There is nothing new in any of this. The first London coffee house was opened in 1652 by a Greek merchant called Pasqua Roseé, who had grown fond of the drink while trading in Turkey, although a previous coffee house had opened in Oxford. Fifty years later, Britain’s nascent coffee culture was in full swing, although King Charles II had attempted to crush them in 1675, concerned about the free exchange of political thought they fostered.
Writers, journalists, artists and anybody who wanted to share their thoughts would gather in places like Buttons coffee house near Covent Garden. Buttons featured a white marble lion’s head into which people would deposit their stories, thoughts and poems, which were published in a weekly newspaper digest.
By the beginning of the 18th Century, there were hundreds of similar cafés all over London. They all shared certain characteristics, including ready access to information, newspapers, ideas and the thoughts of a wide range of people who would declaim on various subjects. Many of these features were described in the diaries of Samuel Pepys.
The coffee houses became hotbeds of innovation. The first stocks and shares were traded in a London coffeehouse, Britain’s insurance industry was formed in Lloyds coffee house, Isaac Newton and his contemporaries frequented the coffee houses near the Royal Society and in 1754, the RSA was established in a coffee house called Rawthmells, a tradition the RSA continues to this day with the naming of the café at its offices just off the Strand.
What drove the rapid growth of such places were exactly the same forces we see in the creation of cafés, agile office designs and coworking spaces today. It is the creation of a community of people who can come together in a shared experience. Having good coffee doesn’t hurt that experience.
One of the most obvious outcomes of the convergence of our working and non-working lives is the way that work has taken over coffee shops at the same time that cafes and co-working spaces are invading retail and hospitality spaces. According to a 2018 report from Horwath HTL, the number of hotels offering co-working space is growing rapidly in response to demands from guests and other digital nomads.
Santander has opened its first Work Café in the UK. The concept was initially developed by Santander in Chile in 2016 and its success has seen 50 branches opened in Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Argentina. The bank claims the reopened branch in Leeds will work as a ‘community hub’ offering banking facilities, free co-working spaces and freshly brewed coffee. The branch was previously closed at the end of June 2018.
The Leeds space will welcome Santander and non-Santander customers. Alongside the coworking spaces and bookable meeting rooms the new hub will host talks and events.