A delightful cafe in the heart of the town, serving lunches, drinks and local cakes.
A local pensioner recalls: “It was Spring 1964. We ran into the basement, shoved a coin in the juke-box to play ‘Ticket to Ride’ by the Beatles and ran out and jumped on our bikes. We roared down Ock Street and a couple of minutes later screamed to a stop and ran into the basement. The Beatles were just finishing. We shouted ‘We did it!’ ”
What was this all about?
It all began in Rome in the mid-1950s and spread all the way to London. After the post-war gloom, coffee was very much in fashion, and it was Italian coffee that led the way. A top pop-idol of the time, Tommy Steele, shot to fame after performing in the ‘Two Eyes’ coffee bar in Soho. Other coffee-spots opened all over the country. Coffee was cool, especially cappuccino and espresso. The machines were equally exotic, with Gaggias steaming and bubbling.
Suddenly in 1959, Abingdon caught the trend. In East Saint Helen Street Delamonte’s bar opened and was immediately taken over by the local biker community, their bikes seeming to fill the streets behind County Hall. Another opened in what is now Hodson’s estate agents.
However in County Hall itself the basement was seen as an ideal spot with its feel of a cave underground, and in Spring 1959 the Abingdon Herald carried an advertisement announcing the opening of ‘The Mousehole’ café.
The owner was Mr Frank Hocking and he was assisted by Mrs Joy Heavens (nee Guest). The café contained a glistening coffee-machine and sold light refreshments. A juke-box in the corner by the steps played such hits as ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ by Elvis, and later ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ and other Beatles hits.
Young folk remember going there after school to look cool with their friends. They do not recall much trouble as such and customers could stay until 10pm closing. It was the in-place to go unless you were a biker, but bikers would occasionally come over from Delamonte’s to play their currently favourite tune and in Spring 1964 it was ‘Ticket To Ride’.
In April 1964 ‘The Mousehole’ re-opened as the museum café, and again sells coffee and light refreshments from 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Sunday inclusive. After a spell under different names, it returns to its former incarnation as The Mouse Hole.
But you are unlikely to see any motor-cycles revving up outside……..
Location Market Place, Abingdon, OX14 3HB