Staff at popular Northampton tea rooms told not to come to work as locks have been changed

Staff at Delapre Abey tea rooms have been told not to come into work today.
Staff at Delapre Abey tea rooms have been told not to come into work today.

Staff at a popular tea rooms in Northampton have been ‘locked out’ today and told they will not be able to open, days after it emerged its governing board were to resign en-bloc.

The final blow could have been dealt to the Friends of Delapre Abbey (FoDA) run tea rooms, based in an 18th Century stable rooms of the ruins this morning, after staff were told not to come in as the locks to the venue had been changed and all cash moved from the site.

We just did not expect this. We knew they were meant to be closing tomorrow. But this effectively shuts us down.

Mick Ford

The eatery was originally due to close tomorrow after the current FODA board took the decision to shut the facility, claiming it had been ‘operating at a loss’.

But a number of FoDA members disputed this and lodged a vote of no confidence against the board last week.

It led to the board announcing it would officially step down on Tuesday, March 31 to coincide with the end of the charity’s contracted lease with Northampton Borough Council.

Councillor Mick Ford, (Lib Dem, Delapre) whose wife Michelle was employed there, had initially hoped the friends group would keep the cafe running after the board’s resignation.

But today his wife received a call from a member of the outgoing FoDA board telling her not to come into work as the locks had been changed.

Councillor Ford said: “We just did not expect this.

“We knew they were meant to be closing tomorrow.

“But this effectively shuts us down.”

Northampton Borough Council is set to reconvene for a one-off full council meeting on Thursday, April 9, to discuss the tea rooms.

The authority has been recalled to discuss a motion it passed in November, which would have allowed for the tea rooms to remain open in the 18th Century stable house on a rolling lease until July.

The council, which owns Delapre Abbey, had originally intended to spend around £200,000 converting a smaller 19th Century stables on the site for the tea rooms to move to.

The rolling lease would have allowed the tea rooms to continue operating while that refurbishment took place.

When it was announced the FoDA tea rooms would be closing at the start of March, the borough council said it would provide a ‘temporary’ cafe facility in the walled gardens of the abbey throughout summer. It is not yet known exactly who will be running the temporary facility, but eyewitnesses have today reported seeing a marquee being erected in the garden of the abbey.

The final closure of the FoDA tea rooms today spells disappointment for the 2,784 who have signed a paper and an online petition calling for them to remain open.

a spokesperson for Northampton Borough Council, said: “The Friends of Delapre Abbey decided to close their tea room as it was not making money.

“The friends informed the borough council when they wished to cease trading and move out, and have handed back the building.

“Later this week the borough council will be stepping in to provide refreshments to visitors within the walled gardens.”