Liverpool Coffee Houses

Manchester Courier Nov 25th 1912

Institutions that flourished in Coffee Houses

Ugly Face Club in Liverpool

An Ugly Face Club flourished in Liverpool a hundred years ago and its modest members used to meet in a Coffee House. This Coffee House was one of several which was intimately associated with the life of the community. Their origins and history provided the subject of a most interesting lecture given by Mr A. H. ARKLE before the members of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, at the Liverpool Royal Institution.

Mr ARKLE said he found mention of no fewer than 6 Coffee Houses between 1756 and 1758. WALLACE, the supposed author of the History of Liverpool, published in 1796 made the following very contemptuous reference :-

“In 1760 a small dark room in a court in Water Street up a narrow, dirty passage, was the common subscription coffee room, the only one then in the town.”

Reference was made to the Exchange Coffee House in Water Street as far back as 1707. In 1766 there was advertised to be sold here the Manor of Woodchurch, near Birkenhead, by order of the Rev Mr CROOKHALL, who, together with his wife, held the patronage of the living. In December of that year a sale was effected for £8,030. It was the Coffee House that the Liverpool Ugly Face Club used to meet. This club appears to have been started in 1743. A committee of 7 was chosen to manage its affairs, which seem to have been generally eating and drinking.

The George’s Coffee House stood on the west side of Castle Street, and in 1766 was in the occupation of Ann FISHWICK, who had previously held the Angel in Dale Street. In that year among the advertisements for sale by auction at the George’s Coffee House was the following :-

“A very fine ?????? Girl about eight years of age, very healthy, and hath been some time from the coast. Any person willing to purchase the above may apply to Captain Robert SYERS and Mr Bartley HODGETTS, mercer and draper, near the Exchange where she may be seen till the time of sale.”

In the Liverpool Advertiser, January 27th, 1769, it was announced as one of the questions for discussion by the Conservative Club at George’s Coffee House , “What are the real causes of the decline of the Potters business in this town, and by what means might it be made to flourish?”

The Neptune Coffee House was one of the oldest houses. It stood in what was afterwards High Street, then called Old Shambles.

The Pontacks stood for many years on the north side of Water Street. It was largely used as a meeting place by officials of semi public institutions. The first meeting of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce was held here on June 17th 1774. At a sale here in June 1777, there was offered a silver ticket, admitting to any part of the Theatre Royal every night [charity and performers nights excepted] for remaining term of patent, ten seasons of which are unexpired. The two houses which probably occupied the most important positions in the town between 1750 and 1775, were the Bath Coffee House in the Old Churchyard and the Merchants Coffee House in Dale St. The former provided facilities for salt baths, and possibly the building known as the Coulters Hotel adjoining the late Merchants Coffee House may be the site of this old house. Many notable auctions of ships, cargoes, and property of all sorts took place here from time to time.

There were probably two quite separate houses known as Merchants Coffee House , one situated in Dale Street and the other in the Old Churchyard. The older house was in Dale Street, Mr ELLISON in his Reminiscences states that the first sale of the West Indian cotton in Liverpool was advertised at the Merchants Coffee House in June 1757. At this Coffee House in April 1759, there was advertised a sale of Bidstone Mills Tide Water Corn Mills. At the same time were to be offered the three Islands of Helbree situate near the Chester river and Highlake. Here on Monday, 25th July 1757, the anniversary meeting of the Most Noble Order of British Bucks was held at which all the Bucks belonging to the lodge were required to attend.


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