Shenley Post Office & Star Coffee Tavern, Shenley


The Post Office and Coffee Tavern

The back of the card is consistent with a publication date circa 1904 and in any case the picture cannot be later that 1907, as the same image appears in a multi-view post card posted in 1907. Unfortunately neither of the post cards have any publisher information,


In the picture the Star Coffee Tavern is clearly the large house with the post office being the shop to the right with the name J A Tidey over the door. The big house is still standing (2016), with the address "The Old Post Office," 1 New Road, Shenley. But Tidey's shop is clearly marked as the post office in the picture. What is happening,


In the 1891 census there are three almost adjacent properties along London Road, Shenley. One was a bakers shop occupied by William Scales, then there was the "Club House" and then Tidey's grocers shop, which continued in the family for many years.. A provisional search of trade directories and census returns shows that the post office was run by William Scales, a baker until some time after 1901, when he was succeeded as postmaster by another baker, George Funnell who went bankrupt in 1903.  By 1911 Richard Willmott was postmaster, possibly at a different address. The only reference to the Star Coffee Tavern is in a 1890 trade directory, when it was run by George Dashwood.


The Club House was in operation by 1881 and still in existence as "Shenley Men's Club" in 1932. A possible explanation is that the bakers shop and the Club House were both in the same building until 1903 when Funnell went bankrupt - and for a short time the job of postmaster was taken on temporally by James Arthur Tidy in the nearby grocers shop. However by 1912 the job of postmaster moved elsewhere. This suggests that the photograph was taken shortly after George Funnell's bankruptcy - so must be between 1903 and 1905 - when the picture was already appearing on post cards.


The big question relates to the Star Coffee Tavern, clearly in existence in 1890 and apparently still there when the photograph was taken in about 1904. Was it just part of the Club House, or was it a separate organisation?

Jon Mein writes: Shenley Star Coffee Tavern opened in June 1880 (Herts Ad report 19/6/1880). It was part of a wave of new temperance coffee taverns opened across the country around 1880. Many (most?) were philanthropic in foundation; the remainder were established as companies like the one in St Albans (at the top of French Row). The local Dashwood family paid for the Shenley tavern so it falls in the former category. I am not sure when it shut.

If you have any further relevant information I would love to hear from you.

January 2016   Analysis added