#ThrowbackThursday: Coffee Bar 57

#ThrowbackThursday: Coffee Bar 57



This summer’s Britain in the Fifties: Design and Aspiration exhibition touches on the memories of those who lived through it and those who admire its aesthetic. As much as our exhibition has items loaned from other collections, Compton Verney has the local community to thank too. Without them, the 1950s takeover would not be complete.


This week’s #ThrowbackThursday is not about the objects lent to the exhibition itself, but about the refurbishment of our Gallery Café.


Coffee Bar 57 Throwback Fifties  Coffee Bar 57 Throwback Fifties


The Fifties saw to a growing population of coffee guzzlers. It was never rationed during war time as the nation preferred to sip on tea. But with the increasing amount of coffee bars which popped up in London’s Soho, these places were where the youngsters of the day preferred to be. They offered the alternative to the old fashioned tea-rooms and the smoky pubs. It was not long until these coffee bars were spread across the country. In America, these places were at the heart of the Beatnik Movement – mirroring the centrality of the salon during the French Revolution.


Aside from the food and drink at the centre of our Coffee Bar 57, what ties it all together is the 1954 Wurlitzer Juke Box. It is on loan from Ken Bates, who for him:

‘Music has always been important in my life and I grew up in the 1950s to the backdrop of Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, The Big Bopper and Connie Francis etc. My parents bought a single every Saturday and played it through the week; so many of the songs of the fifties are etched in my mind, and anchor many memories of my childhood. Consequently, I was an early adopter of a Dansette record player and my first purchase of vinyl  came in the Fifties when I was around 6 years old.

Jukeboxes were part of that experience. I used to go to a coffee bar in London with my parents where one stood in the corner in all it’s lit-up glory. It was an icon of the modern era and, as a small child, represented the emerging modernity of show business and the rock and roll era.

As an adult I still am a little retro in my taste, and love the design of the 50s and 60s. My partner and I bought our Wurlitzer 10 years ago; it sits in our kitchen like a shining beacon of the past. Saturday mornings fill the house with songs from the 50s and other eras; so my parents record collection lives on through the Wurlitzer and the memories associated with such happy times!

I love the Juke Box for its iconic design, the fact that it is always a talking point stimulating the memories of friends and visitors to our house, and is being cherished as an object for others in the future to enjoy.’

Fifties Jukebox



If you’d like to reminisce, come along to Britain in the Fifties: Design and Aspiration