A look at the past: Baking history

PUBLISHED: 14:32 24 August 2006 | UPDATED: 10:45 06 May 2010

Harley’s Bakery today

Harley’s Bakery today

Shops in Shortmead Street After our visits in recent weeks to the many pubs of Shortmead Street it s time to look into the bakers. Harley s Bakery, at 138 Shortmead Street, is the oldest continuing bakery in Biggleswade. I can trace the history of the

A little girl is standing outside Sugar’s bakery circa 1920. Next is The Peacock and the entrance to West’s Yard. The pub and cottages have long disappeared. There was a garden on the corner site where Hamilton Cars are trading. The Royal Oak is in the di

Shops in Shortmead Street

After our visits in recent weeks to the many pubs of Shortmead Street it's time to look into the bakers.

Harley's Bakery, at 138 Shortmead Street, is the oldest continuing bakery in Biggleswade.

I can trace the history of the ancient building that is now 136 and 138 Shortmead Street. The first record relating to the bakery is from the 1841 census when John West was born in Alconbury.

He was the baker at 138 Shortmead Street in 1861.

The business was continued in 1871 by his son John West who was the baker.

Confectioner William Alexander Medlock was in an adjacent building.

There was a passageway beside the shop next to The Peacock beer house at no 140, leading to West's Yard, where there were six houses.

In 1881 WA Medlock seems to have continued with the bakery. He was a confectioner and also town clerk for many years, later moving to St Andrew's Street.

By 1891 the baker was James Gaylor.

There were other bakers in Shortmead Street and James Howard, whose bakery was next to the Long Twitchell, employed William Sugars as his assistant.

In 1900 Wells and Co sold some properties which were not part of the brewery business, including the premises comprising a baker's shop (138) occupied by William Sugars and the dwelling house (136) occupied by Robert Wormsley.

John Moore, the High Street grocer, bought these for £415.

Mr Wormsley was still living there in 1901 but had moved to Sun Street by 1911.

William Sugars in the 1901 census was a baker and corn dealer, and also ran the sub post office at 138 Shortmead Street.

He died in 1919 aged 47, leaving a widow and son.

His son Cecil Sugars continued as the baker but tragically died in 1920 aged only 20. His widow Mary Sugars sold the business in June 1922 to Cedric Rouse of Lancashire.

The Rouse family continued the business for 58 years.

Ken Rouse followed his father, but in the late 1970s an explosion in the oven injured him while he was taking out a batch of bread.

He died in 1980.

Frank Harley was the next baker. He carried out structural and internal alterations to the timber framed building in 1990, when he showed me around the premises.

Soon afterwards David Gray and Linda Beard took over the business as Harley's Bakery and they are still trading successfully.

Up my street

St Johns Street

This road links Potton Road with Sun

Street. At one time it was the site of St

John's Church.


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