(London). The races in the Dunciad take place “where the tall May-pole overlooked the Strand.” On the spot now occupied by St. Mary-le-Strand, anciently stood a cross. In the place of this cross a May-pole was set up by John Clarges, a blacksmith, whose daughter Ann became the wife of Monk, Duke of Albemarle. It was taken down in 1713, and replaced by a new one erected opposite Somerset House. This second May-pole had two gilt balls and a vane on its summit. On holidays the pole was decorated with flags and garlands. It was removed in 1718, and sent by Sir Isaac Newton to Wanstead Park to support the largest telescope in Europe. (See Undershaft.)
“Captain Baily ... employed four hackney coaches, with drivers in liveries, to ply at the May pole in the Strand, fixing his own rates, about the year 1634. Bailey's coaches seem to have been the first of what are now called hackney coaches.” —Note 1. The Tatler, iv. p. 415.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894