Great Britain

Last orders: Shoreditch coffee stall Syd’s to be donated to Museum of London once trading ceases

Cheryl Diamond (left) and Jane Tothill serving customer at Syd’s coffee stall. Picture: Museum of London

Cheryl Diamond (left) and Jane Tothill serving customer at Syd's coffee stall. Picture: Museum of London

© Museum of London

Syd's coffee stall will be donated to the Museum of London's collection when it closes for business for the last time tomorrow, after over 100 years of trading.

The original owner, Syd Tothill, at his coffee stall. Picture: Museum of LondonThe original owner, Syd Tothill, at his coffee stall. Picture: Museum of London

A bastion for the East End, the stall has sat in Calvert Avenue, off Shoreditch High Street, since 1919.

It has been passed down through three generations from Syd Tothill to the current owner, Jane Tothill, his granddaughter, who in turn has run it for over 30 years, serving fresh filled rolls, coffee, and loose leaf tea.

The stall began in 1919 when First World War veteran Sydney Edward Tothill used £117 of his invalidity pension to commission it.

A coachbuilder in Hackney Road custom-built the stall from mahogany with etched glass and brass fittings.

Syd Tothill Junior at Syd's Coffee Stall in its heyday. Picture: Museum of LondonSyd Tothill Junior at Syd's Coffee Stall in its heyday. Picture: Museum of London

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Like most "coffee stalls" of its time it did not actually sell real coffee, but "Camp coffee" - a brown liquid made of coffee-bean essence, chicory and sugar. It also sold tea, cocoa and Bovex, or the "poor man's Bovril". The most popular snack was a "Sav and a slice at Syd's" - a Saveloy sausage supplied by Wilsons, a German butchers in Hoxton, in a slice of bread coated in English mustard.

Owner Jane said: "Celebrating 100 years of service in March was an incredible milestone and one that I know Grandad would have been proud to have reached. These celebrations led to my decision that it was time for the stall to move on to tell a new story at the Museum of London.

"I feel it is the best way for Syd's to continue as part of London's heritage and a great way to celebrate the place where you could get the best tea in London for over 100 years."

A site you won't see any more in Calvert Avenue after 100 years of Syd's coffee stall. Picture: Museum of LondonA site you won't see any more in Calvert Avenue after 100 years of Syd's coffee stall. Picture: Museum of London

With the support of staff at Hackney Council, the coffee stall will be removed from Calvert Avenue and transferred to the stored collections of the Museum of London, ready to go on display in its new museum when it opens in the old West Smithfield market building in 2024.

Vyki Sparkes, curator of social and working history at the museum, said: "Syd's is an invaluable piece of our shared history as Londoners, a quiet witness to the challenges and changes in the heart of the East End over the last 100 years. We look forward to sharing its fascinating story with our visitors in the new museum."

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