Saturday, 21 May 2016

Coffee houses to coffee shops

The local paper, The Loughborough Echo of Wednesday 27 April 2016 had a front page headline proclaiming that cafes are good for the town! A study of people's shopping habits by the university revealed that if people partook of the offerings of a cafe in town they were more likely to stay in town after being refreshed and do more shopping. Interesting!

I think there had previously been some concern expressed by townsfolk that cafes were taking over the town, a bit like at one time it was banks, and then it was charity shops! I think there may also have been a bit of a worry that the chain coffee shops would drive the local independent ones out of town, but as far as I can see this doesn't seem to be happening (although, ok, I agree I'm not privvy to the balance books).

So, yes there do seem to be quite a lot of cafes in town, but they do all seem to offer something different. I can't critique them all as I've not visited all of them - good grief, where would I find the time?! I will, perhaps, mention a few later, or post some pics.

Thinking about the coffee shops that we have in town at the moment set me to thinking about the coffee shops of the past, often known as coffee houses, and way back when, as the penny universities. Ok, way back when would have been the 17th and 18th centuries, and people would meet in the coffee houses to discuss topics of interest (like politics, fashion etc.) and gossip. Of course, there were also public houses (alehouses), but without alcohol it was possible to have more serious cultural and intellectual conversations. 

The coffee houses of these days also sold tea and chocolate, each of which cost 1d, which, along with the tenor of the conversations, is how they came to be known as penny universities. I really don't know if Loughborough had any such coffee houses.

These establishments went out of favour for a while, but came back with a vengeance in the 19th century. This resurgence was orchestrated by the Temperance movement, and came in response to the popularity of the public house. Proponents of the Temperance movement set these coffee houses up for the working class population, a place where they could meet that was free of alcohol. Loughborough certainly did have coffee houses of this nature, notably in the building on the corner of Granby Street and Devonshire Square, at one time the offices of Garton, the estate agents.  

Throughout the 20th century, there have been cafes of various nature in the town centre, and these have enjoyed both periods of popularity and fallow periods, which, to my mind, mirrors that which has happened in other towns and cities. So, for example, in Leicester in the 1970s, the old-established coffee shops suffered the same fate as the locally owned shops in the city centre, who were forced to close or relocate due to rising overheads, the changing tastes of the public, and the introduction in the city of new competitors. Apparently, many of these establishments (for example, Crane's) had been created in the years surrounding WW1, and had been preceded by the coffee houses of the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa House Company, which was founded in 1877.

So it would seem that the popularity of coffee shops in Loughborough ebbs and flows and mirrors national trends, so that today we have a broad selection of coffee shops, catering to all tastes and pockets, and a blend of the global and the national, and the local.

Which of these have you tried?

  • Cafe Nero in Market Place
  • Costa on the corner of Market Place
  • Starbucks in Old Hospital Close
  • Number fifty three at 53 Wards End
  • Greggs in Market Place and on Market Street
  • The Cheesecake Shop in Devonshire Square
  • The Coffee Pot on Granby Street
  • Chino's in Carillon Court shopping centre
  • Baobab Cafe in Market Street
  • Party Pieces in Market Street
  • Dolcino on Cattle Market
  • Amore Gelato in Angel Yard
  • The Three Monkeys in Swan Street
  • Tyler's
  • Casa Cafe on Church Gate
  • Goodliffe's on Church Gate
  • So Coffee on Warner's Lane (though I think this may have recently had a name change)
  • The Cafe on Biggin Street
  • Muffin Break in The Rushes shopping complex
  • Cafe, Takeaway, Bakery next to Sonny's Street Food on Swan Street
  • Delice on Baxter Gate
  • Glebe House on Wood Gate
  • Cocoa on Ashby Road
  • Choclate Alchemy in Church Gate Mews
  • Queen's Park Cafe

Now, what have I missed?! Apologies if your establishment isn't listed here: I've been doing this post from memory, and I can assure you it simply ain't what it used to be! What a good job I'm looking at the town of Loughborough today, and not through the ages: that list of cafes would be enormous! There have been discussions about cafes that used to be in the town, over on the Remember Loughborough facebook page: pop over and have a look if you're interested.  


Cafe Nero
Temperance cafe



If you have found this post interesting or have any questions about any of the information in it do please leave a comment below. I might not be able to answer immediately, but I will reply as soon as possible. Thanks for reading the blog.