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The Café Royal

The Café Royal founded by Daniel Nicolas Thevenon, a former Parisian Wine Merchant in 1865 in Glasshouse Street. The establishment was expanded in 1870 to include 68 Regent Street its current address. On the ground floor there was a café, luncheon bar and grill room designed by Archer and Green. The Domino Room, with its marble topped tables and red velvet seats was from the 1890s to the 1920s a famous and fashionable meeting place for artists and writers. It was where you went to eat, drink, socialise and to be seen. It was where Oscar Wilde had his only civil meeting with the Marquis of Queensberry and he also lunched with Bosie there. Max Beerbohm called the cafe's domino room the 'haunt of intellect and daring'. The artist and wit Will Rothenstein drank vermouth. W. B. Yeats, Ernest Dowson, Arthur Symons, George Bernard Shaw, Paul Verlaine, Walter Sickert, Augustus John and Whistler, who signed his bills with a butterfly mark, were all regular customers. As was Aubrey Beardsley who no doubt nursed a glass of milk for his tuberculosis rather than drink a dose of absinthe.

In 1894 the Café was the scene of a famous murder mystery when the night porter, Marius Martin, was found dieing with two bullets in his head. In the early part of the 20th Century Edward VIII and George VI patronised the Café. An entry in the waiter's instruction book ran "Prince of Wales, Duke of York lunch frequently. Always plain food and no fuss. Call head waiter and notify the manager".

In 1923 and 1924 the premises were rebuilt by Sir Henry Tanner to conform with other buildings in Regent Street's quadrant. "they might have told us " wrote TWH Crosland "that the British Empire is to be pulled down and redecorated" From April 1919 until 12 July 1928 the minutes of the Worshipful Company of Bowyers record that the Court of the Company met at the Café Royal. At the first of these meeting recorded the charitable contributions made by the Company during the Great War between August 1914 and November 1918:there was a significant dispersal of funds to Charities associated with the Great War: Belgian Relief Funds, Blinded Soldiers & Sailors Fund, British Red Cross, Charing Cross Hospital. War Services, Church Army Earl Roberts Rest House, Employment of Ex-Soldiers, Endell Street Military Hospital French Wounded Red Cross Funds, Indian Soldiers Funds, London New Service Battalions, Merchant Seamen Prisoners of War, Prince of Wales's Relief Fund, Prisoners of War Funds, Rumanian Red Cross, Russian Cavalry Ambulance, Serbian Relief Funds, Sick & Wounded (Times Fund), Soldiers & Sailors Help Society, Star & Garter Home, Richmond. Queen Alexandra's Field Force Fund, Wounded Allies Committee, Waterloo Station Buffet for Soldiers etc, Young Men's Christian Association War Work. A total of £666.15.4.

Other charities supported during these years were: The King Edward Hospital Fund for London, The Home for Confined Invalids and the Invalid Children's Association. £10.00 was also voted to provide a "Bowyers' Cup" as a prize for rifle shooting at the Aldershot Command Small Arms Meeting. References are made to the Gold Medal for presentation at the Royal Toxophilite Society and the Clerk is instructed to make the "Doles to the Exhibitioners". The death of Walter Henry Glazier, a member of the Company from 1874 to 1927 is also recorded. On the 22nd October 1928 there was a Ladies night. In 1924 the cost of a meal for 33 was £45.12.4!!!

The last entry in the minutes refers to the Master Edward Albert Griffiths resigning from the Court so that he can resume the office of Clerk.

References:

Ben Weintreb and Christopher Hibbert - The London Encyclopaedia

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