Bakery closure ends 300-year tradition

AS a child Alistair Milne would stand on a stool at the table of his father's 300-year-old bakery helping ice Christmas cakes. Every bit of bread had to be hand kneaded and it was a hard work, made all the harder by the fact the youngster had to put up with the leftovers - the good bread always went to the customer.

AS a child Alistair Milne would stand on a stool at the table of his father's 300-year-old bakery helping ice Christmas cakes.

Every bit of bread had to be hand kneaded and it was a hard work, made all the harder by the fact the youngster had to put up with the leftovers - the good bread always went to the customer.

But 50 years on, a 363-year era of the Mill Bakery at Swanton Morley, has come to an end.

The firm's giant brick and iron oven, specially built in 1951 by oven builders from Bristol, was turned off for the last time on Sunday afternoon.


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While a new a new modern premises about 12 miles away at Drayton is taking its place, the closure of the bakery at Swanton Morley, opened in 1645, was tinged with sadness.

“It will go cold and that will be it,” said Mr Milne, who took over from his father in 1980.

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It was run by the Hilton family between 1890 and 1950 and it was Alistair's father Ian who built the 1951 oven, which the bakery was later rebuilt around.

Mr Milne trained as an engineer but took over when his father wanted to retire.

“I grew up in the bakery,” he said.

“It was hard work and you always got the leftovers. There was plenty of food but never the best.

“I remember as a seven- or eight-year-old standing at the table icing Christmas cakes. We had a mixing machine to mix the dough but everything else was done by hand.

“We have mechanised it more but the new bakery is now very modern for a craft bakery.”

The move to Drayton was made by the bakery's new owners, Colette and Jamie O'Flynn, who also own four Budgens shops.

Mr Milne is going to help them for the first year before he retires.

He said the new ovens at Drayton would be a lot more efficient and easy to manage than the old oven, which used to run on coke before running on kerosene, and will mean they can expand production and allow more people to buy the products.

The mill itself at Swanton Morley, a wooden structure, was knocked down in 1908.

The mill store, a distinctive round black building, still stands and will have to be demolished, Mr Milne said, because it would just not be fit for conversion.

The bakery buildings are to be converted into homes to be rented out, hopefully to locals, in time.

A planning application to part demolish the bakery and build two flats has been submitted to Breckland Council.

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