Former Lake & Co café, Caernarfon

Former Lake & Co café, Caernarfon

Take a moment to appreciate the design and craftsmanship of this shopfront. Curved windowpanes in carved frames enclose a stand-alone display space in front of the doors. Mosaic tiles spell “Lake & Co”.

Advertisement for Lake & Co cafe from 1916The building was the café of Lake & Company, depicted in the bilingual 1916 advertisement with two motor cars parked outside. The Welsh text says that the café is the most convenient and comfortable place for a truly good meal, serving world-famous Gold Medal tea only and with all kinds of high-quality delicacies at reasonable prices.

Lake & Co Ltd was formed in November 1896, with £30,000 capital, to take over three local businesses. DT Lake was involved in two of them, and in the new company. Their activities included supplying groceries and textiles and manufacturing worsted (fabric), tobacco and snuff. The company became North Wales’ largest tobacco manufacturer. Its products included Cymro Bach Shag, Dewi Sant Virginia Smoking Shag, Ddraig Goch tobacco for cigarettes, and Dwyryd Tea.

Wartime food controls demanded separation of wholesale and retail activities. On 1 October 1917 Lake & Co abandoned retailing of groceries, flour and bread at three premises, making them wholesale only, as complying with the regulations was difficult “with a staff almost entirely depleted of its experienced members”. Many men had left Caernarfon to join the armed forces.

The building was Harper’s Restaurant, frequented by well-heeled people, for much of the 20th century. Today the occupier is Mantell Gwynedd, which supports voluntary services in Gwynedd.

On the opposite side of the road (where you see Canolfan Pen-llyn) stood the Nelson Emporium, the department store of Richard Owen & Co. It was popular with many generations of shoppers from across the region. Goods on sale there in 1846 included: Indian handkerchiefs; material for trousers; velverets and moleskins; shawls; braces for men and boys; chintz curtain fabric; and blankets and quilts. The Emporium was rebuilt after a fire, and demolished after a second fire.

Postcode: LL55 1AF    View Location Map

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