Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Everyday Staple

BREAD

The above picture is from the book Yesterday's Warminster  by Danny Howell. I was fortunate to obtain a copy of this book which is now out of print.
Now what, I hear you ask, does the above picture have to do with the title of this post.
The person on the far right of this picture was Walter John Compton b 1 July 1891 and he was employed by the Warminster Co-op.
From page 54-55 of the book "At the back of the Market Place store, the Co-op had its own bakehouse, where Harry Barber began working in 1910 when he was 16. He recalled 'Work started at 4 am, baking 40 or 50 loaves at a time and also cakes in two coke ovens, which we filled from the back. We did this over and over again until dinner time, and in the afternoon I pushed a barrow along Portway, Church Street and West Street, selling bread at twopence-halfpenny a loaf. I then went home for a couple of hours until 7.30 pm, when I returned to the bakery to make the dough for the next day. We were really working about 16 hours a day, from four in the morning until nine or ten o'clock at night. The bakery staff also included Albert Hinton, Walter Compton,Vic Oram and Jack Turner. After baking in the morning, Walter and Vic went out in the afternoon with the horse-drawn vans, delivering bread, and it was nothing for them to go out again at 6 pm, taking bread to the villages like Corton, Codford, Corsley and Crockerton in the evenings'. 

The picture below, also in this book, shows the bakery


These pictures must have been taken prior to WW1 as Walter Compton, like many young men, joined up at Devizes in August 1914. He was discharged in November the same year. I have however found a pension record for him. He was a victim of the flu epidemic. 

Later in the same book there is mention of a family Mr and Mrs Roland Curtis who had 22 children, 3 of whom died. There is quite a long piece about the family who made the newspapers.
I will not repeat it all here but Mrs Curtis is quoted as having said"it really does seem as if the bread alone takes up all the money coming in.Three gallon loaves every day! We use up 18 shillings of flour every week. We make the dough ourselves in a tin bath but we send it to the bakehouse to be baked and that costs 2s 6d a week. There's a quarter of a pound of tea every day and one pound of sugar and 1 5d a week for the baby's milk. Most of the tea and sugar is used before six in the morning". 
For this family bread and tea were the staple diet but for them there was no alternative in the early twentieth century before the days of the welfare state you had to survive on what you could afford.

Walter Compton was my mother's uncle and I was not aware of him until I started doing my research. Roland Curtis was Walter's half uncle. When Walter died he left behind a wife and 2 children and another on the way. Times were hard for many after WW1 but both these families will have relied heavily on that staple and versatile ingredient BREAD.