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Did you dine out in Dudley's Civic Restaurant?

civic restaurant

06 September 2019

Black Country Living Museum is looking for memories from the 1940s to the 1950s of the Civic Restaurant that once stood on the corner of Fisher Street and Birmingham Street in Dudley from 1948 until the 1980s. The Museum plans to recreate the restaurant as part of its ambitious new development project BCLM: Forging Ahead. 

The recreated restaurant will offer visitors to the Museum a chance to taste post-war life including National Bread and steamed jam puddings plus hearty British dinners highlighting the shortages and challenges of eating well in post war Britain.

Purpose built in 1948 the Civic Restaurant in Dudley was part of a government led initiative to change popular wartime British restaurants into civic restaurants. These aimed to provide affordable and nutritious food without diners needing to use their precious personal rations and was particularly important in the Black Country as many companies were too small to run canteens for their workers.

Prior to this, most British Restaurants had been located in makeshift venues like church halls, town halls and school buildings. Dudley’s were in church halls at St John’s Kate’s Hill, King Street Methodist, and St Christopher’s, on the Wren’s Nest estate. But a handful of councils looked at Civic Restaurants as an opportunity to build brand new, modern and efficient restaurants – Dudley was one of this pioneering group.

The Civic Restaurant, built by the bus station to a modern pre-cast concrete design, was designed for mass dining, serving midday dinners, coffees, teas and evening meals for to up to 200 people at a time. The restaurant featured an open plan kitchen, a mural designed by local students from Dudley Technical College, coffee room and a terrace. In later years it was also hired out for private functions, dances and wedding receptions.

Dudley’s Central Civic Restaurant was a great success to begin with, but as more prosperous times came to the Black Country, diners began to look elsewhere for less basic cuisine, and the restaurant began to struggle. Despite a revamp in 1954 as the Ednam Restaurant, with new menus, jukeboxes, and carpets, by 1956 it had become unprofitable, and closed later that year. The building was then used for several different council purposes following its closure, most notable as the home of the Black Country Museum Development Office from 1975-1984. The building was eventually demolished to make way for Dudley’s new bus station with many fixtures and fittings sold at public auction.

Do you have memories of dining or attending a function in the restaurant in the 1940s to 1950s? Did you or anyone in your family eat, join in a celebration or work in the Civic restaurant? Can you remember the food, the decoration or even the mural?

Please get in touch with us by emailing collections@bclm.com or by calling 0121 557 9643.  For more information about BCLM: Forging Ahead, please visit www.bclm.com/forgingahead

 

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