Woodham family’s shock after Arthur’s will decrees legendary Dalston café must close

Arthur. Photo Emma Bartholomew

Arthur. Photo Emma Bartholomew - Credit: Archant

A Dalston café that has been open for business for 70 years must now wind up – because its founder and namesake Arthur decreed in his will that it must be sold on his death.

Arthur Woodham’s grandson James had been hoping to take over the Kingsland Road business after his granddad, who turned 91 on Christmas Day, died on January 7.

But Jamie, 47 – who has been working in the shop since he was 12 – was shocked to discover Arthur’s final wish in his will. This week he found out the shop, which is also home to Arthur’s 88-year-old wife Eileen, must close on May 25.

“It just said on his passing the shop must be sold,” James told the Gazette.

“I was hoping it would be my future. It’s been my life and I’ve worked with him for 30 years. It’s a shame for me and a shame for the customers.”

He added: “It’s so legal. It’s tied up, and there is no way of getting around it.”

James is not sure whether his grandmother will have to now move out, but she is at least ready to retire from the shop where she still cooks up meals.

Most Read

Arthur, the son of a cafe owner also called Arthur, set up shop in 1948 as a branch of the family business, and had also been working in the shop until he went into hospital in December.

James has no idea what his granddad’s reasons were in wanting the shop to close, but he has had “an inkling” over the past year it could be the case.

“I’d like to ask him myself, but obviously I can’t,” he said.

“I’ve got a lot of thoughts but they are thoughts I need to keep to myself. Maybe he thought it was too much of a burden. It does take over your life. It was my life.”

James, who now lives in Essex, would like to open another café in Hackney “because we’ve been here all these years”.

“We’ve got customers from so many different generations who come in here, who I’ve grown up with, and we serve their children now,” he said.

“They are devastated – the lot of them. It’s a tight little community.”

He added: “From Arthur, Eileen, myself and all the staff, I’d like to say thank you to the customers over the years. It’s been a pleasure to serve them.”