My Tea Shop – Duke Street Hill

A rare week day post today with a short account of just one of the small changes that take place every day all across London.

I was at London Bridge Station earlier this week, and noticed that a cafe photographed in 1986 had changed to a kebab shop. I think the change was relatively recent, but it is indicative of small changes across the streets of the city that can easily go unnoticed.

Duke Street Hill runs from the junction with Borough High Street down to Tooley Street, alongside the brick railway viaduct that exits London Bridge Station on the route to Cannon Street Station, and with a couple of entrances to London Bridge Underground Station.

The area was very different in 1986 when the following photo was taken, the rebuild of London Bridge Station was still some years in the future and at number 23 Duke Street Hill was My Tea Shop:

My Tea Shop

This was in the years before Starbucks, Costa, Pret and the multiple other chains and individual specialist coffee shops and cafes spread across London and My Tea Shop was representative of the type of small cafe serving Londoners in the mid 1980s.

It was small, served a brilliant breakfast, and also had a rather unusual name.

Their target market was those looking for breakfast and lunch, being open from 7 in the morning till 2:30 in the afternoon. A cup of tea cost 20p, and bacon, egg, and two sausages could be had for £1.05

This is the same location today, with the site of My Tea Shop now occupied by Londoner kebabs.

My Tea Shop

I took a wider view to the 1986 photo to show the exact location. The entrance to London Bridge Underground Station is on the left of the photo.

The fascia has completely changed to align with the new business, however I do hope the original sign was left underneath the new sign which projects forward from the wall.

To prove this is the same location (as there are no location specific indicators in the 1986 photo), brick patterns offer a useful confirmation and the following two photos show the wall to the right of the cafe in 1986 (left) and 2019 (right) and the brick patterns, including those I have circled, confirm this is the same location.

My Tea Shop

The type of cafe that My Tea Shop was a good example of, were once relatively common across London, but changing tastes, populations, high rents, growth of global chains, have all contributed to their decline.

I am not sure when My Tea Shop closed, I have walked past many times and not noticed, it was only because I had 30 minutes of spare time that I had a walk to take a closer look at how the area has changed that I noticed – such is the way of gradual change. It was also then that I realised it was one of the many locations in my collection of 1980s photos.

Google Street View shows the cafe still as My Tea Shop in 2015. By 2017, the cafe had changed to My Tea & Coffee Shop, perhaps trying to respond to the change from tea to coffee drinking and the challenge from the chain coffee shops. In January 2018, the cafe was still My Tea & Coffee Shop, but by 2019 had changed to the Kebab Shop we see today.

I do not know when the cafe first opened, but it seems as if My Tea Shop was open for at least 30 years.

The ever-changing London street scene.

16 thoughts on “My Tea Shop – Duke Street Hill

  1. Joss Mullinger

    It’s very nice to find someone else who used and remembers appreciatively the little cafes of London. I commutes into various locations in central London and the City for nigh on 40 years and as office starting hours got earlier I forego breakfast at home and used cafes near work. After a short time the staff would recall your order and prepare it as soon as you walked through the door!! Sadly I didn’t photograph any of them but I have happy memories of them providing a cheery welcome and chat to start the day!! Thank you for reminding me.

  2. Vicky

    I’m British born. There’s nothing i like more, than a nice stroll. (Trying to ignore all the thousands of tourists around me), i find difficult. But then going into a proper ‘greasy spoon’ & ordering a simple cup of tea & a proper English breakfast. While i read the paper is a lovely ritual of mine. I live in Covent Garden. (Off Drury Lane). Sometimes i go to the little snack bar in the piazza. Or i like Beck’s in Red Lion St. (The portions are quite often too big for me!) But i like the view from the cafe & love people watching. Very popular with cabbies. A cabby always likes a bargain. So you should always follow them for good value. Andrews is a nice old cafe on Gray’s Inn Rd. I like to hear the real regulars. Some have been going there over 30yrs. But of course. Maybe the King. Is THE REGENCY in Victoria. A lovely cafe. Very good value & quality. I just love the ‘greasy’ tradition. Long live original old cafes. Down with the cloned chains!!! I’m hungry now… time for some lovely scrambled eggs on toast with loads of black pepper & red sauce!!!

  3. Martin Cook

    One of my first jobs was around Fleet St running between papers with press releases. We were based in Playhouse Yard. Our favourite cafe was Owens Dairy which was down Carter Lane by St Paul’s. Run by a Welsh husband and wife in starched white aprons and with marble counter tops. Ham for sandwiches carved off the bone. The bonus was they had a back room in which they fed and hid the messengers from a prowling boss. Doubt Starbucks would do that.

  4. Karen Watson

    I got very fond of the Gate Grill by Barbican tube when work sent me on several repeat visits to one of the local businesses over a year or two.
    And yes, they do remember you after only one or two – I remember them clocking the trainee I once took with me and asking where he was the next time round!
    PS The liver and bacon was to die for – and all within the measly official meal allowance!

  5. Jo W

    Ah,those were the days and caffs! Places where you guarantee a large mug of builders strength tea with a crusty cheese roll, (cheese usually in half an inch thick slices.) Nowadays you can’t even get a crusty cheese roll in a pub, either. Overpriced overprimped food only. Grrrr

  6. Michael Pelton

    I grew up in that area during the fifties and sixties and as far as I can remember the cafe had always been there.
    I was an apprentice in the London Bridge area in 1967 and every morning me or one of the other apprentices were sent over to My Tea Shop to collect breakfast for 6 or 7 GPO engineers. Usually it was toast with dripping or marmalade, but sometimes someone wanted a full english (we made our own tea). The owner (I assume he was the owner) fried everything in one electric frying pan. The cafe had seating for half a dozen inside and 2 benches outside. The legs on these benches were cut to compensate for the slope of Duke Street Hill.

  7. Christopher Ward

    A piece of recent archaeology with social significance. Thanks – or least for your attention to the brick pattern.

  8. Peter Browning

    Read this blog this morning on a very wet and dull suffolk morning -what memories of london cafes fast disapearing due to rates rent ect .

  9. Nicola

    Another great article – thank you. I shall look out for it the next time I’m in the area.

    It made me think about the Copper Grill cafe in Eldon Street, by Liverpool Street station, which I used to walk past on my way to work in the early 2000s.

  10. Mino

    Thank you for the article! Google street view and the option to choose between pictures taken on different dates is a great ressource to track changes like that. It must have closed after January 2018 and before May 2019 and according to the last signage it was established in 1932!

  11. Donal Hoban

    Have just come across your website, I find it utterly fascinating, I love London history. On the subject of cafe’s, lthere was this place I used to go in the early 2000’s I think it was called Designer Sandwiches. It was in Endell Street,Covent Garden, if I recollect. To be honest, I don’t remember the food, I remember the couple that ran it. I’m always up for a chat and they were really friendly. He was Indian, possibly a musician, maybe there were photos of him playing the sitar on the walls. She was posh English, tall,thin with striking face, possibly the look of an ex model. I reckon they were both in their 50s. As I said, I went there for the chat, sadly something you’re far less likely to find in a global chain. Does anyone else remember this place?


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