37: Bromleys at the Museum

Some of you may remember Bromley’s Cafe on the Strand. The huge 500-seat restaurant hosted weddings and birthday parties, as well as coach loads of tourists and hungry locals.  It closed down in the 1970s, but thanks to the generosity of Michael Bromley, we are about to reopen a new Bromleys as the Museum Cafe.

Bromleys, the strand.jpg

all roads lead to bromleys


By 1919 Arthur Bromley had taken over the building now occupied by Wetherspoons from Mr H Brooks, who ran bakery and restaurant there.  He described himself in the 1919 directory as a “Pastrycook”, but he soon developed a cafe to complement his bakery which, by 1926, had taken over the whole of the premises.


Bromley’s quickly became part of Barnstaple life. At the pop-up Museum we collected many stories about it.

TC, Fry, A, Bromleys CafeTC, Bowden, A, Bromleys memories

And Michael Bromley has given us access to many photographs – including here the bakery staff and the wedding cake he made for North Devon MP Jeremy Thorpe.

Now we have to decide just how closely we will follow the old Bromley’s menu!  We want to establish our tea-room with a distinctive menu and a friendly, retro feel, but we’re not sure how well ox tongue and mulligatawny soup might go down these days. Spaghetti on toast and peach melbas sound like winners though!

pink menu0801973-4076





Bromley’s closed down in the 1970s – we think this sale notice has been wrongly dated.  Michael Bromley carried on running the bakery on the High Street, which backed onto the main cafe, which became a night club.




In the 1990s Michael Bromley gave the beautiful carved Bromleys sign to the museum. IT was beginning to fall into disrepair and by the time we started our current extension project it was even worse!  We decided that this was an important object and we allocated money from the project to bring it back to its former glory.

Bromleys sign damage 2

The conservators looked at the paint layers and discovered that before it was pink it had been a dark red, and before that gold! It has now been repainted in gold, but preserving the other paint colours underneath the new finish.  We can’t wait to get the sign up in our new tea-room, and we hope we can bring back more of the old Bromley’s memories.  We’re now looking for volunteers to help us run it – would you like to join us?


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