Street Views: 15 and 13 Suppl.
Address: 177-178 Fleet Street
Peel’s, Peele’s or even Peels and Peeles without the apostrophe are names used indiscriminately for the coffee house, later also hotel, at 177-178 Fleet Street, depicted by Tallis in his Street Views. According to pubhistory, there had been a pub at the site since 1518 which was re-named Peele’s Coffee House in 1715. In the 1839 Tallis edition, the coffee house has a neighbour, number 179 on the corner of Fetter Lane, but by the time the 1847 Supplement came out, number 179 had disappeared and Peel’s looks different. In 1839, the Fleet Street frontage had 5 windows per floor, but in 1847 only 4. In 1843, The Gentleman’s Magazine reported on various improvements proposed by the City of London Corporation and one of them is the widening of Fetter Lane by “the demolition of the eastern side”, which is indeed number 179.(1)
The left-hand door of the premises in the 1839 situation gave access to Fleur de Lys Court which disappeared almost completely when Fetter Lane was widened. You can see the court clearly between numbers 178 and 179 in Horwood’s map, but in the Ordnance Survey map of a century later, all that remains is the top section. Peel’s coffee house marked with a red arrow.
In January 1847, the then proprietor of the coffee house, Mr. Austin, applied to Mansion House because of “an annoyance”. Someone had put an advertisement in the Manchester Guardian headed ‘Matrimony’, solliciting ladies to send in letters directed to T.A.D. at Peel’s Coffee House. T.A.D., whoever he was, had not agreed beforehand with Austin to have the letters kept for him at the coffee house and besides “it was needless to say that the advertisement came from one of the rascally adventurers” preying on “inexperienced ladies”. Austin was most upset by one of the letters in which the brother-in-law of a lady invited T.A.D. to his house without the lady knowing about it, so that “if a mutual liking were not likely to arise from the acquaintance, a termination could be at once put to it without the least chance of inflicting pain”. Charming! How to get rid of a surplus sister-in-law. No comment was made in the paper on the fact that Austin had apparently opened the letter(s). Privacy? The Lord Mayor asked Austin whether anyone had called for the letters and whether Austin had given them up to that person. A “sollicitor of respectability” had called for the letters, but Austin had refused to give them up and told the sollicitor “that [he] should hold him up to public contempt for engaging in so disgraceful a transaction”. After the T.A.D. affair, a similar advertisement had appeared in the papers, professing to come from A.Y. who said he was of the legal profession and looking for a wife and “that he would be found very useful to widow ladies who might be entitled to property from their deceased husbands’ estates or the estates of others, and that he would exclusively devote his attention to the comfort of any lady with whom he might be united. (Laughter.)”(2) Have not found out if they ever caught the fellow, or whether the exposure in the papers was enough to stop him.
But if matrimony is not what you were after, you could always retire to Peel’s Coffee House to have your corns or awkward nails attended to as every morning at 8 o’clock John Hinge was available to solve your problems.
Peel’s was also known for its collection of complete runs of the London and most provincial newspapers, which were kept for reference in the reading room and because of this easily accessible source, Peel’s was a favourite haunt of gentlemen of the literary and legal professions. Charles Dickens was often to be found at Peel’s.(3) But, in 1874, it all came to an end; the rooms were needed for other purposes.
Mr. Austin who complained about the matrimony advertisements, was Thomas Phipps Austin who had taken over the establishment in early 1845. Tallis indeed gives the proprietor of the coffee house as Austin in the 1847 edition, but in the earlier edition, he mention the name of Moore. I have tried to work out who the proprietors were from 1715 to 1900 from the Land Tax Records and, among other sources, the information on the pubhistory site, but the list is not complete. If you have any additions, please leave a comment.
?-1715 widow Nixon (Bell, Fleet Street)
1715-1718 Edmund Peel (Land tax).
1719-1735 Thomas Babb (Land tax from 1719; PROB 11/674/358, he died February 1735).
1735-1736 Rebecca Babb, the widow of Thomas (paid Land Tax in 1735; died May 1736).
1738 John England (Land tax).
1739-1745 John Woods (Land tax).
?1753-1774? Richard Bulkley (Land Tax 1753-1768. In a petition of 1774 he says he has kept (past tense) Peel’s for 23 years, but does not give extact years).
?1777-1802 Thomas Gurney (mentioned in Daily Advertiser, 20 June 1777. PROB 11/1378/52; he died on 30 June 1802).
1802-1823 Mary Gurney (PROB 11/1678/222; the widow of Thomas Gurney. She died on 21 September 1823 and left everything to her son William).
1824-1826 William Gurney (Pigot’s Directory), probably earlier together with his mother as he is mentioned as the proprietor by B.R. Haydon in his diary for 1808.
1827-1843? W. Moore (Land Tax, Tallis and Post Office Directory, 1843).
1845 Charlotte Moore (W. Moore’s widow? Post Office Directory, 1845)
1845-1852? Thomas Phipps Austin (advertisement and Post Office Directory, 1852)
1853 Land tax record hotel left blank; Thomas P. Austin is charged for a house in Fetter Lane, corner Fleur-de-Lys Court.
1854-1858 Thomas Moreton Johnson (Land tax: charged for the same house in Fetter Lane; hotel left blank. Post Office Directory, 1856. Transferred his licence on 4 Dec. 1858 to Brown (The Era, 12 Dec. 1858).
1858-1860 Neville Brown (Old Bailey case t18600813-689; went bankrupt in 1860).
?1863-1875 Thomas Winterbotham (Land tax; house in Fetter Lane 1863).
1876-1888 John Jones (Post Office Directory, 1884. He died 28 Feb. 1888. His name appears on the card the Rev. Croft found, see below).
1889-1900 Mary Ann Gill Jones (Land tax; the widow of John Jones).
The Reverend Bernard Croft found a brochure in old family papers with written across it “This is where Grannie Howe stayed when in London”. Grannie Howe had been a witness in a legitimacy case (“a peculiar case” according to the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of 1887, but in fact just a case of a widower marrying the sister of his late wife) and was probably put up in the hotel because it was close to the Law Courts. The brochure indeed declared that the hotel “was especially suitable for clients and witnesses, with whom special arrangements can be made”. A room with breakfast, including chop, steak or fish was 5/- per head. Croft checked the hotel out when he was in London in 1974, but it was all boarded up, ready for demolition and he was told that it had been closed since about four years, so the glorious career of Peel’s Coffee House which started in 1518 (year on card) had finally come to an end.(4)
(1) Collage has a picture of the coffee house which they originally dated to c. 1820, but as it shows the new situation, that is, after the widening of Fetter Lane, it must be later. After correspondence with LMA, they agreed and will change the date to c. 1845. They say that the costumes worn by the figures in the picture also indicate the later date. As I don’t know much about fashion, I am quite happy to take their word for it and am glad to have this corroborating ‘evidence’. See here.
(2) The Morning Post, 29 January 1847.
(3) W.G. Bell, Fleet Street in Seven Centuries (1912), pp. 505-506.
(4) “An innocent family skeleton” in Country Life, vol. 156 (1974), p. 1656.
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