Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Royal Oak, John Street

Doughty Street, Bloomsbury home of the Charles Dickens Museum, becomes John Street a little further south. Sticking out from one of the terraced buildings is a rather fancy clock, atop which are the words Royal Oak. That rather puzzled me: the name suggested a pub, but the building certainly did not. 

The answer is that the clock marks not a former public house but a now-defunct Benefit Society. Founded in 1837, the Royal Oak Benefit Society moved to John Street by 1907 and settled there for a half-century. Members effectively insured themselves against sickness and unemployment, receiving benefits when they were unable to work. 

Further reading: more public clocks in York, Cambridge, Chichester, and London (SohoLewisham, Guildford, Victoria and Bell Yard). Horology enthusiasts will also enjoy Clock This, a blog devoted to public clocks in London. 


SilverTiger said...

A handy piece of research.

That clock is on our "patch", so to speak, and I had seen the clock and wondered about it but not got around to finding out about it.

So thanks for solving the mystery!

Hels said...

The old benefit societies, like the Royal Oak, were an important part of Victorian civilisation and into the next century. The trouble is... once they changed, got absorbed or disappeared, they were difficult to chase. Well done!