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Stop and have a cuppa

Sometimes you walk past a building and give it no attention whatsoever, it doesn’t matter how grand or humble it is, it just doesn’t ask you to stop and take a look at it.

The small shabby building in the middle of the photo and it’s neighbours have been slowly lapsing into decay for as long as I’ve been walking down the street which is situated not far from the British Museum. What made me stop in the first place was the thought of the original frontage seen against the decay. The two carved corbels on either side politely ask, “Please stop and look at me” and I have on many occasions. The amount of work in the In Tray at Miscellany Towers has been quite high of late, but during a break I had the opportunity to do a bit of digging.

The street in question, Museum Street started life as Peter Street and according to historian John Strype it was “a Street not over well inhabited” It seems to have changed it’s name around the early to mid 1820s some fifty years after the British Museum first opened it’s doors.

The first mention I can find regarding the buildings (If they are the originals which I doubt) is in an 1841 street directory. The numbering seems to have stayed the same over the years so the first property is number 10. My attention has always been taken by number 11, premises of Thomas Bewsher, Bootmaker, however my interest has been piqued by George Underton at number 13.

Forty years later and possibly with the buildings seen today there is a change in the block. The advent of the L&NW Railway in 1846 may have seen a change in the set up of the block, possibly only a number of years after the first directory (possibly musical tubes weren’t all that popular). There’s also a change at number 11, boots are out, books are in.

By the turn of the century number 11 caters for the more personal rather than the cerebral, the description possibly denotes a more upmarket business than just a barbers.

At the outbreak of the First World War number 10 becomes sub divided but number 11 stays the same, oh how I hope that the proprietors are one and the same and he’s just jazzed his name up a bit as they’re kinda similar.

Things get a little hazy during the inter war years and beyond, but it appears that in 1960 number 11 became a cafe, opened by husband & wife, Eugenio and Rina Corsini. For the next forty-four years the cafe served untold cuppas to it’s clientele, while cooking meals on their slightly antiquated “London” gas cooker for a mixture of locals and one or two celebs. It appears regular visitors were Diana Rigg, Bamber Gascoigne, Sir Patrick Moore and artists Gilbert & George. Towards the end of their ownership (Eugino passed away in 2000, while Rina continued to run the cafe alone for another four years) several people documented this Bloomsbury institution.

Euginio Corsini

Rina Corsini

I never knew it and I’m a little saddened that I never had an opportunity to step inside and sample it’s delights, but finding further documentation on the way the property declined into the state it is in today was even more saddening.

Having read about the cafe and the couple that ran it for so many years I can’t help thinking that the world was a slightly nicer place when you stepped through the door and took a seat.

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