How new is the ‘cafe culture’ of today? We tend to think that a high street coffee goes hand in hand with the i-Pad, social media and ‘Black Friday’ deals, but the high street coffee shop thrived in Westerham 120 years ago. A walk along Market Square north side, past the George and Dragon around 1900 would have brought us to Charles Shawyer’s drapery and millinery shop, a ladies and gentleman’s clothing establishment and so much more.
So where did the weary shopper go for refreshment and a catch-up with friends? A walk across the road to today’s ‘Ellenor’ charity shop would have taken shoppers to ‘The Fountain Coffee Tavern’ next to the familiar frontage of what was then a wet-fish shop and ice-dealer (there were no refrigerators in the 1900s home!). A popular haunt with cyclists at the time indicates that in some ways, little has changed, and Edwardian cafe culture drew the same audience then as it does today, but even though coffee shops these days don’t tend to sell alcohol, there was a blatant message revealed in the full title of that establishment being ‘The Fountain Coffee Tavern and Temperance Hotel’ where customers were invited to try ‘Temperance Wines and Syrups’ as their newspaper advertisement shows below. With eight pubs and two breweries in town, the Temperance movement obviously felt an alternative refreshment should be on offer!