceeded to the examinacon of one witnesse then and there produced before mee whose depositions then and there by me taken I have put in writeing and the same together with the Intere[st] and Comission hearein closed I have sent to your Lor[dshi]p for further therein to be donne as to your honor shall seeme meete and Convenient and soe with my duety I rest[.] (MS Ch6, Medieval Manuscripts mms.ch6 f40v, emphasis added)
The inn is again mentioned in a 10 November 1681 advertisement in the London Gazette looking for witnesses to a robbery and murder:
One Iohn Thomas, Servant to Mr. Bullock of Bristol, has been robbed and killed by Highwaymen. Whoever give Notice of the Persons aforesaid to Mr. Bullock of Bristol or at the Three Cups in Bread Street, London, shall have their charges and 40s reward[.] (Head 102)
That the Three Cups was a meeting place for people acquainted with crime and the law seems evident from the historical record. It makes sense that the authorities would seek to examine professional carriers who frequented the roads of rural England and would have been very familiar with the dangers of highwaymen, at the London inn in which they took respite from their travels.
The Three Cups also served as a landmark well into the eighteenth century. A broker advertising ship sales regularly in the Daily Advertiser gave his contact information as William James Gambier, broker, over-against the Three Cups in Bread-Street (General Advertiser). In 1787, when John Westwood (d. 1792), the famous engraver and metallurgist, raced to London from Birmingham at the break-neck pace of 13.5 miles per hour, his finish line was the Three Cups: 219 miles from Birmingham to the Three Cups in Bread-street, in a few minutes more than 16 hours (World).

The Great and Other Fires

In 1663, Richard Pauley (c. fl. 1640-1700) was the innholder of the Three Cups, and he remained so after the Great Fire until 1698 when Mr. Ward (c. fl. 1680-1730) took possession (Head 102). In 1720, John Strype described the inn after it was rebuilt: Three Cups Inn, Very large, well built, and of a great Trade for Country Waggons and Carriers (Strype). In 1733, Mottley added:
Breadstreet is now inhabited by many Merchants and wealthy Traders, and hath in it on a very good Inn [the sign of the Three Cups] for carriers and other Travellers to the city[.] (Mottley)
Then on Monday, 11 April 1791, the World newspaper reported:
A fire broke out at the Three Cups Inn, Bread-Street at one o’clock on Saturday morning, which entirely demolished the same, and damaged several adjoining houses. A young man, clerk to the inn, it is fear, perished in the flames. (World)
The inn was once again rebuilt and remained on the site until at least 1849 when Wheatley and Cunningham noted that the Three Cups Inn still remains (Wheatley and Cunningham 114).

Recent History

During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the area in and around the site of Three Cups was subject to the Metropolitan Improvement Act of 1861. The act funded the creation of Queen Victoria Street and expanded Cannon Street, which cut right across the site of the Three Cups. Many of the inns for carriers became obsolete in the nineteenth century, as the railway took over transportation of people and goods. The inns fell out of use by travelers and shippers, becoming derelict tenement housing. The large inn-yards, the paved areas for wagons and coaches, were seen as a waste of space in a highly populated city. Charles Dickens, Jr. (b. 1837 d. 1896) described the area after the improvements:
Cannon-street is a street of wholesale warehouses, and a few sample goods in each window alone tell the passer-by the nature of the immense stock contained in them[.] (Dickens 48)
Today, the surrounding area is again as it was for centuries, with homes and businesses for wealthy merchants: today on the former site of the Three Cups sits a branch of Fidelity Worldwide Investment.
(MoEML consulted Taylor, Harben, A Large and Accurate Map of the City of London C15, and London Survey’d sig. A3r to locate this site on the Agas map.)


  1. In obituaries and the like, applied to a child that died during the first month or shortly after baptism, and was shrouded in its chrisom-cloth (OED chrisom, n.4.b). (KL)
  2. The children of Rowland Rutt from 1600-1608 as listed in the Parish Registers of All Hallows Church (Bannerman): William c. 27 April 1600, Maragarett c. 31 May 1601, Richard c. 25 July 1602, Barthellmewe c. 28 August 1604, Sara c. 23 November 1607, Hestar c. 2 April 1607, Alice c. 13 April 1608. (AW)
  3. In addition to Henry (c. 28 August 1635) and Jane (c. 9 November 1636), Mary and Lawrence Rutt had another child while innholders, a son named Laurance. He was christened on 25 February 1638 and buried 24 November 1638 in the vault at All Hallows (Bannerman 26, 189). (AW)
  4. Thomas Lewys (d. 1569), Margaret Ludlane (d. 1580), and Edward Evance (d. 1589) were also Three Cups servants who died while in service (Bannerman 162, 164, 166, 167). (AW)
  5. I.e., Rowland Rutt or Lawrence Rutt. (KL)
  6. I.e., Richard C. (MR)


Cite this page

MLA citation

Wyndham, Aradia. Three Cups Inn (Bread Street). The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022,

Chicago citation

Wyndham, Aradia. Three Cups Inn (Bread Street). The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022.

APA citation

Wyndham, A. 2022. Three Cups Inn (Bread Street). In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

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ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Three Cups Inn (Bread Street)
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

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