The Old Baker’s Shop in Smallthorne
by Doris Machin (nee Tyler)
Dad was a miner. He worked on the coal face at Whitﬁeld Colliery. When I was a
small child I used to meet him sometimes from work — he’d pick me up and I
can still remember the smell of coal-dust, sweat and tobacco all intermingled.
But surprise, surprise, when he had cleaned himself up, scrubbed all the coal
from under his ﬁnger-nails, he used to crochet lovely ﬁne cloths, with intricate
butterﬂy patterns around the edges. He also wrote lovely, romantic poetry, but best
of all, he could cook. Not the ordinary, everyday kind of cooking, but fancy cakes
and pies. All his apple pies had fancy. professional looking edgings.
Dad told me that he used to have a Saturday job helping out at the bakery behind
the post office, which was run by the Pedley family. It’s hard to imagine that they
used to bake bread, cakes, pics, cooked meats and other things in a coal-ﬁred
oven at the rear of the shop.
At Christmas, people took their turkeys, large joints and other meats, and for a
small fee were allowed to put them in the oven. All kinds of meats were cooked
and pressed there. Can you imagine the modem post-master coping with
everything that Big Tom did? Granddad used to say “Go and get a rasher of bacon
—— and tell him to cut it thick”.
Everyone called Mr Pedley ‘Big Tom‘ because of his size. There were several
chairs inside the shop. Customers used to sit down, when they had ﬁnished at the
post-office end, and chat while they waited for their goods.
Young Tom (Mr Pedley’s son) used to have a nanny and there was a nursery
upstairs. This was because his mum and dad were busy. I used to climb the
wooden stairs off the pavement and go through a door — halfway up, into the
nursery where Tom and I used to play, supervised by Nan. It was always lovely
and warm because it was above the bakery.
At home we used to eat cow’s cheek, sheep‘s brain (delicious on toast!), pig‘s
trotters, ox tail, and tripe. Dad used to bring home the sheep’s head just as it was,
wrapped up in brown paper.
All the left-overs were put into what we used to call ‘pig swill’ buckets. Potato
peelings and other left-overs were taken to feed the pigs and chickens on the
allotments. In spite of all this activity, everything was very, very clean.
Young ‘Tom’s mum-in-law adds a few words about life at the post
In the late 1930s and early 1940s the bakery oven was ﬁred up on Christmas
mornings to cook chickens and turkeys for people in the village.
In 1988 there was a break-in at the post ofﬁce. The door was battered in and the
safe — full of Christmas bonus payments —— was stolen. It meant closure of the
post office for one week!
Many Thanks to Doris Machin for her permission to share her memories.