By Miles Deverson
For my favourite object I have chosen the model of Edward Lloyd’s coffee house which sits outside the Heritage & Education Centre (HEC) office. It is a slightly unusual but definitely charming object. It is an interesting intersection of two aspects of Lloyd's Register’s social history, the birth of Lloyd's Register (LR) in London’s vibrant 18th century coffee house scene, and the wide variety of social clubs organised by LR employees.
Over the years LR has had a flourishing array of social clubs including a cricket club that was founded in 1882, and a rifle club which practised on the shooting range built in the roof space of 71 Fenchurch Street in 1909. At different times there were clubs for table-tennis, bridge, angling, golf, choir, pantomimes, netball, mountaineering and yachting. There were also social clubs like 'The Redinkers Club' which met at one of my favourite pubs, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street.
This pottery model of the coffee house was made by Mrs G A Campbell in the 1960s as part of her involvement with one of those social clubs, the Lloyd's Register Arts Guild. She was the widow of LR's Ship and Engineer surveyor, J F Campbell. She presented the model to the General Committee in London in thanks for the kindness the organisation had shown to her husband over the years.
The model is quite detailed, both inside and out. With numerous figures standing outside including one being offered a copy of “Lloyd's List 1734”. The roof is removable and on the inside is a fireplace and grandfather clock painted on the wall as well as a model table full of coffee cups and pipes.
Not only was the coffee house the site of the birth of Lloyd's Register but it was also the heart of 17th and 18th century intellectual life. The first one opened in 1652 and by 1739 there were over 550 in London alone. The taste of coffee back then was much more bitter and less pleasant than today but was appreciated for the “buzz” it gave and the fact it sharpened rather than dulled the senses like ale did.
Much like Edward Lloyd's coffee house became the centre for people involved in shipping, different coffee houses became associated with different professions as well as different political orientations. Sometimes called “penny universities”, they played host to some of the great minds of their era like Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren.
However towards the end of the 18th century coffee houses went into decline as tea replaced coffee as the most popular national drink. Though they had a revival under the Victorian temperance movement they would not come back into full swing again until the closing decades of the 20th century.
An excerpt of this article appeared in the HEC monthly newsletter, to receive our newsletter, please sign up here.