Older residents recall with nostalgia Upminster’s Cosy Corner Café, which was a distinctive feature of the Bell crossroads until it was demolished by Hornchurch UDC in January 1957 in the name of “progress”, to make way for road widening and improvements to the junction.
The Upminster Hall manorial court records for June 1831 record that William Hammond was given approval for enclosing part of the manorial roadside waste on which a butcher’s shop occupied by Edward Oakes had been built. From the Upminster rating lists we can date this development a month or two earlier, dating after the return of 4th April and before that 31st May 1831. The baptism record in Upminster for Edward and Harriet Oakes’ daughter Emma in June 1829 lists Edward’s occupation as a servant (an earlier record shows him as a “groom”), but by the time their daughter Sarah was baptised on 31st October 1830 his occupation was now a butcher.
The timber and plaster building, roofed with slate, surprisingly had four bedrooms, no doubt put to good use by the Oakes family and their nine children, ranging in age from 15 down to two years old, all living there in 1841. Oakes also had access to a coach house and other buildings at the rear, one of which presumably was used by him as his slaughter-house. At the rear was a right of way for the Branfill family to access their coach house, if needed and this passage way was to remain as a feature throughout the building’s life.
Edward Oakes continued to trade as a butcher there until the early 1840s when the family seem to have moved to London. The property was sold after William Hammond’s death in 1862 and was bought for £380 by William Sparrow Brett, a Hornchurch plumber. By the late 1860s Henry Knightbridge’s butchers was being operated there and he remained in business until the 1880s. By this time the property had changed hands again: it was bought in 1874 for £230 by William Rowe, who enfranchised (bought the freehold of) the premises. Rowe sold it for £350 to his son William Henry Rowe in 1884.
Thomas Nathaniel Lavender is the next person known to have operated a butchers there from around 1887, four years before his marriage to Annie Aggis. After Lavender built a new butcher’s shop built immediately to the north in 1899, the Rowe family operated the former butcher’s shop as a grocers & drapery. The former coach house and other buildings at the rear became part of the new butchers, as they were no longer needed by the old butcher’s shop.
In 1909 Arthur George Burgess, a Romford tobacconist, bought the premises from William Rowe for £650, partly financed by a mortgage of £400 from Rowe. It was Burgess who established a confectioners’ shop in the former butcher’s premises to which he gave the name “The Cosy Corner”, by which it was known for the rest of its life. The following year Burgess issued a series of postcards called “The Cosy Corner Series” showing local Upminster landmarks.
Old photos show that around the First World War the Cosy Corner was also publicised as “The Cyclists Rest”. Herbert (“Bert”) Cockman was the occupier in the 1911 census with his wife Lilian who is believed to have run the Cosy Corner confectioners’ shop. Bert Cockman was the Secretary of the Upminster Thursday Football Club and the club are said to have used the premises as their changing rooms, and also held their AGM there.
By April 1918 William Grove was the proprietor and in 1921 Burgess sold Cosy Corner to him for £800. Five years later in 1926 Grove leased the premises described as “The Cosy Corner Tea Rooms” to Mrs Honor Barry of Barking for £70 per annum, before selling to Herbert Finch for £2,250 in 1932.
It seems that Finch, a Romford builder, bought the business for his son Sydney, a Romford tobacconist, who ran the confectioner’s business along with his wife. Sydney bought the business from his father in 1942 for £3,000 and continued to run the Cosy Corner in the years after the war period before selling to Frederick Brooks of Gidea Park for £4,500 in May 1948.
What had started out as a pleasant place to stop on a journey, alongside a quiet country lane, had by now been increasingly hemmed in by recent building developments. The neighbouring butcher’s shop built by Lavender, later run by Leonard Jupp, was acquired by Lloyds Bank in around 1928 who converted it to form a bank premises, with a self-contained flat above, providing living accommodation for one of the bank clerks.
Beyond Lloyds Bank was a storage hut which housed Upminster’s hand-pumped fire cart used by the parish volunteer fire brigade after its formation in 1909. This was relocated to the Clock House after the parish acquired it in 1924, and the shed later became a small shop called The Bureau. Beyond this was Wilson’s America Lodge and carpenter’s yard, later Albert Parrish’s contractors, and later still Green Stores.
The whole corner behind the Cosy Corner was redeveloped as a parade which dwarfed the old butcher’s shop building which had been erected in the Georgian era over a century earlier. This parade development remained unfinished during the war years and the old Lloyds Bank building continued in use until the completion of the new bank made it surplus to requirements and it was demolished.
Residents fondly recall morning coffee and afternoon teas taken in the open air on the outside within the picket fence, and buying “Dicky Birds” ice creams from the window at the front. But after the war the premises’ days were numbered. The remodelling of the road junction and the installation of traffic lights in the early 1950s, some 20 years after they were promised, together with the survival of a narrow passage way at the back of the Cosy Corner and between the new bank building, restricted access.
In January 1956 Fredrick Brooks sold the Cosy Corner to Hornchurch UDC for £6,150 and it was a sad day when the building, part of the local scene for over 125 years, was finally demolished in January 1957.