• Designed by Arthur Wakerley – local architect who also held the position of Mayor of Leicester
  • The tiles on the frontage were made by Royal Doulton
  • Cafés were popular as ‘respectable’ meeting places in Edwardian times

Turkey – country or bird?

The charming Art Nouveau style Turkey Café was designed by local architect and former mayor Arthur Wakerley. People at this time were fascinated by “orientalism” and the building reflects Wakerley´s interpretation of Turkish architecture. Turkey the country and turkey the bird are both themes woven into his design. The frontage of the building was covered in matt-glazed Carraraware made by the Royal Doulton Company.

“A place to give rest to the body and pleasure to the eye”

Once finished, the Turkey Café was leased to the restaurateur John Winn, opening in 1901. The family continued to run it until the 1960s. Cafés were popular in Edwardian times as they provided respectable meeting places for women and were promoted by anti-alcohol campaigners as an alternative to pubs.

Advertisements from 1911 show that Winn´s had its own bakery and roasted its coffee each day “by the Most Efficient Mechanical Process Invented”. They claimed to serve “the finest coffee the world produces, roasted hourly, ground hourly, and retaining all its delicious aroma.”

Changes to the Café

In 1911 the café was extended to provide a Smoke Room for gentlemen and extra tearooms. A Ladies´ Orchestra gave performances twice daily. The café regularly hosted social events and the meetings of local clubs and societies. The building has been frequently remodelled, both inside and out, but in the 1980s Rayners Opticians restored the exterior using original architect drawings.

The Turkey Café is now a cocktail bar and is open daily. Find out how to visit.

Visitor information
Public access inside

Gallery

Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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