Bakers coffee house : London coffee houses and taverns

A historical site about early London coffee houses and taverns and will also link to my current pub history site and also the London street directory

Baker's Chop-house, Change Alley, Cornhill, formerly ihe Swan Tavern
Baker's Chop-house, Change Alley, Cornhill, formerly ihe Swan Tavern

The Bakers coffee house, in Change-alley, is remembered as a tavern some forty years since. The landlord, after whom it is named, may possibly have been a descendant from " Baker," the master of Lloyd's Rooms. It has been, for many years, a chop-house, with direct service from the grid-iron, and upon pewter ; though on the first-floor, joint dinners are served : its post-prandial punch was formerly much drunk. In the lower room is a portrait of  James, thirty-five years waiter here.

William Gibson appears to be the owner of Bakers coffee house between at least 1822 and his death in 1850, when it is latterly noted as a coffee house and tavern; and is still listed as a tavern until at least 1915.

Bakers Cbop bouse.

Close to Garraway's, in Change Alley, was, and indeed now is, another house of a totally different character. It is an excellent sample of the old-fashioned first-class City chop-house. It is still in full swing, and well worth a visit by anyone desirous of seeing how his grandfathers took their mid-day meal.

The house was called the Swan Tavern at one time — before that it was known as the "Rummer" — but it is now, and has been ever since I can remember the City, known as " Baker's" Coffee and Chop House.

Baker's Chop-house, Change Alley, Cornhill, formerly ihe Swan Tavern

It was at this very house, on the day before the festival (?) of Guy Fawkes in 1794 — over one hundred years ago - that eight Evangelical ministers met, and after enjoying their chops, steaks, and kidneys, accompanied, I have no doubt, with either good wine or beer — for teetotalism was not invented, and blue ribbons were not worn in button-holes in those days — evolved from their united hearts and brains the grand idea of sending forth the " Good tidings of Salvation " to the far-off ends and corners of the world ; and, to do so, started the London Missionary Society.

Their names were : —
Rev. Matthew Wilks, who acted as chairman.
Rev. John Eyre, Church of England.
Rev. Dr. Rogue, Independent.
Rev. Joseph Brooksbank, Independent.
Rev. John Sone, Scotch Church.
Rev. John Reynolds, Independent.
Rev. Dr. Stevens, Scotch Church.
Rev. John Townsend, Independent.

The first circulars of the London Missionary Society were issued from the Swan, and thus the first appeal to the religious public was made from a City tavern. I hope sincerely that the fact that
it was born in a City chop-house will not prejudice the Society - in the minds of my readers, or induce them either to withhold or lessen their donations and subscriptions. On the contrary, I trust that the knowledge and remembrance of such a fact may tend to moderate the zeal of those who run teetotalism for all it is worth ; teach them temperance in their denunciations ; and gently remind
them that not all the doors of taverns necessarily lead to the regions of the devil.
This band of practical philanthropists, who did not disdain to make their place of meeting a tavern, and from thence to issue their prospectus of one of the noblest institutions of modern times, consisted of the following true disciples of their
beloved Master ; the object of which was to carry His glorious message of love to all the nations — to all the remote corners of the world.
The Rev. Matthew Wilks, who acted as chair-man, was for nearly half a century the minister of Whitefield's Tabernacle in Tottenham Court Road. He assisted in founding the College
at Highbury, which has since been removed to Hoxton, and also the Female Penitentiary. He was a " Scorpion," i.e. he was born at Gibraltar, on St. Matthew's Day, 1746. Hence his name.
He died in 1829. Mr. Wilks was one of those few who possess the talent of doing a favour — a really kind act, in a really kind way. On one occasion a brother minister who had a large
family and a small stipend, came to him for advice. He was in debt, and owed his butcher and baker £30. His position unnerved him and almost rendered him incapable of preaching and pursuing
his duties to his flock. " Go ! my brother, and prepare to preach on Sunday. Trust in God, and come to me again on Monday. On no account apply to any of your own congregation for help, and tell no one you owe any man anything."
This truly practical Christian headed the list himself, and then called on several of his own flock who he knew had the means, and collected from them £3S but did not mention who it zvas for,
beyond the fact of its being a man who needed the help. On the Monday his friend called, and who can tell his delight and gratitude on receiving this much-needed help. " Hold your head up,
my dear brother. It is God you have to thank ; and none of the donors of this know who it was for. Had I told your name, it would have travelled to your own congregation and have
ruined you."
He also could reprove as effectually as he could help. On one occasion he was travelling on a stage coach, and among the travellers was a nobleman, whom Mr. Wilks recognized, and a woman of what the world calls "easy virtue." The peer, the coachman, and the " lady " carried on a conversation that gradually became freer and freer, till the Rev. Mr. Wilks deemed it time to take a part in it, and turning to the nobleman, and looking him
straight in the face, said, " My Lord ! maintain your rank."
The Rev. John Eyre, M.A., the incumbent of the Ram Episcopal Chapel at Homerton, was a Cornishman, born at Bodmin, in January,
1754, and educated at Tavistoclc. He married in 1785 Miss Keen of Reading, and died in April, 1803.
The Rev. David Bogue, D.D., was born at Dowlais, near Eyemouth in Berwickshire, 18th February, 1750, educated at Edinburgh University, and married 28th August, 1787, Miss Charlotte Uffington. He was an eminent Scotch Presbyterian minister, and died in A. D. 1825.
The Rev. Joseph Brooksbank was born at Thornton, near Bradford in Yorkshire, 21st February, 1762, the son of a farmer. He was appointed in 1785 to the ministry of the Independent Church at Haberdashers' Hall in Staining Lane, Cheapside. He married on 1st
January, 1788, Miss Shrimpton, who died in June, 1805, married again in 1823, and died on 19th April, 1825, after holding his pastorate at Staining Lane for upwards of forty years.
The Rev. John Love, D.D., of the Established Church of Scotland, was born at Paisley in Scotland, 1756, educated at Glasgow University, and was one of the first Secretaries of the London
Missionary Society. He died "in harness" on 17th December, 1825.
The Rev. James Stevens, D.D., also a minister of the Established Church of Scotland, was born at Kilmarnock in Scotland in June, 1761, settled in London in 1787, and was appointed to the Scotch Church, Crown Court, Covent Garden ; where one of his successors, the late Rev. John Cumming, D.D., held the pastorate for many years, and became one of the most celebrated preachers of hAs age. In 1803, Dr. Stevens left London to take the ministry at Kilwinning in Ayrshire, and died there very suddenly at his Manse, of apoplexy, on 15th February, 1824.
The Rev. John Townsend was born in Whitechapel, London, on 24th March, 1757, and was educated at Christ's Hospital, London — the Blue Coat School. For several years he was connected with the Tabernacle in Tottenham Court Road, as a supply preacher to vacant pulpits. In 1780 he was appointed to the charge of the Independent Chapel at Kingston-on-Thames, and the same year married Miss Cordelia Cahusac.
From there he was transferred to take charge of the congregation in Jamaica Row, Bermondsey in 1784. This truly active man founded the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, and the Congregational School in 1794, and assisted materially in the formation of the Religious Tract Society in 1799; and also of the British and Foreign Bible
Society in 1804. In 1807 he took an active part in originating the London Female Penitentiary, and died in February, 1826.
The Rev. John Reynolds made up the octave of this glorious band of writers for the good of their brother men.
At the time of the great fire in 1748, when upwards of one hundred houses were destroyed (including Garraway's), Baker's Coffee-house
escaped with only slight damage at the rear of the premises.
Baker's is supposed to have derived its name from a member of the family of "Baker" — the master of Lloyd's Coffee-house.

Simpson's Cbop house.
Simpson's Chop-house, Ball Alley, looking north towards CornhiU.

A house of almost identical character is Simpson's, in Ball Alley, Cornhill — not to be confounded with Simpson's, the fish-dinner
house — where a chop or steak can be obtained in perfection.
On reaching the end of the court from Cornhill and entering, the hungry man sees before him, quite artistically arranged, a bountiful selection of most inviting and appetizing-looking chops and steaks.
There are mutton chops and pork chops, loin chops and chump chops ; steaks — succulent, juicy rump steaks, point steaks — fit for a bishop. The steaks are cut in two sizes, large and small, for lunch or dinner. There are also dainty-looking fresh kidneys and sausages — sausages you can place confidence in, no London " bags of mystery." After due inspection of the tit-bits and selection — not to be done too hurriedly, but with due circumspection
— the cook takes the dainty morsel in charge, having first ascertained how you like it cooked, well or underdone.

An attentive, but withal a bustling, waiter shows you to your seat and inquires your further orders. What will you have to drink ?

You can have your chop or steak served on either a pewter plate or a china one. If the latter, it is of the real old-fashioned willow pattern, as first imported from China, and innocent of any modern
improvements. If beer is your beverage, it is brought in its native element — a bright, clean pewter pot — and should be drunk out of it ; but if you wish to have a glass, you can. Those, how-
ever, who know and really appreciate London beer, and also know the house, so as to have a guarantee that the pot is " real " clean, will scoff at the bare idea of a glass. A man requires to have been absent from England a few years, residing possibly in a warmer climate, and only able to get bottled beer, if any at all, to thoroughly grasp all the beauties and perfections of a draught of cool stout or porter out of pewter. It is a thing many men, when abroad, dream of and sigh for.
The floor of Simpson's is sanded, and the appointments of, the table, though scrupulously clean, used formerly to border on the antique.
Three-pronged steel forks, for instance, I have had there ; but since electro has settled among us such things are scarcely to be seen, excepting in houses that cater for a rather low grade.
Whenever I had a foreign friend, particularly if he were a Frenchman, to whom I had the opportunity of showing the lions of London, I invariably took him either to Simpson's or Baker's, to let him see what a real English "bifsteak" is, and I never met with one who was not delighted. I have also dined there with Americans, and they, too, fully appreciated the fare.
One time both Baker's and Simpson's were owned by one proprietor ; hence probably the great similarity of the two establishments and their modus operandi. Both are unrivalled, and there is not a pin to choose between them.

References :  Lots of references are made to two sources on the internet archive :
Edward Callows, Old London Taverns &
John Timbs, Club life of London Volume 2

And Last updated on: Friday, 15-Sep-2023 12:28:02 BST