Renowned local coffee roasters and tea specialists Atkinsons have been selected by the Duchy of Lancaster to open and run the new purpose-built visitor cafe at Lancaster Castle. The announcement was made as plans were finalised for the new space to be unveiled to the public for the first time, at the beginning of November.
The facility includes a stunning bar area in what was original prison kitchen building and a purpose-built café space under the Castle’s original curtain wall, with bi-fold doors opening onto a new South-facing courtyard terrace. The interior fit-out of the two cavernous rooms has been designed by Maitland Steel and reflects the company’s well-established branding and contemporary design style. The menu will feature a range of specialist teas and coffees, artisan sandwiches, cakes and snacks.
Commenting on the new venue, Atkinsons ‘Keeper of the Flame’ Ian Steel said: “This is a once in a millennium opportunity to bring one of the city’s best-loved and home-grown brands to its most important and iconic building. We are delighted to be part of this regeneration of forgotten parts of Lancaster Castle, never before seen in living memory and look forward to welcoming visitors and long-standing customers alike to our new venture. We will continue to operate The Hall and The Music Room alongside The Castle, drawing on our experience to rotate the team as appropriate. We aim to make this the best Speciality Café in a major Heritage attraction in the country! We are so grateful for the Duchy’s enlightened approach in offering this opportunity to a local independent trader. It’s an exciting time for Atkinsons, for the Castle and for Lancaster as a whole.”
The extensive conservation works undertaken at Lancaster Castle over the last 2 years have not just opened up the historic kitchen courtyard, with access to the King’s Evidence and Male Felons Towers beyond but also extended to a grand sweeping piazza right down to the John o’Gaunt Gateway.
Part of the curtain wall has been lowered restoring the original sightlines to the Priory and a new covered cloister walk has been uncovered along the western side of the square. A new teaching suite and gallery space have also been created in the lower courtyard.
Commenting on the appointment of Atkinsons to run the new Visitor Café, Duchy CEO Nathan Thompson said: “We are always very keen to support local entrepreneurs and partner with the very best in class. Atkinsons is one of Lancaster’s many success stories and as a family-owned business their ethos and values are closely aligned to our own. We are delighted that they want to play their part in the regeneration of Lancashire’s most important heritage asset and look forward to working with them in the years ahead.”
Atkinsons began trading in 1837 as J Atkinson & Co. Their Grasshopper Tea Warehouse was actually situated on Castle Hill for many years before moving to its current address on China Street. After nearly 170 years of trading, The Steel family took over the business in 2005 and since then have built up a thriving coffee quarter in Lancaster opening first The Music Room on Sun Square and then The Hall adjacent to the original retail outlet on China Street. In 2016 the family built a state-of-the-art Eco-Roastery between the orginal shop and The Hall Café where it expertly roasts a wide range of ethically sourced coffee beans.