Ashover Revivalists Secure Historic Cafe

The old ‘Where the Rainbow Ends’ cafe, once a focal point for passengers travelling on the Ashover Light Railway, looks set to return to its original location thanks to a joint venture between its current owners and the ALRS.

The cafe was the brainchild of General GM Jackson, owner of the railway and the Clay Cross Company, who hit upon the idea to build a café at Ashover Butts - the picturesque terminus of the railway. He intended it to provide facilities for the many tourists that were using the new railway as an escape from the noise and pollution of Clay Cross.

The whole building was constructed out of wood, with all of the preparation being undertaken within the Clay Cross Works, from where the parts were transported to Ashover on the railway. Work on assembly began early in 1926 and was complete in time for the summer season. General Jackson was also responsible for the unusual name given to the building. Where the Rainbow Ends was the title of a play written by Clifford Mills and John Ramsey. The play told of the search by a brother and his sister for their parents, whom they believed were to be found in the land of the lost loved ones ‘where the rainbow ends’. General Jackson thought this a perfect name for his new café, as it was built in such an idyllic and romantic location. The building was easily recognisable as the roof was finished with multi-coloured tiles laid in the colours of the rainbow.

Regular passenger services on the Ashover Light Railway ended in 1936, and the Cafe suffered as a result of this; only opening on summer weekends until 1939 when it ceased operations as a café. When World War II broke out, the building was used as a school room for the evacuees, but this was to be its last major use in Ashover.

In 1950, the Clay Cross Company dismantled the building piece by piece and rebuilt it at the south-eastern end of the new Clay Cross Company sports field adjacent to John Street, Clay Cross. During this rebuild, the decorative roofing tiles were replaced by mineral felt, but the whole reconstruction was done to a very high standard. It was officially re-opened by RO Jackson in May 1952 and has seen regular use since.

The Clay Cross Company eventually became part of Biwater Industries, which wound up its Clay Cross activities in 2003. The land was sold to Worcester-based development company, Maximus, which has maintained the building for the local table tennis club, bowling club, cricket club and the junior football teams to use. However, the land is due for redevelopment and the ‘Rainbow Café’ needs to find a new home.

A proposal had been submitted by Ashover Parish Council to move the building to a new site within Ashover village centre, but this idea was dropped in June in favour of the ALRS’ scheme to return the building to its original site. This plan will see the building once again serve as a cafe, refreshing villagers, tourists and eventually passengers on the rebuilt ALR, but also act as an interpretation/heritage centre for the ALR. Railway or no railway, the return of the Cafe will be a great achievement and will be an attraction in its own right.

Maximus is committed to the welfare of the building, taking every consideration to ensure its future is assured. With or without the ALRS involvement, the Cafe would be guaranteed a future somewhere, but fortunately for us, the company is backing the ALRS’ plans.

Having only been given the green light in early July, the Society is now working against the clock as the building needs to be dismantled by the end of September 2007. One Society member has volunteered to survey the building and produce any associated designs and drawings, yet more help is needed, and the Society would love to hear from anyone, particularly qualified builders, who could assist with the physical dismantling as well as transport.

The ALRS is in the process of pursuing a variety of grant opportunities, but an appeal has been launched to help cover the immediate costs and expenses. Please telephone 01455 440180 or e-mail to find out how you can contribute to the appeal.

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