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Tom Kings coffee house : London coffee houses and taverns
A historical site about early London coffee houses and taverns
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TOM KING'S COFFEE-HOUSE, Covent garden.
This was one of the old night-houses of Covent Garden Market : it was a rude
shed immediately beneath the portico of St. Paul's Church, and was one " well
known to all gentlemen to whom beds are unknown."
Fielding in one of his Prologues says :
" What rake is ignorant of King's Coffee-house?"
It is in the background of Hogarth' s print of Morning, where the prim maiden
lady, walking to church, is soured with seeing two fuddled beaux from King's
Coffee-house caressing two frail women. At the door there is a drunken row, in
which swords and cudgels are the weapons.
Harwood's Alumni Etonenses, p. 293, in the account of the Boys elected from Eton
to King's College, contains this entry: " A.D. 1713, Thomas King, born at West
Ashton, in Wiltshire, went away scholar in apprehension that his fellowship
would be denied him ; and afterwards kept that Coffee-house in Covent Garden,
which was called by his own name."
Moll King was landlady after Tom's death: she was witty, and her house was much
frequented, though it was little better than a shed. " Noblemen and the first
beaux" said Stacie, " after leaving Court, would go to her house in full dress,
with swords and bags, and in rich brocaded silk coats, and walked and conversed
with persons of every description. She would serve chimney-sweepers, gardeners,
and the market-people in common with her lords of the highest rank. Mr. Apreece,
a tall thin man in rich dress, was her constant customer. He was called
Cadwallader by the frequenters of Moll's." It is not surprising that Moll was
often fined for keeping a disorderly house. At length, she retired from business
— and the pillory — to Hampstead, where she lived on her ill-earned gains, but
paid for a pew in church, and was charitable at appointed seasons, and died in
peace in 1747.
It was at that period that Mother Needham, Mother Douglass (alias, according to
Footers Minor, Mother Cole), and Moll King, the tavern-keepers and the gamblers,
took possession of premises abdicated by people of fashion. Upon the south side
of the market-sheds was the noted " Finish," kept by Mrs. Butler, open all
night, the last of the Garden taverns, and only cleared away in 1829. This house
was originally the Queen's Head. Shuter was pot-boy here. Here was a picture of
the Hazard Club, at the Bedford : it was painted by Hogarth, and filled a panel
of the Coffee-room.
Captain Laroon, an amateur painter of the time of Hogarth, who often witnessed
the nocturnal revels at Moll King's, made a large and spirited drawing of the
interior of her Coffee-house, which was at Strawberry Hill. It was bought for
Walpole, by his printer, some seventy years since. There is also an engraving of
the same room, in which is introduced a whole-length of Mr. Apreece, in a full
court-dress: an impression of this plate is extremely rare.
Justice Welsh used to say that Captain Laroon, his friend Captain Montague, and
their constant companion, Little Casey, the Link-boy, were the three most
troublesome of all his Bow-street visitors. The portraits of these three heroes
are introduced in Boitard's rare print of "the Covent Garden Morning Frolic."
Laroon is brandishing an artichoke. C. Montague is seated, drank, on the top of
Bet Careless' s sedan, which is preceded by Little Casey, as a link-boy.
Captain Laroon also painted a large folding-screen ;
the figures were full of broad humour, two representing a Quack Doctor and his
Merry Andrew, before the gaping crowd.
Laroon was deputy -chairman, under Sir Robert Walpole, of a Club, consisting of
six gentlemen only, who met, at stated times, in the drawing-room of Scott, the
marine painter, in Henrietta-street, Covent Garden ; and it was unanimously
agreed by the members, that they should be attended by Scott's wife only, who
was a remarkable witty woman. Laroon made a beautiful conversation drawing of
the Club, which is highly prized by J. T. Smith.
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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