Our story begins on Baxtergate, a long street just yards away from the famous swing bridge, in the very centre of Whitby. Baxtergate faces the harbour and the famous Whitby Abbey. Baxtergate has always been a bustling place for commercial businesses, and the jet merchant’s ghost sign can still be seen on the building nearest to the end of the street. Today Baxtergate is home to independent cafes, shops and services, and is also the banking street for Whitby, with branches of the main banks on it.
The beautiful Grade II building that we call home, isn’t as old as you might think.
In 1837 the Whitby Temperance Society was established. It owned the Temperance Hall on Baxtergate, until the site was sold to the York and County Banking Company Ltd, which later became Midland Bank, and then HSBC.
In 1891 in the Whitby Times annual review, it is noted that the “old Temperance Hall” was being pulled down. The article states that the Temperance Hall had been built in 1840, after a Mr Chapman’s sail-loft had been demolished.
The Midland Bank (now HSBC) finished the work on our building in 1905. The building next door was the Belle Hotel. The cafe entrance shared the alley way that sits between 7 & 8 Baxtergate known as Belle Yard, with the Belle Hotel.
After the bank portioned off part of the building and sold it, it was taken over by a local family. In 1928 Mill’s Cafe opened its doors, serving fish and chips, and other homecooked food. This makes us the oldest surviving fish and chips serving cafe in Whitby.
Our lovely first floor venue known as the Ballroom, became a “go to” destination to enjoy fish and chips throughout the years. The cafe thrived, and because of its success more cafes began to open on Baxtergate. The Ballroom hosted a wide range of events, functions and weddings. We were lucky enough to receive this piece of history, a receipt for a wedding reception at Christmas in 1949.
During our renovations in 2020, we moved the original counter from the downstairs cafe and discovered this penny from 1946. We consider this our “good luck penny” and it is proudly framed on the wall of our cafe.
Mill’s Cafe was a place that was held close to the hearts of the locals who lived and worked in the town. The cafe provided a hub for the community, and every year would put on a Christmas Party in the Ballroom for the children of the workers from the Post Office, the Royal Mail, and the Telephone Exchange.
All through the sixties, the cafe was a popular venue for weddings, and functions. Just as it is today, it was the perfect setting for intimate weddings.
We were delighted to receive this wonderful piece of our history from 1960 – another wedding receipt, this time from a spring wedding.
We were very excited and privileged to also receive this amazing footage of a wedding reception held in the Ballroom.
During the 1970s Mill’s Cafe continued to thrive and to provide a venue for wedding receptions and functions. Mr & Mrs Hegarty celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in the Ballroom on 14th February 1970.
During the 1980s, Whitby’s visitor numbers began to steadily increase. Chains had begun to move into the town. The independents on Baxtergate continued to thrive, and the cafe went from strength to strength.
During the 1990s the bustling cafe would close during the winter season, to give the owners a well earned break, reopening in March each year. On this photo of the cafe you can see that we have still retained our frontage.
During the turn of the 21st Century, the owners of the cafe retired and the cafe was sold. The cafe continued to operate, but over the next 14 years it would struggle to maintain the bustling cafe it had been. During the 2000s and 2010s, it passed through a number of new owners.
In 2014 the cafe was under new ownership and was renamed “Harbour View”. Although the cafe had changed hands prior to that, the name wasn’t changed until 2014.
Sadly, the cafe had been in decline for some time. It struggled under the various new owners, and it was believed a new name change would help, but as Harbour View it was never able to establish itself as the lively bustling cafe it had been as Mill’s of the years before.
Whilst it opened and operated throughout the summer seasons, our beautiful ballroom had became a forgotten about place for weddings and functions.
We took over mid-season 2018, and as the new owners we were determined to put the cafe back on the map as the wonderful independent cafe it had been in its former years! We decided it was time to break away from the decline of Harbour View, and create something special once more. A cafe, restaurant and venue that captured the character of Whitby. Friendly, welcoming and comfortable, with a proud history. A place that would be once more at the heart of the community. At the very beginning of 2019, we decided to change the name, to something more fitting with the history and age of the cafe. We didn’t want to trample over the memories of Mill’s Cafe, and so we went with a completely new name, Hetty & Betty, named after our daughter (aged 3) and niece (aged 6).
We have restored the ballroom to its former glory, ready to welcome events, parties and celebrations once more. And our first wedding reception happened at Christmas 2019, just like 70 years before in 1949!
The cafe has been through a World War, survived econmic crashes and come through changes of hands, but 2020 was a year like none before it. As the pandemic took hold, it was with heavy hearts that we closed our doors on 20th March 2020. However, we knew then that we would have to work hard to innovate and adapt, after all we are the custodians of over 90 years of history, so not surviving was never an option.
We created our Afternoon Tea deliveries and made our very first deliveries in the beginning of April 2020. The repsonse was amazing. We could have never imagined how many people we would impact with our Afternoon Teas. Easter, VE Day, Birthdays, New Babies, Anniversaries, Retirements, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, keeping in touch, and just a nice treat; we’ve delivered for so many different reasons.
We have surprised so many people, and have seen huge smiles of surprise and even some happy tears! Especially in November 2020, when we delivered free Afternoon Teas to key workers across Whitby. The reviews and feedback proved that we had created something very special. When we could reopen for periods in 2020, we innovated once again and created our now famous Whitby Fish and Chips Afternoon Tea, and our themed Afternoon Teas – all featuring our famous scones.
2021 And Beyond
Who knows what the future will hold, but we do know that our cafe will continue to thrive and grow, with the support of our lovely customers, making their own memories at Hetty & Betty.
We hope you have enjoyed reading our history, and we look forward to welcoming you to the cafe soon.
Lois and the team.