Ever wondered what this plaque is all about on the gates to Hampton Court Palace?
For those with not so good eyesight, it reads:
The site of the Toy Inn. An ancient hostelry of note. Built for Oliver Cromwell’s troops c. 1650, rebuilt c. 1700, demolished c. 1840, wherein Pope wrote the Rape of the Lock, the Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV formed & presided over his Toy Club, and Thomas Dunckerley founded The Masonic Lodge of Harmony 255 in 1785. The lodge held here for 37 years now erects this tablet. July 1933.
Adjoining Hampton Court Palace was The Toy Inn, a Cromwellian hostelry, one of the most ancient in England, catering for the palace guard, and as a refreshment house for the workmen on Hampton Court Palace in the 16th century.
It formerly stood close to the water-side, between the bridge-foot and the palace gates; but in 1840 the old building, being in a ruinous state, was taken down, there has been some difficulty in ascertaining the origin of this singular designation “The Toy”. As the house lay close to the river, bordering the towing-path, it has been suggested that the name might be traced to this circumstance.
On the other hand, it has been supposed that the original sign was “The Hoy” (which would be appropriate enough for a water-side tavern) and was gradually clipped or abbreviated, in the patois of the west-country bargemen, into “T’oy”. But in Miss Strickland’s “Lives of the Queens of England” an explanation of the origin of this name is given, which there can be little doubt is the true one. “Fronting the royal stables (now appertaining to the Toy Hotel) is a small triangular plain.
This plain in the era of the Tudors and Stuarts was the tilting-place, and indeed the playground of the adjoining palace. Here used to be set up moveable fences, made of net-work, called “toils” or “tois”, used in those games in which barriers were needed, from whence the name of the stately hostel on the green is derived.”
As mentioned in the plaque this is where Thomas Dunckerley decided to establish a new masonic Lodge called The Lodge of
Harmony on 2nd June 1785
Both the Toy Inn and the Mitre Hotel were amongst the most famous of Middlesex
Masonic meeting places, the former as we know dating back to 1650. Other meeting places were Harrow, Southgate, Staines, Twickenham, and Uxbridge.