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The Bakery School

My Cadby Days

I left school in 1952 aged fifteen, my brother-in-law George Gillard had arranged for me to start work as a messenger in the Kitchens Office. George worked in Time Study and was to be seen about the factory with his stopwatch and clipboard, in later years his son-in-law Rob Walker worked in the same office. George's brother Ken also worked for Lyons and their father, 'Joe' Gillard was a foreman in the bakeries. (Photo above shows Bakery School students 1955 (back l-r: Ron Smith, 'Scottie', unknown?, Richard Hounsome, Roy English; Front: 'Taff' Thomas.)

The Kitchens Office was tucked away in the furthest corner on the fifth floor of WX block, supervised by Mr McCann. Next door was Miss Bevan's Office, who with her assistant Pauline did the time sheets etc. I would collect the kitchens clock cards every morning, take them to her office and return them to the racks later in the day. I collected mail from the Postal Room, first floor WX, delivered it to the various kitchens, collected their post along the way and delivered that, so I got to know the place pretty well. With a knowledge of basement departments and further investigation of intriguing passageways, I discovered how to get from one side of Cadby to the other hardly seeing daylight. Every morning there would be a queue of 'jobbers' waiting outside the Blythe Road entrance to WX hoping for a days work, many of them servicemen on leave.

In the afternoons at 3pm, I would fetch the secretary's teas from the Managers Mess, which meant walking through the Medical carrying a tray of pots and rattling cups, embarrassing. One of the girls was secretary to Percy Evans, the other to Mr Ellis, there were also two juniors in the office. I upset them when I won the office Grand National draw and they had to hand me the £3.10.0. a handsome sum, more than a weeks wages of £2.17.6d. The best part being, an anonymous benefactor had drawn and paid for my ticket, I knew nothing of this until I went into their office on the Monday morning, they were none too happy, but a nice surprise for me.

The Bakeries Office was to the other side of ours, a lad named Marshal was a messenger in there, convenient him in the Bakeries and me in the Kitchens when it came to getting lunch, always on the look out for Mr Cook the security man in the Trilby. Some days we would acquire still warm Individual Fruit Pies, and then en route to the Ice House roof retrieve a block of ice cream which we would put on the pies and scoff with great relish. I remember the sunbathers, some of the girls were a bit daring but no objections from us.

One afternoon at 4pm, whilst waiting on the first floor Elms House for the premium bonus wallets to be finished, there was a heavy thud from the flat roof just outside the windows, a window cleaner working higher up the building had unclipped his safety rope before climbing in and toppled backwards. Nurses from the Medical came over to administer first aid, he was brought through the office on a stretcher but sadly died before reaching hospital.

In June 1953 I was accepted as a student in the Cadby Hall Bakery School which was on the first floor A1 Block. Also on that floor were the Jam Tarts and later the French Jam Sandwich. Our instructor was Mr Simmons, a retired army Captain, a kind, understanding man under that military exterior. When he 'spoke' to you, he did it firmly but always followed it with encouragement which seemed to get us back on track, his philosophy being 'esprit de corps' it appeared to work. The Manager was J.J Brandon. There were also students from the Provincial Bakeries in the School.

Mr Simmons was an excellent tutor, he guided us from hand crimped jam tarts, the first thing every student made, many, many times when they joined the school, through morning goods, cakes, pastries and fancy goods, sugar confectionary, chocolate confectionary, we made our own decorated Easter eggs every year as well as for some of the Directors, to ornamental cake decorating. (see photo below). Produce from the school was sold through all the Cadby canteens and cafeterias, including Spike House, St. Mary's College and Olympia. We were responsible for much of the day to day running of the school, we were assigned daily duties involving produce disposal, stocking the stores, cleaning tables, floor, utensils and so on. We copied our recipes from a master file and had a book for lecture notes.  Saturday mornings were given over to lectures by Mr Simmons in the Induction Room on the ground floor of Addison Mansions, the theory side was a bit knotty, it took me quite some time to get my head round catalysts, enzymes and diastase but I got there. We were given a good broad schooling, both practical and theory.

On several occasions  I was sent out with others to scour London, buying as many brands of ready-roll puff pastry, short crust and cake ready-mixes as we could find. The next day we would make these up and compare each product by the various makes, we then had to develop and test our own recipes for the same.

One afternoon a week in winter we played football at the Sudbury sports ground and in summer it was swimming at Ladbroke Grove baths. The School also had rowing facilities at Linden House and I believe they took part in The Head of the River Race. During our time in the School we were sent to Outward Bound for a month for 'character building'.

At different times of the year we were all sent to work in other Bakeries to help with seasonal production, English for hot cross buns, French for the fresh fruit season, strawberry then cherry tarts and as senior boys also helped with gateaux for the Royal Garden Parties. The gateaux were made using only the finest ingredients and put together on the top floor of the French Dept. where we assisted.

In 1953 we worked alongside girls from the Ice House making the Lyons Christmas Cake when disaster struck, the recipe for the royal icing was faulty, all the first few of week's production was returned with icing like granite, we had to hack it off saving as much of the cake as possible and re-cover them.

Every day during an exhibition at Olympia,  Monty and I had to bake acres of sponge base, make gallons of apple sauce, then collecting a churn of egg white we would deliver it all to Olympia where Lyons Ice Cream had a stand demonstrating how to make Baked Alaska. We never did get to sample it.

One afternoon a compressor exploded in the Ice House basement, we ran to the back of the building and looking across the yard saw ammonia gas pouring from the block thick like smoke, it certainly made our eyes sting and noses run. A section of pavement was blown up outside on the Hammersmith Road and a paving slab thrown in the air came down through the roof of a passing bus, I don't know if there were any casualties.

Returning to Cadby after National Service I was assigned as a Trainee to the Kup-Kake, the Superintendent one of the Guest brothers. Lyons had what was seen by many as a dogmatic attitude, extra tuition undertaken by students was discouraged and any City and Guilds obtained would not be recognised. Later as trainees, there were further issues which the Company never wanted to address, so the drop out rate of exBakery Schoolboys returning after National Service was significant.

I transferred to The Bakery Sales Office, second floor WX block, same floor as the Typing Pool and Leo 1. The Office Manager was Len Collins, Manager Cyril Short. There we dealt with Teashops, Corner Houses, Hotels and Royalty, I worked on all sections with the exception of Provincial Teashops. Every weekday afternoon the London Teashops would phone revisions to their orders for the following day and clerks would punch Hollerith cards with their amendments, these would then go into Leo 1 for processing, later we would cut the printouts in strips and collate them ready for 219 despatch and other departments.

Supervisors would check the reject codes as Leo had a habit of adding or dropping the odd zero, or two. Thanks to Leo we made some extra money, 6pm was the deadline for the last sheet off the printers and if it was any later we were paid to 9.30pm, though I never worked past 7pm at the very latest. The summers when it was nice and hot were most profitable, there would be ice blocks with fans blowing over to keep the electronic processors cool, Leo certainly didn't like it hot. One day as the last sheet was coming off the printer a Leo operator phoned TIM, the speaking clock and it was "5.59 and 50 seconds", so they saved the pay out by ten seconds, a few weeks later when a similar thing happened our Supervisor phoned TIM and heard the message, "at the third stroke it will be 6pm and 10 seconds" The Leo people didn't like it and argued against paying, but they had made the rules and eventually we were paid. Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show were also good earners.

I left the Company in 1959, not a long working history but one full of experiences and memories. If anyone had told me then that in my lifetime I would see the demise of Joe Lyons as such and the demolition of Cadby Hall, I would have called them a raving idiot, but they're history now. I have to say it was with some sadness and sense of loss that I learned of their fate.

What happened to the old boys of The Bakery School? Not only those of my time but the many others before and after, it would be nice to know. What tales can they tell? Now in some sort of retirement, with my second wife we run our own horse riding school in the heart of Norfolk. A far cry from the trade but I'm still able to turn out a fair sponge and a loaf of good home made bread, (no new fangled bread machine) gives a deal of satisfaction.

Photo shows Christmas cakes in product display winbdow, 1954. Fine examples of senior students craftsmanship. Back l-r: Norden, Yarnold, Griffiths, Raab, Marsh; Front l-r: Fuller, English, Williams, Jolliffe, Neale


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