As you may have read in previous blogposts, Barnwell Parish was a part of Cambridge that experienced a big population expansion in the 1800s and thus became a notorious slum. One big problem it faced was drunkenness. Despite the building of new churches, mission rooms, schools and even the Cambridge Workingmen’s Club, drunkenness did not go away. Thus the town – as in other towns and cities – experienced a growth in the temperance movement which campaigned for increased restrictions on the sale of alcohol. In 1905, the British Women’s Temperance Association acquired the old Barnwell Coffee Palace and turned it into a hostel. By the 1960s however, it had more than gathered a reputation as a ‘doss house’.
Photo: Geoff Peters/FB
Photos: Ian Hall and Howard Palmer / FB
The above photographs are from a wonderful local history FB group on life in Cambridge during the 1960s. Join in here. The hostel was demolished in the run up to the comprehensive redevelopment of the area and the construction of The Grafton Centre.
“Temperance advocates are often accused of talking too much, and nothing practical and real, but this is charge that certainly cannot be sustained against the friends of temperance in Cambridge. The British Women’s Temperance Association, above all others, is nothing if not practical, and its latest enterprise will commend itself to the hearty approval and support of all right-minded people, including even the Licensing Justices.
“The members of the Cambridge Branch of the B.W.T.A. [British Women’s Temperance Association] have recently acquired the tenancy of a property on the East Road, hitherto known the Barnwell Coffee Palace. They have been greatly assisted in their new forward movement by Mr. W. Eaden Lilley [The retailer] and Mr. A. C. Mansfield, who, with characteristic generosity, have at their own cost thoroughly re-decorated and re-furnished the premises. ‘‘The White Ribbon,” as it has been appropriately named, will constitute the headquarters of the B.W.T.A. in Cambridge, and it is believed that a well-conducted temperance house, where wholesome refreshment and comfortable lodging can be obtained at reasonable prices, will be appreciated.
“The premises are admirably adapted for the intended purpose, they are elegantly and almost luxuriously appointed, and present a striking contrast to the surroundings in which they are set. In addition to the refreshment bar there are sixteen bedrooms, a commodious and cheerful dining room, a large room for meeting purposes, and sitting rooms for young men and young women.
“The management has been undertaken by Mrs. Henderson. It is hoped that eventually the house will be self-supporting, but to commence the work a small capital of £150 will be necessary. Towards this a considerable sum has been subcribed, including donations of from Mrs. Ebenezer Brown, Mrs Chivers [of the fruit processing family at Histon], Mr. Mansfield, Dr. Ingle, and two guineas from Mr. H G. Whibley [leader of the Cambridge Liberals].
“The President of the Association is Mrs. Ebenezer Brown, the Hon. Treasurer Mrs. Arnold Ingle, and the Hon. Secretary Mrs. R. I. Lynch, and the Committee is constituted is follows :—
- Mrs. Campbell,
- Mrs. Littlechild,
- Miss Barrett,
- Mrs. Chapman,
- Mrs. Rampton Taylor,
- Miss Basham,
- Mrs. Dewberry,
- Mrs. Henry Bennett,
- Mrs. Cheeseman,
- Mrs. Sims Woodhead,
- Miss Knowles,
- Miss Legerton, and
- Mrs. Henderson.
“The formal opening of the White Ribbon took place on Monday afternoon. The proceedings were presided over by the Rev. Dr. Stokes (Vicar of St. Paul’s), and, in addition to the officials of the Association, there were present:
- Professor Sims Woodhead,
- Mr. W. Eaden Lilley,
- Mr. A. C. Mansfield,
- the Revs. W. B. Taylor, H. Bennett. W. B. Selbie, and
- J. A. Cheeseman.
- Mr. Stanley O. Buckmaster, K.C. (prospective Liberal Candidate for the borough),
- Mrs. H. G. Whibley,
- Dr. Ingle,
- Mr. J. Hingston Fox,
- Mrs. Chase,
- Mrs. Greer,
- Mrs. Sort,
- Mrs. Somerset,
- Mrs. Babington,
- the Misses Hughes, and others.
“The Chairman said they were assembled in delightful and elegant rooms, and he scarcely knew whether he was in some elegant tea rooms in Regent-street or in Barnwell. (Laughter and applause )
“They were there at the invitation of the British Women to take part in the opening of that delightful temperance hotel and restaurant. The British Women were endeavouring not only to stem the tide of intemperance, but to supply happy and continuous means of positively fighting for temperance. Just lately in Cambridge temperance people had had a rebuff. The magistrates who formerly would not close certain unnecessary public houses because they said it would be hard in the absence of money to compensate the licence holders, now that they had £1,300 or £2,000 for the suppression of public houses and the compensation of dispossessed publicans, they refused to touch a penny of it. (Cries of “Shame.”) They must try to create a public opinion in Cambridge so that next year such money as might be allotted might be used for that necessary purpose. (Applause.)
“They desired heartily to thank those two gentlemen who had generously fitted up that temperance house. (Applause ) In conclusion, he wished to say how glad, he was to take part in such a positive effort as that to help on temperance work in its social and happy aspects. He could think of no more agreeable and effective means than by providing pleasant rooms for rest and recreation in such a part of the town as Barnwell. (Applause.)
“Professor Sims Woodhead, who was called upon to perform the opening ceremony, said the British Women’s Temperance Association had justified its existence. He could think of no better justification, were it necessary to be an apologist for them, than that they should have in that part of Cambridge helped to plant a coffee palace of that character. They knew that in London several attempts had been made, some quite successful, to institute places of rest and refreshment and quiet where men and women of limited means might resort without he surroundings that was associated with our hostelries
“He believed that in Cambridge they would have in that coffee palace just such a place as some of those that had succeeded in London. To be a success it would have be self-supporting. The gentlemen who had enabled them to start the work deserved and received the most hearty thanks of all who were interested in temperance work in Cambridge. (Applause.)
Sometimes they were accused of talking too much and doing too little, but in this case they had shown that those who could talk could also do. (Applause.) They believed the enterprise would achieve success because it had been floated in a thoroughly business-like fashion. There were several ways in which the outside -public might help. It was a difficult matter to carry on business without capital, and although they had good premises, well equipped, it was necessary to raise about £150 as a working capital.
“Many people might also wish to help deserving folk in winter and times of want distress, and those present would find on their tables a number of books of tickets which they were asked take away. They could open an account at the White Ribbon,” and could distribute tickets for food among the deserving poor, and have their account rendered periodically. They had a very capable manageress -(hear, hear)—an admirable committee, and he believed the “White Ribbon” would be very great success
“Mrs. Lynch (Hon. Secretary) detailed a few things that were still required for the premises. These included a couch, some arm chairs, piano, and some pictures and texts for the adornment of the walls
“Mr. S. O. Buckmaster, K.C., [Stanley Buckmaster – Liberal Party candidate for Cambridge at the looming general election, and future Lord Chancellor] who was cordially received, said it was pleasure for him to be present, and to be able say a few words way of encouragement in the work they had undertaken. He did not hesitate to say that in his opinion this question of temperance was one of the most important and most profound problems that they, as politicians, could possibly undertake. He was quite satisfied that if they could save the drain which intemperance was constantly making upon the surplus wages of our working classes, they would get rid of all fiscal questions and most other questions at once. (Hear, hear, and applause.) They would have solved one of the greatest problems of modern times. They would have enabled each man to have some little surplus of his wage which he might expend for the purpose of improving the condition of himself and family, and they would also have taught to our people the enormous commercial value, quite apart from the moral value, of thrift. (Applause.)
“If our people only realised how strong they might be if they developed the powers each possessed of thrift, self-denial, and temperance, there would be no question of the rivalry of nations, for we should be approached by none. (Hear, hear.)
“If they examined the relative question of the amount of alcohol consumed by our foreign competitors, they would find that the most dangerous of our antagonists were the people who drank least. The Maine liquor laws in America had reduced he consumption of liquor to the lowest possible level, and they would find that the people who were amongst the strongest supporters of the Maine liquor laws were the working classes, who had realised that in the removal of temptation lay their true strength (Hear, hear.)
“Such enterprise as theirs was exactly what was wanted. It was not enough to shut up one place of amusement, but they must open another. It idle to think that a man wanted no rest and recreation after his daily toil, and if they did not give it him in healthful and moral surroundings, he would find it at the public house. In conclusion, he would give them a quotation expressing a great truth
“This I can do is but small, And this that know is but little, Nevertheless it is good, Though there is better in it.”
“The Rev. W. B. Selbie said he was glad to be there to wish God speed to that effort. He was afraid he was one who came under the condemnation as being one who had sometimes blamed temperance people for talking more than they worked, and would not promise not to do it again. He was glad to take part in function which showed that they were something of a definite and reasonable kind.
“He had had to do with an effort of that sort in the East End of London, which had proved an enormous boon to the neighbourhood in which it was placed, and anyone who knew anything of the Barnwell end of Cambridge would know there was need for the same kind of saving apparatus, so to speak. Speaking of the action of the Cambridge Licensing magistrates, Mr. Selbie said every public speaker it Cambridge during the next twelve months should take the opportunity of referring to that action. One could hardly trust oneself to characterise that action one would like to do.
“It meant a kind of paltry pusillanimous fear of the consequences, the political consequences possibly, of their action that made one really dread for the future of this country. (Applause.) If we were to be ruled in matters of this kind interests of that kind, things would be very bad indeed. He hoped it would be rubbed in, because it was a thing that was a real shame to this town. (Hear, near.)
“Continuing, Mr. Selbie said it was constantly borne in upon him that they who professed to call themselves Christian people would have to take a more active part in temperance propaganda and in general work than they had done in the past. In conclusion, he again wished success to their enterprise. A vote of thanks to the Chairman and the speakers concluded the meeting. At the close, refreshments were served, and the visitors made an inspection of the premises.”