South Ormsby, Lincolnshire

Hyrne Family letters 
sent from South Carolina
to  England between 1699 and 1757

The Carolina Coffee House was to be found in Birching Lane (now known as Birchin Lane) in the centre of the City of London, then as now the business centre of the city. The Carolina Coffee House specialised in trade and communications with the Carolinas. A list of London traders used by merchants in Charles Town (Charleston) is mentioned by Elizabeth Hyrne in a letter (see List of Goods). All are within a short walking distance of Birching Lane, and we can imagine the deals being struck over coffee or hot chocolate in the Carolina Coffee House, which also acted, like the other coffee houses, as a poste restante - a place were post could be delivered to await collection. Many of the Hyrne letters sent to friends and family in London were directed to the Carolina Coffee House to await collection.

This map of part of the City of London was drawn up in 1666 to show the areas devastated by the Great Fire of London (the blank areas are those where the buildings were destroyed). A comparison with modern maps reveals that the street layout of the Birching Lane area remains almost exactly the same today.

This rather dark view of Birchin Lane shows how it still resembles a narrow Medieval lane which would once have been lined with tall, jettied timber framed buildings. There is no indication today of exactly where the Carolina Coffee House stood, but in a small alley running off Birchin Lane is a blue plaque to the first ever London coffee house.

© Pauline M Loven, B.A., 2006

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