The archetypal Corner House is represented in the British romantic drama film, Brief Encounter, when Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) and Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) share a table for lunch as chance acquaintances and the story develops from there. The corner houses were distinguished by their uniformed waitresses, known as ‘Nippies’, a play on words for their prompt service. The Lyons group was at the vanguard of developing technology during wartime Britain, playing a big part in ordinance logistics. In a post-war UK the business needed to find a solution for organising the distribution of cakes and other highly perishable goods in order to run a complex business across the country. They, therefore, substantially financed the University of Cambridge’s Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) which was the second electronic digital stored-program computer to go into regular service, and built their own programmable digital computers and became the first user of these in businesses, with the LEO I digital computer: the Lyons Electronic Office I. It handled the company’s accounts and logistics and included the weather forecast element to ensure goods carried by their ‘fresh produce’ delivery vans were not wasted in large quantities.
By the 1960’s the decline of the business model was possibly habitual with the model of their food outlets not being able to rebrand and modernize quickly enough to cater to the youth market of the swinging decade. By the mid 1960’s the founding company started to sell off parts of its London outlets and hotels and in 1978 the business was acquired by Allied Breweries which subsequently broke up the business and sold off elements to other companies. Lyons Maid ice-cream, Lyons Coffee, Lyons Cakes and Biscuits products and Ready Break are all products familiar from the former food empire which are now part of other bigger conglomerates. It’s ironic that only a decade or so later, the rise of the coffee house and the take away beverage industry in the UK could have meant a renaissance in the popularity of the Corner House … if it had survived into the age of the Café Nero and Starbucks?
Get out into the garden
Granted that the nights are drawing in and it can be dank and uninviting out there, but there is plenty to do in the garden these days and it’s one of the most productive times of the year. Like we have on the golf course, clear up leaves from lawns and borders to keep areas clean and disease free. Why waste such an important source of humus material also? The Joy of Composting is a revelation in itself and making your own soil amendments can help the environment. It will be soon bare root planting season and the best time to obtain field grown trees, hedge, rose and native shrub material. Bare root plants are an ideal alternative to pot grown shrubs and trees and often a very economical way to buy plants for larger areas. Now is the time to protect container plants from frosts and wind damage. Move containers out of exposed areas and shelter away from winds. This goes for borderline hardy shrubs also such as agapanthus which can stay in ground but need some protection for the crowns or branch structure. Use your favoured material, be it hessian, bubble wrap or straw to enclose container pot grown shrubs. Lift containers off the ground in general to prevent drainage holes of pots from blocking and becoming waterlogged and allow them to drain freely. Now is the time also to start cutting back herbaceous perennials and grasses. Take your time and prune those which look desiccated most first. Grasses can give structure and some stately forms in a bare garden during the winter time. If the weather closes in and the rain is beating on the window, then it may be time to research online seed catalogues and start planning next year’s growing season and get ahead.
Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager