[ ... back to main menu for this book]
Lloyd’s.—This etablishment which has risen to the dignity of a corporation, with rights assigned to it by special Act of Parliament occupies a great portion of the first floor of the Royal Exchange, Cornhill. It is still frequently spoken of, by old-fashioned people and foreigners, as Lloyd’s coffee. house; Edward Lloyd having been the name of the enterprising proprietor of a coffee-house in Tower-street, once much patronised by ship owners and merchants. The first mention of it is to be found in the London Gazette of 21st February, 1688. During the reign of Charles II., and towards the close of the seventeenth century, merchants, like their more fashionable contemporaries farther west, greatly affected coffee-houses, though it was not until 1691 or 1692, when Mr. Lloyd removed to the corner of Abchurch-lane and Lombard-street, that his house became the head-quarters of ship sales, and of marine insurance, with which the name of “Lloyd’s” is now associated. Previous to his settling in Lombard-street, the chief resort of shipbrokers and owners was “John’s” (surname unknown), in Birchin-lane, but Mr. Lloyd succeeded in attracting to his house the best of the shipping fraternity, and before long it became their chief place of meeting. For many years, and even after the middle of the eighteenth century, the transactions carried on seem to have been of a nondescript character, and, according to existing records, many of the everyday occurrences were of an order calculated to wound deeply the susceptibilities of the respectable body of gentlemen who at present preside over the destinies of Lloyd’s. In addition to the sale of ships, all sorts of articles were put up to auction, varied by a occasional raffle of a horse, sixty members at £1 1s., which it was prudently stipulated must be paid in advance. Another form of speculation in which our ancestors indulged was effecting insurances on the lives of public men; the chances of persons in bad health, or who had infringed the laws of the country, being alike made the medium of gambling. Steele, in “The Tatler,” and Addison in “The Spectator,” notice Lloyd’s coffee house as the resort of merchant and shipowners, and the latter paper, No. 46, April 23, 1711 gives a very good insight into the manners and customs of its frequenters. The miscellaneous forms of betting and gambling in vogue seem to have made the spectable habitues ashamed of their surroundings, and about 1770 the notion, which had been taken up and abandoned more than once, of making Lloyd’s, hitherto open to all corners, a society confined to qualified members of repute and means, was again brought on the tapis, chiefly through the energy of John Julius Angerstein, a German by descent, whose talent an integrity had raised him to a formost position amongst underwriters. Martin Kuyck von Mierop, considerably Angerstein’s senior, and a man of weight, presided at the first meeting, held towards the close of 1771, when seventy-nine gentlemen put down £100 apiece towards uniting themselves into a society, then mentioned as “New Lloyd’s,” though before long the adjective was dropped. After temporary occupation of a place in Pope Head-alley, Cornhill, which proved inadequate to their purpose, “New Lloyd’s,” on the 7th Marc 1774, entered into possession of premises on the first-floor of the old Royal Exchange (since burnt down), previously occupied by the British Herring Fishery Society. Established in suitable quarters, Lloyd’s rapidly increased importance and reputation, and membership became, and has been ever since, a guarantee of high commercial standing. In 1811 its arrangements were re-organised and the first regular secretary appointed. Sixty years later Lloyd’s succeeded in getting an Act passed constituting it a corporation, and giving it many important facilities. At the present day those who have the entrée of Lloyd’s rooms are: members entitled to under write, members not so entitled, subscribers and substitutes. The expenses of the corporation in telegraphy, &c., are very considerable and the records, kept in alphabetical order, of the voyages of all vessels, with the other miscellaneous requirements of a large establishment, involve the employment of an extensive staff, ranging from expert linguists to tiny messengers. The underwriting business i.e. the insurance against loss or damage of ships and cargoes and from all parts of the world, is carried on in two rooms of noble proportions, while another is devoted to files of commercial papers, lists of shipping intelligence, written and printed, and seats and tables for reading and writing. This is called the merchants’ room, distinguishing it from the under-writing rooms where the chief business of the place goes on. Beyond the merchants’ room is a large apartment, used as a restaurant and luncheon-bar, and known as the captains’ room, from the fact that masters of ships frequent it when vessels are put up to auction. These sales take place in the luncheon-room usually at 2.30 p.m. There is also a library, well stocked with books of reference on many subjects, and containing, amongst other curiosities quaint old policies of assurance, one of which bears date 16th August, 1708, while the other insures Napoleon I.’s life and freedom up to the 21st June, 1813, and some pieces of splendid black oak furniture, made from the wreck of H.M.S.Lutine, a frigate bound for Texel, which was lost off the Dutch coast on the 9th Octobe 1799, with a large quantity of specie and bar gold and silver on board. From time to time efforts were made, with varying success, to recover portions of the treasure until, Lloyd’s underwriters having long since paid the amounts insured, the Lutine affair became forgotten; but twenty years ago energetic measures were again taken to make further search, and with so much effect that over £20,000 was eventually secured. NEAREST Railway Stations, Mansion House and Moorgate-street; Omnibus Route, Cheapside, Moorgate-street, and Queen Victoria-street; Cab Rank, Bartholomew-lane.
Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879