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The Stokes Tea & Coffee Journey

Stokes Tea and Coffee all began in 1892 when one fine gentleman, Mr Robert William Stokes, moved to our glorious city of Lincoln. Four generations, more than a century, and many a brew later, we’re still going strong.


The High Bridge is built over the River Witham. Today, it stands as the only medieval bridge in the UK that still has houses upon it.


Our marvellous, higgedly piggedly Tudor building is lovingly constructed on the ancient medieval bridge in Lincoln.


Blimey, there’s fire at the High Bridge! Fortunately, the occupants (and the beautiful building that one day became our café) survive with only minor injuries…phew!


At just twenty years old, young whippersnapper Robert Stokes moves to Lincoln and bags himself a job at a grocer’s on Guildhall Street.


Confectioner Henry Kirk-White, an occupier of the High Bridge since 1869, gives our building a bit of TLC. Under the guidance of architect William Watkins and the ever watchful eye of Lincoln Corporation, he restored the original façade back to its former glory.


Robert Stokes takes the reins of the grocer’s business and begins to indulge in his love for the finest teas and coffees.


Robert wins his first medal for his marvellous coffee roasting skills. His remarkable thirst for knowledge means this is the first of many.


By now, Robert has scooped up almost three dozen awards – bravo Robert! He then takes the plunge to buy his very first café, the old Coffee Palace renaming it ‘the Arcadia’.


“Quick! Get the silver, the KING is coming for tea!” The future king, George VI, was appointed Officer at the Royal Naval Air services in Cranwell. George (or Bertie) visited the Arcadia Café several times. On one occasion, Mr Stokes’ sixteen year old daughter Janet was sent home on her bicycle to fetch the family silver as the Prince was coming for tea.


During this year, Marks and Spencer’s had their sights set on the Arcadia Cafe. Unwilling to part with his ‘baby’, he named a price he thought they couldn’t possibly match. The very next day, there was a cheque on the doormat for the full amount and Robert upped sticks and moved one door up to our High Bridge Café. The very next week, he became a grandfather to his daughter Janet’s son, David.


“Oops, there goes the High Bridge.” A bomb drops in the River Witham as the Stokes family take tea at home. They are sure to finish every last drop before they dash off to check on any damage (you just don’t waste Gold Medal).


Son of R W Stokes, Major Robert Donald Stokes is killed in action on the final day the enemy were driven from Conteville, Normandy. He was killed along with several other men from the Army’s Royal Lincolnshire Regiment.


The Big Freeze of 1947 saw all of our pipes frozen solid for weeks. Every drop of water had to be carried by bucket! By golly, we really do go further for that perfect brew.


Extensive works were carried out on the River Witham during the summer of 1950, with a view to easing the flood situation in winter time. The river was drained from Brayford Head to Stamp End, and the channel under High Bridge was deepened.


Our founder, Robert William Stokes, dies at the age of 78 leaving behind a widow and children Janet, Osmond (known as ‘Josty’) and Babs.


The Mau Mau Uprising threatened the very life of Osmond (Josty) Stokes and other Europeans in Kenya. For him, this meant fleeing from his beloved coffee plantation and coming back home to Blighty.


This is the year our Master Roaster is born. Welcome to the world, Adrian!


David Peel, Robert’s grandson, invents our Blue Mountain Blend which is still our most popular and best loved coffee today. Spiffing job David.


Florence Wright, a waitress who worked for Stokes as a girl and stayed for over forty years, invents Flo’s Mix, a magnificent blend of tea, which is well and truly loved by our customers.


Little Nicholas Peel is born. This tiny, red-faced infant will grow up to be our brilliant Managing Director.


David Peel visits an exhibition in Birmingham and sees Bravilor machines for the first time. This sparks the start of the Stokes wholesale business, where we loan coffee machines to other businesses to help them brew the Stokes way.


Stokes commissions one of the first packing machines in the country. David Peel, rather to the consternation of his other staff, calls it his ‘star performer’.


To celebrate our Centenary, our staff dressed in period costume and served traditional fare at 1902 prices – I say, what a bargain!


Stokes extends and opens a café on the ground floor, offering lighter refreshments in the form of snacks and cakes whilst the hungrier shoppers can still enjoy the dining rooms upstairs.


The Stokes Tea & Coffee team open up a new café in the heart of the Collection Museum, a bright, modern place where hungry customers can enjoy crêpes, mimosas and live musicians (although please do note, the musicians are not for eating).


Stokes move from their original offices and warehouse to The Lawn, a Grade II listed Georgian building in Lincoln, opening a third café, roastery and Barista Training Centre in the complex.


Stokes Tea & Coffee is now fabulously run by Robert’s great grandson, Nick. More than a century since R.W. Stokes first chose to specialise in tea and coffee, the fourth generation are still doing him proud.

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