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Although the first coffee house opened in London in 1652, the phenomenon really took off during the 18th century, when coffee houses sprang up all over the city. They were written about in publications including 'Spectator' and advertised as social spaces where individuals could meet to debate on a range of contemporary subjects. Their popularity continued well into the 19th century and coffee houses remain a regular feature of urban areas today.
The interior of a specific coffee house is depicted here. Offley's Coffee House was situated at 23 Henrietta Street in Covent Garden. It is portrayed as a popular establishment which is patronised entirely by well-dressed men. They are shown sitting at simple wooden tables in the smoke-filled interior, engaged in conversation, and drinking beer and wine, as well as coffee.
This etching is from the series 'Fashion and Folly, or the Buck's Pilgrimage' by William Heath, which humorously depicted the exploits of two men in the city.
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