WHEN young baker Fritz Bützer came to England from Switzerland to seek his fortune in 1907 he had no idea where he was going.

Unable to speak a word of English, he had lost the address of his destination and could only remember that it sounded like ‘bratwurst’.

A kind stranger put him on a train from London to Bradford – and that lucky intervention helped set him on the road to success.

He found work at a Swiss-owned confectioners, Bonnet & Sons, before ultimately going on to launch the hugely successful Bettys cafes which have become synonymous with Yorkshire.

The story of Fritz’s life is a classic rags to riches tale – complete with tragedy, determination and lucky breaks.

Born in Switzerland in 1885 he was still a baby when he lost his mother, and he was left orphaned just a few years later when his father died in a fire at the family mill. He spent much of his childhood working as an unpaid farm labourer, before going on to train as a baker, confectioner and chocolatier.

After starting out in Bradford he eventually moved to Harrogate where – under his new name of Frederick Belmont – he launched his first Bettys in July 1919.

A century later the business is seen as the epitome of good taste and has cafes in Harrogate, York, Northallerton and Ilkley.

Staff and customers at the tea rooms have been celebrating the centenary, and the Ilkley branch on the Grove has been no exception.

The story of Bettys in Ilkley started with C E Taylor who saw the business potential in setting up genteel cafes in the spa towns of the North of England.

He had already established a Kiosk Cafe at Harrogate in 1895 and opened a similar establishment in Ilkley the following year, in the building which is now Bettys.

The Kiosk Cafe provided teas and freshly roasted coffees along with light refreshments.

The enterprise was such a success that in 1902 Taylor & Co opened the Cafe Imperial, also on The Grove.

The company was taken over by Bettys in 1962 and the cafe was refurbished and reopened two years later. At the same time the Cafe Imperial was closed.

For more than half a century visitors to Bettys in Ilkley have been able to enjoy refreshments in calm and genteel surroundings – despite a dramatic interlude in 1978 when a hot water tank cylinder exploded and destroyed an extension at the rear of the building which housed the cafe.

The force of the explosion also shattered the glass door and windows at the front of the shop but the rest of the building and those surrounding it escaped with only superficial damage.

The kiosk had previously been used by Taylors as a bakery and there was still a large oven in the basement of the building which took some of the impact from the explosion. The Ilkley Gazette reported that “a large copper water boiler from the basement was blown onto the roof of a building 60 yards away”.

Luckily no one was in the building at the time as the explosion happened at 3am.

The cost of reconstruction was about £74,000 and it was about a year before the cafe was reopened to customers.

Frederick Belmont first opened Bettys’ doors to customers on July 17 1919 at the original premises, 9 Cambridge Crescent, Harrogate.

A Bettys spokesperson said: “Since then, the business has grown and changed in ways that he could never have imagined – we’re now Bettys & Taylors, and home to some of Yorkshire’s most respected businesses and brands.

“While 2019 marks the 100-year anniversary of the opening of Bettys, it also represents a celebratory milestone for our whole business.

“2019 is a year for showcasing all that we are most proud of and a celebration of the fact that we remain an independent Yorkshire family business with strong values, talented people, committed shareholders and a desire to make a positive difference in the world.”