Culture Magazine

Royal Oak, John Street

By Carolineld @carolineld
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 (Soho, Lewisham, Guildford, Victoria and Bell Yard). Horology enthusiasts will also enjoy Clock This, a blog devoted to public clocks in London. 

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