PortCities London

Coffee houses in London

Coffee houses and the sea

Pepys's coffee house

Samuel Pepys, 1633-1703.
View full size imageSamuel Pepys, 1633-1703. © NMM
Wills' Coffee House, under Scotland Yard Gate, was frequented in the late 17th century by the diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703). This was largely due to its proximity to the Admiralty, where he served in various posts including Secretary for Admiralty Affairs. 

By the 18th century, this location made it a favourite among naval officers. In 1746 a group of officers who regularly met at Wills put forward the idea for the first uniform of the Royal Navy. 

The interior of Wills is described in an anonymous poem of 1764, ;The British Coffee House': 

'To see so long a room, -- so high a roof;
Such noble furniture, so grand a bar;
So fair a Dame amidst such pomp of war…'

Lloyd's: from coffee to shipping

Lloyd's Coffee House frontage. On loan from Lloyd's of London.
View full size imageLloyd's Coffee House frontage. On loan from Lloyd's of London. © NMM
Lloyd’s was perhaps one of the best known of the London coffee houses. It was established in the late 17th century on Tower Street. By the 18th century it had moved to Lombard Street, where the majority of its clients were involved in shipping and trading. 

Lloyd’s developed an agreement with the Post Office to pass on news of various ships directly to the customers of the coffee house. That meant that those involved might be the first to know of either disaster of success. This eventually became the Lloyd’s List, the first of which was published in 1734. 

During the Napoleonic Wars, Lloyd’s raised subscriptions and began a patriotic fund. By the early 19th century, Lloyd’s was less of a coffee house and more of an insurance business. Then, in 1844, it moved to the Royal Exchange.

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