Then & Now

Mr Hughes’ Bakery, St John’s – Then & Now

Mr Hughes' Bakery
Mr Hughes’ Bakery

The postcard above shows an undated view of Mr J. Hughes’ bakery, opposite St John’s church, with the proprietor and presumably his son and daughter in the doorway. A horse and cart has stopped in the road outside to pose for the photographer. The sign above also advertises a sideline “Sacks for Hire”. Fresh loaves can be seen displayed in the shop window.

John Drew records in his book Kenilworth – A Manor of The King (Pleasaunce Press, 1971) a number of the recipes that J. Hughes kept in a small pocket book, including “Custards, Swansea Buns, Jersey Buns, Dripping Rolls, Raspberry Vinegar, Thick Ginger Bread, Brandy Snaps, Pound Cakes, Cake, Seed Cake, Currant Cake, Good Friday Buns, Saturday Buns, Lunch Cakes, Derby Cakes, Brighton Rock Cakes, Broom Wine…”. He notes that modern day readers may “take fright” at recipes such as Pigs Pudding, which was made with fat, groats, leeks, Pennyroyal, nutmeg, pudding spice, pepper and salt and blood to colour!

John Drew also mentions a possible explanation for the inclusion of the horse and cart in the photo: “Old Mr Hughes would be somewhere up one of the side roads, basket over arm, while his horse drawn two-wheeler would be wandering along the street”.

A great read for those interested in the St John’s end of town, once a separate community quite distinct from the rest of the old town, is the book Jackender (Odiborne Press, 1995) by Paul Byron Norris and Arthur Frodsham. Their recollection is of the wife of J. Hughes the baker, Annie Hughes, who is remembered as “a rather dignified lady who wore a frilled lace collar” and who owned a parrot which would call out “Shop, Annie! Shop, Annie!” when customers approached, a fact played upon by the local boys who would coax it to shout out and then run away! All bread, buns, pastries and cakes were cooked on the premises.

Arthur Frodsham, who worked next door at Fox’s butchers, also recalled assisting their son, known as ‘Bammit’ Hughes to bake hot cross buns during Holy Week, working through the night and returning home at dawn.

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