A Virtual Stroll Around the Walls of Chester
The Vanished Pubs of Chester Gallery
A late 19th century advertisment from a Chester visitors' guide book.
Originally the brainchild of the Society of Friends- the Quakers- cocoa houses came about due to pious concern that Chester's working men were preferring to spend their time and money in warm and cosy pubs and 'gin palaces' rather than staying in with their families in their cold, damp homes- or even going to church. Interestingly, prominent among those reforming Quakers were the Cadbury and Fry families- chocolate manufacturers! Could it be that their concern was as much about profits as moral improvement?
The Little Nag's Head had previously been a conventional inn, converted from the grocer's shop of Mr Joseph Bellis in 1812. It traded as an inn until 1878 when it was converted by the
Marquis of Westminster into Chester's first Cocoa House. The following poem, penned by a certain "Old Lady of the Parish", commented favourably
upon the change:
Despite energetic support from the Chuch and such worthies as the Grosvenor family, the movement proved eventually to be something of a failure. Quite how long the cocoa craze lasted locally is unsure, but by twenty years layer, 1898, the Little Nag's Head had reverted to the sale of stronger drink when Mr Charles Cordery became the licencee. He was still there in 1922.
Chester's only surviving cocoa house signs- and very fine ones they are (see aboove) - are beautifully preserved on the facade of what was until recently Donato & Sandro's Italian Restaurant in Brook Street- the former Railway Cocoa Rooms. In early Summer 2011 this attractive and historic building was reopened by Beer Republic as a bar / restaurant by the name of Kash.
|I had always assumed that the Chester Cocoa Houses were established by the church and Grosvenors to encourage the working man that a nice cup of that stuff was better for him, his family and his soul than the demon drink, ie that they were temperance houses.
This cutting from the Chester Courant, 25th August 1897, recording a fracas in the Foregate Street cocoa house- the former Little Nag's Head Inn- seems to contradict this, however...
"Mr Shepherd.. said on Saturday night that two of the prisoners called at the house and had some beer.."
Chester's Vanished Pubs parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | gallery
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