In the 1980s there were no fancy coffee shops in Chandler’s Ford. It wasn’t common for supermarkets to offer you ‘free’ coffee either. Many young mothers found themselves isolated at home with young children, and elderly people were struggling to meet someone for a friendly chat.
One person saw that acute problem in Chandler’s Ford and decided to do something about it, to change for the better.
Her name is Jane Archer. She has run the Coffee Room based at the Dovetail Centre at the Methodist Church on Winchester Road for 37 years. Many babies who had played at the Coffee Room have grown up to become parents themselves.
Quick links to:
- “Because someone listened”
- Reverend Peter Cornick: Jane’s dedication and leadership
- Reverend Bryan Coates: Jane shows her unwavering commitment
- History of the Dovetail Centre
- How did the Coffee Room start?
- Martin Napier: there’s no pressure to “buy another cup”
- Ben Williams: a teenager’s view of the Coffee Room
- BBC Radio Solent: a haven and a lifeline for many
- “Put your feet up, Jane”
- The Coffee Room Quiz
Together with a few friends, Jane set up a central meeting point with the promise of aromatic filter coffee, to give young mothers a place to meet other mothers with their babies, and to give local residents a place to stop by for a friendly chat.
This act of altruism transformed the lives of many, including mine. This is not just a random or spontaneous act of kindness. This is a consistent act of kindness with devotion over 37 years, which transforms lives in a gentle way that you might not even have noticed.
At the Coffee Room people feel warm and safe. It removes barriers and everybody is accepted. There is a clean baby changing facility at the church building; there is plenty of space for buggies; wheelchair users and people with physical and hidden disabilities are all welcomed. Guide dogs are also regular visitors.
“Because someone listened”
Many people have benefitted from the listening ear of Jane and her staff. We also heard a true story that the Coffee Room has saved someone’s life because someone listened. Such is a powerful story from this Coffee Room. Jane commented that ‘it’s all been worth it for just that one person’.
Jane: a vision and a 37-year commitment
Yesterday (30th June 2017) Jane Archer retired from the Coffee Room, having run it for 37 years. It was also a day of celebration and a day for many people to show their gratitude to Jane.
She has helped 3 mornings a week during that whole 37 years.
From about 10.30am yesterday at the Coffee Room, I watched a long queue of people starting to form at the service hatch for coffee and tea. At one point I was wondering if their cups and pots were going to run out, but probably not, because some helpers were weaving through the coffee tables to collect used cups, pots and cute milk jars to take to the kitchen to wash. I looked around and found many people were standing as the room was packed (and all the comfy cushions were used).
At 11.15am, there was a heart-warming presentation at the Coffee Room. Old and new friends gathered to thank Jane (and to surprise her) personally. Jane was clearly embarrassed as she was not used to be in the limelight. She would have preferred hiding in the kitchen to do the washing up.
Reverend Peter Cornick: Jane’s dedication and leadership
The Reverend Peter Cornick at The Methodist Church shared that 37 years ago, the Coffee Room opened, on Monday 11th Feb 1980.
It was in what is now the J. Ambrose Chalk Room area. Jane, with friends, had the vision of a place where the church and community could interact, where everyone was welcome, and where people, often in need or lonely, could find a listening ear.
The Reverend Peter Cornick said it was a vision based firmly in Jane’s Christian faith. And the vision has been sustained over these 37 years by her leadership.
He praised Jane for her loving service to the community:
You have been committed and dedicated to the leadership of the Coffee Room, making up the Rotas, overseeing the business side of things, many behind the scenes tasks which no one sees, and caring for the very large team of staff over the years. To lead such an enterprise, is a rare gift, and as a church, as a Coffee Room, we want to thank you sincerely, for sharing this gift with us, and we want to praise God for your vision and leadership.
We know that you would be the first person to say, this has not been you alone. We want to thank John for all the support he has given you, but also to recognise that it is all the helpers over the years who have made the Coffee Room what it is today.
But on this, your last day of leading the Coffee Room, it is appropriate to realise how instrumental you have been, and simply to offer you our thanks for 37 years of loving service.
Reverend Bryan Coates: Jane shows her unwavering commitment
“37 years is a fleeting time if you are committed”, according to the Reverend Bryan Coates, former minister of the Chandler’s Ford Methodist Church.
In his speech, he also praised Jane’s sense of humour, as he once was asked to put on a red nose on Red Nose Day. He also stressed that the Coffee Room has supported a large number of charities and good causes in the community.
The Reverend Bryan Coates praised that the Coffee Room encompasses Jane’s vision, and she has transformed the place with her unwavering commitment. Through the Coffee Room, they have touched and influenced many people’s life. He expressed his genuine admiration for Jane, praising her energy, enthusiasm, devotion, constancy, and commitment.
He also praised John for being part of the scene in supporting Jane.
History of the Dovetail Centre
Talking about the Dovetail Centre, you may want to see two significant photos from the official opening of the Dovetail Centre. Image credit: Eastleigh and District Local History Society.
Bryan Coates was the Minister of Chandler’s Ford Methodist Church then. Here this photo shows a ceremonial opening of the door at the end of the corridor.
A safe place for mothers and babies
Pam Madders, a regular helper, told me that she has been a customer since 1981, when she found herself at home with a baby, having previously been out at work all day. ‘I was probably the sort of person Jane had in mind when she set it up,’ Pam said. Some time after her daughters started school, Pam herself became a helper.
I could echo Pam’s view. In November 2000, two months after moving to Chandler’s Ford from London, I became a mother with a baby boy. The shock was real. A group of local post-natal mothers decided to meet once a week on Thursday, and we found the only place in the whole of Chandler’s Ford that could accommodate us was The Coffee Room.
It was such a cosy and welcoming environment and the warmth it exuded was appreciated by all of us.
How did the Coffee Room start?
The Coffee Room opened on Monday 11th February 1980. Coffee was 20p per cup and takings on that first morning were £3.90.
Jane and her friend had young families then and they did not want to work and not to be there when the children came home from school.
She set up the Coffee Room with a friend. Jane was aware that many people in the community (such as mums with young families, and elderly people who were lonely) would value a place to go to have a good cup of coffee, and a chat. ^
In the 80s “Church coffee” did not have a good reputation, so Jane was keen to serve a good cup of filter coffee, not instant coffee. Jane’s insistence on quality truly paid off.
Jane established a strong team to support her running of the Coffee Room. Now she has a team of about 50 regular helpers.
Today, the coffee price is only 50p. Pam explained to me that the aim has always been to keep the price fairly low, so as not to exclude anyone who could not afford a drink.
The Coffee Room started small – the helpers never knew how many would come, and some days it was only a few. It gradually grew and the original premises could not cope with the demand – hence the Dovetail Project started to give the Coffee Room a new and better home.
The Coffee Room is the most generous community centre. Not only does it open to the general public for friendship and space, but also donate to many charities from the income it generates. Treasurer of the Coffee Room, Lin Hedley, kindly showed me the books, and you can see the names of some of the charities, including Stroke Association, Smile, CLIMB, Alzheimer’s Society, Mind, Samaritan’s Purse, Water Aid, and Eastleigh Basics Bank).
Martin Napier: there’s no pressure (real or perceived) to “buy another cup”
Martin Napier, who writes the Growing up in Chandler’s Ford from 1950s to 1960s series, told me how he got involved with The Coffee Room. (Note: I got to know Martin at the Coffee Room, and later invited him to write for Chandler’s Ford Today. And he went on to produce a remarkable series and is one of our popular writers.)
I have been a member of the church for a number of years, but when I retired, like a lot of men, found I had time spare, and no regular commitment to fill it.
I had Wednesday and Sunday mornings with the cycling club, but although I am secretary of the boat club I run, there was still more time to fill!
I asked Jane Archer if she could ‘use me’ to help at the Coffee Room, and was grateful that she said “Yes”, and found me a ‘slot’ quickly.
I have met so many people, been able to ‘put faces to names’, and made lots of friends through being not only a ‘once a month’ helper, but of course, I took to visiting more regularly too.
In fact, neither Karen nor I had visited the Coffee Room much until I started helping there, but now we try and visit regularly, and have both benefitted from the friendships made, and people met while there.
It is certainly, in my humble opinion, a most valuable resource, and probably the most important part of the church there.
While the Church itself is obviously important, in many ways, it is “preaching to the converted”, while the Dovetail Centre, and its regular Coffee Room enable those both inside and, more importantly, outside the church membership, to receive friendly and genuine fellowship.
This can be delivered in a way that a commercial coffee shop cannot offer. ^
There is no pressure (real or perceived), to ‘buy another cup’, always someone to have a chat with if you want to, and an atmosphere that only such a non-commercial operation can offer.
This is all due to the vision of Jane Archer, all those years ago, and, as was stated at today’s occasion, must be counted as a gift from God to Jane.
Jane has surely fulfilled the trust that was put in her by that vision, by leading most graciously, such a heartfelt and genuine operation, open to all who have visited the Coffee Room.
Ben Williams: a teenager’s view of the Coffee Room
My son Ben is 16 years old and has just finished his GCSE exams. He joined me yesterday morning at the Coffee Room, and shared his thought here:
As one of the youngest people there yesterday morning it was interesting to learn the history of the Dovetail Centre. Jane told me that I had been there as a baby.
I have been visiting the Coffee Room for a long time (roughly 16 years). I really like the Coffee Room as it’s a very relaxed environment with lots of adults to talk to (I like talking to adults).
I like the snacks and biscuits (and my favourite is Kit Kat) and as a teenager I appreciate the free Wi-Fi! It’s great that there’s a place for members of the community of all ages to meet.
BBC Radio Solent: a haven and a lifeline for many
On the 25th of June, BBC Radio Solent’s presenter Tim Daykin broadcasted Jane’s wonderful contribution to the community in this BBC Radio Solent programme. (Note: The programme only stays online for a month.)
To listen to the announcement about Jane: from time 2:11:40 – 2:15:40.
Read by BBC Radio Solent’s presenter Tim Daykin:
Jane Archer is retiring from running the Coffee Room at Chandler’s Ford Methodist Church on 30 June. It was Jane’s vision to provide a friendly welcoming place where anyone could go for coffee – this was in the days before coffee shops were everywhere! – and she made it happen.
It opened in February 1980 and Jane has run it ever since, giving her time freely on 3 mornings a week throughout that 37 years. Her enthusiasm for the venture has never diminished. From small beginnings the Coffee Room has become an important part of the Church and the community.
Many comment on the friendliness and welcome they find, and it has become a haven and lifeline for many. Well done!
“Put your feet up, Jane”
Friends showed their love by giving Jane some special gifts. Gill is one of Jane’s original helpers, who presented the flowers to Jane; Lin and Caroline are also great helpers for decades. Lin presented some tea cups, and Caroline (who recently got back from RHS Chelsea Flower Show) presented Jane with some roses.
Bryan presented a book signed by hundreds of friends to Jane, and Peter presented some vouchers.
Will Jane now be willing to put her feet up? Well, we’ll find out later.
Of course, a celebration is not complete without a cake. The cake was beautifully made by Shirley Dunsire, and decorated by Diane Farrenden. The beautiful flowers which adorn the Coffee Room were arranged by Pat.
The Dovetail Centre: a major re-fit in the summer
The Dovetail Centre at the church is about to undergo a major re-fit. The work that Jane started will continue as the Dovetail Centre Café, with fairly traded speciality coffee and snacks, opening from 9am to 12 noon on weekdays and 10am to 12 noon on Saturdays.
Reverend Peter Cornick said, ‘Jane’s vision of a place where the people of Chandler’s Ford can meet as a community lives on for another 37 years.’
There’ll be a separate article about this exciting Dovetail Centre project. Stay tuned.
I have come up with a quiz about The Coffee Room. Feel free to share your answers here in the comment, and discuss it with your friends. Of course, if you are ‘stuck’, just visit The Coffee Room and ask for ‘help’.
The Coffee Room Quiz
1) How many coffee tables are there in The Coffee Room?
2) The Queen has 13 prime ministers during her reign since 1952. How many church Ministers have there been during the past 37 years at the Methodist Church (when Jane was running the Coffee Room)?
3) Who arranges the beautiful flowers at The Coffee Room for over 30 years?
4) Name 5 regulars (and the name of the guide dog) in the Coffee Room.
5) How much is a Kit Kat at The Coffee Room?
6) Name 5 nationalities of the visitors to the Coffee Room.
7) What’s the name of the Rose given to Jane?
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