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The Coffee Tavern - 18 High Street Eaton Bray

The Coffee Tavern about 1920 [Z50/39/37]
The Coffee Tavern about 1920 [Z50/39/37]

The Coffee Tavern is a rather unexpected sight in a village. Notes on it [CRT130EatonBray8] state that it had been created at the beginning of the 20th century by Rev. Edwin Sutton as a resort for the unemployed workmen of the village and to keep them out of the numerous drinking houses! Sutton was vicar from 1890 to 1916. Kelly’s Directory for Bedfordshire states that the Coffee Tavern opened in 1901.

The Instrument of Foundation is dated 1916 and was lodged with the Central Office of Supreme Court of Judicature [PCEatonBray6/6]. It states that the building was bought by Rev. Sutton from Solomon Gurney and Gabriel Woodham together with a cottage either side (1 Church Lane and 20 High Street), one in the occupation of a man named Fountain the other by Henry Thurgood. The Coffee Tavern was to be used as a “reading room and club for men of all classes and inhabitants of the village”. The instrument marks the conveyance from Rev. Sutton to trustees: William Edmund Wallace, nurseryman and owner of Poplar Farm; Frederick George Pratt, farmer, formerly at Poplar Farm; Edwin Brown, blacksmith; Jabez Thorne, butcher; Ernest Gray, nurseryman; Joseph Hebbs, ex-police constable; William Henry Wallace, nurseryman; Albert Bunker, miller and two ex-officio trustees, the Vicar of Eaton Bray and the Chairman of Eaton Bray Parish Council. The following year the Coffee Tavern was vested in the Official Trustee of Charity Lands [P63/25/1].

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Eaton Bray, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting the Coffee Tavern [DV1/C235/94] on 20th May found that the trustees still owned the cottage either side of the tavern as well as the tavern itself. The tavern comprised a refreshment room, a dining room, a store room and a committee room downstairs with a large club room, a billiards room and a reading room upstairs. A brick and slate W. C. and a urinal stood outside. The valuer commented: “H. Sear caretaker runs refreshment department and has profits as wages (only 5/- week wages). Self supporting – no profit”.

As noted above, one of the cottages owned by the trustees was 1 Church Lane. Correspondence from 1953 and 1954 shows that it was considered unfit for human habitation [P63/25/6]. It was demolished shortly after the date of the correspondence.

In 1961 the trustees of the Coffee Tavern conveyed the property, together with 20 High Street, to the Parish Council [PCEatonBray6/7]. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the tavern was used as a surgery by two doctors, latterly by one from Dunstable and one from Edlesborough [PCEatonBray31/5 and PCEatonBray6/9].

The Coffee Tavern March 2012
The Coffee Tavern March 2012