Three Cranes Lane (City of London) 1170-1554 : France, French, Public Houses, Wine

The Three Cranes in Thames Street was a famous tavern as early as the reign of James I. John Stow explains the curious name in the following manner. The Vintry was that part of the Thames bank where the merchants of Bordeaux ‘craned their wines out of lighters and other vessels, and there landed and made sale of them’. That had not always been the case. They had been preceded by cooks who are specifically recorded in Fritz-Stephen’s (clerk to Thomas à Beckett) Description of London of 1170. Here he describes in great detail the cookshops on the banks of the River Thames which he thought the acme off civilization: ‘at any time of day or night, any number could be fed to suit all palates and all purses’. 

Later in the thirteenth century the banks of the River Thames were taken over by the wine vaults of the vintners and the cookshops moved to Eastcheap and Bread Street. John Stow also adds that Three Cranes Lane was so called not only of a sign of three cranes at a tavern door, but rather of ‘three strong cranes of timber placed on the Vintry wharf by the Thames side, to crane up wines there’. Earlier it would seem that only one crane had to suffice for the needs of those French wine merchants of Bordeaux. The tavern was originally simply known as the Crane. Two references, dated respectively 1552 and 1554, speak of the sign in the singular. Twenty years later, however, the one had become three. Brits loved their Bordeaux.

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