"Old Bakery", at the junction of Bentley Road and Long Stratton Road
The baker occupied a very important place in village life for centuries and we can trace the bakers of Forncett back over two hundred years. The house now known as 'The Old Bakery' in Bentley Road (formerly 'Dirty Road') at Forncett End, dates back to at least 1772 when the deeds start.
In 1805 James Moore, who was born in Forncett St. Mary in 1780, took over the Old Bakery from the estate of shopkeeper Robert West who died in 1804. James Moore was shown as the owner on the 1817 Forncett map, and he was recorded as a baker at the baptism of his daughter, Elizabeth, in Forncett in September 1822.
When James Moore died in 1837 (age 57) he was a widower and he left four children, Elizabeth, aged 15; John, aged 12; James, aged 10, and Samuel, aged 9. The children were cared for by James' sister-in-law, Susan Mason who lived at what is now called Maple Cottage next door to Forncett End Stores. The 1839 tithe record shows a new baker, Samuel Barber, at the Old Bakery and it's possible that the bakery was still owned by the Moore family.
Norfolk Chronicle 2 April 1837
For the next ten years baking in the village appears to have been carried out by two bakers, Edward Frost or Samuel Barber. However, in the census of 1851 James Moore jnr. (now aged 24 and married) had followed in his father's footsteps and was a "master baker" in Forncett End, though possibly not at the Old Bakery. James was still a baker in Forncett in 1861 but he disappeared from the village records in 1864 and for the next twenty years the village baker was his wife, Ann Moore. Ann and her son were apparently baking at the Old Bakery again in 1891. Ann also took on the job of postmistress in 1888 and when she died in 1889 her son, John, followed in her footsteps and took over, both as baker and postmaster.
By 1891 John Moore had taken on an apprentice, 25-year-old James ('Jimmy') Humphreys, the grandson of the former publican at the Trowel and Hammer. Jimmy married Emma Brooks in 1895 and by 1901 they were running their own bakery and confectionery business at 'The Old Bakery', where Emma specialized in cakes and other confectionery.
The bakery employed a number of local people (see photo at the top of the page) and just down the road was Henry John Ludkin's grinding mill for supplying the flour, no doubt both for the bakery and for those who wanted to bake their own, if they had an oven. The horse and cart was the transport of the day, as seen in the photo below taken outside the Old Bakery, probably the early 1900s.
In the early 1920s James and Emma moved to Harley House where they erected a 'Bake Office' (now the garage) in 1923 and this bakery operated until at least 1939.
Jimmy Humphreys outside his shop at Harley House (courtesy - Philp Yull)
After Jimmy Humphreys, Ernest Lockwood continued baking at the 'Old Bakery' which he rented from Fred Tann, but later Ernest built a bake house at the corner of The Poplars (what is now 8, Bentley Road). This bake house had the first steam oven in Forncett, which was built by Pearson of Tacolneston. In 1945 Ernest sold his bakery to Alfred J Tubby, originally from Yarmouth, and on 27th October 1947 Alfred bought Harley House from Jimmy and Emma Humphreys. However it appears that Tubby bought Harley House as a place to live and never used the bake house there.
Alfred Tubby built up a successful local business with his two sons and running two delivery vans (manned by Russell Bradford and Wallace Frost) to surrounding villages: Bunwell, Carleton Rode, Fundenhall, Lower Forncett, Moulton, Tacolneston and Tivetshall. A standard loaf weighed two pounds and the pointed bread rolls seven ounces (ca. 200g) (see below Alfred Tubby at back feeding the oven). Wholemeal loaves were also baked but were not as popular.
When Canadian flour became available he baked a 'milk loaf', which found great favour with his customers compared with the greyer, white loaf of former times. Bread was not the only item supplied. Local folk rearing pigs and chickens obtained their meal and 'Cositos' (flaked maize) from 'Tubby's Hygienic Bakery' at Forncett End. When Alfred closed down his business in 'Dirty Road' and moved to Norwich the last bakery had had its day in Forncett.
The initial material for this article was Forncett Archive Note No.12 - written by John Webster. Thanks to Alan George and Philip Yull for additional information.