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Saturday, August 15, 2015


Edward Lloyd's Coffee House, 17th century London
Illustration by Thomas Rowlandson
RETRO FILES—Those of us into international commerce the name Lloyd’s of London conjures a world of insurance and high finance, but few know the mega conglomerate of brokerages had its infancy in a 17th century London coffee house.

Opened by Edward Lloyd in 1688, his coffee house soon established itself as the meeting place of ship owners, cargo owners and insurance clerks together with captains with salt in their hair as well as early business journalists. As a hub of intelligence and news gathering, the house fostered important institutions like Lloyd’s Register of Shipping and Lloyd’s List, to mention a few

It may seem odd that such a huge financial/insurance institution should be named after a coffee house, whose owner had no stake in the eventual businesses.  One reason is because of the international nature of shipping—London being one of the major world hubs—the diverse collection of sea captains and shipping magnates gravitated to the name Lloyd’s because they understood it was a reputable place where maritime business was conducted.  The insurance brokers who put Lloyd’s in their name did better than most; Lloyd’s of London being a prime centuries old example.

Edward Lloyd opened his coffee shop on Tower Street in 1688 and by 1691, the shop moved to Lombard Street, where merchants continued to discuss insurance matters until 1774, long after Edward Lloyd’s death in 1713.

Facade of Edward Lloyd's 17th Century
Coffee House on Lombard Street, London
is now on display at the National
Maritime Museum.
 In modern London, a blue plaque marks the Lombard street site of the coffee house, which is now a Sainsbury supermarket.  The original storefront from Lombard Street has been moved and re-erected on-loan at the National Maritime Museum.  Big bucks Lloyd’s of London footed the bill.  Sadly, no coffee is served there.

If you wish to get serious about reading the history of coffee houses in ancient London click the following newspaper article by social historian Dr.
Matthew Green.  Is article “London Cafes: the surprising history of London’s lost coffeehouses.”  His article appeared in the London Daily Telegraph blog of March 20, 2012:

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