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.



In the basement of Bradford’s Local Studies Library are collections of nineteenth century pamphlets (and some of earlier date). Ranging from sermons and programmes of royal visits, to reports, articles, obituaries and regulations, they are a treasure-trove of local history. What follows is an account of one of these treasures. To consult any of these items please ask the staff. Card catalogues of these collections are located in the Local Studies Library.

JND 193/14 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

 T’Yorksher Hogs’ Grand Dooment at T’Alexandra Hotel, Bradford, Yorkshire, 21st May, 1879. 4 pages. Text by Frederick F. BAKER.  Bradford: Wm Byles and Son, 1879.


This unusual item is a glossy printed menu (T’stuff to go at) in dialect verse by the Manager of the Alexandra Hotel. There were five courses (tuck ahts) plus ‘finishin’-up Oddments’. Quite what the dooment (feast, merry making) was in aid of, or whose souvenir menu we have here, are both unknown, but I’m glad the stylish menu has been preserved. Forgive me for not quoting the menu in full, but my computer spell-check would drive me mad, and the script is in a Gothic typeface, which would drive any scanner mad! In any case, the menu is in the Library for anyone to see. It is worth a view. Here are a couple of ‘tasters’!

O’ t’famed Alexandra i’Bradford’s big tahn,
Whear they turn fleecy whool into fine frock an’gahn,
I’ Bradford i’Yorksher, that cahnty so big
Whear thear’s plenty o’ rahm ta eyt an’ to swig.

4th Tuck Aht

Then, withaht onny flam,
Thear’s a Baron o’ Lamb,
An’, by t’way a’ nice baits
Some brand New Pottates;
An’ some Beans three France,
As streyt as a lance;
An’ withaht onny chucklin’s,
Some Aylesbury Ducklin’s;
An’, sweet to be seen,
Some Peys ‘at are Green;
An’ for summat to drink,
‘At’ll mak ye all wink,
Some Burgundy grand
O’t’Chambertin brand,
Ta sip an’ ta smack,
Whol yer jokes ye crack.

The Alexandra Hotel was demolished a few years ago, but I’m glad its Manager, Frederick F. Baker, a dialect poet of merit, lives on in the Library’s basement!