Long Live the King(s Coffee House)

January 29, 2018

For any of you who didn't know, I wrote my Bachelor's of History dissertation on the emergence of the Early Modern London Coffeehouses. It was brilliant fun, and I hope to publish a book in the near future (watch this space!) from all of the research I put together. However, I was recently looking through some of my old notes and came across the wonderfulness that was Moll King. Or shall we say true bad ass of her time. 

 

Now Moll, and her husband Tom, owned the Kings' Coffeehouse in London. Located in Covent Garden in the mid 18th Century, the place looked like your average coffee house from the outside. However, the place was notoriously known for holding some rather...raunchy activities. It was an area known well for the number of prostitutes who gathered here, and it wasn't an unknown fact that whether you were from the highest or lowest areas of society, you would be guaranteed to be 'paired' with someone also willing. 

 

 

 

 

Moll and Tom, however, were dead clever on keeping themselves tight with the law. Firstly, they didn't keep any beds on the premises (besides their own, locked away upstairs where no one could get to), so they would not run the risk of being charged with 'brothel-keeping' - which would have resulted in heavy fines, whipping and a short sentence in prison. Instead, this was simply seen as a 'meeting place', whereby anyone attracted to one another would simply leave the Coffeehouse and find another destination for their more...physical activities. 

 

Secondly, Moll developed what was known as 'flash talk' -  a way for imposters to be stamped out and easily recognised in a group of Kings' locals. A language with similarities to what we would see as 'slang', Moll made an entirely new language which only the regulars would be able to communicate in, ensuring that any outside imposters coming into the coffeehouse would easily be detected, as well as unable to distinguish if anything was being discussed within the confines of the building. 

 

The coffeehouse was basically a hit from day one, especially since Moll had become well acquainted with many people in the 'fashionable society' before opening the location. Not only this, but bvy staying open all night, this appealed to a wide range of people, as most other coffeehouses shut by the early evening. Therefore, if we want to liken it to coffee managers like today, these guys were excelling at the two main pointers of business: making the most of their operating hours and extending them to as much as possible, as well as likening themselves to the customer base they want to see entering their shop. Clever, huh? In fact, Moll and Tom did so well that they soon were able to buy their second, and then third shacks to expand. Now that is one good business strategy! 

 

 

 

 

Although the Kings Coffeehouse was not technically labelled as a brothel, that did not stop many moral campaigners from trying to put an end to the place. Partly because of this, Moll would always remain sober whilst Tom would enjoy the company of customers and get drunk with them. This way, she would be able to keep a sober eye on everyone in the coffeehouse, to see if anyone was, or would be, causing trouble for her and her business. However, this all changed after Tom passed away, and Moll began to drink much more furiously than before. However, because of this the security of the space soon slipped, and one brawl which ended outside in the streets caught the attention of the law - landing Moll a trip to prison. However, she refused the £200 fine and instead managed to get away with simply £50, and the several month prison life seemed to unfaze her. Instead, she continued to work at her coffeehouse until she retired in 1745, whereby she later passed away in 1747. 

 

It's details like this in Early Modern History that astound me. I hope you liked this little history snippet too - do tell me what you think and if you have any cool stories or things you've found out recently! 

 

Until next time, lovelies.  x

 

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