Report 5th October 2010

The Story of Bettys

For this, the first in the 34th series of talks to be given to our Forum, we were privileged to welcome Mr.Victor Wild who related, to our great pleasure, The Story of Bettys.

Bettys (note the lack of an apostrophe) is an unequalled Café Tea Room in Harrogate North Yorkshire, England, unsurpassed nationally and internationally for the high quality of its products, menu, presentation and service.  Bettys has become the pre-eminent meeting place in the centre of the town for first class food and conversation.

After suffering disaster in his homeland, Switzerland, when the family mill and bakery were destroyed by fire and two of the family were killed, a young man, Fritz Butzer who was later to change his name to Frederick Belmont,  decided to emigrate to England and arrived at the railway station in London able only to speak a little English and having lost the document with the address of his destination.  After confronting several passers-by without luck, he found an old gentleman who spoke a little French who told him he should make for Bradford.  After returning to the station and shouting the word ‘Bratfort’ at the railway porters he at last found himself on the correct train to Bradford.

After working for a German-run business where he used his exceptional Swiss- learned skills in baking, confectionery and preparation of cakes and sweetmeats, Belmont decided to go into business for himself and the Swiss émigré opened his first branch in Harrogate in 1919.  From the beginning Belmont insisted upon the highest standards in his establishments. Not only did he demand the best in the food that he provided but also he used the very best cutlery and crockery on his tables. Highly trained and uniformed waiters waited upon his guests. Surroundings and ambiance were not forgotten, he once copied the panelled luxury and crystal fittings of the first luxury liner Queen Mary in one of his dining rooms.  This standard of service fitted in well with the clientele visiting Harrogate, which at that time he describes as a spa-town of the highest order,  with the nobility and crowned heads of Europe taking the waters.  Visitors to Bettys included: Lady Haigh, Admiral Jellicoe, the Duke of Athlone, Princess Victoria (sister of King George V ) etc. etc.

Today there are six branches of Bettys in Yorkshire located in Harrogate (2),York (2), Northallerton and Ilkley and the same high standards have been maintained.               George Mountford

PS.  When questioned, Mr. Wild admitted that there was some uncertainty about the origin of the name “Bettys”.     GM

PPS. I believe that in early days a possessive apostrophe was used in the name.  GM.

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