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Dicks 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

DICK'S COFFEE-HOUSE, 8 Fleet street.

This old Coffee-house, No. 8, Fleet-street (south side, near Temple Bar), was originally " Richard's," named from Richard Tomer, or Turner, to whom the house was let in 1680. The Coffee-room retains its olden panelling, and the staircase its original balusters.

The interior of Dick's Coffee-house is engraved as a frontispiece to a drama, called The Coffee-house, performed at Drury-lane Theatre in 1737. The piece met with great opposition on its representation, owing to its being stated that the characters were intended for a particular family (that of Mrs. Yarrow and her daughter), who kept Dick's, the coffee-house which the artist had inadvertently selected as the frontispiece.

It appears that the landlady and her daughter were the reigning toast of the Templars, who then frequented Dick's ; and took the matter up so strongly that they united to condemn the farce on the night of its production; they succeeded, and even extended their resentment to every thing suspected to be this author's (the Rev. James Miller) for a considerable time after.

Richard's, as it was then called, was frequented by Cowper, when he lived in the Temple. In his own account of his insanity, Cowper tells us : " At breakfast I read the newspaper, and in it a letter, which, the further I perused it, the more closely engaged my attention. I cannot now recollect the purport of it; but before I had finished it, it appeared demonstratively true to me that it was a libel or satire upon me. The author appeared to be acquainted with my purpose of self-destruction, and to have written that letter on purpose to secure and hasten the execution of it. My mind, probably, at this time began to be disordered ; however it was, I was certainly given to a strong delusion. I said within myself, 'Your cruelty shall be gratified; you shall have your revenge,' and flinging down the paper in a fit of strong passion, I rushed hastily out of  the room ; directing my way towards the fields, where I intended to find some house to die in ; or, if not, determined to poison myself in a ditch, where I could meet with one sufficiently retired."

It is worth while to revert to the earlier tenancy of the Coffee-house, which was, wholly or in part, the original printing office of Richard Tottel, law-printer to Edward VI., Queens Mary and Elizabeth ; the premises were attached to No. 7, Fleet-street, which bore the sign of " The Hand and Starre," where Tottel lived, and published the law and other works he printed. No. 7 was subsequently occupied by Jaggard and Joel Stephens, eminent law-printers, temp. Geo. I. — III. ; and at the present day the house is most appropriately occupied by Messrs. Butterworth, who follow the occupation Tottel did in the days of Edward VI., being law -publishers to Queen Victoria; and they possess the original leases, from the earliest grant, in the reign of Henry VIII., the period of their own purchase.

A number of references to Dicks coffee house are noted in trade directories. In 1832, a John Colnett is at Dicks coffee house, 8 Fleet street; in 1843 it is James Patterson, where it is also noted as a tavern; and in 1874 just a coffee house again, is S Allen. It is the Dicks Tavern until at least the 1881 census.

In the 1829 Robsons directory is listed William Woods, at the Dicks hotel & tavern, 8 Fleet street

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
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