Andersons set to quit Hoxton after 150 years baking bread
- Credit: Archant
Emma Bartholomew meets the Andersons as the family wind down their 160-year-old Hoxton bakery firm
In the 1950s and ’60s, Colin Anderson says, people would queue around the block armed with pillowcases to stockpile bread from his family bakery ahead of Christmas and Easter.
This was before the advent of 24-hour out-of-town supermarkets, and families would bulk-buy what was the staple part of their diet to see them through.
Colin’s great-grandfather Walter founded the family business in the 1860s. Its first incarnation near Falkirk Street had an underground bakery.
“It was common in those days – they worked in terrible conditions,” explained Colin.
“It was hot, and they used coal to light the fires, so there was a fog that used to hang over them while they were working. They were banned in the end.”
Colin’s grandfather Harold went on to build a larger bakery in 1947 with the latest equipment and ovens. It was at the back of the premises at 76, Hoxton Street, and they had a confectionery shop opposite at number 163. The shop moved to the top end of Hoxton Street in 1975 to consolidate the two.
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Colin has been working in the bakery since he was eight, when he would sweep the floor and wash up.
He remembers: “The only holidays we had, we shut for two weeks and did maintenance and painting.
“As a child I got inside the oven – which was a big oven – and I painted it so it would reflect the heat.”
He left school and went to baking college until he was 18 – and has since spent the last 52 years waking up at 2am to make sure the bloomers are proved and baked by 7am. In all that time he has never had a Saturday off.
Colin’s parents Roy and Iris had to get married on Christmas day because the bakery never shut, and he and Linda also got married on a Sunday.
“It’s the tradition of a bakery family – people want their bread,” said Linda.
When the Gazette visits, customers express horror that Colin and his wife – both 67 – will retire on December 3. Their three sons, Mark, 42, Peter, 40, and Simon, 36, will all be leaving, too.
“You’ve been feeding me since I was a boy,” says one dumbfounded punter.
Linda adds: “We have customers in their 80s who remember being sent to the old shop down the road, when they were three years old.”
Colin concedes supermarkets “did have a knock on effect” on business, but they always “held their own”.
Moving with the times, they make a lot of rolls for the Vietnamese restaurants in Kingsland Road, and now sell foccacia baked with goat’s cheese and sourdough at the street market outside on Saturdays.
Linda says it’s been a big decision to shut the bakery and one they feel “guilty” about.
“It will be sad to go,” he adds. “As a family, Andersons have traded in Hoxton over many years. We have made lots of friends and to have been involved in such a special place for so many years has been an honour.”