I don’t know how much coffee Stanley got to drink when he lived in St Asaph’s workhouse as a boy…More likely gruel and water probably. But now he’d have the joy of coffee, cake and more at Jacob’s Ladder Coffee Shop right on the main roundabout opposite the Cathedral.
St Asaph is the UK’s newest city, granted its status to mark the Queen’s Jubilee in March 2012. It’s not exactly an urban city, though. It has a population of barely 3,500, less than the ‘village’ my parents lived in…
So, I knew it wouldn’t take long to do the sights, meaning all the more time to enjoy a cuppa and take in the atmosphere at the best place for coffee in town (oops, I mean, the city)…
Jacob’s Ladder is a bright, friendly place. It used to be the St Asaph Post Office so it’s been a focal point for the community for some 150 years.
There’s no website for the coffee shop; no Twitter and only occasional Facebook activity. The only online review I could find beforehand suggested that Lowri always gives service with a smile. And sure enough, that’s what I found too.
Coffee was good and the cakes fantastic. Well, actually, I chose only one cake (ginger) and liked it so much I had to have two pieces, even though the professional in me was saying I ought to have tried a second type, just to quality check for readers.
Lowri is another person with a great story of how she came to run the coffee shop, so it will fit nicely in that next volume of Fancy a Cuppa?, once I’ve got round all the Cathedral towns (and cities).
The Cathedral in St Asaph goes back a good few centuries. It is most famous for holding an original edition of the Welsh translation of the Bible, made in 1588.
This single work is credited in some quarters with helping maintain the Welsh language through the mediaeval period, though I’m not totally convinced by this, since language is surely preserved just as much orally as it is in written form. But that’s something for historians and linguists to debate.
I began a bit of a debate myself by expressing enthusiasm in the coffee shop for the ‘Stanley Obelisk’ down by the riverside. It is a modern sculpture depicting the fascinating life of the guy who is best-known for ‘finding’ Livingstone in the African jungle. (See the video below for some footage of it…)
The majority of locals, I was told, don’t like the thing. Not because of its subject matter, I was assured, but because of where it had been placed and the ‘modern’ material it was made from.
Stanley is an extraordinary character I didn’t know much about before today. He was dumped in the workhouse at the age of 5, but escaped and fled the country on board a boat that sailed for America. There he got involved in the Civil War (fighting for the South) before landing a job for the New York Herald to go and ‘find’ Livingstone.
The rest is history, as they say. But I loved the footnote that, after such humble beginnings, he could have made so much of himself and he ended up as MP for Lambeth. Why isn’t there some sort of epic film about the guy? Come on Hollywood. Time you went to St Asaph and began filming.
And hey, there’s room in the coffee shop for all the production team, I’m sure! Lowri won’t mind…