The Booth’s Gin Relief Panels | Britton Street, Clerkenwell
Look up at Mountford House on Britton Street, Clerkenwell and you’ll spot these intriguing decorative panels.
They walk you through the production of gin and are a reminder of a business that was based here almost 300 years ago.
History of Booth’s Gin
By 1740 they had established a distillery on Cowcross Street, Clerkenwell. This date is referenced on their bottles and makes it the oldest gin brand still in production (although today it’s owned by Sazerac brands)
Image from haskells.com
In 1770 they expanded onto the opposite side of Cowcross Street and further onto Britton street.
By 1830 the company was under the control of Felix Booth and became the largest distilling company in the country. As a strange aside, Felix Booth was also fascinated with Artic exploration and financed an expedition to attempt to chart the North West Passage. The mission – lead by John Ross – was a failure in terms of finding a North West Passage but did succeed in locating the position of the magnetic North and Boothia Peninsula in Canada is named after Felix Booth.
It was under family ownership until 1897 and then became the public company; Booth’s Distillery Ltd.
The new building was designed 1903 by E W Mountford on Turnmill Street but was demolished in 1975. It was agreed that parts of the building would be saved and so they were resurrected here. The red dot on the map below shows the location of the current Mountford House
Image from layersoflondon.org – 1940s-1960s OS Maps Leaflet | © Maptiler and OpenStreetMap contributors
Of the original features, it’s only the ground floor granite arches and the carved panels by Frederick William Pomeroy that survived.
A Closer Look at the Booth’s Gin Panels
There are five relief panels across the top of the building. The central one is an allegorical figure of commerce and the others showing stages of gin production.
We begin with harvesting the grain.
Then there’s a huge dray horse with a laden cart behind him, perhaps alluding to bringing the grain into London?
Then there’s oxen pulling the barrels of gin, a nice nod to the earlier distillery location and the literal meaning of Cowcross Street that still survives nearby.
And finally you see the liquid being poured and inspected.
This panel for me had the best details, a crouched man eyeing up the pot;
While another looks on sceptically, or maybe turning his nose up at the fumes!
Discover more hidden historic gems of Clerkenwell on my walking tour, here!