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Tinley's Cafe, Cathedral Yard

Page updated 16th December 2013

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This tea shop and restaurant served the people of Exeter and visitors alike, for many years, from premises that give one of the finest views of the Cathedral there is.

Situated on one side of Broadgate, parts of the rear interior of Tinley's (Pizza Express) date from the 16th-century. The old Broadgate and the timber fronted buildings on each side were set back from Cathedral Yard. In the front, in line with the present buildings were low, largely single story shops lining the close. So there was a front row of single story buildings backed by medieval, timber fronted houses. It is thought that the premises first opened as an eating house in 1793 while there is a record from 1816, of the corner premises in use as a confectioners, run by the Misses Smale.

The old Broadgate was demolished in December 1824 and the carriageway between the High Street and Cathedral Yard widened. The corner building was constructed in 1825, with a narrow front curving round to the side along the new Broadgate thoroughfare. The adjacent single story shop was built over and blended into the corner building in 1830 and is essentially the building as seen today.

For a number of years during the 1840s and early 1850s, part of the premises was occupied by Miss Charlotte Dobbs' Honiton lace business. She married Mr Treadwin, a watchmaker from Cathedral Yard in 1850, and moved to 5 Cathedral Close to trade as Mrs Charlotte Treadwin around about 1867. 

Murch's Restaurant

The first reference to Murch's, the confectioners in the Flying Post, was an advert for a young person to manage a dairy and kitchen in 1849. Established in 1780, Murch's were also cooks, confectioners and caterers. Sarah Murch, widow, is listed in the 1861 census at the address as a confectioner. Her son James was working for her while her second son had become an ironmonger's assistant and her youngest child, Sarah was a shop assistant. James Murch, Sarah Murch's late husband had been a wine merchant in South Street until his death in 1854. By 1890 the business had evolved into Murch and Goff, confectioners and restaurant. For some strange reason they were also agents for "... the magical polish for ballroom floors." Adverts from the Edwardian period and First War show Murch's Cathedral Restaurant and Cafe still in the building.

Arts and crafts

During the 1920's, the premises were used for an arts and crafts business called Glebelands. Selling Honiton lace, pictures, jewelry, pottery, candies and toys, they were well placed to take advantage of the tourists visiting the Cathedral.

Tinley's opens

It was in 1930 that Mrs Tinley opened her famous tearooms and had the Tinley's sign fixed across the top of the building. Luncheons in the 1930's cost 1s 4d and 1s 8d (about 7p and 8p) and people would drop in for a 'waffle and quick lunch'. At first, the shop baked 2 dozen savories per day, but by 1965, their bakery in Sidwell Street was turning out 200 dozen! The bombing of 1942, spared many buildings in Cathedral Close. However, the proximity of so many large explosions caused movement in the upper floors and Tinley's had to be evacuated to a new cafe in Blackboy Road, while the building was reinforced with steel.

In 1961, Mr and Mrs Reginald Ellis took over the teashop, retaining the name, and in 1965 they opened their Sidwell Street premises. Another change of ownership occurred in 1987 when Pascal and Jane Thomas took over, but after a dispute with their landlords, the teashop finally closed as Tinley's in August 1992. In March 1993 it reopened, named French Sticks. Gone was the English style afternoon tea, and in was coffee, croissants and French pastries. The new owners tried to introduce tables on the pavement, but the City Council saw fit to stop them, and within two years they had closed.

The premises were taken over by Pizza Express and Exeter Archaeology called to investigate the premises before a refitting. They established that the oldest parts of the building dated from the 16th-century and there was no evidence of the old Cathedral Close wall running through the building. After refurbishment, Pizza Express were open for business by 1996. Pizza Express has done a good job at retaining many of the features of the old building, and even their sign out side is nicely subdued, while keeping the striking Tinley's sign across the top of the building.

Source: Various sources including Gates of the Close by M Fodor and Exeter guidebooks from 1910 to 1930. Exeter City Council Timetrail, the Express and Echo, Flying Post and Dick Passmore.

Pizza Express Broadgate before 1824 showing the building on the right, that would evolve into the Tinleys building. Pizza ExpressPizza Express with the Tinley's sign over, at Broadgate. Pizza Express An Edwardian advert for Murch's.

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