2 October 2016

Freeth's Coffee House & the Society Feasts

Freeth's Coffee House was a tavern (more formally known as the Leicester Arms) on Bell Street, a lost street which would have stood under the complex of the new Bull Ring Shopping Centre. It was run by John Freeth (sometimes John Free), a local poet and political commentator, often known as Poet Freeth and printing publications such as The Political Songster. As with many coffee houses in the eighteenth-century, it was a meeting place, not just of people, but of ideas. Most well-known are the meetings of the Jacobin Club, a group of political radicals including James Bisset (toy-maker and museum keeper) and James Sketchley (printer and auctioneer). In his obituary in 1808 it was noted that Freeth would sing his poems and 'delight a large company with original songs, composed from subjects of a public nature, replete with wit and humour'.

The pub was the site of a number of dinners where the radical politics and current affairs of the day could be discussed. The call to these feasts was frequently through a few lines of poetry, printed in letterpress onto small cards. Here are some examples:

Click on the cards to enlarge.

Poet Freeth (John Freeth).


  1. Hi Jennifer! I stumbled across your entry while looking for photos for my WikiTree page on John Freeth. Was wondering what the source is for those pictures, and (if they're yours), can I use them? :) Thanks!

    1. The cards are at Birmingham Archive, and there are a lot more than depicted. Hope that helps. J.

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