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Lambeth Coffee Shop (3): The last fifty years

Henry Cope(2) & Alice Pemberton

Continued from Coffee Shop (1) and Coffee Shop (2); updated October 2013

Fewer details are given for the 20th century descendants of the Cope family but some are available by request

Henry George Cope junr (from now on called 'Harry') was born on 20 Nov 1859 at 4 George Ct, St Pancras in Westminster. It still exists, a narrow street just a block away from Charing Cross Station off the Strand. His father was Henry George Cope, carpenter, born at 63 Cornwall Rd Lambeth in 1831 and his mother was Alecia Eliza, formerly Arrowsmith, born in 1832 in Chatham, Kent (Arrowsmith family) who married on 27 Jun 1852 in St Pancras.

Some new information which came to light in 2013 is an apprenticeship record for a Henry George Cope who was apprenticed as a Waterman/Lighterman to a John Lack in Lambeth, the 'bound date' being 14 Aug 1877. (Source: FindMyPast, Binding Records 1692-1949 Thames Watermen and Lightermen) This fits in so many ways with Harry and his 'step-cousin' as their relationship might more briefly be described, who was indeed a waterman in 1871 at the age of 18 and a lighterman in 1881. There are two small problems. Harry's father, Henry, was a carpenter according to most censuses on which he appears and in 1881 when Sophia, Henry's widow, seems to have been still in charge of the coffee shop, Harry himself is listed as a 'joiner. This fits with him having been an apprentice to his father perhaps, and the family remembered how much time he spent working with wood, especially making superb models of boats, often in bottles, which he displayed in the coffee shop and one which was exhibited at the Royal Exchange. Perhaps the woodwork was more informal, but to be listed as a 'joiner' does imply something more formal as it surely was a civil offence to describe yourself as a joiner if you had not served any kind of apprenticeship(?) (The apprenticeship records for Thames Watermen and Lightermen was the only one available, so the question of either or both, remains and will be followed up as far as possible.! The relationship to John Lack is detailed on the Cope family page.)

In the Jun Q 1884 Harry married Alice Jemima Sarah Pemberton who lived at no.28 Commercial Road, only a couple of doors away. Harry was described by the family as red-haired and blue-eyed, like all his siblings except Ada. Alice's father John Thomas Henry Pemberton, was born in Leeds in 1831 and was a printer. It was printers in particular who were said to frequent the coffee shop at lunchtime - there were many more nearby - so this was not a surprising outcome. No.35 continued to be full of family for Harry and Alice had seven children, all born in Lambeth,  of whom just two died in infancy.

  1. Alice Ada b. Mar Q 1885, m. Frederick J. Genner 1918
  2. Henry Hugh Arrowsmith b. Dec Q 1886, m. Alice Hurle 1915; 1 daughter;
  3. Edith Alicia b. Sep Q 1888, d. Jun Q 1890
  4. Lilian Eliza b. Mar Q 1890, m. Albert Burrell 1917, 2 children
  5. Eva Florence Cope, b. Dec Q 1892, m. Victor King 1920, 2 sons
  6. Arthur William Edwin, b. Jun Q 1900, m. Gladys E.Marshall 1935, 1 daughter
  7. Olive b. Jun Q 1895  d. Dec Q 1897

It is not known whether Harry's stepmother, Sophia, moved away or died when he took charge of the coffee shop but his wife Alice was to live at no.35 Commercial Road (aka Upper Ground St as it later became) for the rest of her life. It was an area ready for re-development which was changed out of all recognition in the years after WWII.

There were still cousins of Harry's not far away. His uncle, Edwin had married Louisa Colwell in 1858 and in 1883 moved only a very short distance from Broadwall into Boundary Row. By this time Edwin had ten children, the eldest, another Edwin, 24, the youngest, Emma, only four. Whether Edwin and his family visited the coffee shop regularly is not known but they were still only a short walk away. For full details of this family see Coffee Shop (1)

Harry continued to divide his time as his father had done. According to Ethel he also used to serve coffee at the Stock Exchange. An 'expert on wood' he made model boats as a hobby. One of them was exhibited many years later at the Polytechnic. He showed his niece Ethel Barnes (the main souce for a fund of stories about the family) how he pulled the sails up inside the bottle with a fine thread. One story is told that that he built a full-size boat in the house - and then couldn't get it through the door as it was too big! He certainly did have a boat on the river which he named Little Alice, his wife being known, it is said, as 'Big Alice'. (It was fairly obvious that the adjective 'big' referred to size!)  Possibly the boat was called after Harry's daughter Alice.

local and national
William had moved into Commercial Road about the time when the Clerkenwell News was renamed the Daily Chronicle and became more than just a local newspaper. The printing works for this paper were immediately opposite the coffee shop and the workers flocked across the road for their refreshment. Then on January 17th 1888 the Evening Star was launched and that too was printed at the works on Commercial Road. Both newspapers continued to be produced there until the middle of the 20th century. It seems likely that the story below appeared in one of these 2 newspapers. In 1889 the County of London was formed, the original church divisions were reorganised into the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark and many roads were renamed. Commercial Road was joined to Upper Ground Street which became the name for the whole length of the road next to the river. In 1899 Princes' Street became Coin St and is now home to the Coin St Complex, mostly a massive car park. Duke St became Duchy St and many local streets were also renumbered as more buildings were crammed into the remaining plots. The names give a clue to much of the area - it was owned by the Duchy of Lancaster, the Duke of Wales, heir to the throne, being the 'landlord'.

Both Alice, Harry's wife and their eldest daughter Alice Ada, were recorded in 1911 as 'assisting in the business'. Apparently Alice Ada managed to make heaklines in a newspaper on the occasion of a visit by HRH the Prince of Wales* who came to look over his properties. He called at the coffee shop and chatted with Harry for a few minutes, a niece remembering being told that he pointed to some fish on the slab, asking what price it was. Harry told him, 'about 2d!) hoping all the while that he wouldn't notice the fly-blown picture of Garibaldi hanging on the wall (forgotten about because it had been there so long). Alice took her republicanism a little further and continued cleaning windows upstairs, determined not to come down and meet the prince, but was spotted! The newspaper report, with front page headlines claiming that she had refused to stop for the Prince of Wales, has not yet been found.

* The Prince of Wales before being crowned - as George VII before 1901 or George V before 1910 or Edward VIII before 1936. George VII seems unlikely, but either of the other two would 'fit'. Alice was 33 at her marriage in 1918.

Any family knowledge, corrections or additions for these events would be gratefully received and acknowledged!


Barnes and Stockwells

Thomas James Barnes, Ada Cope's husband, came from Aylesbury. The Barnes family and some of their cousins, Stockwells, were moving into South London in search of work, mostly in the printing business. (One branch of the Stockwells living at Brockwell Park, did particularly well as printers.) Whether Thomas actually lodged with the Copes at no.35 or just used it as a convenient address (i.e. 'leaving a suitcase') when getting married is not clear. They were married at St Andrew's, Princes' Street (now Coin St), only a few minutes walk away, on September 22nd 1889. Thomas was just 21, Ada coming up to 22.

Thomas became a bookbinder for Eyre and Spottiswoode, a firm for which he worked until he retired fifty years later. If they did not live over the coffee shop in the next few years they were not far away, for the first five, or possibly six, children were christened at St Saviour's. The 1911 census proves that Thomas and Ada only had seven children (and none of those others subject to some speculation previously). The Barnes family then moved further away to Walworth and eventually to Pinner. Thomas and Ada's daughter Amy said that in seven years they moved seven times! She claimed that her father wanted to "get away from the chink of glasses." He had been born in a pub in Aylesbury and would certainly have had to endure the chink of crockery at least in Commercial Road!

From coffee to bicycles

The house continued to be full of family. There are family stories covering a period of thirty or forty years which are often quite hard to date, so the 'correct' order of some of the following anecdotes cannot be guaranteed!

Alice, eldest of the family, married Frederick Genner (according to the GRO index) or Jenner (as spelt by Alice in her will) who ran a billiard hall in East London. Later Fred worked as a traveller for a firm dealing in Japanese fancy goods. At Christmas he would come home with Japanese crackers filled with quality items, for example real pearl jewellery. She and Fred had no children.

Hugh worked at Woolwich Arsenal, built his own car, and, with Arthur's help, his own radio

Edith died aged 2 in 1890.

Albert Burrell, Lily's husband, worked for 'Thorne's', (an unknown company?) and often acted as a butler to oblige the Heskeths (These could have been the owners of Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire until it was transferred to the National Trust in 1936)

There were cousins too, on the Pemberton side and the 1891 Census shows one of them, Ada Hutchings, aged 13 or 14, who was 'a servant' at the coffee shop and also noted as Harry's niece. Ada's mother Elizabeth, née Pemberton, and her husband, John Hutchings lived in Walcot Square in Lambeth, near where the Imperial War Museum is now.

Cope DIY

Henry Hugh Arrowsmith Cope, the third Henry Cope, worked at Woolwich Arsenal. He tinkered with cars and with the help of his brother Arthur built his own radio. In those days the radio would have been a crystal radio, quite small in size with a tiny tinny sound which was quite difficult to hear as the signal was not amplified at all.

There were not many cars around at that time, but the Cope family relied more on their pony and cart, kept in stables under the house at the back a couple of doors away. The local map of 1872 shows just one or two gaps where there must have been a way through to the road. Harry's children remembered using the cart for Sunday outings to places like Clapham or Tooting Common. It seems very likely that the horse and cart were normally used for collecting supplies, though no doubt much was delivered as a regular order.

Visit of the Prince of Wales

This whole area of Lambeth was part of the Duchy of Cornwall, that is, belonging to the Duke of Cornwall, (aka the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne) or in other words it was the property of the Crown. The story is told of how once the Prince of Wales called to inspect his property, he being the landlord. He arrived with his entourage, all the local residents hanging out of the windows or crowding round to see. Harry, still with his apron on, had been left to '"get on with it" by the womenfolk who had all fled. "How much is that fish (on the slab)?" the Prince asked. "Twopence," replied Harry, hoping that the Prince would not notice the 'fly-blown' picture of Garibaldi on the wall.

A newspaper reporter noticed that there was one person who was not at all fussed by the visit of a prince! Alice Ada was far too busy cleaning the windows and didn't pause in her task. The newspaper headlines the next day proclaimed the fact in large letters.

"Woman cleans windows when the Prince of Wales visits"

or something similar. This episode has not yet been dated but Alice was born in 1885 and married in 1918. The Prince could therefore have been George V, born 1865 who became Prince of Wales 1901-1910, or his son Edward who was inaugurated as Prince of Wales in 1910 at the age of 15 and was very briefly king as Edward VIII in 1936.

The picture of Garibaldi had probably been placed on the wall back in the sixties. It was not an age of change. The wood of the table tops was scrubbed daily, the floors swept, the customers served, and the food and the drink remained the same for sixty years as it did in most households. At some time a fish tank was added in an alcove but there was not the modern frenetic demand for constantly changing décor. There were always children running up and down the stairs and playing between the tables with their red and white checked cloths. Ethel Barnes, born in 1906, told of riding her tricycle up and down between the tables, but not presumably while there were customers in the shop!

Two independent accounts of number 35 reveal that there was quite probably a connecting door through to number 34. Viewed in the nineteen-twenties it was variously described as a bricked-up doorway upstairs and as a small flight of stairs with a door at the top. It was obviously not on the ground floor. At number 34 in 1881 lived a family called Brown, though there does not at present appear to have been any connection with William's son-in-law of that name as Archibald Brown was born in London while both John Brown and his wife Sarah, who were his contemporaries, came from Rainham in Kent.

The ghostly dog

Regular patrons for lunch throughout the 20th century were just across the road at a printing works. They would stream into the coffee shop at lunch time so Harry continued, like his grandfather, with the help of his wife and many other family members.until his death on September 24th 1931. His wife Alice continued as the coffee shop proprietor until her own death on February 24th 1934. It was hard to manage on her own and some of her children returned to help out for a while. Her grand-daughter, then aged about 12, remembered what a lot of washing-up there was to do as she had to help with that. She was told that there used to be a dog, possibly called 'Spot.' on the premises. She heard barking but she never saw the dog. It may have been in the middle of the night when she heard it for she wasn't sure that she hadn't dreamt it. The dog was supposed to have been kept in the cellar. One of the adults - to tease her - said it was locked in the cellar. She was scared but at the same time sorry for the dog.

Granddaughter Betty remembered spending long days at the coffee shop when she was twelve making endless steak and kidney pies. Her cousin Geoffrey who lived a few streets away at the time, said he spent many a day reading a book at one of the tables but basically being very bored when his mother went along to help!

"Anyone for tennis?"

Arthur was fair-haired (conspicuous in a family with red hair) When Arthur at 13 wanted to play tennis with his cousin Amy - they used to meet cousins regularly for tennis parties - he seems to have been the favourite victim of his older sister Alice, described as a 'great tease'. 'If he asked "Is my shirt clean?" she would give a silly answer. She was very fat and a great giggler. She is also said to have had a cycle shop in Abbey Wood (which runs between Greenwich and Bexley in S.E.London) . This could only have been between 1911 and her marriage in 1918. Arthur was 15 years younger than Alice and only 11 in 1911 so perhaps it gave him the familiarity with bicycles and the idea. .

After leaving home he ran a coffee house variously given as Kingston or Richmond or East Sheen (one of the 3, not all of them), but he moved back to Lambeth to help run the family coffee shop for a short time in the thirties. Then his mother died early in 1934. Lilian, one of Arthur's older sisters, had married and gone to live in Southport. Perhaps Arthur had been there on holiday and had thus already met his future wife who came from there. In 1935 after the coffee shop was sold - or rather the lease on it for it would not have been freehold - he married Gladys and went to live in Southport where he ran a bicycle shop for a number of years. His descendants eventually settled in the Wirral. .

The coffee shop was demolished and replaced by a Post Office in 1934 so bringing to an end some 100 years of the family business. The post office did not last very long, being demolished in its turn, even its foundations swallowed up presumably by the Coin St car park, all trace of the coffee shop finally disappearing. Along the bank of the Thames the old shot tower, the printing works, wood yards and wharves have all gone, the family, too, scattering in all directions!



Cope family

Coffee shop(1)

Coffee shop2 Henry George (1)

Coffee shop3
Henry George(2)