Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Globe, Fleet Street

At a meeting of the LCS General Committee on 15 August 1793 a sub-committee was appointed to organize a General Meeting (Thale 79). It had already been decided that a General Meeting should take place on September 2nd. This was to be another large meeting of all members of the LCS, not restricted to individual divisions, on the model of the meeting that had occurred at the Crown and Anchor on 8 July 1793. The meeting was to take place at 2pm on 2 September, there were to be 1000 tickets available, priced 6d - the same price as the tickets for the July meeting at the Crown and Anchor (compare this with the 7s 6d spy Groves paid for his ticket to the SCI meeting at the Crown and Anchor in May 1794). All that was left was for the subcommittee to hire a room for the meeting, for which they were provided with 7 Guineas.

It is notable that the obvious choice -- the Crown and Anchor -- was not selected. Correspondence to other societies around the country suggest that the LCS leaders thought the first meeting had been very successful. They were proud, they said, of how peaceably the meeting had been conducted. Perhaps the presence of John Reeves and his Association at the Crown and Anchor meeting had been a deterrent -- the first meeting had gone well, but there were no guarantees that the next meeting would. Or perhaps the vintner at the Crown and Anchor, Thomas Simpkin, was unwilling to let his tavern out to a society who were becoming increasingly notorious. Whatever the reason, the subcommittee instead announced on the 22nd August that they had selected the Globe Tavern in nearby Fleet Street, another of the handful of well-known taverns in London which could accommodate meetings of a thousand people.

On the morning of the 2 September meeting Sir James Saunderson, the Lord Mayor, confronted the landlord of the Globe Tavern threatening him with the loss of his license and the prosecution if he allowed the meeting to go ahead (Thale 81). The St James's Chronicle gleefully reported that the mayor had "intimated to the master of the house the character of his guests" at which he "very prudently locked up all his plate. The gentlemen took this amiss, and went away."

St. James's Chronicle  August 31, 1793 - September 3, 1793.

The LCS meeting minutes take a rather different view of events:

This Meeting appointed to be held at the Globe Tavern Fleet Street was prevented from meeting there by the illegal interference of Sir James Saunderson - the Committee therefore in order that the Society might not be disappointed agreed with Lewis the Auctioneer at No. 314 Oxford Street for the Use of his Room, ordered the printing of 700 Hand bills & posted two men at the Globe tavern to distribute them. (Thale 81).

The meeting went ahead at this "obscure place in Oxford Street" (as the St James's Chronicle described it). At the Oxford Street address Joseph Gerald read an Address and 4 resolutions were made.

1/ That the interruption they had met with on the Part of the Lord Mayor of London was unconstitutional but the public Character of Sir James Saunderson was so despicable as to render him unworthy of the attention of the London Corresponding Society.

2/ that a Certain number of Members of the Society would adjourn to Supper at the Globe Tavern in Fleet Street purposefully to indemnyfy the Landlord from the effects of the unconstitutional prohibition of the Lord Mayor

3/ That the Address be printed & Signatures obtained to the Same in order that it may be presented to the King as soon as possible.

4/ That the next General Meeting of the Society shall take place on the 1st. Monday after the meeting of Parliament - liable to be convoqued if the General Committee think it necessary. (Thale 81).

This next general meeting took place in January 1794, and the venue was named as the Globe Tavern. And this is where things get slightly confusing. There were two different taverns called the Globe, one at 134 Fleet Street (sometimes 133), at the corner of Shoe Lane, and one at the corner of Craven Street and the Strand. The original general meeting of the LCS had been intended for the large, well-known tavern on Fleet Street, which could easily have accommodated the one thousand persons the general committee anticipated. The January 20th meeting took place at the second Globe, which will be treated separately in my next posting. Understandably, the proximity of these two taverns with the same name has been the cause of some confusion, not least in the trial of David Downie and Robert Watt in 1794, transcriptions of which mention the second meeting as taking place in Fleet Street. But the contemporary documents, including newspapers and the LCS records are consistent in saying that the second meeting was at the Globe in the Strand, not in Fleet Street.

The Globe on Fleet Street was one of the largest and best known taverns of the eighteenth century. According to Bryant Lillywhite the Globe Tavern on Fleet Street dated back to at least the early seventeenth century when it is mentioned in accounts of mobs which ran riot in 1629. That tavern burned down during the great fire of London in 1666, and was rebuilt by the vintner Hothersall for the cost of one thousand pounds (Lillywhite 234).

John Roque's map (1746).

Mentions of the tavern in the newspapers of the eighteenth century are far too numerous to catalogue here, suffice to say that the Globe was used for the usual variety of purposes which eighteenth-century taverns accommodated: political dinners, meetings of various extra parliamentary groups, a masonic lodge, a place to celebrate anniversaries of significant events, a theatre ticket box office, a place where subscriptions for charitable purposes could be received, an auction house, and so on. 

In April 1749 Henry Fielding received evidence in the Globe from a witness who claimed to have caught her master having sex with another man in his Chamber in Islington. Numerous anecdotes circulate about Oliver Goldsmith's connections with the Globe, and it was rumored to be John Wilkes's favorite tavern. Joseph Brasbridge's The Fruits of Experience (1824), contains a substantial account of the colorful characters who frequented the Globe in the 1770s.

Washington Irving in his Life of Goldsmith describes the Wednesday Club, a "free-and easy" which met at the Globe "songs, jokes, dramatic imitations, burlesque parodies, and broad sallies of humour formed a contrast to the sententious morality, pedantic casuistry, and polished sarcasm of the learned critic. . . . Johnson used to be severe upon Goldsmith for mingling in these motley circles, observing that, having been originally poor, he had contracted a love for low company. Goldsmith, however, was guided not by a taste for what was low, but what was comic and characteristic."

In his 1902 London in the Eighteenth Century, Walter Beasant provides the following unattributed description of the Globe in the mid-eighteenth century: "this was one of those places a little above the a public-house in accommodation and character. There was a common parlour into which scarcely anyone entered promiscuously; almost every one was more or less of a regular frequenter of the room after being introduced by some of the old sets."

Meanwhile a satire, The Court of Equity or a Convivial City Meeting, published in 1779 depicts the interior of the tavern at this time, showing (among others) Robert Dighton, the artist. In the middle of the print is Thomas Thorpe the landlord of the tavern, approaching Dighton and his father with a bowl of punch. Brasbridge described Thorpe as "too convivial and too liberal to make [the Globe] anything but a losing concern." He apparently died insolvent. The print shows a relatively small, but well-appointed room with a series of coats of arms hanging from the wall. It shows the pipe-smoking and punch-drinking that formed a central part of convivial gathering. And it shows, too, an ornately decorated large chair to the left of the print in which the chair person for the occasion sits.

Fine dining was evidently one of the Globe's specialities. In 1788 Richard Biggs, a former cook at the Globe, published The English Art of Cookery, according to present practice.

Roach's London Pocket Pilot (1796), lists the Globe in Fleet Street, along with five other taverns, (the London Tavern in Bishopsgate Street, the Paul's Head in Cateaton Street,  the St Alban's Tavern in St Alban's Street, the Thatched House Tavern in St James's Street, and the Star and Garter in Pall Mall) as providing the best food available in London. At these taverns "are to be met all the most delicate luxuries upon earth, and where the fortuned voluptuary may indulge his appetite not only with all the natural dainties of every season but with delicacies produced by means of preternatural ingenuity," (43-4).

More directly relevant to the LCS was that the Globe in Fleet Street housed meetings of the Ciceronian School, a debating society in which John Gale Jones, surgeon mid-wife and LCS member, participated. On 2 March 1795, during a debate on the question "at this awful moment of difficulty and danger, which best deserves the public confidence, Mr. Pitt or Mr. Fox?" Jones gave a speech that was so well received he thought it worth publishing, the first of his orations to make it into print.

In the late 1790s the Globe begins to appear in directories as a Coffeehouse, rather than a tavern, in part no doubt to appeal to a more respectable clientele, though it frequently reverts back to its earlier designation as a tavern.

A trading card held in the British Museum, dated 1797 describes the Globe as a "Hotel, Coffeehouse and Tavern." The description below reads "Michl Rowed having fitted up the above house in the most elegant stile for the accommodation of Lodgers, Dining parties, &c Begs leave to assure those Gentlemen who may honor him with their favours that the utmost diligence will be exerted in every department of his house to give entire satisfaction."

An advertisement appearing in the Norfolk Chronicle or Norwich Gazette on 8 July 1797 similarly tries to recuperate the tavern from associations with disreputable radicalism by emphasizing its elegance and indicating that the presence of lodgers was a relatively new experiment: "Michael Rowed begs leave to return his thanks to those Gentlemen who have honoured him with their support since opening the above house for the reception of Lodgers... His lodging rooms possess superior recommendations; they are retired from the street; water is conducted into all of the by proper pipes, and they are fitted up with peculiar regard to cleanliness and general conveniences. The situation of the House is neatly in the center of the united Cities of London and Westminster, and in the immediate vicinity of the Inns of Court."

Ralph Roylance's Epicure's Almanack (1815) meanwhile describes it thus: "The Globe Tavern, No 133, Fleet Street, is kept by Messrs Tucky and Bolt. The edifice stands on the site of one of the oldest taverns in the city of London, and deservedly maintains the character of being a modest excellent house. Here are soups and a larder at command. Joints of prime meat are sent round at the stated ordinary hours in the same style as at Andertons." 

In December 1820 a ball was advertised as taking place at the Globe, Fleet Street. This was held by Thomas Wilson, a dancing instructor and author of the verse comedy "The Disappointed Authoress."
There are mentions of "Globe Coffeehouse and Hotel" in the notoriously unreliable Picture of London, as late as 1833. John Timbs, writing in 1866 said that he remembered the Globe "a handsomely appointed tavern some forty years since; but has long ceased to be a tavern." The tavern keeper, L.W. Williams was listed as bankrupt in March 1826.

By 1830 a Globe Tavern on Shoe Lane, begins to be listed, that has radical associations. Letters for the Metropolitan Political Union (whose members included Henry Hunt and Daniel O'Connell) could be addressed to the "Globe Tavern, Shoe Lane, Fleet Street." This tavern (at 111 Shoe Lane) seems to have been something of an outgrowth of the Globe tavern on Fleet Street, coexisting alongside it in the 1820s, insured to the same owner -- Sophia Chisholm, who is listed as the insurer in 1824. At this point 111 Shoe Lane was known as the "Globe Tap," operating simultaneously alongside the Globe Tavern.

By 1832, 134 Fleet Street, the former site of the Globe Tavern, was insured to Henry Dobbs and Co, who were listed as "stationers book binders and black lead pencil makers" (Sun Fire Office Records LMA MS 11936/536/1148024). Among their other properties was listed the "Globe Tavern, Shoe Lane,"which was presumably the former "Globe Tap" now elevated to Tavern status with the original tavern now closed.

The site is currently occupied by Goldman Sachs International, in a building designed by the American firm Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, constructed in 1988-91.


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