Essex Street

Strand (WC2) Stands on the site of an ancient mansion built by Walter Stapleton, Bishop of Exeter, who was seized by the mob, beheaded in Cheapside, and buried beneath a heap of sand in front of the house which he had intended for the residence of the prelates belonging to the See of Exeter. Bishop Lacy added the great hall in the reign of Henry VI, and it was called Exeter House ; later it was called Leicester House and lastly assumed the title of Essex House, from the unfortunate Earl of Essex, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. (Tallis's London Street Views) Here, a year before he died, Dr. Johnson formed the Essex Head Club. It was held at a tavern called the "Essex Head," kept by a man who had been a servant of Mr. Thrale. There is a new "Essex Head" on the same site now. "The terms," said Johnson, writing to Sir Joshua Reynolds, inviting him to become a member, "are lax, and the expenses light. We meet thrice a week, and he who misses forfeits two pence." Sir Joshua declined to become a member of an association so plebeian as to fine a man two pence, but the club prospered and survived its founder. (Reference: Smith's Streets of London, p. 236)