York & North Yorkshire

Bettys: Famous Yorkshire tearoom reaches its centenary

Harrogate shop Image copyright G Laird / Geograph
Image caption Bettys first tea room was opened in Harrogate in 1919

A tearoom that has become a Yorkshire institution is celebrating its 100th birthday.

Bettys opened its doors in Harrogate in the aftermath of the World War One and has been serving tea and cakes ever since.

A century on, the firm now boasts six cafes around the county.

Branch manager Carol Hanson said: "Bettys means a lot to our customers. They've celebrated all their life events with us."

Image copyright Bettys
Image caption Frederick Belmont left Paris for England in 1907

Bettys was founded by Swiss baker and chocolatier Fritz B├╝tzer - who left his home country after a difficult childhood that saw him orphaned and bullied.

He headed first to France where he trained in the art of confectionery and later to England, where he changed his name to Frederick Belmont.

Company legend said young Frederick only ended up in Yorkshire because he lost the information about a job waiting for him during the rough sea crossing.

He remembered the town was called something like "bratwurst" - and was directed to Bradford.

Frederick opened his first cafe in Harrogate in 1919 but no-one knows where the Bettys name came from, or who "Betty" may have been.

Image copyright Bettys
Image caption The first ever Bettys cafe opened on Cambridge Crescent in Harrogate, with a bakery on the top floor
Image copyright Bettys
Image caption A purpose-built facility replaced the bakery in 1922

New branches and a new bakery soon followed, and by the late 1930s, a cruise on RMS Queen Mary had inspired the famous Art Deco interior at the York branch.

Liz Barnes, Frederick's great-niece, said it was her ancestor's difficult childhood that gave him the drive to succeed.

"He was an incredibly determined man. He was an entrepreneur and he liked to do things his way.

"Because he had such an unhappy childhood - he was cruelly treated and bullied - it actually strengthened him," she said.

Image copyright Bettys
Image caption Frederick sailed on the maiden voyage of the RMS Queen Mary with his wife Claire, and was so impressed he commissioned the ship's designers to create his new cafe in York
Image copyright Bettys
Image caption A replica of a Swiss villa cake made by founder Frederick Belmont has been created to mark Bettys centenary

Opening in 1937, the York cafe and its downstairs bar soon became popular with airmen stationed nearby during World War Two - many of whom engraved their names on a mirror behind the bar.

That mirror is still a valuable part of the the venue's heritage, according to the branch manager Ms Hanson, who first joined the company 13 years ago.

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"I never thought, in a million years, that I would be standing here as branch manager," she said.

"A hundred years on, and we are still as successful as we were when we first opened."

Image copyright Bettys
Image caption Bettys has been serving its famous cakes Fat Rascals since 1983

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