A souvenir of Crow's Chophouse, Coleman Street

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However grand a restaurant is in the early 21st century very few, if any, use silver cutlery. However a recently discovered pair of Fiddle Thread and Shell salt spoons made in 1804 by William Eley and William Fearn show that at least one restaurant in the nineteenth century was able to do so.


Fig 1: Pair of fiddle, thread and shell saltspoons.

The reverse of the bowl of these salt spoons is engraved '45 Coleman Street' (a road name recorded in the City of London as early as the second half of the 12th century) and the front of the stem carries later nineteenth century initials JSC (replacing earlier engraving).


Fig 2: Engraving on the saltspoons above

The 1841 census(1) reveals that the household at 45 Coleman Street consisted of Joseph Crow and his wife Sarah, both aged 40, their children Joseph George , Sarah and William Crow. This shows that the initials JSC are not those of a single person but the combined marriage initials of Joseph and Sarah Crow.

Genealogical records showed that the eldest son Joseph George Crow was baptised at Towcester on 7th November 1827. His younger siblings were both baptised at St. Albans: Sarah on 1st August 1830 and William on 22nd June 1834(2), which helps to establish the sequence of their move to London.

The elder Joseph and Sarah (nee Liddington) had married on 8th April 1826 at which time both were recorded as being resident at Towcester in Northamptonshire (the surnames Crow and Liddington can be found locally in the first half of the nineteenth century). The baptismal records for their children suggest that Joseph and Sarah left Towcester for St. Albans between the end of November 1827 and August 1830. They are first recorded at Coleman Street, in the City of London, in the Poll Book for 1834(3) but the preparations for this move to London can be seen from around the end of July 1830. On 16th July 1830 Joseph Crow, who is not listed as having served an apprenticeship, became a Freeman of the Cook's Company of the City of London [in mediaeval times being a freeman of a Livery Company had been a legal necessity for trading within the City boundaries](4) . The extant records of the Cooks Company show that in addition to receiving his freedom, Crow was also made a Liveryman on the same day(5) . This conferred a higher status on him and also enabled him to vote in the election of the Lord Mayor.

The Times for 22nd May 1840(6) records the sale of 'a brick built freehold house (land tax redeemed) situate no. 45 Coleman Street, containing two attics, two bedrooms, dining parlour, kitchen, chop room (extending nearly the whole depth of the premises), back parlour and cellars, let on lease [to] Mr. Joseph Crow … at a rental of £100 per annum'. Then, in 1845, the lease was again available for sale as being 'in the heart of the City of London, doing a good business in the eating house line … rent £71 per annum'(7) . The Crows had already moved to number 53 Coleman Street as recorded in The Times on 13th October 1845(8).

The elder Crows did not have long to enjoy their new home. The burial of Joseph Crow at St. Stephen's Church, Coleman Street was recorded on 21st February 1847 and Sarah died on 26th August 1850 at 53 Coleman Street(9).

Crow's Chop House does not seem to have long survived Sarah's death. In August 1851 two advertisements appear in the Times for former staff seeking employment. 'G. S.' sought 'a SITUATION as HEAD WAITER, or share waiter in a chop house or dining room' and described himself as 'a young man, age 30, who has lived 12 years in his last situation, Crow's Chophouse, City'(10). Four days later 'A. B.' placed a similar advertisement as a 'respectable married man … between twenty and thirty years of age' who wanted 'a SITUATION as MAN COOK and CUTTER, or Cutter only... He has been in a first rate house for the last ten years and down to the present time, viz. Crow's Chophouse and dining rooms, Coleman Street City'(11).

These advertisements reveal that Crow's Chophouse was 'a first rate house' and an establishment the name of which would mean something to prospective employers. It also inspired loyalty from its staff, the Head Waiter and the Man Cook had been with the business since around 1839 and 1841 respectively and had therefore worked at 45 Coleman Street. The size of the Chop room there received special mention in the property details in 1840 as ' extending nearly the whole depth of the premises' and — assuming there was more silver than this one pair of salt spoons — must have been a place of some prestige.

The salt spoons, however, suggest one last thing about 45 Coleman Street: that it had probably been a restaurant or Chop House prior to 1834. The date of the engraving on the heel is not the same as the Crows’ initials. If it were contemporary with the manufacture of the spoon in 1804, that would suggest that the Crows took over the lease on an existing business of some standing complete with the fixtures and fittings (including these salt spoons) since it is very unlikely that private individuals would engrave their address on the back of their flatware.

Luke Schrager

References

 

(1)                                                                                     Ancestry.co.uk

(2)                                                                                              Ibid.

(3)                                                                                              Ibid.

(4)                                       Guildhall Manuscripts: MS 5901: p. 28.

(5)                                       Guildhall Manuscripts: MS 5901: p. 83.

(6)                   The Times Online: 22/5/1840, page 8, issue 17364.

(7)              The Times Online: 10/12/1845, page 12, issue 19103.

(8)                 The Times Online: 13/10/1845, page 2, issue 19053

(9)                    The Times Online: 9/9/1850: page 9, issue 20589.

(10)                   The Times Online: 26/8/1851, pg. 9, issue 20890.

(11)                  The Times Online: 30/08/1851, pg. 2, issue 20894

 


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