HISTORY OF THE BRITISH
Soon after the war started, there was the strong possibility that the
country would quickly run out of food, as so much was sourced from abroad.
Rationing began on 8th January 1940, when bacon, butter and sugar were
By 1942 many other foodstuffs, including meat, milk, cheese, eggs and
cooking fat, were also rationed.
In the Blitz came the first
attempt to feed the hungry, namely the `Londoners Meal Service`, which
inspired the Communal Kitchens or Community Feeding Centres.
However, only a few months after their launch, Prime Minister Winston
Churchill considered the name was degrading and so they were renamed
the British Restaurants.
These new establishments assisted people who had been bombed out of
their homes, or who had run out of ration coupons or otherwise needed
One effect of food rationing in Britain was that empty spaces began
to appear in the family kitchen larders.
As German bombs laid waste to city centres, an increasingly small and
inadequate supply of restaurants was over-run, with desperate customers
looking for food.
These offered cheap, nourishing meals in plain surroundings on a self-service
basis. To give an idea of their excellent value, a Londoner in 1942
could receive roast beef and two vegetables, treacle pudding, bread
and butter, and coffee, set at a maximum of 9d.
They were non-profit-making, which angered the commercial opposition
who saw themselves unfairly undercut, as they were extremely popular
with the eating public.
British Restaurants were run by local authorities, who were guaranteed
against any losses by the Government.
School dinners and Factory canteens provided another source of nourishment,
and these greatly multiplied during the war years.
The Restaurants were set up by the Ministry of Food and run by local
government or voluntary agencies on a non-profit basis. No one could
be served with a meal of more than one serving of meat, game, poultry,
fish, eggs, or cheese. Standards varied, but they were appreciated by
a large regular clientele.
British Restaurants were open to all, rich or poor.
In March 1939, the Bures
WI was asked by the Local Authority to assist in the running of a British
Restaurant to cater for the evacuees. All the necessary equipment would
be supplied by the Government, but staffing was down to the WI. However,
the newly formed Women`s Voluntary Service(WVS) was then given the task
of looking after the children, including Evacuees. The Local Authority
then wrote back to the WI, saying their services were no longer required,
but the WI were not deterred and paid for the children`s food out of
their own funds.
Finally, the British Restaurant in Bures was opened in November 1941
at the rear of the Angel Inn, opposite Chambers Garage and staffed by
By 1943, 2,160 UK British Restaurants had served 600,000 meals still
at a maximum price of 9d.
Then came along the 1944 Education Act, which compelled Schools to provide
school meals, so without warning the school was in breach of the Act.
It was then decided to retain the British Restaurant under the control
of the Local Education Authority (LEA).
Two cooks were appointed to run the facility, namely Mrs Gage and Mrs
Keeble and so all the children from Bures School could now enjoy a nourishing
meal for 5d per day.
By 1945, nearly two million children were fed at school, this was more
than seven times the figure for 1939, while the total of Factory canteens
shot up in that period from 1500 to 13,300.
The Restaurants were officially closed in 1947, but Bures School was
still without a kitchen, so the Angel Yard restaurant continued to supply
In September 1947, work commenced to build a new dining room and kitchen,
but due to unforeseen delays these were not fully operational until
September 20th 1949, so it's possible the LEA run British Restaurant
didn't close until the end of the Summer Term 1949.
A Christmas Broadcast during
WW2 quoted "Mrs Lee has cooked no fewer than 15,894 main meals
at the British Restaurant since last June"
Date unknown, but the period would have been from June to December.