Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Tom King's Coffee House


This was one of the old night-houses of Covent Garden Market: it was a rude shed immediately beneath the portico of St. Paul's Church, and was one "well known to all gentlemen to whom beds are unknown." Fielding in one of his Prologues says:

"What rake is ignorant of King's Coffee-house?"

It is in the background of Hogarth's print of Morning, where the prim maiden lady, walking to church, is soured with seeing two fuddled beaux from King's Coffee-house caressing two frail women. At the door there is a drunken row, in which swords and cudgels are the weapons.

Harwood's Alumni Etonenses, p. 293, in the account of the Boys elected from Eton to King's College, contains this entry: "A.D. 1713, Thomas King, born at West Ashton, in Wiltshire, went away scholar in apprehension that his fellowship would be denied him; and afterwards kept that Coffee-house in Covent Garden, which was called by his own name."

Moll King was landlady after Tom's death: she was witty, and her house was much frequented, though it was little better than a shed. "Noblemen and the first beaux," said Stacie, "after leaving Court, would go to her house in full dress, with swords and bags, and in rich brocaded silk coats, and walked and conversed with persons of every description. She would serve chimney-sweepers, gardeners, and the market-people in common with her lords of the highest rank. Mr. Apreece, a tall thin man in rich dress, was her constant customer. He was called Cadwallader by the frequenters of Moll's." It is not surprising that Moll was often fined for keeping a disorderly house. At length, she retired from business—and the pillory—to Hampstead, where she lived on her ill-earned gains, but paid for a pew in church, and was charitable at appointed seasons, and died in peace in 1747.

It was at that period that Mother Needham, Mother Douglass (alias, according to Foote's Minor, Mother Cole), and Moll King, the tavern-keepers and the gamblers, took possession of premises abdicated by people of fashion. Upon the south side of the market-sheds was the noted "Finish," kept by Mrs. Butler, open all night, the last of the Garden taverns, and only cleared away in 1829. This house was originally the Queen's Head. Shuter was pot-boy here. Here was a picture of the Hazard Club, at the Bedford: it was painted by Hogarth, and filled a panel of the Coffee-room.

Captain Laroon, an amateur painter of the time of Hogarth, who often witnessed the nocturnal revels at Moll King's, made a large and spirited drawing of the interior of her Coffee-house, which was at Strawberry Hill. It was bought for Walpole, by his printer, some seventy years since. There is also an engraving of the same room, in which is introduced a whole-length of Mr. Apreece, in a full court-dress: an impression of this plate is extremely rare.

Justice Welsh used to say that Captain Laroon, his friend Captain Montague, and their constant companion, Little Casey, the Link-boy, were the three most troublesome of all his Bow-street visitors. The portraits of these three heroes are introduced in Boitard's rare print of "the Covent Garden Morning Frolic." Laroon is brandishing an artichoke. C. Montague is seated, drunk, on the top of Bet Careless's sedan, which is preceded by Little Casey, as a link-boy.

Captain Laroon also painted a large folding-screen; the figures were full of broad humour, two representing a Quack Doctor and his Merry Andrew, before the gaping crowd.

Laroon was deputy-chairman, under Sir Robert Walpole, of a Club, consisting of six gentlemen only, who met, at stated times, in the drawing-room of Scott, the marine painter, in Henrietta-street, Covent Garden; and it was unanimously agreed by the members, that they should be attended by Scott's wife only, who was a remarkable witty woman. Laroon made a beautiful conversation drawing of the Club, which is highly prized by J. T. Smith.

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. II
London, 1866