Serving up the history of our new Zebra HQ

(Posted on 22/01/24)

Serving up the history of our new Zebra HQ

In June last year the Zebra team was pleased to move into our new home at The Old Bank on Station Road in Rossett. With The Old Bank being a beautiful, old black and white building, we decided to delve into its history. As an avid hot chocolate fan, our Communications Manager Kathryn was delighted to discover that our base was originally called The Cocoa Rooms and served drinking chocolate to the community!


Tempered chocolate

Built in 1881, The Cocoa Rooms was constructed as a result of growing opposition to alcohol during the late 19th Century. Known as ‘The Temperance Movement’, social reformers campaigned for a ban on alcohol, which many saw as the root of the country’s worst social issues, including poverty and economic decline. Temperance halls were founded all across the country, as an alternative to pubs for young men to meet and socialise. Many included a teetotal pledge book that guests would sign, showing their dedication to abstinence.  As a firm supporter of the temperance movement, chocolatier John Cadbury viewed drinking chocolate as a healthier and more holistic alternative to alcoholic beverages, and soon hot cocoa was being served in temperance halls across the UK, like The Cocoa Rooms here in Rossett.


Drinks and mortar

The Cocoa Rooms was provided for by the local philanthropist Alexander Balfour, who resided at the Rossett estate at Mount Alyn for 17 years and was an active supporter of temperance. The building was designed by renowned Chester architect John Douglas, who used his signature Tudor style of black and white timbering of the upper storey, making it the perfect home for Zebra all these years later.

The Cocoa Rooms was a boon to the community, providing a reading room during the day, with plenty of newspapers for members to read the latest news, play cards, chess and draughts, and where (most importantly) hot cocoa was served. It would have been especially significant providing former soldiers with the chance to meet and drink cocoa after World War I.

In large room upstairs (now part of the residential Old Bank apartment above), there was a full-sized billiards table, and competitions were held between members, who would leave their names on a slate on the wall of the room on their way home from work, to ensure they could have an early game that evening. These competitions were not taken lightly, and silver trophies were awarded.

Members would also play cricket during the summer months, and there was also a successful local football club (sound familiar to today?), who were champions in the Chester and District League in 1913-1914.

There used to be a large sign attached to front of the building, which read ‘Cocoa Rooms - waste not, want not’. The sign is sadly long gone, but the iron bracket still remains, so watch this space for a new Zebra sign!


Trouble brewing

The Cocoa Rooms sadly closed during the Second World War, and we’re unsure as to whether it reopened again. We do know that by 1981 (100 years after it was first constructed), the building was leased to Nat West bank, until it closed in 2011, which is why our address is The Old Bank. Sometime later Jones The Computer occupied the building until the business vacated in 2023, and Zebra moved in!


Sweet smell of success

We at Zebra are very proud to reside in such a historic building that has played such an important part to the life of the village. We look forward to carrying on this tradition in supporting the local and wider area with our marketing services. Whether you’re a new or existing client, contact us to come and see us at the old Cocoa Rooms, and we’d be happy to serve you a nice hot chocolate!