Friday, February 28, 2014

Coffee shops down the years

click photo to enlarge
In the UK in the late 1950s and early 1960s coffee bars became popular as places where you could get a non-alcoholic drink (coffee, tea, etc) and light refreshments. They didn't last very long as specialist retail outlets, often changing into general purpose cafes that sold a wider range of beverages and food. To those who remember such places it has come as something of a surprise to see the return of the coffee shop in the past ten to fifteen years or so. I imagine if one were to look at the growth of retail premises during that period, coffee shops would top the list in terms of the number of new outlets. Chains such as Costa, Cafe Nero, Starbucks and the rest have been joined by independents, all vying for the business of the coffee drinker.

It's interesting to note, however, that the surge in popularity of such establishments during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries was not the only time coffee shops have been popular. They first sprang to prominence in England in the seventeenth century, with the first coffeehouse opening in Oxford in 1650. By 1675 it is estimated that there were over 3,000 such establishments. Thereafter numbers declined but they continued to be found in cities and larger towns. In the nineteenth century the number of coffeehouses increased once again, this time at the instigation of the Temperance movement. The widespread concern  at the amount of drunkenness among the poor saw well-heeled and social connected people attempting to woo people away from gin and beer by promoting the virtues of coffee.

Today's photograph shows the Ossington Coffee Palace at Newark, Nottinghamshire. This striking building, a far cry from today's corporate creations, is described on a plaque attached to its walls as "a perfect copy of a seventeenth century hostelry", and is the work of the architects Ernest George and Peto. It was erected in 1882, funded by Viscountess Ossington who presented it to the town, and was intended to be a Temperance hotel. One of its aims was to lure farmers from the town's inns. Its accommodation was extensive and included an assembly room, a reading room, a library, a club room for Masonic meetings and other societies, a billiard room and bedrooms for travellers. The carriage arch on the right of the facade led to stabling for forty horses, a cart shed, tea garden and bowling alley. Everything, in fact, to distract people from the demon drink. Today it is occupied by a restaurant.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On