Apparently Milo was an ancient Greek wrestler and strongman sometimes depicted carrying a bull on his shoulders. His link with London is that his feats are celebrated on a rather strange adornment that graced the front of the Queens Hotel built in 1830. The hotel was situated on the corner of St Martin Le Grand and a road that is now covered by Postman’s Park. The inscription reads Milo the Cretonian, An ox slew with his fist, And ate it up at one meal, Ye gods, what a glorious twist!
Sitting on top is supposedly a representation of Edward VI and just below is the coat of arms belonging to Christ’s Hospital who owned the land that the hotel sat on. Below that is a quiet surreal carving of a mans face with a large mouth with a bull inside, one can only assume that this is the aforesaid Milo devouring the bull in one sitting. The reason for this mouth, bull combination becomes clear when you look back at what stood on the site of the Queen’s Hotel before 1830.
The site was occupied by one of London’s famous coaching inns. This one started off as the Boulogne Mouth Inn. Nobody is quite sure how old the inn was by the time it was given the name to celebrate the besieging to the town and harbour of Boulogne by the King Henry VIII between 1544–1546.
Over the years Boulogne Mouth got corrupted by the locals to Bull & Mouth and it was known as such when in burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666 and subsequently rebuilt during the following decade, with the street at its corner taking the same name as the inn.
The old inn was demolished to make way for the new hotel that was owned by the coaching entrepreneur Edward Sherman and the carving is a nice little nod to the building that stood on the site previously, but why does Milo get in on the act? Carrying a bull, yes, but eating a whole one, I’ve not unearthed any record of him doing such a thing. However it is said that he drank bulls blood before one of his wrestling matches. So I can only assume that it was an intricate and convoluted device dreamed up by some early 19th century Marketing Manager to link in with the Bull & Mouth name.
As for the quality of the verse that accompanies the carving, well let’s not even go there!