Rachel’s award-winning tea rooms

At Country Court, we believe that learning about our resident’s lives helps us to get to know them better, thereby enabling us to provide more personalised care and support. During local history month, we’ve been hearing some fascinating stories about residents’ achievements during their lifetimes.

Tallington Lodge Care Home resident, ninety-nine-year-old Rachel Carrington, ran a successful tea room in Over Haddon near Bakewell, Derbyshire. When she moved from Bakewell to the small hamlet on the edges of Lathkill Dale, in the late 1960’s Rachel realised there was an opportunity to cater for the many hungry and thirsty walkers who made their way up the hill from the Dale below. In the summer of 1977, the ‘Lathkill Cottage Tea Rooms’ was born, and the Carrington family dining room was commandeered.

I had five children.” explains Rachel “So I was used to catering for large numbers, cooking for a big family was like running a canteen”.

A traditional English Afternoon Tea

Everything at the tea rooms was ‘homemade’ (except for the bread and butter) and included light lunches and afternoon teas. Delights such as the famous Bakewell Pudding, scones, brownies, parkin (a gingerbread cake traditionally made with oatmeal and black treacle) and lemon drizzle cake were served. Knowing that she couldn’t manage a full café of 20 seats Rachel enlisted a friend, Audrey Holding, as a partner in the enterprise.

Rachel remembers Audrey was the creative one and she the more business-like. Young people from the village came to serve the tea and the WI helped make the cakes.

We started the business because people used to call into the pub when they were out walking but complained that the publican couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings to make them any food. We started to serve tea and cake to walkers. People used to just come and sit on the terrace, it was nothing fancy but we liked doing it

We made scones in the aga and Cornish pasties, they were very popular. We moved the operation into the dining room. I don’t think my husband was too keen on that. He would come and total up the accounts at the end of the week but the rest of the time it was up to us.”

Our most famous customer must have been Sir Maurice Oldfield who was head of MI6 for a time. He grew up in Over Haddon and went to school in Bakewell. Because of his position, he had police guards, so we used to make them tea and take it to them whilst they hid in the bus shelter!

Make Teatime Special

Six months after opening, Rachel and Audrey entered the ‘Make Teatime Special’ Lyons Tetley competition with cash prizes and a stay, with afternoon tea, at the Selfridge Hotel in London. According to Lyons Tetley, “The object of the competition was to revive interest in this uniquely English meal and promote higher standards and better value for money in its service."  Three national prize winners would be found throughout England and the family were put on full alert to spot the judges when they came.

I remember the judge came at 5 pm, right at the end of service,” Said Rachel “They had a full cream tea; they must have liked it because we won the regional competition”.

Within a few weeks, they learnt they had won the third prize in the national competition and the accolade “Highly recommended, idyllic rural situation; food all freshly made; good atmosphere”.

The competition made the New York Times where the article explains how the contest was aimed at restoring tea to the number one drink in England following an increase in the popularity of instant coffee and orange squash!

An extract from the article in The New York Times, 3rd October 1979

In a teatime competition of some 100 tea rooms, restaurants and hotels throughout England. The competition, co-sponsored by the English Tourist Board and a London tea company, was aimed at restoring tea to the pre‐eminent position it held two decades ago before it was engulfed by a tidal wave of instant coffee and orange squash.

With the average Englishman still downing five “cuppas” daily to less than two cups of coffee, however, the sponsors’ anxiety inevitably evoked comparisons with a tempest in a teapot.

“It's a bit like saying that the QE2 has a pinhole in the hull and is sinking,” remarked Jim Munday, marketing director for the London Tea Council.

Even the most hidebound traditionalist could extract some tea and sympathy from the response when the contest was started last April.

Rachel’s Bakewell Tart gets a mention in the article too:

The third‐place winner, the cosy Lathkill Cottage Tea Room in Over Haddon near Bakewell, Derbyshire, serves the famous Bakewell tart peculiar to the East Midlands. Following the traditional formula, the tea room owner, Rachel Carrington, lines the tart with raspberry jam and fills it with a mixture of eggs, butter, sugar and ground almonds. She said that, according to legend, the jam was originally supposed to go on top, but a teatime cook about 200 years ago “Just got it wrong.”

Do you have a story to share about your loved one? We’d love to hear from you please get in touch with marketing@countrycourtcare.com.

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