On this day … 19 January 1689

The Preston diarist Thomas Bellingham added the following to his diary:

Ye 19th. A fayr day. I was wth Mr. Fleetwood and his cousen Dick who sayes he heard by a vessell come from Ireland last Sunday yt ye Protestants there were in good posture of defence. I was after wth severall women att ye coffee house, and so att Mittons, and came home very late, etc

‘Mr. Fleetwood’ was Edward Fleetwood of Penwortham Priory, where Bellingham was frequently a guest. ‘Cousen Dick’ was Richard Fleetwood, son and heir of Francis Fleetwood of Rossall Hall. Both Fleetwoods served as MPs.

The news that Richard Fleetwood brought about Ireland probably refers to the Protestants holding out at Londonderry, which was besieged by James II’s forces.

The reference to ‘severall women att ye coffee house’ is interesting because an extensive study of English coffee houses by Markman Ellis, professor of eighteenth-century studies at Queen Mary College, University of London, found that only a ‘few isolated references exist to the presence of women in coffee rooms, but only to suggest they were prostitutes’.

Ellis used Bellingham’s record of this encounter with the women at the Preston coffee house to support his view that women found in coffee houses were generally prostitutes, and to suggest that Bellingham ‘did not think much of their morals’.

The coffee house that Bellingham visited was probably the one in Mainsprit Weind, traces of which survived up to the middle of the 19th century. There was another one on Church Street.

Mitton’s was an alehouse frequently visited by Bellingham and his friends, location unknown.

The map, which was reconstructed from a 1685 rough sketch plan, shows the position of the two Preston coffee houses.

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