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The British Restaurant
Where to put it?

Geisha Restaurant
The Geisha Restaurant - 93 High Street c1950s - formerly a British Restaurant

Extract from Wartime Rushden April 1943 Council Meeting

Restaurant Serial
Attempts to obtain a “second-hand wooden shed” for erection as a British Restaurant were described in the War Emergency Committee’s report. It appeared that the Divisional Food Officer had visited the town and given advice. The Surveyor had been unable to obtain a building, but was “pursuing his enquiries in other directions.”

Coun. Roe said he was very pleased to see that the restaurant had not been entirely forgotten. Now that the business had been put in the Surveyor’s hands they would probably get something definite very shortly.

The Rushden Echo & Argus, 16th July, 1943, transcribed by Gill Hollis

They’ve Even Secured the Keys!
Council Find Premises for Restaurant
Depot Plan Dropped

The High-street shop just vacated by Mr. C. F. Poole may become Rushden’s British Restaurant. The Council Clerk has secured the keys, and at Wednesday’s meeting the Urban Council approved a complete scheme for establishing the restaurant. There has been some quick work, and the enterprise can go forward at once if the Ministry of Food agrees.

The report of the War Emergency Committee, which met on June 24th and July 8th, showed that the Clerk (Mr. T. L. Watts, L.L.B.), on learning that the shop at No. 93, High-street had been vacated by Mr. C. F. Poole, obtained the keys, took steps to ensure that the premises would not be requisitioned by other authorities, and induced the Ministry of Food to earmark the building as a provisional step.

Considering the premises to be particularly suitable as regards situation, layout and condition, and that comparatively little redecoration would be necessary, the War Emergency Committee instructed the Surveyor (Mr. J. W. Lloyd) to prepare details and estimates. These showed seating accommodation for 110-120, certain structural alterations of rooms at the back, and the erection of a brick extension, also at the rear.

First Cost £1,000

It was estimated that a restaurant could be established at a cost of £1,000, including equipment, and that the annual expenditure would be £1,400 – a sum which would be reduced if voluntary assistance was forthcoming. The Ministry of Food would provide the equipment and generally make good any approved loss, on the other hand taking any surplus. Apart from this financial control the restaurant would be entirely under the control and management of the Council.

The committee recommended that the scheme be adopted and sent for the Ministry’s approval, and that, subject to this approval, tenders be invited for the adaptation and extension of the premises.

Coun. Capon said he was quite sure that not only those present, but the public in the town, would be glad to see this result.

“Sometimes,” he said, “complaint is made that we are slow in acting. I would not like to say whether or not that is always justified; certainly it is not true in this case. Our Clerk took quick action and everything is proceeding apace.

“If it goes on according to plan there is no reason why before the dark evenings come we should not meet for a feed at our own British Restaurant.”

Not Asleep

The Chairman (Coun. Weale) said the committee had not been slow, although it had sometimes been made out in certain quarters that they had been asleep. This was the first good set of premises that had come under notice, and he thought the committee were wise in taking them. The Clerk was very forward in taking steps immediately the premises became available.

No questions were asked, and the report was carried unanimously.

The Rushden Echo & Argus, 23rd July, 1943, transcribed by Gill Hollis

All of One Mind - Trades Council and The Restaurant Site

Rushden and District Trades Council, meeting on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Mr. W. Ainge, regarded it as a happy coincidence that the action of the Urban Council in securing Messrs. C. F. Poole’s premises for a British Restaurant corresponded with their own recommendation made at a meeting on June 22nd, and passed on to the Urban Council by letter.

The meeting noted with pleasure the progress already made and expressed the hope that the Ministry of Food would assist the Rushden authorities in expediting the scheme.

“The lack of control of tomatoes” was discussed, one member stating that a woman who fainted in a tomato queue was found to have 4 lbs of tomatoes already in her basket. It was agreed to ask the T.U.C. to suggest a national plan by which all persons would secure a fair share of tomatoes.

It was felt that the Trades Council should have a seat on the local Appeals Board, and the secretary (Mr. J. S. Sharp) was asked to write to the authorities concerned.

Final arrangements were made for the competition in which the Trades Council will assist at Rushden Holiday Fete, and it was stated that 44 prizes were being given.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 29th October, 1943, transcribed by Gill Hollis

They’re Off! - Contractors Preparing Rushden’s British Restaurant

Though a meal on the table is worth two in the Council’s imagination, it cannot be denied that the Rushden British Restaurant scheme is progressing.

Last Saturday a notice appeared in the window of No. 93, High-street, announcing that the premises had been taken over for use as a British Restaurant and would be opened to the public as soon as possible. This meant that the plans had at last been approved by the Ministry of Food, leaving the Urban Council free to call in the contractors who will remodel the two-storey building for its new role.

Since then Mr. Robert Marriott’s men have begun work on the job, and with two months to go a Christmas opening becomes an intriguing possibility.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 26th May, 1944, transcribed by Gill Hollis

British Restaurant Is Late But Lucky
Rushden’s Dining Centre Has Its Own Kitchen

  Though somewhat late on the scene, the Rushden British Restaurant will open next Thursday with one great distinction and advantage.  It is the only British Restaurant for miles around where the cooking is done on the premises.

  Until recently the policy of the Ministry of Food was to have the food prepared at district cooking centres and transported to the various towns in containers.  Rushden came in at a time when the Government was prepared to relax this rule, and the restaurant has a fully equipped kitchen with every facility for good service.

  The roomy two-floor shop in High-street formerly occupied by Messrs. Poole has been converted and extended to give a seating capacity of 120, two-thirds of the tables being upstairs.  Meal or course tickets are obtained from an office just inside the main door, and rails guide the visitor to the service counter in front of a large sliding hatch, behind which is the kitchen.

  Both dining rooms are well-lighted, decorated in pale green and white, and set out with separate tables.

Behind The Scenes

  The main kitchen range is heated by gas and contains two large ovens.  A smaller oven is for the heating of plates.  The steamer is an excellent piece of equipment, able to heat 240 puddings at a time.  There are three 20-gallon coppers for boiling potatoes, soup and second vegetables, and the potatoes are cleaned by an ingenious electrical machine which employs a revolving plate to scrape them.  The parings and the water are conducted automatically to the outside of the premises.

  Tea, coffee, etc., are prepared in large porcelain-lined heaters so controlled that nothing can emerge except at boiling point.  Pantries and food stores are provided, and a hand-operated lift supplies the upper floor, where the food is set on a hot plate to which a Bain Marie is attached.

  Diners will be asked to return their plates from the tables to the serving counters.

Cash and Carry

  The cash and carry service may be an important feature of the restaurant.  It means that anyone may call and purchase courses – at exactly the same prices as are charged to diners on the premises – for consumption at home.  These customers must, of course, bring their own receptacles.

  Rushden’s restaurant will open under the experienced management of Mrs. Headland, who was trained at the Domestic Science College, Buckingham Palace-road, London, and has managed the British Restaurant at Market Harborough.  The complete staff has already been engaged.

  For a start the restaurant will open each week-day from 12 noon to 2 p.m., and well-varied dinner menus will be the aim.  The question of providing teas has been left open, but the Council will take note of any public demand and extend the service if required.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 2nd June, 1944, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rushden’s British Restaurant Opens Promisingly
Full House for First Meal - The Council Dines

  Business was brisk when Rushden’s British Restaurant opened on Thursday after years of “delayed action.”  Coun. W. E. Capon, chairman of the Urban Council’s War Emergency Committee, unlocked the door at noon, and within a few minutes both floors were full to capacity.  The Council members and officers and others who attended as guests of Mr. Capon occupied several tables on the first floor and obtained their courses from the service counter in the normal manner.  Factory workers and family parties were among the miscellany of diners.

  Dinner, as all agreed, was ample and well-cooked.  When the councillors were finishing up with a cup of tea, a few minutes were devoted to speechmaking.

One of 2,000

  In a speech at the tables Mr. Capon said there were 2,000 British Restaurants in the country, the North Midland Region, of which Rushden formed part, now having 135, which provided about 40,000 meals daily.

  A restaurant for Rushden was first discussed in 1940, but it was not until November, 1942, that the War Emergency Committee asked the Council to approve a scheme.  Various premises were afterwards inspected without result, and the Ministry of Food would not allow the Council to erect a new building.

  Premises were finally secured last July, and the first scheme provided for the cooking to be done elsewhere, but to the Council’s delight the Ministry had it amended so that the food could be cooked on the spot.  Delays occurred as the result of prevailing conditions, but commendation was due to Mr. R. Marriott, the contractor, Mr. T. Watson, of the Gas Company, Mr. Armstrong, of the Divisional Food Office, the staff of the Council, and Mrs. Headland, the supervisor.

  “The Government,” continued Mr. Capon, “see in the setting up on British Restaurants a value which cannot be overestimated.  There are few homes even in Rushden where work of national importance of some kind is not being done, thereby reducing the opportunities of shopping and more particularly of providing a hot nourishing meal in the middle of the day.

Cutting Out Waste

  “The Ministry recognise that the nation’s health and strength must as far as possible be maintained to ensure the fitness of the next generation.  Community feeding, the Government assert, does a great deal towards eliminating waste – waste of effort, of time, of fuel and of food.  It also helps to create confidence, health, and a sense of well-being.

  “What the post-war period will reveal as to the continuance of British Restaurants remains to be seen.  The Government so far has not been able to determine exactly what form this should take.”

  The staff, said Mr. Capon, consisted of a supervisor, a cook, four helpers in the kitchen, four servers (part time) and a ticket office clerk.  For the present it was proposed to provide a mid-day meal only.  Other suggestions had been made – morning coffee, afternoon tea and suppers – but, nice as all these things might seem, many factors had to be considered.  With public support, however, success to the venture was assured.

  At the end of his speech Mr. Capon declared the restaurant open.

Doctor Pleased

  Dr. R. W. Davies, J.P., Chairman of the Council, thanked Mr. Capon for his work in getting the restaurant for Rushden.  It had not been an easy job, he said, but now that they had enjoyed an excellent meal they were in no two minds about the value of the work.  The restaurant would meet a long-felt need and be a great boon to many people.

  Mr. H. F. Armstrong, Assistant Divisional Food Officer (Wartime Meals) tapped his burly frame jovially as he told the diners: “Look at me, and if you eat British Restaurant meals you will get like I am.”

  The restaurant, he said, had been provided for everybody in Rushden: the Ministry of Food wanted people to use centres of that kind.

  Speaking of food wastage as a very serious matter, Mr. Armstrong urged them not to waste food in the restaurant or in their homes.  He declared that Rushden was fortunate in its Council Clerk (Mr. T. L. Watts), its Surveyor (Mr. J. W. Lloyd) and the restaurant supervisor (Mrs. Headland).

  “But for the speed of your Clerk,” he added, “you would not have been sitting here to-day.  I know it has been trying for your officers because things have been slow – but Ministries always are.”

Rushden Echo & Argus, 6th October 1944

Sound Position of Restaurant
Income Covers Running and Advance Costs

A full statement on the British Restaurant, showing that it has continued to pay its way, was received with appreciation at Wednesday’s meeting of the Rushden Urban Council.

From June 1st (the opening day) to September 30th the average daily number of meals was 230 and the average takings were £13 1s 4d. The income of £1,294 represented the following items: Soup 2,324, main course 17,737, sweet 19,429, tea 12,743, full meal 5.005.

Provisions cost £447, wages £351, rent and rates £91, light, heating and cleaning £65. Other charges brought expenses within the trading period to £1,054, and there was a surplus of £239. The total cost per main meal works out at 11·13d.

Rushden Echo & Argus, 23rd March 1945

More Meat For Rushden Restaurant

Rushden’s British Restaurant has been reclassified as an industrial canteen, and the meat ration for each person per meal has been increased from a pennyworth to three-halfpence worth, it was stated at a meeting of Wellingborough Food Control Committee on Tuesday.

The Food Executive Officer (Mr. Merrill) explained that a British Res­taurant could be described as an industrial canteen if it could be proved that over 60 per cent, of the customers were industrial workers. "There are 80 per cent, at Rushden, and Wellingborough falls into the same category" he said.

Rushden's Sub Food Office started a new scheme of increased hours for the convenience of the public this week.

The office  is now open from 9.30 to 12.30 and from 2.0 to 5.0. On Saturdays the hours are from 9.30 to 12.30.

Coun. Mrs. A. U. Muxlow expressed thanks to the Food Officer for the alteration, stating that it would be of great benefit to many people.

A reply was received from the Ministry of Food to a question by Coun. H J Harrison, who wished to know why icing, etc., was permitted on the outside of the cakes, when extra ingredients were not allowed to be put inside. The Ministry stated that extra internal ingredients were now permitted.

Mr. Merrill stated that the recent late delivery of chocolate to the town was due to adverse weather conditions.

It was reported that since March 4th the National Milk Cocoa scheme had been extended to youth clubs for the consumption of members under the age of 21, whether or not the clubs were recognised as catering establishments. Small private consumers were allowed to buy 6lb tins, instead of the former 20lb. containers.

An appeal for the prompt return of milk bottles by householders was made by Mr. W. Pearce, who said that situation was becoming acute.

The 11th allocation of oranges was expected in the town shortly.

Extract from the Council meeting Mar 1945

Rushden’s British Restaurant has received a visit from a lady inspector from the Ministry of Food (Mrs. M. C. Brown), who reported to the Divisional Food Office that the meal she had at the restaurant was very satisfactory, nicely prepared and cooked.  This was reported to the council by the War Emergency Committee.  The report also showed that since the restaurant was opened the daily average number of main meals served was 230, and the average daily takings £12  19s.  9d.

British Restaurant
by RWN

Inside the British Restaurant
The Civic Leaders sit
With ration books beside them, and
With knife and fork in "mitt,"
When from the kitchen doorway spreads
Across the ambient air
An appetising smell of "Roast";
"Ah Bisto" says the Mayor.
And soon the Councillors have set
Upon their Yorkshire Pud;
Two GREENS, potatoes, cut from joint,
They seem to find it good,
But all at once one civic bloke
Gives forth a hollow groan,
"Say, waitress, just look at my meat,
My portion's ALL-A-BONE.
"Ah WEALE, we musn't grumble" says
His neighbour, "For it's true
Communal meals are wonderful,
And small ex-SPENCE SIR, too.
But look at Bloggs, he's moaning now,
He never can agree,
And all that fuss because he finds
No SUGAR'S in his tea."
Just then a mellow voice enquires
"Ma meat's maist fat Ah fear.
"Ah wudna fash ye, lass, but dae
Ye Mac-LEAN porrrtions here?"
One diner finds the feast too large
(The course he cannot run)
The Council Father beams and says
"I see you're BEATEN SON."
Still WARING his regalia

Up springs the worthy Mayor,
"I feel quite certain, Gentlemen,
My sanguine view you'll share.
For our first British Restaurant
Has soothed my doubts and fears
That meal was best and cheapest that
I SAW-FOR-Donkey's years."

click here for more rhymes by RWN

Extract from the Council meeting Feb 1946

Restaurant News

A report on the British Restaurant showed that 17,103 main meals were served last quarter and that the financial position was satisfactory. Mrs. Dale Wright, of Northampton, had been appointed supervisor, and attempts were being made to find another cook.

In view of staffing difficulties the War Emergency Committee turned down a proposal to serve cups of tea at the restaurant in the mornings.

Mr. Capon informed the Council that a cook had now been secured for the restaurant.

Extract from the Council meeting Feb 1947

Rushden’s Civic Café Continues
Rushden’s British Restaurant is to continue as a civic enterprise, and, according to statements made at the Urban Council’s meeting on Wednesday, has a good prospect of paying its way. A long report on British Restaurant policy as it is affected by the Government’s termination of the present financial arrangements after March 31st, was submitted by the Finance Committee.

The committee thought that on the basis of recent trading results, the restaurant should prove to be self-supporting after allowing for establishment charges and the liquidation of capital charges (£1,050) over a reasonable period.

An average of 230 meals a day were served during the last three months, and the committee felt that the service met a public demand and should continue.

The Council decided to continue the restaurant as a civic service, subject to the necessary powers being conferred by Parliament. The question of extending the range of catering has been deferred by the Finance Committee for a month.

Do you have a photo when it was the British Restaurant? We'd be pleased to add a copy;
or do you have memories of the restaurant to share with us?

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