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The Albion Tavern

Bryan Unwin in his book "London Signs" suggested that the Tavern started trading about 1790.

Peter Cunningham in his Handbook of London (1850) describes the Albion Tavern as being at 153, Aldersgate Street. It was one of the largest establishments of the kind in London, and famed for its good dinners, both public and private, and also its good wines. The farewell dinners given by the East India Company to their Governors of India were generally given at the Albion; and here (after dinner) the annual trade sales of principal London publishers took place.

It is recorded in the Company Minutes that the Bowyers' Company met at the Tavern between 1873 and 1899. However what were dinners at the Albion like? In records, available on the internet, are details of some dinners which give the flavour of a night out at the Albion.

On Tuesday, 6 May 1825, the Wiltshire Society met at the Albion Tavern, Aldersgate Street with the President, George Watson Taylor Esq, MP in the chair.

At half-past six, upwards of one hundred gentlemen sat down to an excellent dinner. On the cloth being removed, "Non Nobis Domine" was sung by Messrs. Pyne, Broadhurst, Taylor, &c.

After the health of the King had been drunk, the Chairman proposed "The Duke of York and the Army", and stated that he had that morning been honoured with an interview with his Royal Highness, and was commanded by him to express the interest he felt in the welfare of so laudable an institution, and his regret that his official duties had unexpectedly deprived him of the gratification of meeting the gentlemen of the county of Wilts on the present occasion. The toast was drunk with loud applause.

The Earl of Pembroke, Lord Lieutenant of the County, was the next toast. The Secretary read a letter from Lord Pembroke, expressing his regret that ill health prevented his attendance at a meeting connected with the county in which he lived, and constituted for beneficial purposes, and assuring the Society that in any other manner his Lordship was ready and most willing to contribute to its support. The Secretary then announced that his Lordship had sent a second donation of £20. (Loud applause).

After the other usual toasts, the Chairman proposed "The health of the Members for the County," which was received with loud cheers. Mr Benett, in returning thanks, mentioned some striking instances he had lately met with of the benevolent feelings of Wiltshiremen in London towards those in distress, coming from their county; and Sir John Astley assured the meeting of the interest he felt for the charity

On Monday, October 29th, 1866, a gathering took place at the Albion Tavern, Aldersgate Street, when Mr. Passmore Edwards was invited by a number of his friends to a banquet given in his honour and present him with a gold watch and chain. Mr. John Hodge, of the firm of Spalding & Hodge, occupied the chair. After the complimentary toasts were given, the Chairman rose to propose the toast of the evening. He said: Gentlemen, an Albion Tavern dinner is an ordinary, every-day affair; it is also a pleasant and enjoyable one when the company is as I see around this table. Our present meeting, agreeable as it is, takes place under circumstances extraordinary and unique. We are honoured by the presence of Mr. Passmore Edwards as our guest on this occasion, a gentleman who, as you know, has for many years been connected with literature and the Press. Unfortunately he had during his career had a number of business and financial problems which he overcame.

In the 1870s the adjusting profession gradually improved its standing in society. The evidence for this is the choice of hotels at which the Association held its annual dinner. In the 1870s and 1880s the venues included the likes of The London Tavern and The Albion, Aldersgate Street. The menu for a dinner held in 1884 reflects the hearty eating habits of our Victorian ancestors they must have had great stamina to get through the following:

- Thick Spring Soup
- Dorees a l'Italienne
- Salmon
- Whitebait
- Escallopes de Ris de Veau aux Petit Pois
- Poulet a l'Eclarte
- Chines of Mutton
- Ham and Salad
- Ducklings, Goslings, Asparagus
- Fruit Jellies, Pastry
- Ratafia Creams, Compotes of Oranges
- Ice Pudding
Whew!

From these vivid descriptions one can imagine past Bowyers enjoying their ordinary but large dinners at the Albion.

The Carpenters' Company in 1927 purchased property in Aldersgate Street consisting primarily of office and retail space, although one of the buildings had been a public house, The Albion Tavern (from 1873 or earlier to 1908). The majority of the Company's tenants were involved in the textile trade. The buildings were severely damaged in the Second World War, and in 1945 the cost of repair was estimated at £30,000. In 1948 the premises were let on a long lease in their damaged state. The expense of rebuilding of Carpenters' Hall, however, meant that the Company needed to sell some of its freehold properties, and in 1958 the property was sold to the Corporation of London.

To-day the location of the Tarvern has been identified as being on the west side of Aldersgate Street on the site now occupied by Addleshaw and CMS Cameron McKenna (both firms of solicitors).

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