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Salutation and Cat Tavern : 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


No. 17, Newgate-street (north side), was, according to the tradition of the house, the tavern where Sir Christopher Wren used to smoke his pipe, whilst St. Paul's was re-building. There is more positive evidence of its being a place well frequented by men of letters at the above period. Thus, there exists a poetical invitation to a social feast held here on June 19, 1735-6, issued by the two stewards, Edward Cave and William Bowyer :

" Saturday, Jan. 17, 1735-6.

" Sir,
" You're desir'd on Monday next to meet
At Salutation Tavern, Newgate-street.
Supper will be on table just at eight,
[Stewards'] One of St. John's [Bowyer], 'tother of St. John's
Gate [Cave]. "

This brought a poetical answer from Samuel Richardson, the novelist, printed in extenso in Bowyer's Anecdotes :

" For me, I'm much concerned I cannot meet
' At Salutation Tavern, Newgate-street.'
Your notice, like your verse, so sweet and short !
If longer, I'd sincerely thank you for it.
Howe'er, receive my wishes, sons of verse !
May every man who meets, your praise rehearse !

May mirth, as plenty, crown your cheerful board,
And ev'ry one part happy — as a lord !
That when at home, (by such sweet verses fir'd)
Your families may think you all inspir'd.
So wishes he, who pre-engag'd, can't know
The pleasures that would from your meeting flow."

The proper sign is the Salutation and Cat, — a curious combination, but one which is explained by a lithograph, which some years ago hung in the coffee-room. An aged dandy is saluting a friend whom he has met in the street, and offering him a pinch out of the snuff-box which forms the top of his wood-like cane. This box-nob was, it appears, called a " cat " — hence the connection of terms apparently so foreign to each other. Some, not aware of this explanation, have accounted for the sign by supposing that a tavern called " the Cat " was at some time pulled down, and its trade carried to the Salutation, which thenceforward joined the sign to its own; but this is improbable, seeing that we have never heard of any tavern called "the Cat" (although we do know of "the Barking Dogs") as a sign. Neither does the Salutation take its name from any scriptural or sacred source, as the Angel and Trumpets, etc.

More positive evidence there is to show of the " little smoky room at the Salutation and Cat/' where Coleridge and Charles Lamb sat smoking Oronoko and drinking egg-hot; the first discoursing of his idol, Bowles, and the other rejoicing mildly in Cowper and Burns, or both dreaming of " Pantisocracy, and golden days to come on earth."

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: Tuesday, 26-Apr-2022 01:16:41 BST
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