From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes

Cafe Venchie- the community hub

photo by JH Millar

Many people remember the Cafe Venchie with affection.  It was a local hub and a popular meeting place. 

The Architect's Vision

When Wester Hailes was originally planned and at the drawing board stages, a range of cafes and other eating places was included. 

However, by the time the first bricks were being laid, cost cutting meant that much of this infrastructure went by the wayside.  Comparisons with Musselburgh in terms of population size are often made with Wester Hailes.  When Wester Hailes was built, Musselburgh had twenty-seven cafes compared to none in Wester Hailes.  While you may not need a cafe for the basics of living in a house, places to meet and socialise are essential to creating and sustaining a sense of community.

 The Cafe Venchie was planned as part of the Community Workshop.  It quickly became a great resource for the area and was used by a variety of local groups as a place to meet.  Prior to its opening, a competition was run through the Sentinel to come up with a name.  A wide range of suggestions were submitted as you can see if you click here on Sentinel October 1978

 The cafe was originally supposed to open in the November of that year but must have faced a few last-minute delays.  There is a report in the Sentinel for October 1979 announcing that a cafe manager had been appointed, Louise Martin and that the cafe was opening soon. In February 1980, the official opening was reported on.  As with other Wester Hailes projects, local people were involved in the management of the cafe and groups were encouraged to see the premises as a place they could use for meetings as well as social events.  You can read about the new cafe menu here by clicking on Sentinel February 1980.

Sentinel February 1980


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