Showing posts with label Sydney Pearce baker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sydney Pearce baker. Show all posts

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Lost Bakery Found in Webster Street, Hamilton

Webster Street yielded up one of its secrets to me after I stumbled across some photographs of Pearce’s Bakery on the Facebook site Lost Newcastle .  From Susan Henderson and her mother, Joan Lean, and later from other descendants, Peter Pearce and William Pearce, I learned about the family that established this bakery in 1899.

Webster Street is a tiny, one way street tucked around the corner from that Newcastle legend, Jim’s Dairy Delite Bar. Walking along Tudor Street from my house nearby, I see adults and kids alike stopped in mid-stride, unable to wait a minute longer to lick the melting swirls of their ice cream cones, or slurp on Jim’s Shakes. But that’s for another post.

Hamilton landmark, Jim's Dairy Delites, Tudor Street, Hamilton (2014)
Photograph by Craig Smith

Below is the first home of Sydney and Ruth Pearce, who began Pearce’s Premier Bakery. Ruth Pearce and four of her six children stand at the front of what was quaintly called 'Ruthville'. The bakehouse was at the side.

Sydney and Ruth Pearce, with four of their six children, at their original Webster Street home, Hamilton
From the collection of Mrs Joan Lean

Five babies were born in this house, including twins Iris and Harry. Harry Benjamin Pearce was father of Peter Pearce and grandfather of William Pearce.

Twins Iris and Harry Pearce c.1920
 Photograph from the collection of Peter Pearce

Pearce's Bakery prospered for about forty years. During the Great Depression (1929 – 1932) a bakery would have been a focal point of food production in the community. Bread and dripping were staples for many in those hungry times.

Joan, Susan’s mother, now in her mid eighties, remembers visiting her grandparents in the bakery in the 1930s with her mother Mercia. Easter visits were a special treat, when high, fluffy hot cross buns were baked. Mercia , daughter of Sydney and Ruth, lived until she was 99 years. The secret of her long life, she told Joan, was eating plenty of malt, and bran.

As well as caring for her large family, Ruth managed the bakery office. Joan remembers that her grandmother had a housekeeper to help in the home.

Only two types of bread were made - white and brown bread. Malt was added to the bread instead of sugar. This added flavour and a touch of sweetness, as well as helping to brown the crust.

Inside the bakery, the set up was austere.

Pearce's Bakery, Webster Street, Hamilton (n.d)
From the collection of Mrs Joan Lean

Bakeries have been around for centuries, with various forms of baking practiced in cultures across the world. While the essentials have remained unchanged, Sydney would have had to stockpile wood for his fire, and make judgements based on experience about how long the loaves needed to come out perfect every time.

Mechanisation did bring some labour saving devices, such as a dough maker.

Sydney Pearce with new dough machine (c.1925)
Photograph from the collection of Peter Pearce

Bread was delivered to homes by the local bakery.

A mix of delivery modes in front of Pearce's Premier Bakery (n.d.)
Sydney Pearce is in the driveway
Photograph courtesy Newcastle Region Library

The long line up of vehicles outside the bakery, seen below, suggests the bakery had become a prosperous business by 1925.

Delivery vans and carts outside Pearce's Bakery c.1920
From the collection of Mrs Joan Lean

To minimise cash handling by the drivers, tokens were once popular – these were purchased in advance, and exchanged for a half loaf or a full loaf. A jar of tokens was a special play thing remembered by many children of this era.

Token from Pearce’s Bakery, for sale on ebay

Brian Jones lived two doors from the bakery, at 10 Webster Street, from 1939 until 1963. He adds to this story:

'I remember well watching from our upstairs balcony the horse drawn bakers' carts that rumbled down the street on their iron clad wheels making things rattle in cupboards and shelves. I loved the horses tied up outside to the telegraph poles resting one rear hoof as horses do and feeding from their nose bags. I played in the stables directly behind the bakery and ate the tasty crumbs from a long table just near the door to the oven room. I remember the flats and Jim's Dairy Delite Bar being built'.

Two of Sydney Pearce’s sons grew up to work in the bakery, and had houses nearby – Horace in Webster Street and Harry in Denison Street. Both houses are still in place.

Sydney worked hard and did well. He was able to build a new family home, a two storey terrace, next to the bakery.

The  Pearce's second home, now remodelled, next to the site of the former bakery and original home (2013)

Above is Webster Street as it is today. The charcoal grey building on the left  has replaced the Pearce's original home and bakery, and is now a business premises. Interestingly, in the 1990s, great grand daughter Susan worked for a time in this building. Next to it is what was Sydney and Ruth's second home, since renovated and updated.

Susan Henderson and Joan Lean (2013)
Visiting Webster Street  to confirm the locations of the bakery and family homes

Harry Pearce was killed in a hit and run accident in near the racecourse Broadmeadow in 1968. He was 60. Horace Pearce ran a general store in Toronto, later retiring to a property out of Rutherford where he bred thoroughbred race horses.  Still later, he bought a home on the Hill, in Newcastle.

Sydney died in 1942 aged 66. In time, both the business and the building were sold.

It is a platitude that family businesses are never easy. It is irrefutable that the long, unsociable hours involved in running businesses like a bakery take their toll on family life and well being.

Nevertheless, the perseverance and hard work of Sydney and Ruth Pearce enabled them to operate a prosperous small business and to raise a large family. 

I am glad to be able to bring to light the contribution of the Pearce family to the commercial and social heritage of Hamilton -  the lost bakery of Webster Street. 

Unattributed photographs by Ruth Cotton.


My thanks to Joan Lean, Susan Henderson, Peter Pearce and William Pearce for sharing information and photographs. Terence Pearce Sjostedt provided some additional details about Horace Pearce (updated 20/9/14). This post was further updated as a result of feedback  from Judy Falcioni (nee Pearce) regarding her father Harry Pearce (6/12/2014).