Our heritage of over 150 Years

For more than 150 years people have enjoyed the special taste of John Watt & Son coffee in Carlisle.

It all began way back in 1865 with the opening of a shop on Glovers Row in the city centre.

There the unique coffee blends that have evolved over the past century and a half were first created and one of Carlisle’s best-loved businesses was born.

Glovers Row – which stood near the city centre’s Market Cross – was demolished in 1897 and John Watt & Son relocated the short distance to 11 Bank Street where they remain to this day.

During those early days in Bank Street rent for the shop was paid for not with money, but with six cases of dog meat. This was the only form of payment requested by the solicitors Bright, Brown and Strong who occupied the offices above the store.

Founder John Watt died in 1916 and the business was carried on by his son Henry until his death in 1943. Henry’s widow then formed a partnership with Fred Hodgson, a prominent Carlisle City Councillor and respected grocer who continued to run the business until the 1960s.

When Fred died the business was sold to Ashley Kendall. His son Ashley Kendall Junior ran it for the next 40 years. During this time the rise of self-service supermarkets and out of town shopping centres saw John Watt & Son transform from a traditional local grocers into a tea and coffee specialist with the on-site cafe soon gaining a reputation for serving home-made snacks and pastries to compliment the extensive range of teas and freshly-roasted coffees.

In 2015, Peter and Carol Johnston bought John Watt & Son and have built on the legacy and traditions of the business. They have already gained recognition for the Rainforest Alliance Expresso 1865 in the recent Great Taste Awards using the well-kept secret recipe that have been used in the business for over the century.

They also work in partnership with other local suppliers and traders to support their businesses and help maintain the fine tradition of top-quality Cumbrian produce.

Where possible all the products used or sold within the shop are sourced from within a 50-mile radius of Carlisle.

For generations of Cumbrians, Bank Street’s coffee aroma and visits to the shop with friends and family have been part of everyday life. The place is so well-known it even features in a recent novel by best-selling crime author Mike Craven. The downstairs floor of Bank Street, which is open to the public, is a marvel to behold. It takes you back in time with containers of products that were sold in the past as well as items used in the coffee roasting process.

Today, John Watt & Son continue to roast raw coffee on the premises in Bank Street on a daily basis as well as at their newly opened branch nearby on Blackfriars Street. Both operate as coffee shops and cafes which draw in local residents and visitors to Carlisle to sample the unique award-winning coffee blends and delicious menu options.

In addition to the Blackfriars shop John Watt & Son also now have the cafe at Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life in Carlisle Castle and sell coffee through outlets including Cakes and Ale in Carlisle’s Castle Street, Tullie House Museum and the Shepherd’s Inn and Auctioneer at the city’s Rosehill.

John Watt & Son have expanded what they offer with the addition of barista training on the first floor of the Blackfriars branch in partnership with a leading coffee equipment manufacturer. There will also be free tasting sessions at the new premises on the first Saturday of each month.

They deliver to wholesale customers and their freshly roasted coffee and wide range of teas are sold online and at a number of food markets and tourist attractions so many can now enjoy their coffee and tea wherever they may be.