Sidmouth’s Coffee Tavern fills gap

Advert for Old Ship cafe prompts Nostalgia to look at Coffee Tavern

FOR all those mourning the loss of the Old Ship in Old Fore Street, Sidmouth, this advert from the Sidmouth Observer of 1933, shows that in its not so distant history it was indeed a place to enjoy morning coffee as well as luncheons and suppers.

Rab and Chris Barnard, archivists at Sidmouth Museum, came across the ad and thought Nostalgia readers would enjoy seeing it again.

Perhaps for some it may bring back memories from their youth.

Back in 1880 there was The Coffee Tavern in Fore Street.

There is some confusion in Anna Sutton’s book, A Story of Sidmouth, as to where it was sited.

She writes: “I dimly remember an old-world garden with a summer house enclosed by a low wire fence in the space between Irish’s and The Coffee Tavern (now Trump’s and Frisby’s (a shoe shop).

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However, The Coffee House, as pictured courtesy of Sidmouth Museum, was situated in the old Vanity Fayre shop alongside Knights before the premises were taken over recently by Fat Face and the Mountain Warehouse.

Anna Sutton writes that in 1880 “the first proposal for a Coffee Tavern was made in November 1879 by the Reverend G McArthur.

“He spoke of the desirability of having a place where refreshment might be had without intoxicating drinks; there were 200 members of the Church of England Temperance Society for whose sake, as well as others, the place was needed.”

After differences of opinion as to a suitable site, it was finally decided in January 1881, to rent the Reading Room, with Mr and Mrs Kenneth Balfour promising to pay the rent for three years and the Manor Trustees bearing the cost of �30 “upon repairs to the front of the building”.

The Coffee Tavern was opened on January 10, opening daily from 6am to 10pm.

“At the appointed time there was a large gathering of ladies, gentlemen, tradesmen and merchants, who with much glee and hilarity, drank tea and coffee, such a miscellaneous company as had never previously been associated together in a ‘tea drinking house,’” writes Miss Sutton, who goes on to describe the tasting of samples for quality by Mr Bunce (draper), Mr Chessal (chemist) and Mr Lethaby (bookseller).