London Pubs No.6: The Old Dr Butler’s Head



This pub can be found at 2 Mason’s Avenue, London Wall.
Dr. Butler was a fraud. He failed to qualify at Cambridge and practised some pretty outrageous ‘cures’. For epilepsy he would fire a brace of pistols near his unsuspecting patient’s face, to scare the epilepsy from them, or in cases of the plague, plunge the poor soul into ice cold water. Another treatment was to drop patients through a trapdoor on London Bridge into the Thames.
His lack of qualifications did not prevent the ‘Doctor’ from becoming physician to King James I, or from selling his popular medicinal ale. This was available only from taverns which displayed Dr. Butler’s head on their signs. This is the last one remaining. The original pub was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, but was rebuilt and has been renovated several times. The wooden façade looks authentic but is probably Victorian, certainly older than the mock-Tudor buildings opposite.

One comment on “London Pubs No.6: The Old Dr Butler’s Head”

  1. I.A.M. says:

    Well, in truth, the ice-cold water treatment might cure the plague by causing the boils to drain, but this would only work if the patient were subjected to it at precisely the right moment. The same approach was used by many who swam across the Thames; if they reached the other side alive they had a damned good chance of being cured, due to the diseased fluid of their ailments’ sores being removed by the frigid waters.

    Or they would drown; the ultimate cure for all which ales [sic].

    Speaking of, the “Doctor” Butler shared a cure of beer for most things with both Rev. Wesley (beginner of Methodist church) and Benjamin Franklin: small beer (very low alcohol content) was a safe source of liquid when most water available to the average man was far from potable. Guinness was good for you!

    Doing my best to make some use of this encyclopædia of otherwise worthless information, I remain… faithfully yours…

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