This edifice of the early 1880s was projected as a “coffee tavern” and designed by local resident and architect George Somers Leigh Clarke, to serve the health of the population and the Temperance ideals which were strong in Chislehurst’s Methodist tradition. The company’s directors were wealthy and important local characters, Henry Frederick Tiarks and Frederick Halsey Janson.
In 1881, when the company was still calling for share-holders – at £5 a share – its earnest public wish was to serve the “sober and industrious working man” by “providing refreshment and recreation without temptation to intemperance.” Facilities planned included billiards, bagatelle, chess, draughts, newspapers, and hot and cold public baths.
In May 1882, a notice in the Parish magazine noted that the Coffee Tavern had “already been very satisfactorily attended” and that “the present receipts average about £3 a day.”
Strong’s Directory of Bromley (1883) lists the Chislehurst Coffee Tavern Co. under the management of Herbert Holloway. In that same directory, Mr Holloway was advertising his bakery business in Bromley, also in health-giving terms, offering “home-made and digestive brown bread” and also Huntley and Palmer’s Biscuits.
However, by the time the landmark History of Chislehurst was published by E.A. Webb et al., at the turn of the century, the story was one of a bust: “We regret to record its failure…. owing to some of the managing committee refusing to permit it to be opened on Sunday. The gable of the tavern may still be seen over the shops which were built in front of it, but it has been much altered and its appearance quite spoilt.”
Despite the failure of the Temperance tavern initiative, and the covering up of this bit of historic architecture by shop and restaurant fronts, these ideals remain on display elsewhere in Chislehurst: witness the size and grandeur of Chislehurst’s Methodist Church (completed 1870), and the fact that Farrington’s School was founded as a Methodist institution in 1908, long after the Temperance Tavern had fallen.
“Coffee Tavern” still faintly visible in ornate frieze above windows