Although our company history began in 1837 at the start of the Victorian Era, The Music Room was built at the height of the Enlightenment in 1730 and The Hall in the Art Deco days of 1936 - The 21st Century resurrection began when Ian and Sue left their creative careers in Textiles and Television and devoted themselves to rejuvenating the business affairs of this much-loved local institution with an infusion of fresh blood... To find out more, follow the Golden Thread of our History
“It’s a family business affair...”
Welcome to Atkinsons - Our story began in the auspicious year of 1837 when a young Queen came to the throne of an empire on which the Sun never set. Tea, coffee, sugar & all kinds of exotic spices came from the four corners of the globe to land on St George's quay in the City Palatine of Lancaster. A boom town that had just built 60 warships on the banks of the Lune in the last twenty years of the Napoleonic Wars, which explains why, to this very day, there are no trees in the Forest of Bowland.
With no more Human Traffic being brought into the Hanging Town, a young Quaker named Thomas Atkinson thought it a good place to open his "Grasshopper Tea Warehouse - also for the sale of coffee, spices, refined sugar & London prepared chocolate" - as the half-page ad on the front of the newly opened Lancaster Guardian proclaimed. He named the company J. Atkinson & Co. after the love of his life, his young wife Jane. With his logo, the quality mark of a Grasshopper & his slogan, a mission statement for excellence - "The Grasshopper only eats the Finest of Leaves" - it could be argued that the media-savvy Tom had the point of difference over the six other Tea Merchants already plying their trade in the city at that time. Not got long was he to remain at his first address of No. 1 Cheapside…
Both Jane and the now middle-aged monarch, Victoria, entered widowhood together as the century entered its 6th decade. Both women were to leave a lasting legacy of very different dimensions. As Atkinsons moved up in the world & Thomas Jnr took up the reins, so they also moved up to a splendid new warehouse on Castle Hill directly opposite the stately pile of the Duke of Lancaster.
By now as the Industrial Revolution moved into top gear, the small outlying village of Manchester began to eclipse its County Town of Lancaster. Flexing its mighty manufacturing muscle required millions of gallons of tea to slake the thirst of its ever-growing workforce. No longer the precious commodity of the privileged few, Tea became the energy drink that powered the human cogs of the industrial proletariat.
And so, as the old queen and the old century passed away together, new developments were afoot in Lancaster. Atkinsons relinquished there warehouse on the hill to set up shop on the newly widened main road of China St. Where it stands to this day with many of the artefacts & general paraphernalia still in daily use. To the delight of the teetotal Quakers, this previous den of iniquity, known as The Lord Nelson, became the salubrious Tea & Coffee Emporium it is to this very day.
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