Coffeehouses of London
Making your way down a street just off Cornhill in the City of London,St Michael’s Alley to be precise, was the site of London’s first coffeehouse. Opened in 1652 by Pasqua Rosèe, a Greek servant, once stood on the site where Jamaica Wine House now occupies.
Taking you back in time to the 17th century, you would in fact have found hundred of these across London, and in 1663 there were 82 within the old walls of the city. They were social places men came for conversation, and 1p would mean coffee, admission and access to the recent newspapers and pamphlets of the day.
During this period there was a shift away from being drunk all the time, and we entered the Age of Enlightenment. We moved away from inebriated ramblings in alehouses and taverns and instead caffeine fuelled men from all classes and backgrounds met up and discussed politics, scandals, gossip, fashion, events, science and philosophy.
The timing in which coffeehouses came about is also significant, we were in the Protectorate Period and without a monarch but instead had Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. He was a puritan, so extremely religious, and had subsequently banned theatres, wearing colourful clothes, christmas, many alehouses were shut, most sports were banned, partying and generally having a good time.
So with nothing better to do, the Coffee Houses became very popular for a vast array of characters. They brought people and ideas together, inspiring brilliant and bizarre opinions and discoveries. The first stocks and shares were traded in Johnathon’s coffeehouse by the Royal Exchange and Lloyds Coffeehouse, commemorated on a plaque on Sainsbury's attracted sailors, merchants and shipowners and eventually grew into the insurance market Lloyd's of London.