School House Café – The Beginning

Lightly SaltedBlog


I want to tell you about how and why two people in their early twenties started a café in Cheltenham, a café that isn’t like any normal café – a café which seeks to be a catalyst for community.

Firstly, let me introduce the team. Maddie Hall, a Theology Student at St Mellitus (London) and originally from Bristol, now living in Cheltenham. Maddie worked in Soho, a coffee shop chain similar to Costa Coffee or Cafe Nero, for a few years – so has good experience in making a fine coffee!

And myself, Ollie Tigwell – I studied Graphic Design at the University of Gloucestershire, worked as a designer for 3 years and now work as a website manager for a large charity called New Wine.


Maddie and I believe in a God who gives us dreams and visions. It was one of these visions that led us to coincide and sincerely pursue the creation of the School House Café. We began the process back in 2014 where, fuelled by excitement we began the process of trying to create a space within a community that was inclusive; brought people together and made everyone feel welcome.


We started this pursuit by exploring how we could gather people together, a café seemed like the most obvious solution. Cafés are great places to gather and come together to eat and drink. Exploring a location was our next step. Maddie and I both live in Cheltenham, so it made sense to start there, we had a conversation with Roger Widdecombe of St Pauls Church who happened to have some space that was unused and ripe for refurbishment. We began the process of developing the space after receiving some incredibly generous gifts and investment. 

We employed the help of our friend Dave to help with the building work. There was a lot to do, the ceiling needed to be levelled; floor sanded; counter built; wall exposed; walls plastered; plug sockets; wi-fi and lots lots more. Dave put his own touch on the aesthetics, thinking of things that we never would have considered – we’re truly grateful for this.

Our espresso came from our friends over at Ethical Addictions. One of our values from day one was sourcing espresso that was seriously ethical. Ethical Addictions coffee is direct from farm to cup, we know exactly where the coffee comes from – in fact the guys at Ethical Addictions often go out to visit the farms themselves.

So we had the building work done, next was to devise a menu and order the stock to arrive ready for our soft launch on 13th October. We spent a long time working out what would fit for the St Pauls community

Step 2 – Where

Step 3 – How

Next steps

How you can support us

St. Pauls is an incredible area with so much rich history, the cafe is within a small lobby area of the old St. Paul’s School, which was opened in 1848 by the vicar of St. Paul’s, Henry Bromby and Francis Close, the Rector of Cheltenham. The two clergymen saw the need for education in the community and raised the money for the school from local people.

The school shut in 1980 and was used by St. Paul’s Church as a centre for church activities. In 2013, the government decided that the site should be used for the community and church of St. Paul’s and a new charity was formed.