Great Britain

Last orders! Syd’s coffee stall in Shoreditch goes to Museum of London after 100 years

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

The historic Syd's coffee stall, one of the East End's iconic landmarks set up 100 years ago, is being donated to the Museum of London when it closes for the last time after 100 years.

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

The stall has been parked opposite Shoreditch Church in Calvert Avenue, off Shoreditch High Street, since 1919.

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

"Celebrating 100 years in March was an incredible milestone," she told the East London Advertiser. "It was one that I know Grandad would have been proud to have reached.

Jane Tothill at her granddads's old coffee stall. Picture: Museum of LondonJane Tothill at her granddads's old coffee stall. Picture: Museum of London

"But it was time for the stall to move on to tell a new story at the museum."

Great War veteran Sydney Tothill used £117 of his invalidity pension when he was demobbed to open the stall, serving drivers and conductors on the 78 bus that terminated in Calvert Avenue.

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

The sign that says it all. Picture: Museum of LondonThe sign that says it all. Picture: Museum of London

Like most "coffee stalls" of its time, it did not actually sell real coffee, but Camp-brand coffee substitute, 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 Wilson's, a German butchers in Hoxton, in a slice of bread coated in English mustard.

"I feel the museum is the best way for Syd's to continue as part of London's heritage," Jane tells you. "It's a great way to celebrate the place where you could get the best tea in London for more than 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

Syd's old coffee stall is being removed from Calvert Avenue and transported off, ready to go on display in the new museum which opens in the old West Smithfield market in 2024.

The museum's social and working history curator Vyki Sparkes 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."

Jane Tothill serves up her last cuppa today (Friday, December 20), before granddad's historic stall gets transported off to the Museum of London.

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