One of the railway arches in the recently restored Findlater’s Corner at London Bridge that was once a tea room is to become a branch of a high street coffee chain.

Not the main corner site, with the large Findlater’s sign on it, which comes from the wine merchants who originally occupied the corner, but a side railway arch around the corner which recently revealed a very unexpected piece of history.

The railway arch was for many years home to a branch of William Hill, and it was only when Findlater’s Corner was being restored that a wide layer of white paint around the entrance was removed – and in doing so they found a richly decorated mosaic that had been painted over.

The arch had been occupied by Express Dairy as a tea room, and as the decoration explains, offered afternoon teas and luncheons, and fittingly for the time, separate ladies and smoking rooms.

Express Dairy was founded in 1864 and its name is part of the marketing as it was an early adopter of the railways to ship milk from the countryside to a bottling plant in South Acton and then ship them around London, also by railway. At a time when many people got milk from urban cows, milk from the countryside was seen as a healthier option.

At its peak, Express Dairy had over 240 tea rooms across London, making it the Edwardian equivalent of Starbucks today, which is apt, as it’s Starbucks that’s moving into the railway arch.

According to ITC, the mosaics are by the Lambeth based mosaic firm set up by Jesse Rust, who was also responsible for the mosaic floors in the V&A Museum. Not that many examples of the company’s work survive, so not only is this rediscovered mosaic at London Bridge visually delightful, but it’s also a rare large example of the firm’s work.

The refurbished arch will have two entrances, a smaller one between the mosaics, and a larger one around the back. The interior is being fitted out at the moment. The mosaics will be preserved, with the Starbucks logo in the arches above the windows.

The remainder of the restored arches, including the main Findlater’s Corner arch are waiting for new occupants. If a Little Waitrose took the tenancy, it would be apt, as they own the legacy of the Findlater’s wine merchants that once traded here.

Findlater’s Corner restoration project

  • Project Team Owner – The Arch Company
  • Architect – Benedict O’Looney Architects
  • Structural Engineers & Principal Designer – Frankham Consultancy Group


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  1. Agent Starling says:

    When it was an Oddbins I had cause to visit the back office to fix a computer. The office was vast, vaulted, damp, musty, and leading from it were several big tunnels with nothing blocking the entrances. I asked the manager if they’d ventured in and he invited me to have a look. We took a torch and only went a few feet before the mass squeaking of what could only be a multitude of rats suggested that we leave promptly.

    • Smoking Gun Saloon says:

      Sounds similar to a venue where I visited at St. Paul’s. Kitchen was in the basement, but there were another 2 levels below that which were disused. Apparently, it had been a drinking den back in the day.

  2. Peter Roper says:

    Readers who are interested in the history of Express Dairy might like to visit

    • Manjo says:

      Hi Peter – This was a fantastic find, thank you! I used to work at Express and then The Cheese Company and onwards too… I recognise your name too!

  3. Richard King says:

    I remember the Express Dairy bottling plant near Morden South and was taken there on a primary school trip about 60 years ago. The site is now the largest mosque in Western Europe.

  4. Dr ILONA JESNICK says:

    Jesse Rust’s mosaic floors in the V&A have long gone, replaced with white marble, but the East staircase and a roundel image of History in the central garden remain. There are several large pavements in central London that can be visited, two with large zodiacs. similar to the Express Dairies mosaic is the mosaic signage over the Restaurant, Bookshop and Grill etc. in Manchester Victoria Station. Rust & Co had a factory on the Albert Embankment directly opposite the Tate Gallery that was covered in peacocks and foliage in bright green and blue glass mosaic, a notable sight in the early 20th C. Bombed in the Blitz.

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