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
Finch Lane Taverns.
Almost immediately opposite to Ball Alley, on the other side of Cornhill, is Finch Lane. Here were, but are not now, two of the old style of chop-houses, "Joe's" and "Snook's" — one at each corner of a small narrow court that then led to a leading stockbroker's office, where I was engaged during the early part of the railway mania in 1845. I knew them well and frequented both. They were similar in all respects to Simpson's and Baker's, and were frequented by a good class of 3/4 - 7/9 men, or stockbrokers and jobbers.
" Joe's," at No. 8, Finch Lane, owned by a Mr. William Gillham, was presided over by a most important, bald-headed waiter, named, if I recollect rightly. William. William was well acquainted with the tastes and all the peculiarities of most of his regular customers, as many of his class took the trouble to be, in those days.
Snook's, at No. 10, was owned and conducted by James Snook pere, himself, a short, stout, bustling man, who might have sat for a portrait of John Gilpin; Mrs. Snook, a lady of "massive" formation, wearing an elaborate cap peculiar to that date; and Miss Snook, a plump, fair, rosy-cheeked, pleasant-looking demoiselle. These three were assisted by a short, stumpy boy, answering to the name of Reuben, who grew up in course of time ; but whether he married his master's daughter in the orthodox way or not, as all City lads, when they grew up good, were supposed to do, I know not ; but I noticed that he developed into a very prosperous proprietor of luncheon-rooms, and afterwards added to his business that of a wine merchant on the opposite side of Finch Lane.
There is a tavern in Finch Lane — the Cock and Woolpack used to be the name of it in the days of Joe's and Snook's — kept by a Mrs. Grace Mounsey ; but it has been so renovated and altered, if not entirely rebuilt, that I fail to recognize in " Hodge's " the place I knew in 1845.
There are two places at the two corners of the eastern side of Finch Lane, about which I will, before leaving the neighbourhood, say a few words.
At the eastern corner, in Cornhill, the ground-floor shop was occupied at that time by French, the watch and clockmaker, afterwards removed to the Royal Exchange, while the first floor immediately over this shop was tenanted by a firm of tailors, Patterson or Patteson, I forget which, and Harding. They were half-brothers, sons of the same mother, but like a good many other brothers, whether half or whole, they parted, and Harding tried his new fortunes as an accountant.
He plodded on till the celebrated Royal British Bank smashed up, and then his opportunity arrived.'
' The board meetings of this bank were opened by prayer, generally conducted by Mr. Cameron, the secretary, a Scotchman. On the break-up of the establishment, the secretary and several of the directors were prosecuted and sentenced to imprisonment for a long period in the Queen's Bench Prison in Southwark : which was pulled down on the abolition of imprisonment for debt.
The winding up of the affairs of the Royal British Bank gave two men their fair start on the road to fortune. To Mr. John Linklater, of Walbrook, were allotted the legal duties of the winding-up process ; and to Mr. Robert Palmer Harding was assigned the task of unravelling and putting into order the accounts of the defunct bank. I believe both gentlemen are dead, and died rich men. One of them, Sir R. Ralmer Harding, became something high up in the control of the Bankruptcy Court, and received the honour of knighthood.
At the corner of Threadneedle Street, on the same eastern side of Finch Lane, where now stands the City Bank, was the shop of Alderman and sometime Lord Mayor, Sir Francis Graham Moon, Bart., the great print publisher and seller of his time ; the precursor of Graves and Agnew of the present day. I am not quite sure whether or not one or other of these gentlemen was at that time connected with Alderman Moon in the print-selling business.
Alderman Moon was created a baronet on the occasion of the visit of the Emperor and Empress of the French to the City on April 5th, 1855.
A portrait of him is to be seen in one corner of the engravings of the " Waterloo Banquet," a very well-known picture. He is there represented as looking into the room from the door at the back of the picture in the right-hand corner. He appears, and certainly is, very much out of place, for he was not present on the occasion the picture was painted to represent ; and is the only figure not in either military or footman's uniform, I presume it was his modest way of handing down a presentment of his features to posterity.
When the picture, on completion, was shown to the Iron Duke, for whom it was painted, he immediately inquired who was the intruder, and on being informed it was Alderman Moon, the gentleman who had become the possessor of the artist's copyright, and was about to publish the engraving, His Grace F. M. the Duke of Wellington
gave vent to very forcible language, and ordered it to be painted out, declining to accept the picture till it was so. The engravings all possess the publisher's portrait, but in the original painting, now hanging, I believe, at Apsley House, it will be sought for in vain.
Sir Francis Moon laid himself open to a number ot jokes, as the pages oi Punch for some years, and particularly those of his shrievalty and majoralty, will show.
Douglas Jerrold, in his " Story of a Feather," first published in Punch, tells the story of a dinner given by a rich tradesman to some of his friends.
The table was graced, among other decorations, with a truly magnificent selection of pine-apples, and other fruit, very artistically arranged. It must be remembered that this was years before pine-apples were brought in whole cargoes by steam from the West Indies and retailed in our streets by costermongers at a penny a slice. The host informed his guests that the largest and finest pine was a present he had received that day from a duchess, and was boasting of other favours he had received from various of his noble friends and patrons, when to his horror one of the guests, to whom he dared not utter a forbidding word seized the duchess's pine, and, plunging a knife into it, sliced it in pieces and handed them round.
The story tells us that it was discovered afterwards that the whole group of fruit had been borrowed or hired for show. Douglas Jerrold's tale was founded on actual fact.
Sir Francis, then Mr., Moon was the host.
Cousins, the celebrated engraver, a man he dared not offend for the world, was the bold individual who slaughtered the pine, and the whole dish of fruit had been borrowed, under strict promise that it should not be disturbed, let alone eaten, from Garcia's fruit shop at the corner of the narrow court leading out of the Poultry, next to Old Jewry, where one of Hope's outfitting shops now stands.
I personally knew Sir Francis Moon well. His manner had an air of empressement about it, almost overpowering; he was so extremely bland. He was not a bad sort of fellow altogether, but his effusiveness and conceit were frequently just a leetle de trop.
He was appointed printseller to the Queen ; and as new works of art were ready for publication it was his custom and his duty to take them to Windsor or Buckingham Palace, wherever the Court might be at the time, to submit them to her Majesty and the Prince Consort for their inspection. Here he was more bland and more effusive than ever — polite and deferential he, no doubt, considered it — so much so that the Prince was wont to exclaim, whenever his visits to the palace were announced, " Oh ! that fulsome little man again."
Sir Francis Moon made an exceedingly good speculation when he purchased or leased from one of the Oxford Colleges the ground to the westward of Finch Lane, and facing the clock tower of the Royal Exchange, upon which he erected Royal Exchange Buildings. Although they are far surpassed by many more modern erections or
offices, and are without several of the improvements that are now regarded as absolute necessaries, such as lifts, &c., they were at the time far in advance of anything then constructed in the City for a similar purpose, and their undeniable position will always command their being occupied by high-class tenants.
It was in these buildings I first became personally acquainted with the once celebrated George Hudson, the Railway King, about whom and his wife there have been more old quips and jokes told than perhaps of anyone else.
At the other side of Threadneedle Street stands a large building, now occupied by a bank on one side, and the London branch of a French discount and finance company on the other.
At the time this place was built in 1844-5 it was christened " Hall of Commerce," and it has been a sort of white elephant for years. Mr. Edward Moxhay, of the firm of Fisher and Moxhay, whose ambitious investment or speculation it was, was a baker in Threadneedle Street, who had baked bread and rolls to a good purpose and accumulated plenty of" crumbs."
When he erected the building with the " high falutin' " name he designed it as a sort of Bourse, Lloyd's^ and Open Stock and Mining Exchange combined, a kind of Imperial Institute fifty years before its time. There is no knowing what it was not to be. It was to speedily " knock fits " out of all the old-established institutions of commerce in the City, and was opened, under the management of Mr. Charles J. Ellis, to all who would pay a guinea or two yearly as subscribers.
Sales by auction of shares and stocks, for which no market could be found on the Stock Exchange, were periodically held once or twice a week. A vast number of people who could not afford an office, but contrived somehow to get the where-withal to pay a year's subscription, and, if the funds went so far, to rent a small box, drawer, or cupboard, I forget exactly what shape this particular depository assumcd to itself, became members. When the railway mania was at its full blast, and letters of allotment for shares in all the new schemes were taxincf the energies of postmen to deliver, this Mall of Ccmmercc was the rendezvous of "stags." In a very short time, comparatively, it lost its high-sounding name, and came to be known as the Refuge for the Destitute.
As a Hall of Commerce it utterly collapsed ; and then it led a desultory sort of life for years. I should not wonder if it is not better let now than ever it was before, and every time I pass it I expect to see indications of its beiny pulled down preparatory to erecting on the site a building twice or thrice its present height, for it is but of low elevation as buildings go nowadays, and the position is undeniably as good as any in the City.
Lots of references are made to two sources on the
Edward Callows, Old London Taverns &
John Timbs, Club life of London Volume 2