The local craze for coffee-houses may belong, more properly, to the eighteenth century than to the present day. The people of Burton Latimer opened one in 1898 in the building that now serves the town as a post office and a bank.
In January, 1898, the then rector of Burton Latimer, the Rev. William Baldwin Jaques, and Mr. Thomas Collings, one time editor of the “evening Telegraph,” circularised a letter inviting subscriptions for a coffee-house and public hall at Burton Latimer.
We are indebted to Mr. F. Dunkley, of Cobden Street, Kettering, who lent the company’s prospectus.
The company aimed to raise £1,5000 in £1 shares. They foresaw that their building was needed in the town, and that, with proper management, it should be a profitable business investment.
AGAINST STRONG DRINK
The prospectus mentions that there were two clubs in the town “where intoxicants are provided, and we think it most desirable that there should be a place of refreshment and entertainment without the temptation offered by strong drink”
They proposed to open the new coffee-house on March 3 that year with a public luncheon. The hall, to accommodate about 400, was to be built in the summer.
They built the hall, in Burton Latimer High Street, “of Woodville sandfaced bricks with Weldon stone dressings”. It had a refreshment room , a smoking room, a reading room and a billiards room. Part was used by the architects that built it, Messrs. Coales and Johnson, as an office.
It was opened by Mr. E. P. Monckton, M.P. for the division, and Mr. Collings was in the chair for the opening luncheon. The managers were Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Tapsell.
The scheme never seems to have been the success they had hoped for, however. It never paid dividends and according to one old Burtonian, “it was knocked over by the World War”. He still has a round table from the coffee-house on his verandah.
The property passed to a Mr Kidner, who sold it to Whitney and Westley, who, in turn sold it to Barclays Bank.
In the meantime, Whitney and Westley and a few others formed another company, which gave Burton Latimer its first cinema. This was, and still is, the Electric Palace, situated immediately behind the old coffee-house property.
The private house between the bank and the cinema is part of the old farmhouse that was on the site before either was built.
The cinema was eventually sold to Mr. Alfred Watts whose son still runs it.
But why wasn’t the coffee-house a success, who was Mr. Kidner, and how did he come to possess it?