Despite being closed for over a decade, The Coffee Pot is still somewhat of a local landmark in Atherton. Why is this local building so fondly remembered in the town’s heritage? What stories are revealed behind the bricks and mortar?
Manley Terrace 1878
The history of our building begins in 1878, eagle-eyed residents of Atherton will have noticed the commemorative date plaque on the facade of the building. The Leigh Chronicle from March 1878 notes that Peter Aldred was given permission to build two houses, a shop and bakehouse.The building was named “Manley Terrace” most likely in honour of the Manley family of Atherton, who were prominent residents of the town. The property was built on Bolton New Road, opposite Prospect House and the Local Board Offices, which would later be replaced by the Town Hall in 1899/1900.
13 Manley Terrace was occupied by the Aldred family, who ran their bakery and grocery business from there. The 1881 census records Peter Aldred (1819-1898) as a “baker and provision dealer” and is assisted in the business by his son Richard (b.1849). Also living in the household is Peter’s wife Sarah (1820-1881), their daughter Sarah Jane (b.1859) and a niece Annie Thorp (b.1870). Their business would have served the growing population of Atherton which rose from 7,531 people in 1871 to 12,602 in 1881.
By 1891 widower Peter, his son Richard and his brother have moved to the terrace houses adjoining their property. At Number 11 Peter is recorded as “living on own means” so therefore he must have ran a very successful business, which has provided him with a comfortable retirement decades before the introduction of the Old Age Pension Act.
Living at Number 13 Bolton Road is Richard Harrison (b.1851) his wife Mary (b.1860) and their children Richard Henry aged 11, Eliza aged 9, Ernest aged 7, Albert Victor aged 7 and Fred aged 6 months. Also living with the family is 91 year old Rachel Aldred, who is recorded as Richard’s “Great Grandmother”. The property is described as “a grocery shop with bakehouse attached” presumably with the living quarters upstairs.
The Harrison family are still recorded at the property in 1901, although Rachel Aldred passed away in 1895 at the age of 95. There are two additions to the household, Mary Harrison born in 1893 and Esther Boardman, a 14 year old girl employed as a cook by the family. Richard is assisted in his business by his eldest daughter Eliza and his son Ernest. His eldest son Richard Henry works as a newspaper reporter. Later that year the family sold their business, the grocer’s shop moved to High Street and the Harrison family moved to Inglenook, a spacious house on Newbrook Road. Sadly during the First World War they would suffer the same tragedy as thousands of families across the country, as their youngest son Fred, was a victim of war. He had served in the Royal Navy between 1909-1914 and when war broke out he joined the army. Sadly he died in 1915 but his family did not receive news of this until over a year later.
The property was purchased by Miles Formby Burrows (1857-1943) and his wife Gertrude (1862-1943). Miles Burrows was the son of Abraham Burrows who in 1872 entered into a partnership with Ralph Fletcher, forming the Fletcher Burrows Mining Company. The Company controlled much of the mining industry in Atherton including Chanters, Gibfield, Lovers Lane and Howe Bridge Collieries. The Company embraced a philanthropic approach to their workforce and they built a ‘model village’ of miners cottages, a school, church, clubhouse and bathhouse at Howe Bridge and more housing at Hindsford. In 1912 they opened the first pit head baths for their workers. The charitable efforts were continued by successive generations of the Fletcher and Burrows families. Perhaps the most famous of donations from the families was Formby Hall, which was donated to the people of Atherton by Gertrude Burrows in 1916.
Miles and Gertrude purchased 13 Manley Terrace in 1901 with the intention of turning it into a temperance bar. It was estimated there was at least 52 public houses and alehouses in Atherton in 1902, servicing some 16,000 people. There was at least four public houses on Bolton New Road and dozens more within walking distance. The alcohol business in Atherton was estimated to be worth £20,000 a year (about £1.9 million in modern terms) and there was a growing concern from the Temperance Movement.
The business was really the idea of Gertrude Burrows and with the assistance of James Thomas Smith, a local builder and contractor, the building was remodelled for its new purpose. On the ground floor it now featured: a coffee room (55ft X 16ft), a tea room (18ft X 16ft), a smoking room (12ft X 7ft), a kitchen (18ft X 16ft). The coffee room and the tearoom were split by a corridor which featured gilded partitions. There was bronze tables with marble tops and chairs by Orme & sons of Manchester. The cutlery was engraved with “The Coffee Pot” and above the entrance there was a large ornamental gilded coffee pot donated by Mr. R Fletcher.
Upstairs, the rooms were occupied by the Atherton branch of the YMCA. It featured a reading room (17ft X 15ft), a secretary’s room (12ft X 10ft), a debating room (36ft X 17ft), a billiard room (32ft x 24ft) which featured two tables and a cloak room. The billard tables cost 2d/3d (pence) for twenty minutes play, which was a much lower cost than the public houses charged. This cheaper alternative attracted many younger men to the Coffee Pot.
The Coffee Pot
On 1st January 1902 the Coffee Pot was opened for business, there was no official ceremony as such, Miles Burrows simply unlocked the door and Gertrude opened it. It proved to be very popular on its opening day and extra volunteers had to be brought in to help out. A correspondent for the Leigh Chronicle G.H. Hadfield visited and stated ” We sipped the tea and thought it salubrious.” He also noted that the waitresses were “deft and handy”. The first proprietors were a Mr & Mrs Weir from London.
The Coffee Pot not only served non-alcoholic drink it also served food, although it was noted in the press that it was not supposed to be a rival to Church House a restaurant on Dan lane (now the site of the Atherton Arms). Instead The Coffee Pot was simply “a practical effort to promote temperance.” For that reason it was also the meeting place of the Women’s Total Abstinence Movement of Atherton.
It was open from 5am-11pm Monday to Saturday and the same hours as public houses on Sunday’s. In order to let the staff rest, volunteers were needed to help run the establishment on a Sunday. Lunch was served from 12 noon – 1:30pm daily (with the exception of weekends). A menu from 1911 lists cheap meals available to customers: steak pudding 3d, potatoes 1d, vegtables 1d and milk pudding 1d (6 pence in 1911 is equivalent to £2.30 in modern terms). Other items included soup, a roast joint with potatoes and vegetables, fish with potatoes and barley sauce, potato pie and fruit tarts.
The Coffee Pot was also used to promote the charitable causes championed by Mr and Mrs Burrows. On Christmas Day 1902, Dr. J. Marsh entertained 24 “poor folk” mainly children to a dinner at The Coffee Pot. On New Years Day 1904, a free breakfast was given to 150 children along with a bag containing an orange, mince pie and chocolate. A Christmas Tree filled with toys was also provided by Gertrude Burrows for the children. Later on Christmas Day 1909, around 160 children went to the Coffee Pot to receive a cake, mince pie, an orange and an apple. In 1912 there was a national coal strike which had a diasteroud effect on industrial towns like Atherton, leaving many men out of work. By March 1912 The Coffee Pot was feeding about 100 poor women a day Monday through to Friday. The women had to fill out a form in order to receive free meal tickets and the Leigh Chronicle noted not one application had been turned away. Many turned with their babies in their arms too. This gives us an idea of the drastic social conditions just over a century ago.
By 1911 the Yorkshire born Hutton family are running the Coffee Pot. Bartle Hutton (1850-1924) is head of the household. He runs The Coffee Pot with his wife Maria Louisa (b.1858) and two servants who are also sisters, Margaret and Ruth Marshall, who work as a cook and a waitress. Also living there is the Hutton’s son, Robert Bartle Hutton who works a clerk.
During the First World War (1914-1918) the YMCA took photographs of some its branches which had taken part in Emergency War Work. The Atherton branch was one of those photographed and what exists are three fascinating photos which show clearly how The Coffee Pot looked both externally and internally a century ago.
In December 1914 The Coffee Pot was chosen as the venue to distribute aid sent by Canada. Over seventy parcels were sent to Atherton containing flour, cheese, potatoes and tins of salmon and they were given out to those residents in “civil distress“.
During the 1920s The Coffee Pot was popular with the men of the Atherton Collieries Joint Association, a club made up of Atherton’s miners. The used the upstairs to socialise, play snooker, dominoes, billiards and whist. In the 1930s a men’s service club was established there to teach new skills to out-of-work miners and ex-servicemen.The social rooms were also used to hold inquests.
The Latter Years
In the 1950s The Coffee Pot is recorded on Ordnance Survey maps as a youth hostel, this is probably in connection with the YMCA. During the 1970s the ground floor was used as a shop, known as Finch’s Battery Shop and ran by Wayne Finch. The upstairs rooms were still used for social activities and the 12th Atherton Cubs met there weekly.
The building was altered in the late 20th century, dividing the spaces up into a home and a beauty salon, as well as re-opening the front as The Coffee Pot Cafe. Unfortunately the cafe has closed but the building is still in use and E & F Coach Travel operates from there. The Coffee Pot is currently owned by Bill and Liz Eckersley.
The Coffee Pot, in one guise or another, has played a social role in the history of Atherton for almost 140 years. When Gertrude Burrows decided to turn the grocer’s shop and bakery into a temperance bar, she could never have imagined that her philanthropic drive would play an important role in the memories of successive generations of Athertonians. The social history entwined in the bricks and mortar of this building make it an important historical asset to the town.
- Tony Ashcroft, Atherton & Tyldesley, ( Gloucestershire: The History Press Ltd, 2003)
- Alan Davies, Atherton Collieries, (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2013)
- http://www.facebook.co.uk – Old Photographs of Atherton & Tyldesley (various posts)
- Leigh Chronicle, 9 March 1878, p.8
- Leigh Journal, 3 January 1902, p.5
- Leigh Chronicle, 3 January 1902, p.7
- Leigh Chronicle, 2 January 1903, p.5
- Leigh Chronicle, 8 January 1904, p.5
- Leigh Chronicle, 31 December 1909, p.5
- Leigh Chronicle, 8 September 1911, p.5
- Leigh Chronicle, 29 September 1911, p.4
- Leigh Chronicle, 29 March 1912, p.4
- Leigh Chronicle, 31 December 1914, p.5
- Leigh Journal, 14 July 1916