Home History Section Barton Stories
Cakes and Treacle
really how memories come flooding back to old people like myself whenever
a particular word or long forgotten phrase drops into any conversation.
More often than not that conversation is likely to be a reminiscence
of times past. We all know the kind of thing I am talking about - do
we not! My childhood was spent in Marsh Lane in Barton and it was that
Lane and the then residents that set us off the other day. And I also
ought to tell you it is usually at this point that I begin to wonder
if I should carry on with these bits and bobs about Barton. I do, of
course, because it is always up to the Editor of any Publication who
cares to read it to bin it if the subject matter is a waste of space
Inevitably I put some of what happened to me into these articles and perhaps
what I have to say might not have too much interest for some. I know that
those of or approaching my age have seen it, done it, and I am told like
to be reminded of things as they were. I was once told, or read, that Man
is the only animal who either laughs or cries because he is the only creature
who knows the difference between things as they are and things as they
ought to be. Maybe, maybe not!
let me get back to Home Made Hot Cakes. We progressed from individuals
and their idiosyncrasies on to food and how it was prepared and off
we went into bread making and HOT Cakes in particular. Hot Cakes, those
lovely, soft, fluffy, largish round beautifully baked breads. Mam would
tear one open, no cutting, put some filling in, they couldn’t
beaten with butter or fillings or spreads, such as Treacle or dipped
in home made sausage gravy or, and some of you never heard of this, ‘tea
dip.’ Funny how people remember the treacle spread.
The tea dip does demand an explanation. When the frying pan was in use for
some bacon, home fed fat bacon was best, there was maybe an egg to follow,
then a little of the tea in the pot was poured into the hot tasty residue
in the frying pan after the bacon etc had been served. I don’t doubt
that some of your readers, if there are any left after this nonsense, would
think it made for a peculiar mixture but in spite of a few tea dregs in
it and attaching to the cake or slice of bread used to soak it up it was
good. No wonder that as a lad when allowed to go on Earles sloops, a dinner
or tea of some bacon with thick bread cake or bread loaf slice to dip up
the pan contents was to be savoured and the whole trip made more enjoyable.
In those days we boys were allowed in the brickyards, on sloops, did little
tasks, ran errands and had never heard of doing wanton damage. Anyway we
all knew what we would get if our parents had complaints about us.
I fell in Grimsby Dock when two of us, my future brother-in-law. Wilf.
Towle and me, had the coggie and were taking a warping line out. The
skipper of a little fishing boat dived in and pulled me to the top.
I told everyone not to tell my Mam, she would have stopped me going.
I sometimes wonder about lads today. In the 1920’s-30’s,
for lads and lasses from the age of 14, the Ropery, Hoppers, the brickyards
or some such beckoned. I don’t know what the present generation
would have done with themselves before this or in their spare time?
No hiding under hoods and baseball caps at that time. (This was written
before the current hoo-ha about such head coverings.)
Shall we go back to bread making? In many households one day was set aside
for bread making and baking. Yes, the best part of one day. There was no supermarket,
no magic bread making gizmo, any bought bread had to come from such as Steamship
Robinson’s, or one of the shops supplied by such bakers as Tim Burkitt
of Barton or Woolleys of Barrow. I have no doubt that the supply chain in Barton
was no different to that of any other town, village or farming community.
As an example, up to WW II, Burkitts had three vans going. The bakehouse was
across the passage next to the shop in the Market Place and I can remember
at least three bakers, Arthur Parkin, Don? James and one other. They would
be busy from 4.30 am each weekday turning out prodigious quantities of
bread and then going on to other products. I have seen them at work when
a boy and later, in 1949- 53. That was when I looked in when on nights
as a Policeman on my beat. Being a baker was hard work. There was no mechanical
help at that time. The tins were filled by hand. By the way, some other
men fully engaged most or all of the night hours at that time, were Jim
Durham making gas at the Dam Road gas works and the shift workers on the
big ‘ stone’ burning furnaces at Farmers Co. This was part
of the lead chamber process of acid making.
to Tim Burkitt’s vans. George Pilkington did Barton and around,
Frank Hunsley the villages, farms etc to the west and my uncle, Alf
Havercroft, the villages etc. to the east up to Killingholme. I sometimes
went with him in school holidays and often the first and very early
calls were to shops which wanted an early immediate supply of bread
for a wide range of customers. The shop over the railway lines at Melton
Ross comes to mind where I helped to take baskets of loaves in. After
the most urgent calls there was maybe a quick return to Barton, a refill
of bread and it was on to the serious business of loading trays of
Milk Rolls, Hovis, Currant loaves, large sweet cakes, all sorts of penny buns,
teacakes, deep, small apple pies, twopence, and much else. Some of this went
into the shops of course but there was great deal of calling on regular customers
at home. All these smaller items were very good I can tell you!
an aside - how times change can be gauged by the fact that several
times I went on Good Friday mornings and by 5 am we were on our way
to all the outlets with their orders for Hot Cross Buns. A van load.
In those days the customer asked, the customer got. And isn’t
indicative of the changes wrought in our attitudes and way of living
over the intervening years? Hot Cross buns and fish for dinner on that
Holy Day and rolling coloured eggs in Horkstow Road Pit on Easter Day
were very much part of the scheme of things. I wonder what significance,
if any, would be attached to that today?
As far as baking bread in the household is concerned the time required depended
on the size of the household and the needs of the individuals in it. Do
not forget that bread was a staple, vital, filling a great part of the
diet of most families. A good thick round was nutritious, unexcelled, plain
or toasted on a fork in front of the fire, with dripping, jam, treacle
or whatever came to hand. It was a filler for a hungry brood and it was
no good making it in penny numbers. My wife was the eldest of seven children.
Her father was a riverman, a sloop mate and captain who, in common with
many others in Barton went off, usually on the early Monday morning train
or catching the tide, as the case might be. He and they would take enough ‘baking’ to
last through the week and home made bread kept good and sweet for the whole
When the eldest boy moved up to be mate on the sloop then it meant catering
for two healthy appetites.
There were other rivermen in the Lane, also brickyard workers, furnace men
at the Farmers Co., line men on the LNER and sundry others, all of who took
substantial amounts of bread with them when they went off to work for the day.
In the mid, to late 1930’s I was a teenager in a Barrow Haven brickyard
and Hoe Hill in Barton. In summer time, tile making time, the day was 6.30
am to about 4.30 pm depending on how the day had gone.
I took a ‘packup’ breakfast, taken about 8.am, and at Barrow Haven
a midday meal, taken about 12.00, with me. Mam’s bread with, maybe, boiled
bacon shoulder meat or cheese, maybe half a large saucer size apple pie. Oh,
and a bottle of cold, unmilked, unsweetened tea, usually tea left from teatime
the night before. Unless I was at a coal ship or brick ship, sweaty dusty work,
I rarely drank it.
had better get back to my theme, bread making at home, hot cakes in
particular. In the lane Monday or Tuesday was usually set aside for
washday. So on Wednesday or Thursday dough would be prepared and put
to rise on the hearth, under a clean tea cloth in a big earthenware
pancheon. Flour was bought from the family’s regular grocer probably
a 7 lb. bag. When times were bad for employment many a household was
in debt to their sympathetic grocer.
He or she who would be paid off in shillings or half crowns, bit by bit as
times improved. Yeast came in pennyworths from Ellerbys in Junction Square.
The preparation began by putting the required amount of flour, estimated
by guess and by god mostly, into the household’s big earthenware
pancheon. The necessary yeast with a ‘seasoning’, that was
really a little sugar and a pinch of salt, would be mixed with water into
a cup or similar and placed in a hollow made in the flour. The pancheon
was then placed on the hearth near the fire and the hopefully, hot oven,
covered with a clean teacloth the yeast being left to do its work. The
kitchen fire drawing under the oven had been carefully tended. It was not
unusual to see in some houses that a little dough had been used to fill
cracks in the iron range and the gap down the right hand side where the
range had come away a little. A new range cost money and landlords were
slow to respond to pleas.
this was ready the yeast, flour and a little water would be mixed and
kneaded, the more it could be kneaded the more air went into the dough
and made for a lovely loaf. This was done in the pancheon for a start
then the whole lump would be put on the paste board on the tabletop
to be thumped and kneaded until the housewife was satisfied with the
mix. Kneading the dough was hard work. The bread maker would tuck her
thumbs in behind her clenched fingers to make a four knuckle fist and
would then go work with a will, kneading, punching, turning, getting
the desired aerated dough. One lady, somewhat lacking in height, was
wont to put the bowl on the floor in front of the fire because she
couldn’t reach the tabletop height.
The next thing, when happy with the kneaded lump of dough, it was left in the
bowl, covered with clean tea towel and the whole lot put to rise in front
of the fire and range. Now Hot cakes. These were flat rounds of the dough,
placed on the oven floor or on a baking sheet in the oven and left to get
on with it whilst the bread tins were filled to the appropriate height
from the remainder of the dough. These, or some of them went into the oven
on any of the shelves that were left. Care was taken not to be frequently
and carelessly opening the oven door and letting heat out.
When experience said the hot cakes were ready, not flat now but raised yet
firm with a well baked top, these first ones came out and were put to stay
warm in front of the fire or on the oven top.
When the bread in the tins was adjudged to be properly baked, one would be
dropped out the tin and a resounding knock on the bottom of the baked loaf
would result in a hollow sound if all was well with that batch. All the dough
would be used for cakes or loaves.
I suppose I was spoiled because I can remember my Mam used to put a little
dough in one of the earthenware jars that jams or mincemeat came in. This
would make a small round loaf with the top bursting out at the top. Beat
that with butter on (if you had any that is). I know that nowadays various
baps, buns, baguettes etc are all readily available with or without fillings
but nothing, nothing that I have had or seen approaches Mam’s wholesome
Hot Cakes for texture and taste.
I mentioned sausages. Well, one very early morning in about 1950, I think,
I was on duty in Ings Road when Harry Osgerby passed the time of day with
me. He asked if was going back to the station, There was no big secret
about what we did so I said I was going there then home for my breakfast.
He went in his house and brought out about 1 lb.or more of home made sausages.
They had been hanging up for a while, were a bit fuzzy and turning pinkie-red
but they were from a home killed pig. I took them home where the eldest
viewed them with suspicion and then after a couple of forks-full would
have cheerfully made serious inroads in the whole lot. Oh my. If only some
hot cakes had been on hand, Cordon Bleu or Sacre’ Bleu, it would
have made a gourmet sit up and enjoy.