It's a pleasure to connect with a business with a real heritage and history. I've met Steve at events and he picked up some workwear from me for his staff too.
El: Tell us about Oxfords Bakery
S: We are a fourth generation, 111 year old traditional English bakery business, based in and around Sherborne, Dorset
Started by Frank Oxford in 1911, we are one of the very last bakeries in the UK to still ferment our doughs in a century old wooden dough trough and use an enormous cast iron oven (built in Bristol by J A Till and co). Installed in 1921, technically our newest bread oven !
We also have the only “steam powered bakery” in the world (like, on the actual planet) which we demonstrate with at heritage events and keep going for people to see!
El: Why’s it important to keep the name going?
S: The actual brand of Oxfords Bakery Orders represents a transparent and honest family business has truly stuck to its core values for well over a century. It can be quite restrictive when all of my great interests new trends and styles of bread making globally, to introduce these things to a customer base that can be so in love with what you do and have always done. I remember trying to sell sourdough bread in the very early 2000s, people just weren’t ready for it! (And I’m fairness it was probably pretty rubbish back, then as I was teaching myself what to do! 😂🙄)
Nonetheless, I always consider our business ,and brands like ours, to be a bit of a backbone of the bakery industry and something that more “nouveau” and contemporary bakers can look at to do things in a more modern way, perhaps.
One of the greatest achievements I feel for us is the fact that not only do we “keep up” but often excel way past self proclaiming artisan bakers that have access to modern equipment and mezzanine factory units… While we are in a small whitewashed room with a giant lump of metal, kneading with just our bare hands, knocking out some of the best products of their kind in the South West, let alone just our corner of Dorset!
El: What’s changed since 1911?
S: Everything! Bearing in mind we used to deliver bread by horse and cart originally - can you believe we survived two world wars and two pandemics by having our own cows and chickens and delivering milk and eggs (sometimes on the black market!).
My grandfather and great grandfather would be very surprised to hear we have a small chain of shops across the county, and even a really top end deli in Canford Cliffs where there is rarely not a queue out the door!
What makes us a little different is that you can still buy a large white (overnight fermented) tin loaf like a good old local bakers, or a Dorset Lardy cake… and also pick up some bresaola or comte cheese!
The network of food producers that we have built up over the years, and this is nearly all from attending events and markets over time, is very enviable I should think. Lots of the really exciting foodie things happening often start at small street corner events- and quite often we have been the first stockists of some of the finest local food. Silly old bakers like us eh?!?
Good on you and the team Steve, thank you!