Coffee House

The idea of a ‘Village Institute’ for reading, games, & coffee, and working men’s room seems to have been mooted in 1879, and a number of ‘entertainments’ took place to raise money for the venture.

On December 2nd a successful entertainment, consisting of music and readings, was given to a full room at the Ullenhall National School. The Glee Society gave two glees, and a trio from three of the members. The others who took part in the music and singing were Mrs West, Miss Budden, Mr Winter, Mrs and Alice Hough, J. Wilkins, W. Walker, and Cummings. Two readings were given by Mr Cockle and the Vicar. Several pieces were encored. £1 14s. 2d. was taken at the door. After payments for music and preparation of the room, there is a balance of £1 4s. 4d. This will go towards a fund for establishing a Working Men’s Room in the village. It is hoped that Ullenhall will follow the example set by so many parishes and before long have a village institute for reading, games, coffee, etc. The next entertainment is fixed for Tuesday, January 20th, 1880. (Ullenhall Parish Magazine Jan 1880).

At a meeting in the village Schoolroom on January 13th 1880 T.H.G. Newton promised to give a cottage in Ullenhall for the purpose for six months. The cottage given was Park Barn, and the Village Club opened on Thursday 22nd January 1880. Members paid a subscription to belong to the Club. Coffee, cocoa, and biscuits were supplied at reasonable prices, and games such as bagatelle, chess, draughts and dominoes were available. Members were also able to read newspapers. In April, with the prospect of longer and hotter days, it was decided to add quoits to the games, and ginger ale and ginger beer to the beverages. However it would appear that there were other distractions during the summer months and the club was not very well attended. Nevertheless the Accounts for the year show that about 4000 cups of coffee were sold during the year. In 1882 56 books were purchased to form a library for Ullenhall Coffee Room.

At the quarterly meeting of the committee of the Ullenhall Village Club, held at the room on October 11th, at 7.30, the subscription for the next three months was fixed at 1s. 6d. George Pardington was appointed fire lighter, coffee maker, etc., at one shilling per week. Votes of thanks were passed to . . . and to T.H.G. Newton, Esq., for the use of the club house. (Ullenhall Parish Magazine Nov 1882).

Park Barn was not used for the Village Club for much longer. Miss Newton of Heath Lodge enabled the “Coffee House” to be built, and this opened on Friday, April 27th 1883. As well as the Village Club at the Coffee House, other organisations, such as Mothers Meetings, held their meetings there.

July 25th 1893 – Miss Newbury began a course of twelve Cookery Lectures at the Ullenhall Coffee House, in connection with the Technical Education Scheme of the Warwickshire County Council. The lecturer taught the making of stewed beef, rice pudding, plum tart, and scones. On the following Friday the pupils, thirteen in number, made lentil soup, meat pies, macaroni cheese etc., under the superintendence of Miss Newbury. At the conclusion of each lecture there was a sale of the various productions. (Ullenhall Parish Magazine Sept 1893).

Around the 1910s the Coffee House was kept by Mr & Mrs Ashton, who came from Birmingham. Mr Ashton worked in Birmingham and walked to Danzey Station each day.

I used to live in Ullenhall at the Coffee House. . . . The bungalow at the bottom was a lawn and we sold ice cream on there. There was also a bakery over the road owned by Mr Allcott. . . . My mother used to get teas in the field at the back and have factory parties also once a year we had a fair on that field belonging to our house. The Coffee House was owned by Canon Newton of Redditch & my mother had Belgium Refugees in the first war. We came back to Birmingham but after a while my Auntie who lived at Rose Cottage the top of the village said the house was empty so we went back. . . . We used to have dancing in the Coffee House just for the village & we were the only ones with a bath so some of the people used to come for a bath. . . . We left because of my Dad’s health. He came into Birmingham to work everyday & walking to Danzey got too much & just getting teas at weekends was not enough to keep us”. (B. Truby nee Ashton)

The Coffee House was owned by the Newtons and in 1924, following the death of Hugh G. Newton, was included in the final sale to close his estate. This left the Village with only the schoolroom to meet in, which was not ideal, and discussions to find a solution began.