Friday, 16 June 2017

A Surprise at The Gateway Tea Rooms

Monday 5 June 2017. We are in Evesham, Worcestershire and having traipsed round the shops, Market Place and Abbey Grounds, we look for somewhere to sit down with a drink. That somewhere is The Gateway Tea Rooms on a corner of the Market Place and it has something rather special to show us.

First impressions are of your average standard English tea rooms. Similar establishments can be found almost anywhere in the country, especially where they are housed in an old building in a town frequented by tourists.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I love tea rooms. We are great coffee drinkers (albeit very weak coffee by most people's standards) but there's something about drinking tea in a tea room that appeals to me. It's an english tradition and as such it needs people to carry on the tradition lest it dies out. Who needs to wait ten minutes whilst someone farts about with a noisy machine making a bucket of coffee anyway? A bit of Instant in a cup and add hot water and you can serve ten people whilst the "barista" (pah!) is still banging the grounds out of his ridiculously expensive equipment.

The Gateway served a good cup of tea in a proper teacup with a saucer. Pastries, cakes, sausage rolls and fruit pies were on display to tempt us, as were bottles of cordials. A few people came and went and it was when a group who had been sitting in the corner by the fireplace got up to leave that I spied a glow coming from a square shape next to the fireplace.

I couldn't make out what it was from where we were sitting so I got up and trundled over, to have a look. This was amazing! Set into a recessed space was what looked like a scale model of a transept or chancel of a cathedral. It was bare of furniture - no pews or monuments - but the tracery of stonework on the ceilings, the detail of stained glass in the windows was brilliant. I nipped into the the room behind the fireplace but the external detail had not been added.

Even so, just look at this. This model was about 18 inches tall by 12 inches across. The "stained glass" had been drawn on tissue paper and the interior was lit through it, producing the wonderful effect you see here. The owner told us that it was a model of part of Amiens Cathedral in France. It had been made in 1915 by a Mr Frederick Beck, who had obviously been impressed with the real thing that he must have seen either in pre-war years or as a member of the Services during World War One. What his connection with the cafe or it's past owners was has been lost to history, but it is thought that this was just a part of a larger model of the full cathedral. What an undertaking!

By the time we left the cafe it was drizzling again outside. Not to be put off, we set off down the hill to see the river, passing yet more black and white timbered buildings, including this courtyard with the upper storey joining the buildings on either side, over the entrance to what were presumably stables at one time.

Aw look, come on... I can't visit every tea rooms you know... There was a sign on the pavement pointing to "Tom's Barbers", but I've no idea who Tom was or why I should be expected to go there just because he does... Should it not be "Tom The Barber"? Specialisation really had it in for the barbering trade. At one point they were the one and only place to go to, not only for a haircut, but for bad teeth to be pulled, amputations and all manner of surgery. Most people now have forgotten or have never known that the familiar red and white striped pole represents blood on a bandage... And all with just one pair of scissors...

We approach the bottom of Bridge Street and there in front of us is a bridge. That's uncanny... And what a splendid humpty-backed thing it is too. The house on the corner is rather splendid also. I've no idea what it is or was, but you can't help but be impressed with the size of the chimney on the top!

Ah... and now we've got here it's decided to start raining in earnest. Thankfully we're in Evesham... No it's raining here too, and rather exposed on top of this bridge so we take a look and then head off back up the hill to find the car. The river is the River Avon - one of four River Avons in England. This is sometimes called Shakespeare's Avon. It runs from Naseby in Northamptonshire (where the Civil War battle was fought) and runs through Stratford-upon-Avon to Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire where it joins the River Severn. The name derives from the old Celtic "abona", meaning "river".

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