Penny universities of the past

A 17th century London coffeehouse, also known as penny university

London's first coffeehouse was opened by a Greek immigrant, Pasqua Rosee in a small alley in the Cornhill district in 1652.

The new venture was so successful that in a few years the coffeehouses proliferated not only in Cornhill, but in many other areas of the capital city.

With the arrival of the coffeehouses, the English people witnessed a revolution in their social and cultural lives. For the first time ever, there was a place other than a church or tavern, where they could come together and socialise. Unlike the taverns, the coffeehouses were places where people were sober and even alert.

There was no discrimination in London's coffeehouses. Anybody who paid the entrance fee of one penny could enter the coffeehouse, sit at any available seat, have a cup of coffee and delve into a conversation with the people around him. They could be businessmen, sailors, a politicians, musicians or ordinary citizens. The proprietor used to leave the latest newspapers, magazines and pamphlets for their customers to read whilst having their coffee.

Because of these characteristics, the coffeehouses of London used to be known as, penny universities.   


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