A FAMILY business built by a Swiss orphan who came to Bradford to gain experience as a cake-maker established Yorkshire’s most famous patisserie in the 20th century - which developed into one of the county’s most successful and prestigious family brands in the 21st century .

My new book Every Day Bradford provides a memorable story for each day in the year about people, places and events from the district’s rich history. In the latest of a series of features, highlighting some of the stories I’ve uncovered, I look at the most famous family run café linked with Bradford, to complement last month’s story about the Fattorini retailing family.

This is the story of Bettys.

Fritz Butzer (1885-1952) was born in Switzerland, the son of a master baker. Sadly, when very young, he lost his mother. Then when he was five-years-old, his father died. Now orphaned, he was fostered by a local farmer who pledged to bring him up. However, he was used as an unpaid labourer. As soon as he could, Fritz left his foster home. He trained as a baker and travelled around Switzerland and France, learning to be a confectioner and chocolatier.

In 1907 Fritz decided to come to England. On arriving, he discovered that he had lost the address of his destination. He remembered that it sounded like ‘bratwurst’ (German for sausage). A helpful person put him on the train to Bradford. On arriving here, he found work at a Swiss-owned confectioners, Bonnet & Sons, on Darley Street in the centre of Bradford’s shopping area.

After some years in Bradford, Fritz eventually settled in Harrogate. He changed his name to Frederick Belmont, calling himself a ‘chocolate specialist’. He fell in love with and later married his landlady’s daughter. In 1919, with her family’s financial support, he opened the first Bettys café on Cambridge Crescent, Harrogate.

Before long Bettys was establishing its reputation for excellent service, elegant surroundings and delicate continental cakes. It expanded, opening a purpose-built bakery to supply new cafés first in Bradford (1922) - with a ballroom added in 1924 - and later in Leeds (1930). In Bradford, Bettys occupied a prime location on Darley Street to attract shoppers dropping in after visits to Brown Muff on Market Street or Busbys on Manningham Lane, both within five minutes’ walk. In 1937 Frederick opened up in York, home of chocolate makers, Terrys and Rowntree’s.

During World War Two Bettys was famous for something other than tea and cake - its bar in York. Before the outbreak of war, Frederick had managed to secure a liquor licence, opening a cocktail bar on the ground floor and a further bar in the basement. Affectionately known as ‘The Dive’, Bettys Bar became popular among servicemen stationed at airbases surrounding York. In 1942 it was hit by an incendiary bomb but escaped major damage. A year later, the army tried to requisition Bettys, but reconsidered after Frederick explained that Bettys was providing an essential public service as part of the war effort with 20,000 meals and beverages per week.

In 1952 Frederick died. His nephew Victor Wild took over the business aged just 29. He helped the business to adapt to changing tastes. He experimented with an espresso bar in Leeds, a continental deli next door to Bettys, Harrogate, while in York ‘Bettys Bar’ became an Italian restaurant with waiters and chefs specially recruited from Italy.

The year 1962 marked a critical new stage in the development of Bettys. A chance conversation led to the acquisition of Taylors of Harrogate, a family tea and coffee merchant company with the brand of Yorkshire Tea. This took the business into a different direction, although retaining its strengths as a high-class café and confectioners.

The combined operation became a new prosperous business, still family-run and managed by Frederick’s great-nephew. Currently, it has a craft bakery, cookery school and five café tearooms - two in Harrogate, one in York (another one closed in 2021 as result of the pandemic), one in Northallerton and one in Ilkley - having closed its city centre cafes in Bradford and Leeds. It also has a thriving mail-order business.

The Bradford Bettys closed down in 1974. Combined with the loss of its premier stores, Brown Muff and Busbys, in 1978, this marked the end of an era in the city. Darley Street, in particular, now looks down-at-heel - not the focal shopping point once symbolised by the elegance of Bettys, merely a street to pass quickly up or down.

Why is it called Bettys? Nobody knows! Incidentally, dropping the apostrophe is deliberate - it’s the official trading name.

l Every Day Bradford, which took Martin two years to complete, profiles the district’s movers and shakers, from the man behind Lister’s Mill to pop star Zayn Malik, in a story for every day of the year.

Manningham-born Martin started researching Bradford when writing a biography of his grandfather Percy Monkman, a First World War entertainer and artist.

Martin started his research in 2018, visiting Bradford’s Local Studies Library, Undercliffe Cemetery and local history groups.

“The format of a story for each of 365 days turned out to be flexible,” he says. “It allows for different stages in a historic theme, such as Chartism and the demand for universal suffrage, different facets of great lives, like JB Priestley’s writing, WW2 radio talks and CND campaigning, and stories with national interest, such as the Yorkshire Ripper and Cottingley fairies.

“I kept an eye on what was happening, as history continued to be written. Two Bradfordians being part of England’s first-ever Cricket World Cup victory in July 2019 was one such event.

Later, as the coronavirus pandemic hit, Captain Tom popped up on TV and turned out to be from Keighley.

“I was amazed by the stories I’d never heard of before - such as the ‘Humbug Billy’ poisonings, the workhouse boy from Idle who become one of the world’s most prominent academic philologists, the eccentric who attempted a solo Everest climb and the young mother of triplets who stumbled into a life of polar exploration.”

l Every Day Bradford is available online and from bookshops including Salts Mill and Waterstones.