King’s Cliffe Bakery
King’s Cliffe Bakery is easily missed from the road, with a simple “Hovis” sign and opening times the only indication that it exists. But beyond the door there is a thriving bakery, run by Oliver and Karen O’Sullivan who continue the 300-year history of baking on these premises.
They bought the business in 1987, after Oliver had learnt the trade working for other family bakeries and supermarkets. They inherited condemned ovens and a shop so basic that the till was a broken money box. Over the years they have invested in new ovens and mixers, refreshed the small shop area and expanded the retail and wholesale business. But this is still a traditional family bakery – Karen does all the packing, labelling and delivery organisation, starting at 1am. Oliver does all the baking single-handedly from 9pm to 9am every day – longer at weekends – to produce the range of breads and cakes. His only tools are two bread mixers, a cake mixer, five ovens and a “Bun Divider Moulder” or BDM (ask to see it if you visit – it is a machine worthy of a role in a Wallace and Gromit film).
Their aim is to produce high quality bread to traditional recipes at a fair price, which is exactly what they do. Using flour from Heygates in Northampton, vegetable fats and vegetable suets, the emphasis is on what is left out of the recipe, not what is added in. Choose from a variety of loaves, including old fashioned fluted (sometimes called a milk loaf), multiseed (a personal favourite), wholemeal, malt-crunch, sunflower or pumpkin loaves.
All the cakes are mixed in a mixer donated in the 1940s by the Americans at Wittering air base, who were keen to have some sweet treats from the King’s Cliffe Bakery. Thanks to their generosity, you can enjoy Paradise Slice, Eccles cakes and a range of buns, as well as seasonal offerings such as hot cross buns and mince pies.
King’s Cliffe Bakery bread is available from shops, post offices and newsagents around the area and is served in many restaurants and pubs in Stamford, Oundle and Peterborough.
If you are near King’s Cliffe, a visit to the shop is well worth a detour to see a traditional bakery, pick up a fresh-from-the-oven loaf and listen to village chat. But don’t expect to see Oliver – he’s likely to be tucked up in bed. The bakery is open Monday to Saturday, 7am-12 noon.
By Anna Forgaard, north Northamptonshire & Rutland editor