Search over 60 thousand pages of pub history and London history by surname, street name or pub.

Shakspeare Tavern, Piazza, Covent garden : 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


Of this noted theatrical tavern, in the Piazza, Covent Garden, several details were received by Mr. John Green, in 1815, from Twigg, who was apprentice at the Shakspeare. They had generally fifty turtles at a time ; and upon an average from ten to fifteen were dressed every week; and it was not unusual to send forty quarts of turtle soup a-week into the country, as far as Yorkshire.

The sign of Shakspeare, painted by Wale, cost nearly 200l. : it projected at the corner, over the street, with very rich iron- work. Dick Milton was once landlord ; he was a great gamester, and once won 40,000l. He would frequently start with his coach- and- six, which he would keep about six months, and then sell it. He was so much reduced, and his credit so bad, at times, as to send out for a dozen of wine for his customers ; it was sold at 16s. a bottle. This is chronicled as the first tavern in London that had rooms ; and from this house the other taverns were supplied with waiters. Here were held three clubs — the Madras, Bengal, and Bombay.

Twigg was cook at the Shakspeare. The largest dinner ever dressed here consisted of 108 made-dishes, besides hams, etc., and vegetables ; this was the dinner to Admiral Keppel, when he was made First Lord of the Admiralty. Twigg told of another dinner to Sir Richard Simmons, of Earl's Court, Mr. Small, and three other gentlemen ; it consisted of the following dishes : — A turbot, of 401b., a Thames salmon, a haunch of venison, French beans and cucumbers, a green goose, an apricot tart, and green peas. The dinner was dressed by Twigg, and it came to about seven guineas a head.

The Shakspeare is stated to have been the first tavern in Covent Garden. Twigg relates of Tomkins, the landlord, that his father had been a man of opulence in the City, but failed for vast sums. Tomkins kept his coach and his country house, but was no gambler, as has been reported. He died worth 40,000l. His daughter married Mr. Longman, the music-seller. Tomkins had never less than a hundred pipes of wine in his cellar ; he kept seven waiters, one cellar-man, and a boy. Each waiter was smartly dressed in his ruffles, and thought it a bad week if he did not make 71. Stacie, who partly served his apprenticeship to Tomkins, told Twigg, that he had betted nearly 3000l. upon one of his racehorses of the name of Goldfinder. Stacie won, and afterwards sold the horse for a large sum.
There was likewise a Shakspeare Tavern in Little Russell-street, opposite Drury-lane Theatre; the sign was altered in 1828, to the Albion.

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
  • UK Towns and Cities
  • London history
  • Accessible Travel etc
  • London Pub history