The Turkey Café was designed by Arthur Wakerley, architect, city mayor and Liberal parliamentary candidate, who has featured on this blog before,
English Buildings has written about it:
The Turkey Café in Granby Street is one of his smaller buildings, but its central position, unusual style, and rich decoration make it one of his most noticeable. Wakerley designed it in Art Nouveau style in 1900, with the odd-shaped arches and colour scheme indicating a certain Oriental influence.
The decoration was done by Doulton’s W J Neatby, the ceramic artist who worked on the Royal Arcade in Norwich and the Everard Printing Works in Bristol, both previously noticed on this blog.
Wakerley devised a complex façade enlivened with multifoil arches, big windows, and a bowed central section. Neatby covered the walls in green and white tiles, adding a dazzling multicoloured turkey at the very top and two three-dimensional ceramic turkeys at entrance level. He picked the café’s name out in curvaceous Art Nouveau style lettering.
When the building opened in 1901 cafés were enjoying a heyday. Leicester boasted several cafés, establishments that were celebrated by the temperance movement that Arthur Wakerley embraced. Cafés were also favoured by women. At a time when pubs were rowdy, male preserves, women lacked places that they could go safely on their own or with women friends.
Cafés and tea shops (the famous ABCs run by the Aerated Bread Company, for example, and the Lyon’s Corner Houses that came slightly later) filled this gap. Many Edwardian cafés were richly decorated buildings, marketed as modern, hygienic, and chic. Leicester’s Turkey Café, with its dazzling façade, fitted this bill, and did so with considerable style.And there is more about its history in an article (pdf) by Katie Ann Smith and Karoline Schwenke.
The building was occupied by an optician for many years and it has been good to see it return to being a café more recently. I hope whoever gobbles it up will do so with that use in mind.
Remember, a turkey is for life, not just for Christmas.