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Former Eastgates Coffee House, Leicester

Description: Former Eastgates Coffee House

Grade: II
Date Listed: 2 June 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1399769

OS Grid Reference: SK5873404637
OS Grid Coordinates: 458734, 304637
Latitude/Longitude: 52.6363, -1.1335

Locality: Leicester
County: Leicester
Country: England
Postcode: LE1 1WT

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Listing Text


Coffee House of 1885 by Edward Burgess, with C20 and C21 alterations

Reason for Listing

The former Eastgates Coffee House, Leicester, of 1885 and by Edward Burgess, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural Interest: the profusion of carved and moulded decorative detailing creates an eye catching building of considerable architectural ambition. It has good compositional qualities and strong presence in the townscape.

* Rarity: It is a good example of an uncommon building type that shares features with George and Peto's Ossington Coffee Tavern in Newark which is considered to represent the architectural high-water mark of Temperance architecture.

* Historical Interest: as a purpose-built coffee house it is part of a limited architectural legacy left by the Temperance movement, a considerable cultural force in the mid-late-C19.

* Group value: for its strong group value with the Clock Tower (Listed at Grade II).


The Temperance Movement of the early-C19 initially opposed the consumption of spirits, but otherwise condoned drinking in moderation. However by the late 1830s the societies began only to accept total abstinence. This led to the need for buildings in which social and educational gatherings could be held and where entertainment and refreshments could be provided in a teetotal environment. The coffee house culture prevailed and purpose-built establishments were often of ambitious scale and took on the appearance of public houses in an attempt to seem a credible alternative to such establishments. Examples such as 'The Man of Kent' Temperance Hotel (listed Grade II) mimic the flamboyance of the late Victorian 'gin-palaces'.

In Leicester the promotion of coffee houses was taken up in 1877, when the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa House Company was formed on 25th July, with the aim of providing general refreshment: "no wine, ale or spirituous, or intoxicating liquors shall be sold or provided by the company, or consumed at any of their houses, rooms, stalls or places". A total of eight establishments were built by the company, characterised by airiness, brightness and comfort, with newspapers and amusements available. It was acknowledged that the quality of the decoration, fittings, cleanliness and order surpassed anything formerly available except at a high price. Both men and women frequented the houses and appreciated the accessibility and sociability of the environment.

Eastgates Coffee House was built in 1885 to a design by Edward Burgess to replicate, at least in part, George and Peto's Ossington Coffee Tavern in Newark, Nottinghamshire, which was built in 1882 and is now listed at Grade II*. Eastgates was built in the domestic style of the C16 and was opened by the Duchess of Rutland on 5th June 1885. The establishment had a reputation for the quality of its refreshments and pleasant surroundings, and became a noted meeting place for doctors, solicitors and other professionals. Burgess, who was the brother of Alfred Howard Burgess, the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa House Company's solicitor, designed six of the Leicester coffee houses. The Highcross in the High Street and the Victoria, Granby Street, are both listed at Grade II.

The Leicester Cocoa and Coffee House movement appears to have waned during the First World War, and by 1921 only one of the coffee houses was making a profit. The last five of the Leicester coffee and cocoa houses were advertised for sale in April 1921. A photograph taken of Eastgates in 1955 shows tall chimney stacks either side of the rear attic gable but these have now been removed. A C20 extension has been added to the rear of the building.


Built of brick, which is now painted, with ashlar dressings and a plain slate roof. On the roof is a square, lead-capped, cupola.

The Eastgates Coffee House is in an ecclectic, C16 timber-framed style, dominated by elaborate windows and close-studded and jettied gables. The single-bay front elevation, has an elliptical arched window on the ground floor and a plain entrance to the left. Although respecting the original shape of the late-C19 windows and doors, these have been modified and are of C20 design. On the first-floor is an elaborate curved timber oriel window, supported on carved wooden brackets, with moulded eaves, a central elliptical arch, and lozenge and diamond-shaped leaded lights. A three-light leaded casement to the left, above the door, balances the symmetry of the East Gates façade. Above again, is a jettied attic gable with applied close-studwork, and moulded wooden eaves, embellished with pargetting and carved wooden detail in the apex. Central to the attic window, and the oriel window beneath, are moulded figures holding musical instruments.

The main entrance is in the canted corner of the building with a segmental pediment doorway and ashlar hood mould, which is now encased in lead. Above the door is a casement oriel window with moulded wooden eaves and lozenge and diamond-shaped leaded lights. The elaborate mullions and transoms are lavishly decorated with four figures, each depicted on an individual moulded balcony, three holding musical instruments: a harp; cymbals and a small stringed instrument. The fourth appears to have an arm which probably held a musical instrument, now missing. The depiction of the musical instruments could be a reference to the entertainment offered in the establishment and the contribution music made to the overall ambience of the coffee house.

The Church Gate façade is seven bays deep and again of two storeys with attic and basement beneath three jettied gables. The ground floor is dominated by the C20 shop front, but the shape of the windows respect the late-C19 elliptical arcade, and it would appear that the ashlar hood moulds survive encased in lead. The arches were originally narrower with moulded ashlar dressings both above and between, but some detail has been lost in the C20 alterations. The first two bays of the first floor are marked by two ornate oriel windows again with moulded eaves and figures. Within each of the twin gables above is a ten-light mullioned and transomed window, with moulded decoration and figures. The remaining five bays of the first-floor are defined by elaborate crossed-mullion windows similar in design to the oriels. A single, prominent gable above the fifth and sixth bay is simpler in design than those at the front of the building, with a horizontal, six-light casement window divided centrally by a carved wooden panel.

The basement and ground floor are fitted throughout with C21 shop fittings. The ceilings and lighting are suspended, with evidence, most certainly on the first floor, that the original wood panelling survives on the underlying ceiling. At first-floor level the front oriel windows create a bright, naturally lit and airy environment. The floor has been altered to accommodate the C20 staircase, and the windows at first-floor level along Church Gate have been blocked by shop fittings and stockroom storage units. It is possible that other features such as fireplaces survive behind modern fittings. In the attic the original roof structure survives: an arch-braced collar truss with a moulded king strut and twin angle struts. It has two tiers of side purlins with a ridge purlin and provides a spacious, open and airy room. In addition, wood panelling survives throughout and provides internal decorative detail to the recessed windows which are so lavishly decorated externally.

The extension to the rear of the building accommodates a lift shaft and office space, but has no architectural or historical interest.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.