Lloyd’s Coffee-House

LloydslistRise of the Middle Class

After the Great Fire of London, timber construction was forbidden within the city; all future buildings were to be made of stone. The expense of stone construction consequently forced property owners in the Royal Exchange business district to demand higher rent from their tenants. As a result, the area between Leadenhall Street and the Tower of London, a section of the city that had escaped the flames, attracted cost conscious merchants and grew into a major center of commercial and economic growth.

Thus when Edward Lloyd opened a coffee house on Tower Street at Eastcheap in the 1680’s, he was in the right place at the right time; his Coffee-House became a natural rendezvous for brokers, captains, ship-owners and anyone else involved with the maritime insurance trade.

That a coffee house became the center of the maritime insurance industry may seem incredulous today, but in 17th century England, coffee houses were the meeting places of choice. There was over 300 such establishments in London alone. Although every kind of drink was offered (and many patrons were especially fond of wine and spirits), the actual ‘kauphy’, as it was sometimes spelled, was non-intoxicating.

‘It is excellent,’ ran an advertisement for Pasqua Rosee’s coffee house on St. Michael’s Alley, ‘to prevent and cure the dropsy, gout and scurvy. It is known by experience to be better than any other drying drink for people in years, or children that have any running humours upon them, as the king’s evil, etc. It is a most excellent remedy against the spleen, hypochondriac winds, and the like. It will prevent drowsiness, and make one fit for business.’

The proprietor’s last pitch was especially well made–above all, his coffee house was where his patrons conducted their business. In fact, almost every coffee house catered to a specific marketplace. Poets and men of letters went to Button’s or Bedford’s or even Will’s, where Dryden had his own comfortable chair beside the fire. Scholars and journalists went to the Grecian on the north side of town. Medical doctors went to Child’s in St. Paul’s Churchyard, near the Royal College of Surgeons while lawyers patronized coffee houses on the south side of Fleet Street.

In the days before Lloyd’s, the main retreat of merchant class had been Jonathan’s in Birchin Lane or the well-known Garraway’s which held “candle-auctions’ to sell ships. A straight pin would be stuck in a candle an inch above its base and the bidding would take place while the candle burned. The winning bid was the last one made before the pin dropped out of the melting wax. The tension in the air must have grown as the wax melted down for, as the old saying goes, “you could hear a pin drop.”

Some of these merchants would also insure ships. They were known as underwriters from the fact that they wrote their names and their proportion of the risk under each other’s on the policy. Before the establishment of Edward Lloyd’s coffee house, and perhaps continuing even into the early days at Lloyd’s Tower Street location, a broker could never be sure where he could find someone who would write a risk, or part of a risk, on a ship. Such a broker would hawk his risk from Garraway’s to Jonathan’s, from Jonathan’s to the Barbadoes in Change Alley, and so forth until he found some merchant willing to underwrite it.

The Place to Be

Lloyd appears to have been a man of great intelligence and enterprise. He realized that he needed something that would turn his coffee house into the main congregating place for underwriters, where brokers could depend on always finding someone willing to underwrite a policy. He decided to provide a service that all of his customers needed–information. He hired runners who would canvas the whaves and water-front for reports of ship arrivals, casualties, ship wreaks or any other tibbit that might of interest to his patrons. “It is the custom at Lloyd’s,” wrote Steele in the Tatler, “upon the first coming in of the news, to order a youth, who officiates as the Kidney of the coffee house, to get into the pulpit, and read every paper with a loud and distinct voice, while the whole audience are sipping their respective liquors.”

Although Elizabeth Nash Mashburn’s marriage to Edward Lloyd was in 1698 and thus Edward Mashburn was already grown at the time of their marriage, it is very likely that he and Elizabeth were employed at the coffeehouse. Certainly, Lloyd’s third wife had been his employee and the frugal Lloyd appears to be a man of habit in his domestic arrangements. Thus it is not difficult to envision the young Edward Mashburn as the first ‘kidney’ of the coffee house.

The origin of the term kidney has long baffled the historians of Lloyd’s of London, but it might be a corruption of “Kid Ned”, a possible nickname for distinguishing the younger from the elder in a double Edward establishment.

At any rate, Lloyd’s coffee house appears to have been successful from the start. In the London Gazette, No. 2437, 18-21 (Feb. 1688), Edward Bransby of Derby offered one guinea for the whereabouts of a watch thief—a middle-sized man with black curly hair and pockholes who wore a beaver hat and a brown riding coat. He asked that any information be reported to Lloyd’s, apparently everyone in London knew the establishment.

We, however, know next to nothing of Edward Lloyd himself. He may have been born around 1648 and he may have been a church warden. We know that he was married three times and that Elizabeth Nash Mashburn, the widow of Edward Mashburn, Sr., was his second wife. He belonged to the Framework Knitters’ Company and he may have inherited his membership through his father. But despite the everlasting association of his name with insurance, we must point out that there is no evidence that Lloyd himself was ever actively involved with insurance himself.

Expansion and Growth

In 1691, Lloyd moved his coffee house to a more expansive location on Lombard Street at the corner of Abchurch Lane where booths replaced chairs and tables for seating customers. Soon the Kidney’s pulpit was also being used for auctions. The candle sales, once famous at Garraway’s, now took place at Lloyd’s, and as early as 1692 there is a reference to a sale by candle at Lloyd’s of three ships from as far away as ‘Plimmouth’. There were also sales of Turkish coffee, Alicant wines, and even horses.

These sales had become so much a feature of everyday life in London that The Wealthy Shopkeeper or The Charitable Christian, a popular doggerel of the times, includes the following lines in a description of a merchant’s daily activities:

Then to Loyd’s Coffee-House he never fails
To read the letters and attend the sales.

A newspaper of 2 January 1693 carried this advertisement:

A negro maid aged about sixteen years, named Bess,
having on a stripts stuff waistcoat and peticoat,
is much peck’t with the Small Pox,
and hathe lost a piece of her left ear,
speaks English well,
ran away from her Master Captain Benjamin Quelch,
on Tuesday, the 8th of December.
A Guinea for anybody delivering her to Mr. Edward Lloyd.

It must be remembered that slavery was accepted by the English society of the time and the same type of advertisements for run-away apprentices can be found in the newspapers of the day. It is chilling, however, to realize that Edward Mashburn was the same age as this run-away girl. There was, thankfully, more admirable ways by which Edward Lloyd would broadened his business interests.

For several years, Lloyd had been assisting non-local ship-owners in selling their vessels. For example, if an owner in the Wales wanted to sell a ship, he would give Lloyd an descriptive inventory and then place an advertisement in the newspapers informing potential buyers that further details could be found at the Lombard Street coffee house.

Lloyd’s News

It was but a small step to the next stage, and in September of 1696 Lloyd brought out his own shipping newspaper. This publication, somewhat rough and ready, was mostly notices of ship arrivals completed with help of runners fron Shadwell and Wrapping and the gossip of ships’ captains. Consisting of a sheet folded into two 101/2 by 51/2 pages of letterpress type, it appeared as often as three times a week. Underneath the masthead of Lloyd’s News appeared the following imprint: ‘Printed for Edward Lloyd (Coffee man) in Lombard Street’. Lloyd’s Coffee House had now become the acknowledged center of shipping news, ship sales, ships’ cargoes, etc.–everything that could be termed maritime.

During its seventy-sixth issue on 23 Feb 1697, the paper offended the government by declaring that the Quakers had asked the House of Lords to excused them from all government offices. ‘Mr. Edward Lloyd was desired,’ according to the Protestant Mercury, ‘that the statement being groundless and a mistake, he doe rectifie in his next.’ Lloyd refused, but agreed to cease publication for a while (futher publications from Lloyd’s would wait until 1734). Copies of all editions of the News, excepting the first six, survive in the Bodleian Museum.

Despite this incident with the News, Edward Lloyd was, on the whole, someone with some standing with the government. In 1703, when England was at war with Holland and no one could travel outside the country without a passport, Lloyd was used as a reference fifteen times within three months. It is reasonable to assume that Lloyd’s mercentile connections found Edward Mashburn a position as a tutor or school master in Virginia.

Pure Speculation

Since Edward Mashburn would have been 20 years old at the time Lloyd’s News came out, it is not unreasonable to suspect that he had something to do with the publication. The business of producing a company newsletter does seem to be the type of work that a young man who had just finished his education might be given. We do know from Mashburn’s own testimony that he left England about the same time that the government was offended by Lloyd’s News.

Although the time of his departure for Virginia might well be coincidental with the attack upon the Quakers, it should be noted that Edward Mashburn aligned himself with the missionary Reverand Giles Rainesford. One of Rainesford’s goals in the colonies was to negate the growing influence of the Quakers.

Interestingly, unvertified data from other Mashburn researchers state that Edward Mashburn’s wife was Mary Farrar. The Farrar family in Virginia was well known for its opposition to the Quakers.

Concluding Events

Meanwhile, the winter of 1712-13 was very eventful for Lloyd’s household. In October, 1713, Edward Lloyd’s second wife, Elizabeth Nash Mashburn Lloyd, died. In November he married Martha, his third wife. In January his daughter Handy married his head waiter, William Newton. Newton possibly had his eye on his master’s failing health, for two months later, in March of 1713, Edward Lloyd died and was buried in St. Mary Woolnoth’s in Lombard Street.

Sadly, Newton did not enjoy ownership of the coffee house for long. Within a year of his stepfather-in-law’s death, Newton himself died. Handy, following family tradition, married again, this time to Samuel Shepherd, who remained master of the coffee house until 1727.


Brown, Anthony, Lloyd’s of London, Stein and Day (New York, 1974). 197 pages.

Clark, Sir George, The Latter Stuarts 1660-1714, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1956). 479 pages.

Dictionary of National Biography, Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee, ed., Vol. XI (Oxford University Press: 1921-23)

Edward Lloyd

Email correspondence from British researcher Harry Duckworth:

Just about everything that could be found out about Edward Lloyd is included in the book “A History of Lloyd’s”, by Charles Wright and C. Ernest Fayle (London: Macmillan & Co., 1928), chapter 1.

He is found as a “coffeeman” in Tower Street, London, parish of Allhallows Barking, in 1680, and in 1691 he moved to the house later numbered 16, Lombard Street, parish of St Mary Woolnoth, which was the well-known Lloyd’s Coffee House till about 1770.

In 1771 or so (I didn’t note the date) a number of the ship insurance brokers at Lloyd’s, dissatisfied with the way the coffee house was being run, set up “New Lloyd’s” in the Royal Exchange, and hired a waiter from Lloyd’s to run it. After a few years this “New Lloyd’s” became the only Lloyd’s.

Edward Lloyd was married 3 times. With his first wife, Abigail (surname unknown) he had at least 5 children, of whom four daughters grew up and married — the youngest, Handy Lloyd, married William Newton just before her father’s death, and Newton took over the operation of Lloyd’s.

Abigail Lloyd died in early August 1698 (buried Aug 7), and Edward Lloyd married Elizabeth Mashbourne, widow, Oct 7 1698. No children. She died Oct 7 1712. Her husband then married Martha Denham (licence Nov 28 1712), but he died Feb 15 1712/13, and was buried at St Mary Woolnoth.

The names of the daughters were Abigail (married Edward Falkener), Elinor (married — Holman), Mary (married Thomas Sivedale, and then — Franks), and Handy (married William Newton). There was also a son, Hugh, who was baptized in 1681 but is not mentioned in his father’s will, and may have died.

Wright & Fayle also have quite a bit of information about the “suppression” of Lloyd’s News, a short-lived news sheet that ran afoul of the authorities, as did many a newspaper at this time. Wright & Fayle have a facsimile copy of one issue of Lloyd’s News, which looks harmless enough. They don’t mention Edward Mashburn.