Thomas Sandby, who designed
the first Freemasons’ Hall and
also the rebuilt Tavern
A fascinating picture of the Tavern
business at this time is given by the catalogue
of the contents of the Tavern sold at auction
over several days in January 1802, a copy
of which is in the Library and Museum
collection. All the furniture and utensils
were sold, including the table and chairs
from the card room, the carpets, curtains
and mirrors from the “Glee Room” and
quantities of mahogany tea trays, “oriental
porcelain”, “Masonic glasses”, china dishes,
bowls and silver plate.
The sale also included quantities of what
were described in the catalogue as “choice
old wines” including more than 800 dozen
bottles of “East India Madeira of Superior
quality”. The “excellent old Port” was sold
in lots of 10 dozen bottles at prices of around
£25 per lot.
In 1808 new tenants took over. Robert
Christopher Sutton, William Thorn
and John Jackson Cuff all had business
experience. Thorn had been the head waiter
at Canonbury House and Cuff had once
been an apprentice to Richold and Mollard
at the Tavern, but was at the time running
a small eating-house in Drury Lane. Sutton
owned the Highbury Barn Tavern and
was able to provide capital.
When Sutton and Thorn retired,
Cuff took over the operation assisted by
Hoggary, his chief clerk and Arnold, his
head cellarman, both of whom seem to
have participated in a profit-sharing scheme
that meant that they each had an estate
worth more than £1,000 when they died.
His son John Cuff joined his father in the
business in 1827 and John Jackson Cuff
retired to run another inn, The Old Ship,
at Brighton in 1834.
On his retirement, his tradesmen held
a dinner in his honour and presented him
with a candelabra. When he died in
November 1848, he left a fortune of more
than £120,000 and his death was marked
with a lengthy obituary in the Freemason’s
Quarterly Review. The prosperity of the
tavern under his stewardship is evidenced
by the commissioning of plates and dishes
printed with an image of the Tavern for
use by diners.
In the early 1850s Cuff’s former clerk,
Thomas Bacon, a member of the Lodge of
Regularity since 1832, who had been joint
proprietor of the Tavern with John Cuff,
became sole proprietor, but was soon
replaced by William Watson, Thomas
Coggin and Benjamin Banks.
Their business similarly failed to prosper
and more new tenants, Shrewsbury &
Co (David Shrewsbury, James Thomas
Cookney and George Goode Elkington),
took over in 1856 at a lower rent.
Shrewsbury and Elkington were both
Northamptonshire Masons and had been
members of Pomfret Lodge No 360 since
1837. When they moved to London,
Shrewsbury joined the Lodge of Regularity
(now No. 91) and Elkington joined Royal
Somerset and Inverness Lodge No. 4 and
later St John’s Lodge No. 167 in Hampstead.