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discovering old london

Did you know that before the flashing signs of Piccadilly Circus, a lavish restaurant called Café Monico stood there? A catalogue of historical objects reveals London in constant flux

The sights of London attract millions of visitors from all over the world to the city every year. In an ongoing project, the Library and Museum has been shedding new light on how London used to look. With the support of The London Grand Rank Association Heritage and Education Trust, staff have been working to catalogue nearly 2,000 items, including glassware, banners, ceramics and lodge and chapter jewels – all with London links.

One of the catalogued jewels is a Past Master’s jewel for Temperantia Lodge, No. 4058. Founded in 1920, the lodge met until 1942 at the Café Monico in Shaftesbury Avenue. The jewel has a painted enamel of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, commonly known as Eros, which stood at the centre of Piccadilly Circus in front of the Café Monico.

Monico was established in 1877, and the suite was on the second floor. In the 1950s the business was acquired by the Forte Group and the buildings demolished. The site, still known as Monico, is now occupied by Piccadilly Circus’s illuminated signage.

You can view the full range of items in the collection by searching the Library and Museum’s catalogue for ‘London On-line’.