There’s an amazing image that pops up occasionally online, of what looks to be a richly decorated wagon in Brixton that’s said to be a mobile cafe from around 1910. It’s not quite what it seems, but the London Supperette Car Company did exist, and that is a photo of one of their units in Brixton, but it is likely to be some point between September 1904 and early 1905.

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The London Supperette Car Company was formed in September 1904, for the “purpose of carrying on business as caterers and restaurant keepers in London and the provinces, more specifically with the view to establishing suppertte cars — otherwise refreshment vans or lunch wagons — throughout the UK upon greatly improved methods”.

Described in the Westminster Gazette, the suppertte cars were said to have been especially designed and “elegantly fitted” and were similar to supperettes in use at the time in the USA.

A painfully verbose article in the Daily Telegraph & Courier, described the supperettes as a “large gipsy caravan, with much gilted ornament and coloured glass, and it will be most attractively illuminated,”. The main market was expected to be night trade, catering to people who were heading home from the pub or late night entertainements and lacking anywhere else to eat.

However, the venture was a failure, and less than a year later, in July 1905 it was to be closed down. That November, the company’s assets were being sold off — and the sales notice informs us that the company had built just three of its mobile catering vans. The final winding up of the firm took place on 17th July 1906, leaving behind hardly any record of its existence other than a few short new articles, and that solitary enigmatic photograph.

So, we know the photo isn’t from 1910, but was the supperette even in Brixton?

Fortunately, there’s enough in the background behind the supperette to work out that it’s in front of Williamsons Bonanza, an upmarket grocer, which had a number of stores around London. Although the grocers no longer exist, the Brixton store building does, as it’s the  Iceland store right next to Brixton tube station. The forecourt in the old photo where the supperette stood was built over in the 1930s to expand the store. If you stand on the other side of the road though, you can see over the top of the Iceland frontage and still see the original Victorian building behind it.

So that’s the very short-lived history of the London supperettes.

These days, it’s hardly possible to go anywhere without there being 1960s retro camper vans offering a range of food and craft beers for festivals and street food markets.

The London Supperette Car Company was just ahead of its time.

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One comment
  1. JP says:

    The gems that pop up in your presentements monsoeur! Thank you.

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