Southwell being the home of the first ever Bramley apple 200 years ago, we were determined to have apple pie or apple cake with our coffee and tea today. And we managed it!
If I ran a coffee shop or tea room in Southwell, I’d make more of that Bramley Apple connection, but at least there was Apple Crumble Cake to have with our tea and Blackberry & Apple Cake to go with the coffee.
To be fair to Southwell itself, they do make sure visitors can find the cottage where that first apple tree was grown – and I’m told that the 200 year old tree still produces an annual crop, though I didn’t manage to see it, and March is hardly the best month to test the truth of the story.
The Cathedral, known as Southwell Minister, also marked the bicentenary of the Bramley Apple by commissioning a new stained glass window in 2009 – and very nice it is too!
But enough of apples. There’s a lot more to Southwell than Bramleys.
King Charles I had his final night of freedom in a pub here (ironically, it was called the King’s Head, but – presumably out of respect and deference after the event – they changed it now to the Saracen’s Head); Lord Byron lived here (just before the Bramley was first grown…); and thousands of nameless impoverished folk eked out a living in the Workhouse, which sits virtually unchanged on the edge of town: a pretty sight on a sunny, spring day in March 2012, but probably rather a different prospect when it was built in the 1820s…
The Minster is magnificent; and enormous for such a small town (population under 10,000!). Funnily enough most locals call their town “South-well” whereas people in the Cathedral opt for the more clipped “Suthall Minister” – I managed to avoid the dilemma all day, though a friend of mine at uni used to swear by the ‘local’ pronunciation.
The Minster has lots of stories to tell, and we’ll bring you highlights in our book next year. There are Roman connections (mosaic floors and plaster wall paintings), links to the French Revolution, Robin Hood-style green men, and charity for Southwell’s poor…
So to coffee and tea…
We chose a genuine Italian coffee shop for our morning break. Maurizio has been in England for some 30 years, but he has brought a real taste of Italy to Southwell, with Al Fresco Caffe in Queen Street. The best cup of coffee we had in town, and great cakes baked by ‘Morris’ himself, so quite a few Italian specialities on offer. Watch out for our review once we post it for a flavour of what he has to offer.
For tea we returned to the centre of Southwell – actually right opposite Al Fresco, but the address is Market Place. The Old Theatre Deli is – as you might have guessed – in an old Georgian theatre building. They do a fantastic cup of tea: loose-leaf from an Exeter-based supplier, ‘Tea’s Me Tea’ – not had it before, but I’ll be on the look out for that brand in future. And excellent cakes, all made by local pastry chef, Sally. Thanks to Jess for managing to chat to me while serving on a busy afternoon.
Some say Southwell is one of England’s best-kept secrets. Not anymore, if you follow the Fancy a Cuppa trail! And you can get great coffee, tea and cake into the bargain. I just couldn’t help wondering what kind of poems Byron might have written had he stayed in town just a few years longer: She walks in Apple Orchards??