the history of yeovil's pubs





rising star

Middle Street   (The British Workman's Public House)


This town centre temperance establishment opened on Fair Day, 15 November 1878 under the name of the 'Rising Star Coffee Tavern' at 90 Middle Street. Within four years it was also listed as the British Workman's Public House.

While not strictly falling within my guidelines for inclusion as a public house, I include the Rising Star for interest.

The Coffee Tavern was a phenomenon of the 1870's and related to the Temperance Movement in as much as they saw the need to offer an alternative to the public house proper.

The idea of the Coffee Tavern was that it was, to quote Peter Haydon's 'The English Pub' - "supposed to look and feel like a public house, offering food, coffee, tea and a variety of non-alcoholic beverages, and even early attempts at alcohol-free beers, such as Cox's Anti-Burton. (see advert left - available in casks from 9 gallons upwards!).

There were not many aspects of the public house life that they did not try to imitate, but even the best of them could not help but sanitise what it attempted to replicate and the overall effect never really rose above a slightly sanctimonious pastiche.

The people who ran the underwriting organisation that founded these coffee public houses - the Coffee Tavern Co (1870) and the Coffee Public House Association (1877) - disliked the genuine pub too intensely to reproduce them without resorting to sermonising of one sort or another. In addition, "Their tea, coffee and food were frequently disgusting and the surroundings they provided were gloomy and squalid enough to be compared to a workhouse dining hall." (Giroud, Victorian Pubs)."

The history of Yeovil's Rising Star Coffee Tavern began in 1876 when Miss Ada Hunt (daughter of Dr William Hunt Snr) asked Rev A Phillips (who had just come to Yeovil) to start a branch of the Church of England Temperance Society. An Association was formed, comprised mainly of ladies from the more genteel of Yeovil families. They embarked on a period of fund raising and by 1878 necessary funds had been raised for the ladies to purchase a coffee barrow "which proved a great success, not financially, but in other ways". Several people then suggested establishing a coffee tavern and a further period of fund raising ensued in order to acquire premises. A permanent committee was formed and a grand bazaar organised. The bazaar was such as success that the ladies raised the enormous sum of £400 (around £36,000 at today's value) and borrowing a further £300 they had enough to purchase the premises in Middle Street.

The enterprise was managed for four years by Mr and Mrs Phillip Scettrino but the Committee of ladies finally disposed of the building in August 1883, making a profit of some £500 which, they decided would be used "to providing a room or rooms for holding temperance meetings, and meetings for kindred purposes."

The Rising Star didn't make the newspapers again until 1909, when it was again put up for sale. The sale details (see Gallery) give an excellent description of the Rising Star's fixtures and fittings.

Also in Yeovil, between 1894 and 1919, was the 'Come and Welcome Coffee Tavern' at 5 Wine Street.

So there you have it - little wonder there are so few references to temperance-style coffee taverns in a town with, at the time, well over 60 pubs and some thirty beerhouses!




A report of a Temperance Society meeting referring to their efforts to establish a British Workman Public House in the 5 April 1878 edition of the Western Gazette.


.... and the announcement of its opening in the 6 December 1878 edition of the Western Gazette.


Courtesy of Rob Baker

The notice of sale by auction of the Rising Star from the 23 July 1909 issue of the Western Gazette with a very full description of the fixtures and fittings.




1878 – Manager: Mr Scettrino. Opened Friday, 15 November 1878 (Fair Day) under the name
           of the 'Rising Star Coffee Tavern.
1882 – (Whitby's 1882 Yeovil Almanack Advertiser) listed as British Workingman's Public House,
            Middle Street

1909 – Thomas Burrows (see Notice of Sale above) listed as 'The Rising Star'