Thursday, 26 June 2014

Blatchford's Bakery



It had begun in the kitchen and lounge room of Eric Blatchford’s parents’ home. Eric was just 20, and unable to afford his own place, had brought his young wife Doris to live there. In this tiny space, a mouth watering variety of cakes, shortbread, sponges, and tarts were produced.


The next step was in 1931-32, when the  Blatchford bakery opened  behind their shop at 145 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, opposite the Wesley Church.



 Advertisement for Blatchford’s Pastrycook and Delicatessen (1956)
(Newcastle Sun, Monday 6 February, 1956 clipping courtesy of
Doug Saxon)



The family business gradually expanded, catering to the population of Hamilton throughout the Great Depression and World War II.


During the Depression, Blatchford’s began a new line - meat pies. Costing one shilling and three pence, Doris and Eric were anxious about whether their customers would find them too expensive. They needn’t have worried – pies took off, customers loved them and pies have been a staple bakery item ever since.


Hungry BHP workers, patrons of the races and many Newcastle clubs, enjoyed Blatchford’s pies, sausage rolls and cakes. Grandson Chris Blatchford tells how each year before Easter, Eric invited the Catholic priests and other church ministers in to bless the dough for the Easter buns – a sure way to increase their saleability!


Eric ordered Newcastle’s first automatic doughnut machine from the USA - a source of fascination for passers-by in Beaumont Street.


The wholesale side of the business grew from horse and cart to bakers’ vans, with deliveries to the many small towns throughout the Hunter.


Doris and Eric had three sons - Don, Ross and Bruce. Don and Ross became apprentice bakers and fine pastrycooks. Bruce preferred office work, and the family bakery provided this opportunity for him.



Blatchford’s Bakehouse expanded to the building that had been Cherry’s Terrace, 102 Denison Street, Hamilton
(Undated photograph courtesy of Newcastle Region Library)


Sometime after Eric died, and the business was restructured, Doris was interviewed for an oral history project. The interview was conducted in 1989. [1]

 
I listened to the tape in the University of Newcastle’s Archives. What will the future hold for Blatchfords, Doris was asked.


‘It will always include pies and sausage rolls’, she responds with confidence.

Doris believed that Bruce’s son Chris would be the one most likely to keep the Blatchford baking passion alive. At the time of her interview, Chris had just become apprenticed in the family business, at age 17.


‘He wants to be the best pastry cook in Newcastle’, she says. I hear pride and affection trembling in her voice.


At school Chris had been introduced to new tastes and textures. He had plenty to trade – pies and custard tarts for exotic sweets brought for play lunch by the sons of Greek migrants. For the first time in his life, he experienced delicate flaky pastry drenched in sweet syrup, crunchy nuts and crumbly fillings, the exotic flavours of orange and lemon zest....

Chris was not far into his apprenticeship when the 1989 earthquake struck.


‘We thought BHP had blown up’, he recalls.


The main bakehouse in Denison Street was badly damaged. Despite warnings not to enter the building, Chris ran upstairs to retrieve the takings. Money was counted in the front room and kept upstairs in Eric’s apartment. The Army was on the spot, quickly, wanting to demolish the building, but it survived. The business didn’t.





Still standing - Blatchford’s Bakehouse after the 1989 Newcastle earthquake
(Photograph by Medical Communications Unit, courtesy of Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle, Australia)



Bruce and Ross dissolved their partnership, with Bruce going his own way to re-establish himself at Warners Bay. Chris continued his training at Edgeworth.



Chris Blatchford’s journey was to take a few twists and turns before he found his real passion, food. Today, he is Executive Chef at boutique coffee roaster Belaroma Coffee, in Manly Vale, Sydney. He runs the kitchen for a 90 seat cafe, with a sous chef and apprentices, creating elegant dishes such one I found on the March menu - a light grilled nectarine salad with buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomato, basil and grilled sourdough. Not quite pies and sausage rolls... yet Chris is vehement in honouring the family tradition that nurtured him.



All I have comes from Dad, and Grandpa. Dad was a great teacher. He was a hard taskmaster, and he taught me to work hard’.


 The last visit Chris made to see his grandmother Doris in a nursing home is seared in his memory. She’d been unable to speak for some time. Rushing there straight from work, he’d not been able to change his clothes as usual. He stood before her, his work boots covered in flour. Doris looked down at them.

The Bakehouse,’ she said, clearly. Her last words.








Acknowledgement

Thank you to Chris Blatchford for updating his family story, and to the University of Newcastle Archives for access to the oral history recording with Doris Blatchford. If you have additional photos or information to share about this story, please email hiddenhamilton@gmail.com.

Since this story was posted, the University of Newcastle has digitised the interview with Doris Blatchford which is referenced here. The interview was part of a wider project of some 200 oral history interviews conducted by Open Foundation students under the guidance of lecturer the late Margaret Henry. It can be heard on https://soundcloud.com/uoncc/blatchfords-bakery-doris-blatchford-10-sept-1989?in=uoncc/sets/margaret-henry-oral-history



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[1] History of E.H. Blatchford, Wholesale Pastrycook and Caterer, University of Newcastle Community Programmes Department. Interviewee Doris Blatchford.  Interviewer Mladen Lazic. 10 September 1989. Lecturer Margaret Henry. Held in University of Newcastle Archives and quoted from with the permission of Chris Blatchford.

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