Day School in St Albans


On Saturday 4th October 2014 I will be teaching a day school at Verulamium Museum in St Albans – A Dozen People Who Changed What We Eat.

The course will deal with developments in food production, shopping and cooking between the 1770s and the 1970s.   It  will feature some of the people mentioned in this blog, such as Elizabeth Raffald, Joseph Lyons and Mrs and Mrs Sainsbury.  Thanks to the Wellcome Library it will include a showing of my favourite foodie film, Enough to Eat.  Made in 1936 this film draws on the work of some of the leading nutritional scientists of the era including Professor Sir Gowland Hopkins, Cambridge University and Sir John Boyd Orr, Director, Rowett Institute.

Tickets cost £25 and must be bought in advance.  Tickets include entry to the Museum.  Coffee and tea will be provided.  The course will run 10am – 2pm.  To book a place email me sue.davies@stalbans.gov.uk or call 01727 751810.

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ATeashop Revolutionary


Joseph Lyons. Image from http://www.kzwp.com.

Joseph Lyons (1847-1917) was a caterer who created a chain of well-loved teashops.

Born in London he was educated at the Borough Jewish school in the East End.  He had worked in various roles before being approached by some distance relatives to run a tea pavilion at the Newcastle Jubilee Exhibition in 1887.  The Gluckstein brothers and their business partner Barnett Salmon had noticed that the refreshments on offer at this type of big exhibition were poor.  They thought that they could do better and invited Joseph Lyons to front the business.

Catering at exhibitions proved so successful that a public company was founded, J. Lyons & Co, and, in 1894, the first Lyon’s teashop opened at 213 Piccadilly, London. By 1914 there were 180 Lyons teashops in city centres across England, more than any other company.

The teashops popularity was due to the fact that they served simple food in clean surroundings at affordable prices.  Joseph Lyon’s sense of showmanship also contributed to their success.  The teashops were beautifully decorated (red wallpaper, gas chandeliers and a fair amount of gold paint) and the waitresses (who became known as “nippies”) wore smart uniforms.

In 1909 the first of the larger Lyon’s Corner Houses appeared.  These were fancier establishments designed in an Art Deco style and included mini-food halls as well as several types of restaurant.

The last Lyons teashop closed in 1981.