Bakers shops in the early 20th century
By the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002 based on her experiences as a child in north London
Bakers did not make or sell cream cakes in the early 20th Century when I was a child. The two cakes that I associated with them were long oblong shortbreads with a cherry in the centre and something called rice cakes. These were very plain that had crystallised sugar sprinkled on top, again with a cherry in the centre.
The bread was cooked in the bakery at the back of the shop. It was a lovely sight to see the baker come into the shop wearing a cap and white apron and carrying a tray of hot bread on top of his head, and the smell was wonderful. The bread was lovely, crusty and its tasty. Most of it was white; there was some brown but white was much more popular.
The unsold bread
Any left over bread would be sold the next day as 'stale bread'. Once it got too hard to sell, it would go back to the bakery to be made into bread pudding or sold as 'crumb' to butchers to bulk out their sausages. My mother knew all the tricks of the bread trade.
During the 1914-18 war bread had to be sold by weight, rather than by loaf, so it had to be weighed. If the loaf was supposed to be two pounds, and it fell short, the shop had little squares of bread about two inches across that were called makeweights. Usually only one would ever be required. In those days when the children went to fetch the bread, it was quite normal for them to eat the makeweight on the way home.
Makeweights bring to mind the 'baker's dozen' which was 13 of a baker's wares given when the customer paid for only a dozen which was 12. The practice seems to have passed into disuse in the 20th century, unless you know differently.
Some typical bakers' shops
There were two bakers shops along Silver Street in my home town of Edmonton when I was a child in the early 1900s and both were owned by Germans which seems not to have been at all unusual in other towns.
I well remember the baker whose name sounded to me like Brayer. His wife served in the front of the shop and he would come in from the back where he had been baking carrying a tray of loaves on his head. He was very fat. His wife never made conversation and her appearance was like that of so many women of the time: a long skirt, tight bodice, hair loosely taken away from her face and coiled onto the top of her head in a bun. She kept the bun covered with a white bun cover.
Information on Breyer's bakers from the 1911 census
The name of the other German baker sounded like Hungerer. He had an assistant who helped in the shop and I have good reason to remember her. One day I went in there with my friends and on the counter was a large tray of homemade toffee, broken up for sale. One of my friends said, "I dare you to take a piece". It wasn't like me, but as nobody seemed to be around, I did. In a flash the assistant appeared and said, "You can put that back." and, "I'll tell your father of you". I was really scared because I thought she really would tell my father who was well known in Edmonton. He was an ambulance driver for the hospital and nephew of E G Cole who was chair of the Board of Guardians and owner of the local Pottery. In fact she never did tell on me, but I lived in fear for days.
History of Curnock's bakeries
My grandfather Alfred Curnock took over the bakery premises at 27 Silver Street from James Kilsby in 1898, as is evidenced by the document on the right. It enlarges to a legible size on tap/click.
The family was still trading through the 1930s, as shown by the advert on the left, from a late 1930s newsletter from Tanners End Mission, and they continued until the 1950s. It too opens to a legible size on tap/click.
During this time, they had opened a second shop in Fore Street, Edmonton