May 212017

I came across this Thomas Rowlandson etching on the Lewis Walpole site, and as my ancestor Richard Hall spent a lot of his time and energy eating and drinking I thought it was worthy of closer inspection. The site says that it was published “not before 1828” – Rowlandson died in 1827 – and presumably it was therefore an earlier drawing, done in around 1800, and found among the artist’s papers after his death. Indeed there seems to be some disagreement as to where is being depicted. One title shows it as the Rainbow Rooms, Fleet Street, and another has it as The Wheatsheaf Eating House, Salisbury Court, Fleet Street.

I love the detail and the sense of animation which Rowlandson conveyed – his characters always seem to be talking. There is nothing static about his crowd scenes. Here, many of the faces are grotesques – but they are full of expression and movement. You can almost hear the buzz of conversation you get from a room full of men – and indeed all the customers are male, with just one serving girl to show that women did actually exist in Georgian England. And even she is being knocked out of the way by a male servant bringing a tureen of soup to the table.

I like the  hats lined up on the rail above the diners – and the way that the tables are separated by curtains, with the diners sitting on bench seats. The clock on the wall tells us it is 8.30, and the drinks which you can see include both beer, in tankards, and wine in glasses. I am never too keen on dogs begging at the table, but there you go….

Here are a couple of close ups, showing the faces of the diners:

Nice one Thomas – a good evocative scene of what a public dining area was like in Georgian England.


  One Response to “Eating out, Georgian style: the Rainbow Tavern, Fleet Street, 1800”


    this print was used as the cover for the reprint of the 1815 epicure’s almanack which I am sure that Richard Hall would have owned a copy of in the original if he’d lived long enough. It tells you everywhere to eat, whether venison in season at a hotel or eel pies on Eel Pie Island at Richmond.

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