Barrie’s Hot Bread Shop

Barrie’s Hot Bread Shop

It was back in 1974 as I was on my way home from the train station in Royston where we lived and noticed an empty shop and thought this is a good location for a bakery being right next to the market and after suggesting it to my wife I decided to give it a try, after talking to a flour rep I knew he suggested a loan from the flour mill and made the appointment for me to meet the mill owners which we did and I got the loan to set up the shop to be called “Barrie’s Hot Bread Shop” I often laugh about this now as when I went to meet the flour mill owners I had large holes in the soles of my shoes as I could not afford to buy new ones.


The shop proved to be tremendously hard work and I was working 7 days a week and often as not 20 hours a day, and then twice a week I would work none stop for 48 hours to get products ready for the twice a week market, and trying to find good qualified staff/bakers to assist me and my one very good Bakery Apprentice who fortunately lived locally was a big headache, in-fact I had one night baker who worked single hand and was very good at his job but on one occasion he had an incredibly bad toothache and the pain was so bad during the night that he could not work properly but instead of phoning me to tell me so that I could go and stand in for him he just went home, so when I arrived at 4am the next morning to start work I found the bakery was empty and all I could see was masses of bread dough’s all over the table, floor, and spewing out of the mixing bowl like a volcano that had erupted, he had just left everything and gone home and that was the last I saw of him. I laugh about it now but at the time you can just imagine the panic it caused me and my apprentice...    


The Ghost!

It was just 9pm the other evening when I had been watching a film on the TV about ghosts so much so that it brought a memory back to me of when I had my bakery shop in Royston.


I had heard stories about the area the shop was built on but never took much notice of them and was not sure that I believed in ghosts and spirits, but what kept happened at the shop was to change my mind!


It was the very early hours of the morning and I was working alone in the bakery making the bread and rolls, and normally at this time of night the bakery would be extremely hot but for some reason there was a cold chill in the bakery, I was busy dividing the dough and moulding it into balls to rest and rise, then as I turned round to get more dough out of the mixer I noticed that the mixer utensils that hung from large hooks under a shelf above the mixing machine where swinging back and forth of your own accord, I stopped them moving and did not think much of it but then they started to move again, I thought how can this happen as there is no gusts of wind in the bakery and all the doors are closed, so I stopped them moving again and turned to go to my oven that was by some stairs leading to the back door, and then it happened, standing at the top of the stairs was an apparition of a man dressed in 1800 clothing, he just stood there with his arms and hands outstretched and looked awfully sad, at this point the hairs on my arms stood on end and a cold chill ran down my spine, then the utensils started to move again , I glanced at them and then turned back to look at the man but the apparition was gone.


I thought I won’t say anything as people will think I am mad. A few days later one of my counter staff Rita was coming down the stairs when she gave out a mighty shriek, I asked her what was wrong and she said someone pushed past her on the stairs but there was nothing there and we just had a good laugh about it. Then the following night a member of my staff a man called Kenny was working on the night shift alone and when I arrived in the morning I thought he seems behind with the production and asked him why, he recounted a story of what had happened during the night and it turned out to be exactly the same as what had happened to me I told him what I had seen and what Rita had seen and started to wonder about the apparition which we kept seeing repeatedly during the very early hours when working the night shift!


A short time after this I was doing my night work shift (again alone) when the back door flew open and a police man friend of mine came rushing into the bakery scarring the life out of me and nearly jumping out of my skin he just laughed and asked what’s wrong so I told him about the apparitions we had seen he just nodded and said could be you have seen the landlords son of the old coaching Inn, I asked what landlord son? And he then told me the story of the piece of land that my shop was built on; as he was a bit of a fanatic on the history of the Royston area I had no reason not to disbelieve him.


It seems that some time in the 1800 there was an coaching Inn on the exact piece of land as my shop and it was said that the landlords son had supposedly killed his wife but fervently denied it all, none the less he was sentenced to be hung at the Caxton gibbet near Royston and it is said that in-fact he was the very last person to be hung there, “but do not know how true this is” could the apparition we kept seeing have been the landlords Son? It would account for the sad face and the outstretched arms in a plea for help, One thing I should point out is that the place the shops where built is called “Angel Pavement” and that the actual Caxton gibbet can still be seen to this day at “CAXTON” near Royston Hertfordshire...                                                                               




With all the long hours and all but working alone it got too be far too much for me and I ended up collapsing twice, the doctor said you’ve had two warnings you won’t get a third chance so it was time to make a crucial diction although that decision was somewhat taken out of my hands as alas my own business did not work out right despite all the hard work and even though I considered myself a very good baker I obviously had no head for business at that time and finally four years later had to close the shop and became bankrupt, it took several years to clear the bankruptcy which was also a blow to my pride but as always my family supported me and encouraged me to move on and do more challenging things and reach for greater heights, but at least I had tried and I put that episode in my profession down to just a dropped stitch in the vast tapestry of life.           


So I consider myself to have been very lucky in my working life and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time when new job opportunities came up and “must say this” that my family always encouraged me and supported any job move I made.


Yes very fortunate and getting to travel round many European countries, living in Doha Qatar and then travelling round all the Middle East counties, Europe, Malta and Cyprus  and then Asia as the regional bakery adviser, first living in Thailand for four years and then Indonesia, always travelling round the region from country to country, Indonesia, Thailand, All of China, Sri-Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, and Hong Kong, often travelling round the visit country by car, train, boats or plane but always demonstrating and teaching both the local company bakery advisers and customers about the function of ingredients and anything to do with bread and cakes, and yes I often got to see interesting places like bakery’s in the Jungles of Sri-Lanka and historical sites like the Forbidden city and to walk on the Great Wall of China.


Often people would ask me which country did I like best, but I always replied all of them as each has its own individual beauty in the people, customs, culture and traditions, in no way could you compare one country with the other as even the city culture compared to rural culture of any of the countries I visited was vastly different, a really fantastic job but do I have regrets? YES two big regrets, sending my children to boarding schools, no matter how good or expensive they are nothing can replace the lost years with my children and the quality time I should have spent with them, all be it that at the time you think you’re doing the right thing and in their best interests, and then moving to live in Indonesia which at the time I never wanted to “on high in-sight” it was a bad job move pushed on me by the company I should of listened to my head and my heart and not my pocket and the high salary.


But one of the things I learnt with all my travels is that you can’t change a persons or a country’s culture you are only the visitor in  their land so you must try to blend in with the masses and there way of life, which has taught me some wisdom of life and how to adapt and fit in.         


But now with my dementia all I can do is to sit and look at my shaking hands and body, and think of all the cakes I’ve made and decorated which at times just makes me want to cry, yet with a sense of satisfaction that I had a career I loved so much but now the skill and magic has gone from my hands, someone once said to me:

You don’t become a baker; you’re born a baker,

With the love of the trade in your hands and heart”