Lloyd's is one of the earliest establishments of the kind; it is referred to in a poem printed in the year 1700, called the Wealthy Shopkeeper, or Charitable Christian:
"Now to Lloyd's coffee-house he never fails,
To read the letters, and attend the sales."
In 1710, Steele (Tatler, No. 246,) dates from Lloyd's his Petition on Coffee-house Orators and Newsvendors. And Addison, in Spectator, April 23, 1711, relates this droll incident:—"About a week since there happened to me a very odd accident, by reason of which one of these my papers of minutes which I had accidentally dropped at Lloyd's Coffee-house, where the auctions are usually kept. Before I missed it, there were a cluster of people who had found it, and were diverting themselves with it at one end of the coffee-house. It had raised so much laughter among them before I observed what they were about, that I had not the courage to own it. The boy of the coffee-house, when they had done with it, carried it about in his hand, asking everybody if they had dropped a written paper; but nobody challenging it, he was ordered by those merry gentlemen who had before perused it, to get up into the auction-pulpit, and read it to the whole room, that if anybody would own it, they might. The boy accordingly mounted the pulpit, and with a very audible voice read what proved to be minutes, which made the whole coffee-house very merry; some of them concluded it was written by a madman, and others by somebody that had been taking notes out of the Spectator. After it was read, and the boy was coming out of the pulpit, the Spectator reached his arm out, and desired the boy to give it him; which was done according. This drew the whole eyes of the company upon the Spectator; but after casting a cursory glance over it, he shook his head twice or thrice at the reading of it, twisted it into a kind of match, and lighted his pipe with it. 'My profound silence,' says the Spectator, 'together with the steadiness of my countenance, and the gravity of my behaviour during the whole transaction, raised a very loud laugh on all sides of me; but as I had escaped all suspicion of being the author, I was very well satisfied, and applying myself to my pipe and the Postman, took no further notice of anything that passed about me.'"
Nothing is positively known of the original Lloyd; but in 1750, there was issued an Irregular Ode, entitled A Summer's Farewell to the Gulph of Venice, in the Southwell Frigate, Captain Manly, jun., commanding, stated to be "printed for Lloyd, well-known for obliging the public with the Freshest and Most Authentic Ship News, and sold by A. More, near St. Paul's, and at the Pamphlet Shops in London and Westminster, MDCCL."
In the Gentleman's Magazine, for 1740, we read:—"11 March, 1740, Mr. Baker, Master of Lloyd's Coffee-house, in Lombard-street, waited on Sir Robert Walpole with the news of Admiral Vernon's taking Portobello. This was the first account received thereof, and proving true, Sir Robert was pleased to order him a handsome present."
Lloyd's is, perhaps, the oldest collective establishment in the City. It was first under the management of a single individual, who started it as a room where the underwriters and insurers of ships' cargoes could meet for refreshment and conversation. The Coffee-house was originally in Lombard-street, at the corner of Abchurch-lane; subsequently in Pope's-head-alley, where it was called "New Lloyd's Coffee-house;" but on February 14th, 1774, it was removed to the north-west corner of the Royal Exchange, where it remained until the destruction of that building by fire.
In rebuilding the Exchange, a fine suite of apartments was provided for Lloyd's "Subscription Rooms," which are the rendezvous of the most eminent merchants, ship-owners, underwriters, insurance, stock, and exchange brokers. Here is obtained the earliest news of the arrival and sailing of vessels, losses at sea, captures, recaptures, engagements, and other shipping intelligence; and proprietors of ships and freights are insured by the underwriters. The rooms are in the Venetian style, with Roman enrichments. They are—1. The Subscribers' or Underwriters', the Merchants', and the Captains' Room. At the entrance of the room are exhibited the Shipping Lists, received from Lloyd's agents at home and abroad, and affording particulars of departures or arrivals of vessels, wrecks, salvage, or sale of property saved, etc. To the right and left are "Lloyd's Books," two enormous ledgers: right hand, ships "spoken with," or arrived at their destined ports; left hand: records of wrecks, fires, or severe collisions, written in a fine Roman hand, in "double lines." To assist the underwriters in their calculations, at the end of the room is an Anemometer, which registers the state of the wind day and night; attached is a rain-gauge.
The life of the underwriter is one of great anxiety and speculation. "Among the old stagers of the room, there is often strong antipathy to the insurance of certain ships. In the case of one vessel it was strangely followed out. She was a steady trader, named after one of the most venerable members of the room; and it was a curious coincidence that he invariably refused to 'write her' for 'a single line.' Often he was joked upon the subject, and pressed to 'do a little' for his namesake; but he as often declined, shaking his head in a doubtful manner. One morning the subscribers were reading the 'double lines,' or the losses, and among them was this identical ship, which had gone to pieces, and become a total wreck."—The City, 2nd edit., 1848.
The Merchants' Room is superintended by a master, who can speak several languages: here are duplicate copies of the books in the underwriters' room, and files of English and foreign newspapers.
The Captains' Room is a kind of coffee-room, where merchants and ship-owners meet captains, and sales of ships, etc. take place.
The members of Lloyd's have ever been distinguished by their loyalty and benevolent spirit. In 1802, they voted 2000l. to the Life-boat subscription. On July 20, 1803, at the invasion panic, they commenced the Patriotic Fund with 20,000l. 3-per-cent. Consols; besides 70,312l. 7s. individual subscriptions, and 15,000l. additional donations. After the battle of the Nile, in 1798, they collected for the widows and wounded seamen 32,423l.; and after Lord Howe's victory, June 1, 1794, for similar purposes, 21,281l. They have also contributed 5000l. to the London Hospital; 1000.l for the suffering inhabitants of Russia in 1813; 1000l. for the relief of the militia in our North American colonies, 1813; and 10,000l. for the Waterloo subscription, in 1815. The Committee vote medals and rewards to those who distinguish themselves in saving life from shipwreck.
Some years since, a member of Lloyd's drew from the books the following lines of names contained therein:—
"A Black and a White, with a Brown and a Green,
And also a Gray at Lloyd's room may be seen;
With Parson and Clark, then a Bishop and Pryor,
And Water, how Strange adding fuel to fire;
While, at the same time, 'twill sure pass belief,
There's a Winter, a Garland, Furze, Bud, and a Leaf;
With Freshfield, and Greenhill, Lovegrove, and a Dale;
Though there's never a Breeze, there's always a Gale.
No music is there, though a Whistler and Harper;
There's a Blunt and a Sharp, many flats, but no sharper.
There's a Danniell, a Samuel, a Sampson, an Abell;
The first and the last write at the same table.
Then there's Virtue and Faith there, with Wylie and Rasch,
Disagreeing elsewhere, yet at Lloyd's never clash,
There's a Long and a Short, Small, Little, and Fatt,
With one Robert Dewar, who ne'er wears his hat:
No drinking goes on, though there's Porter and Sack,
Lots of Scotchmen there are, beginning with Mac;
Macdonald, to wit, Macintosh and McGhie,
McFarquhar, McKenzie, McAndrew, Mackie.
An evangelized Jew, and an infidel Quaker;
There's a Bunn and a Pye, with a Cook and a Baker,
Though no Tradesmen or Shopmen are found, yet herewith
Is a Taylor, a Saddler, a Paynter, a Smyth;
Also Butler and Chapman, with Butter and Glover,
Come up to Lloyd's room their bad risks to cover.
Fox, Shepherd, Hart, Buck, likewise come every day;
And though many an ass, there is only one Bray.
There is a Mill and Miller, A-dam and a Poole,
A Constable, Sheriff, a Law, and a Rule.
There's a Newman, a Niemann, a Redman, a Pitman,
Now to rhyme with the last, there is no other fit man.
These, with Young, Cheap, and Lent, Luckie, Hastie, and Slow,
With dear Mr. Allnutt, Allfrey, and Auldjo,
Are all the queer names that at Lloyd's I can show."
Many of these individuals are now deceased; but a frequenter of Lloyd's in former years will recognize the persons mentioned.
Club Life of London Vol. II