Serving teas for a hundred years

Celebrating 100yrs at the Clock Tower cafe.Centre Jackie Link with her staff .Picture Richard Ponter 132846a
Celebrating 100yrs at the Clock Tower cafe.Centre Jackie Link with her staff .Picture Richard Ponter 132846a

One of Scarborough’s oldest cafes is going back in time as staff celebrate the business’s 100th anniversary.

The South Cliff’s Clock Cafe is staging a host of celebrations to mark the centenary of the business, which opened in 1913.

Clock Cafe 1913

Clock Cafe 1913

Throughout this week staff have been dressed in Georgian costumes, mimicking the attire of staff pictured outside the cafe in its opening year, while on Tuesday visitors could buys teas or coffees in exchange for an old penny.

Plans are also being put in place for a dress up day in August, when customers will be invited to join staff in dressing up in period costume.

Jackie Link, who is this year celebrating her 20th anniversary of running the Clock Cafe, said: “A business reaching 100 years is a great achievement and we are really excited to be celebrating it.

“The staff have enjoyed dressing up and have had some great comments from the customers.

“Its good to celebrate our past and this is the right place to do it as the South Cliff was very popular in the Victorian times.

“I wanted to do something to recreate what happened years ago. It has created a lot of interest, and we’re now looking forward to organising a costume day some time in August.

“Customers who come dressed in the style from 1913 will be offered tea and a scone, and who knows it could even become an annual thing if it takes off.”

The South Cliff Cafe was built as part of the redevelopment of the south side in the early 1900’s. The council at the time, known at the Scarborough Corporation had outlined plans for the redevelopment of the Spa, the redesign and planting of existing gardens and the development of new garden areas on South Cliff, the new South Cliff Tramway, the South Bay bathing pool and the building of beach chalets.

Alongside the vision was the provision of a cafe to the south of the Spa.

From the start the cafe, then known as South Cliff Gardens Cafe, was owned and operated by Scarborough Corporation and later its predecessor Scarborough Council.

At a later stage the council decided to move a number of its catering outlets into the private sector and rent out the premises to tenants who would run the individual businesses.

During the Second World War the Spa and Clock Cafe, together with most large hotels and other public buildings in Scarborough were closed to the public and used for military training.

The Clock Cafe was used for RAF navigation training. Navigation charts were said to still adorn the cafe walls when it was handed back to the Corporation in 1945.

Jackie and Gary Link took over as tenants of the business in 1993 from Maggie and Jim Hargreaves. Mrs Link had worked for Mrs Hargreaves at the cafe for one day a week throughout the year before the takeover.

They took over on the weekend of June 5 and 6, the same weekend the Holbeck Hall Hotel crashed down the cliff a quarter of a mile down the coast.

In 2008 the Clock Cafe, along with the beach chalets, was granted Grade II listed status.

The cafe has had to overcome numerous vandalism attacks, and even made headlines when it was forced to close for security reasons in 1998 on the eve of the General Election, when Tony Blair visited Scarborough.

Mrs Link was so annoyed that she wrote to the Prime Minister. Speaking at the time Mrs Link said: “It was all a bit tongue in cheek really and I wasn’t particularly expecting the reply I got. When he came on May 4 all the security precautions meant I wasn’t able to get any deliveries. One van driver had to bring all my stock on a wheelbarrow.”

In the letter she challenged the PM’s attitude towards the working person and complained at having to close her cafe for a second time.

She received a reply from 10 Downing Street, apologising for the inconvenience and invited her to look around the Prime Minister’s official residence.

The history of the Clock Cafe has been documented in a special centenary booklet, entitled The Clock Cafe Story. Created by author and publisher David Fowler, the book is being sold at the cafe with all proceeds going to the business’s chosen charity the Littlefoot Trust.