Catering at the Crystal Palace Part 2


Fred Peskett

            In Journal Number 85 I described the catering arrangements at the Crystal Palace, by a strange coincidence I have now acquired a small hoard of ephemera relating to “Bertram” one of the catering firms associated with the Palace during the 1800’s. The “Bertram” name had a long period at the Crystal Palace, from 1867 to 1872, 1878 to 1887 it was Bertram & Roberts, then Bertram & Company 1888 to 1892 and finally Bertram & Sons Ltd. 1893 to 1898. Sometime in 1898 the contract went to Joseph Lyons & Co. Ltd. who held the contract until 1923 including an Admiralty contract during the period of occupation of the Crystal Palace by the Royal Naval Division (1914-1919). Mecca Cafes took over the contract in 1923 and were still there until the fire in 1936 left no further demand for cups of tea and fruit buns. (From the list of stores kept under the Palace including the vast amount of alcohol it is no wonder the fire was so intense.)


Coloured Booklet by Bertram & Co., detailing the catering services

            The items of ephemera in the collection are:-

1.         A booklet outlining the catering facilities offered at the Crystal Palace by Bertram & Roberts

(1867-1872) this booklet being the 19th edition is dated to 1871. The cover is mauve and cream on a blue background.


Invitation card for Bertram & Company Annual Pic-Nic

2.         Two Bertram & Company envelopes with embossed back flaps.

a.         A white envelope with a dark brown embossed seal of “B & Co., Refreshment Department

Crystal Palace” on a triangular flap, dated 1888.

b.         A buff envelope with the same embossing but in light brown on a curved flap and is dated


3          Two invitation cards for Bertram & Company Annual Pic-Nic for Monday September 19th


a          Purple and gold printing on a pink background.

b          Green and gold printing on a light green background. The significance of the different

colours is not known, however, in Victorian times they may well have been used to segregate gender or status? The names on the invitation cards suggest that they were Bertram & Company employees, in fact in this “hoard” is a Crystal Palace Daily Programme for September 13th 1889 with details of the Bertram & Co. Athletics Day at the Crystal Palace Cricket Ground. A Miss J. Orbell (green card) competes in the Egg and Ladle Race and the Three Legged Race. While a Mr. A. Constable is in the 200 yards Handicap and the 150 yards Flat Race for men over 13 stone!

4.         Coloured Booklet by Bertram & Co., dated May 1894 detailing the catering services and

facts about the Crystal Palace.

5.         Folded Leaflet by Bertram & Sons Ltd., dated January 1897 with details of the charges for

School Treats and Bean feasts. From a historical point, the black and white engraving of the Crystal Palace features the North Transept which was destroyed by fire in 1866 and never rebuilt! For the School Treats the charge per person for parties from 500 to 1,000 was 6d (2˝p) for a “Large cup of tea, a Roll, Butter, and a Piece of Cake” A glass of milk or draught ginger beer was an extra penny.

          © Exhibition Study Group 2007