JND 193/23 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

Opening of the Old Mechanics’ Institute Branch No. 18. The Bradford Coffee Tavern Company (Programme and Advertiser No. 108), c. 1885. 4 pages.


This news-letter of the Bradford Coffee Tavern Company reminds us that coffee houses are nothing new. Costa, Caffè Nero and Starbucks are just a continuation of a long tradition going back to the eighteenth century when coffee houses became the places to meet people and do business. Whether the Bradford Coffee Tavern Company can claim the first coffee house in Bradford will require research, though 18 Branches and 108 news-letters indicates several years in the business.

Branch 18 was located in part of the old Mechanics’ Institute building at the corner of Well Street and the Leeds Road. “In several respects it is a most desirable situation for a Coffee Tavern, being in the heart of the neighbourhood frequented by warehousemen and others most likely to become good customers of the Establishment.” The accommodation comprised two rooms, one in the basement “being intended for the supply of refreshment, suitable for warehousemen and others; and to some extent it will doubtless supersede the less comfortable resort hard by, known as the Warehouseman’s Exchange”. The two rooms would seat at table about ninety customers. “The fittings are to some extent superior to those ordinarily provided, those in the basement being of polished mahogany and whitewood, and in the best room of Spanish mahogany and bird’s eye maple, relieved with plate-glass mirrors, &c.”

In introducing the speaker, the President, Dr Maffey, referred to the rapid progress which the company had made, with another branch due to open the following week. In his opening address the Vicar of Bradford, the Rev. Dr Bardsley, saw the success of the company as a success for the temperance movement. He thought the coffee, the tea, and the cocoa offered by such establishments “would prove not only to be more economical, but more serviceable, especially to working men, than the commodities in the way of beer, brandy, and so on.” The vote of thanks was proposed by Mr Henry Mitchell, which was followed by the Company’s  Chairman who reported a turnover of £25,000 a year, which represented three million transactions over the counter every year.

The newsletter also advertised entertainments at Coffee Tavern No. 6 (Wakefield Road) including ’Ventriloquist Entertainment (with life-size figures)’ and also at Branch No. 5 (Thornton Road) of songs (including ‘Eggs for your Breakfast’ and ‘Have you seen my Michael?’) and an ‘American Knockabout’!

This ‘treasure’ from the Library’s store provides a fascinating and unexpected insight into a late Victorian coffee-drinking society, warehousemen included, and popular entertainment.



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