Talk of buying a cup of coffee today and we think of chains such as Costa, Starbucks, Cafe Nero or Coffee#1 but places set aside for non-alcoholic drinks have been popular for centuries.
1660 Coffee Shop
A London Coffee House of the 1660s

The first coffee house was opened in Oxford in 1652 quickly followed in the same year by one in London. They became fashionable places for the exchange of news, business and gossip. No alcohol was served and women were excluded. Falling out of favour by the end of the 18th century they were revived in the Victorian era, and run by the Temperance Movement, as alternatives to public houses where the working classes could meet and socialise.

The first coffee house in Ledbury was opened on August 29th 1880 at 25 Homend (Street) Today the site is occupied by JMart Warehouse.

Before becoming a Coffee House the building was privately owned and until 1880 was a domestic property occupied by large, well to do households.

'The Coffee House Company' was then set up; its Honorary Secretary Edward Maddison Manager of the National Provincial Bank had proposed the idea which, according to its many sponsors, was a business speculation undertaken to supply a public want. On the appointed day, after speeches by various civic dignitaries in the town hall,it was opened by Lady Elizabeth Biddulph who drank its health in the first cup of coffee. Keen to promote and enforce the principles of the Temperance movement, later in 1882 Lady Biddulph formed the Ledbury Temperance Union and the Ledbury Women's Temperance Association.

The Coffee House had a smoke room with newspapers and every rational entertainment. Contemporary newspaper reports stated it was a place of entertainment located in 'Homend Street nearly opposite the National Provincial Bank ' The committee 'considered themselves lucky to have obtained the services of their manager Mr. Mumford ' and by 1881 John Mumford from Barking, Essex, is established there with his wife Emma and two children. Rooms were available and Andrew Cope, Police Sergeant,is lodging there. ( More on Andrew Cope can be found in the Police section).

Life as a Coffee House manager didn't seem to suit John Mumford as this entry in an 1885 Directory shows:

1885 Directory

Even under new Management the business was not a conspicuous success for the shareholders. Perhaps the working classes preferred the pub! As early as 1888 the Directors told the shareholders that the Company was in debt to the sum of £ 77, an increase on the previous year of £ 44, mainly incurred by repairs to the house. It was decided to sell or let the coffee house as a going concern.

In 1888 the business was bought by Ebenezer Mills from Reading. Unfortunately Ebenezer died in February 1891, aged 32. This was just before the 1891 census was taken and his wife, Esther is shown established there as 'Coffee House Proprietor'. She has two children with the youngest, a daughter, born in Ledbury in December 1888.

1888 Advert
From Tilley's Almanack

Despite what must have been a difficult time Esther remained in the Coffee House and in 1893 married Charles Barnett, a local stonemason. Two more children were born, Edith in 1894 and Frederick 1897. Tragically Charles Barnett died in February 1901 aged 48, his burial records state that he was a 'Coffee House Proprietor' but in fact the business was now really a hotel as can be seen from this advert of 1898.

Esther, having lost two husbands, probably disillusioned with Ledbury, moved back to Berkshire sometime after 1901.

Between 1903 and 1907 a C White is the owner. As this period is between censuses I am unlikely to find out anything about him/her.
1908 Advert
From Tilley's Almanack

In 1908, now called "The Temperance and Commercial Hotel" it was bought by Thomas Rogers as the advert on the left shows. Open daily from 5.30 am to 10 pm it now offered modern facilities including hot and cold baths, hot dinners and a billiard room, with 'best accommodation for cyclists'. Cycling was becoming popular at this time, with fresh air and exercise very much in vogue touring cyclists would have appreciated that it was a 'Temperance' Hotel.

Gardiners Advert
From Tilley's Almanack 1912

By 1911 it had changed hands yet again and is now owned by James John Gardiner.

Born in 1868 in Newport Mon., James had married Clara Phoebe Jervis in Bromyard in 1900. They settled in Victoria Road, Ledbury in 1901. James's occupation is given as, Baker (Worker)

By 1911 James is established in the Hotel with his wife, Clara, three boarders, a restaurant waitress and a servant. They have no children. James remained at the Hotel for 25 years until 1937, he died in Ledbury in 1958, Clara died in Bromyard in 1968 but is buried with James in Ledbury.

In 1937 the premises seemed to change under the stewardship of Charles Wade and his wife Annie. It became known as the Victoria CafeVictoria Cafe Sale Advert. In the 1939 Register (a national identity 'census' to enable the issue of identity cards and ration books), Charles is described as 'Baker and Confectioner (Maker)'.

Given wartime restrictions the business was apparently not a success and Charles Wade decided to sell up. In the accompanying advert, taken from the Ledbury Reporter, the contents listed are those one would have expected to find in what was the Temperance Hotel, including the Billiard table and bedroom furniture etc.

This seems to be the time at which adverts begin to use
'The Homend', not 'Homend Street'.

The premises were bought in 1940 by Alex Robb & Co. makers of biscuits and rusks so clearly there were facilities available for baking.
Robbs Advert
A Robbs Advert from 1933

Alex Robb & Co had advertised widely during the 1920's and 1930's. Whether they were bombed out of their London premises or just seeking smaller premises is not known but the company seemed to have been in decline by the time they moved to Ledbury in 1940. In 1949 they moved again , this time to Redmarley d' Abitot where they continued for a few years before disappearing. In 1950 the building was empty but by 1951 had become 'Clifts Cake Shop' which remained until 1959. (hopefully more information about the cake shop will emerge).

The next business to open in 25 The Homend was the 'The Rendezvous Cafe' opened in 1959 by Mr J. E. (Ed) & Mrs Lesley Cole.

Still known as the Rendezvous Cafe in 1964 Joseph Edwin (Ted) Hall was the proprietor; he remained there until 1968.

(The years 1951 to 1968 are sketchy but keep checking this site as I'm sure there is much to find out).

Meanwhile, in about 1964, Spendright Supermarket had moved in to the old cinema next door.

Spendright Advert
From Hereford Times
July 1968

Evidently unsuitable for purpose they must have purchased the cafe property next door in order to demolish it and build a more modern supermarket typical of the day.

This picture, from a report on Jan 13th 1969, shows the work in progress. Looking at it today the premises next door has lost its chimneys but the windows look the same.
Demolition 1969

Despite expecting to find a newspaper report of the proposed demolition disappointingly the Ledbury Reporter was not published from about June 1967 until December 1968. To date I have been unable to find a picture of the cafe as it was but I am sure the frontage facing the Homend is the poorer for its demolition.

Spendright, under that name, never did move into the new building, quite what happened to them is unknown, perhaps they were bought up by Vivo Supermarkets that took the premises from 1971 until 1975.

The Vivo group changed its name to Spar and occupied the premises from 1976 until 1981. Gateway Supermarket then traded from there until 1988 after which it ceased to be a supermarket and became, according to Tilley's Almanack, simply 'Electrical'. In 1992 it became Rodway's Hardware until 2012 when JMart Warehouse came to town.

I am sure much more information relating to the property during the middle part of the C20 will emerge. Please check the page from time to time.

I would like to thank the Ledbury Library for allowing access to Tilley's Almanacks and special thanks to members of the Old Ledbury Facebook Group for their invaluable assistance.