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Evans, Covent garden : London coffee houses and taverns
A historical site about early London coffee houses and taverns
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EVANS'S, COVENT GARDEN.
At the north-west corner of Covent Garden Market is a lofty edifice, which, with
the building that preceded it, possesses a host of interesting associations. Sir
Kenelm Digby came to live here after the Restoration of Charles II. : here he
was much visited by the philosophers of his day, and built in the garden in the
rear of the house a laboratory. The mansion was altered, if not rebuilt, for the
Earl of Orford, better known as Admiral Russell, who, in 1692, defeated Admiral
de Tourville, and ruined the French fleet. The facade of the house originally
resembled the forecastle of a ship. The fine old staircase is formed of part of
the vessel Admiral Russell commanded at La Hogue; it has handsomely carved
anchors, ropes, and the coronet and initials of Lord Orford. The Earl died here
in 1727; and the house was afterwards occupied by Thomas, Lord Archer, until
1768; and by James West, the great collector of books, etc., and President of
the Royal Society, who died in 1772.
Mr. Twigg recollected Lord Archer's garden (now the site of the singing-room),
at the back of the Grand Hotel, about 1765, well stocked ; mushrooms and
cucumbers were grown there in high perfection.
In 1774, the house was opened by David Low as an hotel ; the first family hotel,
it is said, in London. Gold, silver, and copper medals were struck, and given by
Low, as advertisements of his house ; the gold to the princes, silver to the
nobility, and copper to the public generally. About 1794, Mrs. Hudson , then
proprietor, advertised her hotel, (C with stabling for one hundred noblemen and
horses." The next proprietors were Richardson and Joy.
At the beginning of the present century, and some years afterwards, the hotel
was famous for its large dinner- and coffee-room. This was called the " Star,"
from the number of men of rank who frequented it.
One day a gentleman entered the dining-room, and ordered of the waiter two
lamb-chops ; at the same time inquiring, " John, have you a cucumber ?" The
waiter replied in the negative — it was so early in the season; but he would
step into the market, and inquire if there were any. The waiter did so, and
returned with — " There are a few, but they are half-a-guinea apiece." u
Half-a-guinea apiece ! are they small or large ? " " Why, rather small." " Then
buy two," was the reply. This incident has been related of various epicures ; it
occurred to Charles Duke of Norfolk, who died in 1815.
Evans, of Covent Garden Theatre, removed here from the Cider Cellar in Maiden
lane, and, using the large dining-room for a singing room, prospered until 1844,
when he resigned the property to Mr. John Green. Meanwhile, the character of the
entertainment, by the selection of music of a higher class than hitherto,
brought so great an accession of visitors, that Mr. Green built, in 1855, on the
site of the old garden (Digby's garden) an extremely handsome hall, to which the
former singing-room forms a sort of vestibule. The latter is hung with the
collection of portraits of celebrated actors and actresses, mostly of our own
time, which Mr. Green has been at great pains to collect.
The speciality of this very agreeable place is the olden music, which is sung
here with great intelligence and spirit; the visitors are of the better and more
appreciative class, and often include amateurs of rank. The reserved gallery is
said to occupy part of the site of the cottage in which the Kembles occasionally
resided during the zenith of their fame at Covent- Garden Theatre; and here the
gifted Fanny Kemble is said to have been born.
Lots of references are made to two sources on the
Edward Callows, Old London Taverns &
John Timbs, Club life of London Volume 2
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