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Lloyd's Coffee House, probably Freeman's Court, London: unexecuted designs for the building, 1772 (7)

Signed and dated

  • 1772


In the 1680s a coffee house was established by Edward Lloyd in Tower Street, moving in 1692 to Abchurch Lane. It became a popular meeting place for ship captains, owners and merchants to exchange shipping news, and negotiate marine insurance. The most respectable among this group broke away in 1769 and founded the New Lloyd's Coffee House in Pope's Head Alley, according to The London Encyclopaedia, 'for customers seriously and strictly concerned with marine insurance'. The success of the business was such that within two years the site on Pope’s Head Alley proved too small, and 79 merchants subscribed £100 each towards new premises. It was at this time that Robert Adam was commissioned to make his designs, probably for a site in Freeman's Court, off Cornhill. The design takes the form of a Roman basilica, with an elaborate and colourful interior, but it was not executed.

Instead of Adam's building, in 1774, Lloyd's took rooms in the Royal Exchange. It was not until the twentieth century that Lloyd's of London - by then a formal insurance market and society of underwriters - commissioned a bespoke building for their offices. In 1925-28 they built at 12 Leadenhall Street to designs by Sir Edward Cooper. An extension building was erected in 1950-58 at 51 Lime Street to designs by Terence Heysham, and more recently both of these buildings have been replaced. Cooper's 1920s building was demolished in 1986, and replaced to designs by Lord Richard Rogers, and Heysham's 1950s building was demolished in 2004, and replaced by the Willis Building to designs by Lord Norman Foster.

Lloyd's of London seem to have been aware of their connection with Robert Adam, however, as in 1955, when Bowood House in Wiltshire was demolished - save Adam-s Diocletian wing - they purchased the interior of Adam's 1763 great room (SM Adam volume 39/68). Unfortunately, the de-installation did not include the original decorative painted panels, the ceiling or the furniture, and only one of the two chimneypieces, but what was removed was first installed in the board room of Heysham's building on Lime Street, and then in the committee room of Rogers' building on Leadenhall Street. It was resized to fit in each instance.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index p. 41; The Lloyd's log, ‘An Adam room’, 1955, pp. 10, 14; D. Stillman, The decorative work of Robert Adam, 1966, p. 73; B. Weinreb, and C. Hibbert, The London Encyclopaedia, 1983, p. 478; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 57, 174-175

Frances Sands, 2013



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Contents of Lloyd's Coffee House, probably Freeman's Court, London: unexecuted designs for the building, 1772 (7)