OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: October 03, 2021
Webpage updated: October 03, 2021

        

PLYMPTON

PLYMPTON RIDGEWAY BUN

In 1939 the history of the Ridgeway Bun was said to have begun with a baker in Church Street, Plympton Saint Maurice, and a cow keeper in Woolverwood, Plympton Saint Mary.

The baker was a Mr John Haddy who lived in a house between the London Inn and the Island House.  He conceived the idea of mixing up his dough for buns with butter-milk from a couple of Jersey cows kept by a Mr Anderson to give them a special richness and flavour.  His buns were about eight inches in diameter and suitably thick and at two pence each became very popular with the boys from the Grammar School, for whom one bun was said to be a good dinner.  The buns acquired the name of "Haddy's Busters".

It has not been possible to identify Mr Anderson but Mr John Haddy, aged 51, baker and grocer, lived at number 1 The Island (known, it would seem, as the Grocer's) in Plympton Saint Maurice in 1871 with his 28-years-old (second) wife Susan, who helped to  mind the shop.  Curiously, at number 2 was a dairyman by the name of Mr Samuel Hamley.  Perhaps he was the source of the milk from the mysterious Mr Anderson.

At the time of the census in 1881 Mr Haddy was a retired baker.  He and Susan were the living at Bay Tree Cottage in Plympton Saint Maurice with a boarder who happened to be an officer of HM Inland Revenue.

The same census showed a Mr John Edwin Perraton, then 28-years-old, from Kingsbridge living in Church Road, Beckenham, Kent, with the Hill family, where he was a public works timekeeper.  Mr Perraton had married Miss Julia Ann Cox at Plymouth in 1873.

Mr John Haddy died at Plympton on February 16th 1890, at the age of 70.

Now, the story given in 1939 was that upon the death of Mr Haddy the business was removed to the Ridgeway, Plympton Saint Mary, 'where more general trade could be done'.  What happened to the business when Mr Haddy retired  prior to 1881 is not clear but Mr John Edwin Perraton, baker, and his wife, Mrs Julia Ann Perraton, were in situ in Fore Street, Plympton Saint Mary, at the time of the census in 1891.  They had a large family, six boys and three girls, so no doubt Julia's mother, 71-years-old widow Mrs Elizabeth Cox, and 12-years-old general servant Miss Ellen Evens, from Torpoint, in Cornwall, were kept fully occupied.  The eldest son, Mr Harry Perraton, 16, was also a baker.

It was, according to the semi-official history, Mr Perraton who initiated or encouraged the Ridgeway Bun pilgrimage.  It is not known if he simply had taken over Mr Haddy's recipe or come up with one of his own.

In the meantime, circa 1886, a Mr Charles Beddoes Shuker, from Gloucestershire, had opened a combined chemist's and grocer's shop at George Place, in Plympton.    Mr Shuker was also the local agent for Messrs W & A Gilbey, wine merchants  [9].  On April 4th 1888 Mr Shuker married Miss Jane Stephens, the eldest daughter of Mr William Stephens, a farmer of 40 acres, at Plympton Saint Maurice Church.  This turned out to be quite fortuitous for one of her younger brothers, Henry Stephens, whom she took with her when the Shukers moved to Church Street, in Launceston, and her husband took him on as an apprentice chemist and grocer.

Mr Joh Perraton took on a new baker in 1895, Mr John Edwin Stanmore, the Plymouth-born son of Mr Robert J Stanmore, a Royal Navy pensioner.  He was still baking the Ridgeway Buns in 1950 when he was 72 years of age.

Once Mr Henry Stephens had finished his apprenticeship with Mr Shuker, who had removed himself to Hamacott Manor at North Tamerton, Cornwall, the name of the business in George Place, Plympton, was changed to Messrs Shuker and Stephens Limited, with Mr Stephens in charge.

By 1901 Mr Perraton was employing not only his eldest son, Harry, as a baker and grocer but also two other bakers, Mr Sydney Bowden, 19, and Mr William Northcott, 17, along with a stableman and driver, 21-years-old Mr Richard Smith.  Two of his daughters were still living at home although they had both finished their education so they probably helped in the shop as well.

Mr William Stephens, father of Henry and Jane, farmer, dairyman, cattle merchant and contractor, died at Plympton Saint Maurice on June 29th 1908.

In 1911 Mr Henry Stephens, who by now was known by everybody as 'Harry Stephens', bought Mr Perraton's bakery shop and altered the upper floor into a tea room.  It was decorated in white and blue and lit by 'artistically shaded electric lamps'.  A broad staircase with solid oak balustrades and lit by green glass embellished with palms led to the first floor.  The press declared that visitors to Plympton 'will now be able to obtain refreshments under ideal conditions'.

Mr Charles Beddoes Shuker passed away on January 17th 1921 at the young age of 58 years.

Whether this left Mr Stephens with a financial problem is not know, or he may just have decided to retire while he was still young enough to enjoy it, but in the 1920s he sold the "Original Ridgeway Bun House" to a Mr John Griffin and the grocery business to Messrs International Stores Limited.

Mr Henry 'Harry' Stephens died on October 9th 1934 at the also young age of 59 years and Mr John Edwin Perraton died at Plympton on April 5th 1936, aged 85 years.

A description of the Ridgeway Bun Shop appeared in a sale catalogue in 1935.  It was a double-fronted shop with office and stores on the ground floor.  There were Tea Rooms, a serving room, store room and lavatory on the first floor.  At the rear was the bakehouse, fitted with a Perkin's Steam oven, with a flour loft over and a lavatory in the yard.  At that time the premises were leased until June 24th 1947 to Mr F J V Griffen (sic) at a n annual rent of 90 rising to 100 from June 24th 1940, when Mr Griffen had an option to break the lease.  There was a restrictive covenant preventing the lease holder from being a grocer or provision dealer or selling beer, spirits or wine.

On the Tuesday before Easter in 1936 Mr John Griffin (sic), described as 'Chief Purveyor of the Good Friday Ridgeway crossed and curranted saffron Bun' started to make some 250,000 buns, of which 100,000 were reportedly sold on Good Friday morning.  One of the bakers was on duty for 24 hours and at one point the queue of cars and other vehicles extended nearly up to the George Hotel.  A press photographer stopped to purchase some buns and took them to the Great Western Docks at Millbay where he asked the famous negro tenor, Mr Paul Robeson, to sample them while they waited for his son, Paul junior, to arrive on the liner "Ile de France".

It appears that in 1940 the baking of the Ridgeway Buns ceased, no doubt due to the lack of ingredients.  It is not yet known why but maybe Mr Griffin (sic) got called up for war service or he simply decided to retire but sometime during or at the end of the Second World War he sold the business to Messrs Uglow's Bakeries, of Plymouth.

Uglow's and Messrs B Pooley and Sons Limited were unable to produce any Ridgeway Buns in 1947 because of the lack of fat and fruit but Messrs S Stephens Limited had saved up some fat so that they could produce some for the children only.  The recipe was obviously no longer a secret!

Baking was resumed for Easter 1950, when the shop was being managed by a Mr F A Lightfoot.  Mr James Edwin Stanmore, now 72 but 'not looking a day over 60' once again recreated the special recipe 'written in fading ink in a small notebook, kept under lock and key'.

In an interview with the South Devon Times, Mr Stanmore recalled how 'crowds used to start coming at three o'clock in the morning.  We kept the shop open all night.  They would come on foot, on bicycles, by horse and cart.  They'd skip and jump and dance and sing.'  He also told of the day Mr 'Harry' Stephens 'let them all come in.  They surged forward and pushed him backwards over his own counter!'.  (Mr Stanmore attributed this last event to 1908, which does not agree with the report above that Mr Stephens took over the shop in 1911.)

Mr James Edwin Stanmore died at Devonport (Royal Albert) Hospital on Sunday May 25th 1952 at the age of 73 years.  The funeral took place at Plympton Saint Maurice Church on Wednesday May 28th 1952.

The secret recipe in the old notebook evidently passed into the hands of Messrs Uglow's Bakeries Limited, who during the 1950s baked the buns in their main works in Plymouth and shipped them out to Plympton.    At Easter 1955 they sold 14,400 buns and were expecting that figure to rise to between 16,000 to 17,000 on Good Friday 1956, when the shop would be opened at 5.30am.  Mr A C Smith, managing director of Messrs Uglow's said that they 'could not cope with the numbers if they continued making the buns in Plympton' which was an interesting comment after the record year in 1936 reported above.

It is said that the event was brought to a close by increasing vandalism in Plympton which finally reached its peak on Good Friday April 16th 1965, when vehicles in the nearby Devon County Council depot were smashed up.  Road signs between Plymouth and Plympton were also wrenched out of the ground.  The damage was estimated to have cost upwards of 600.  Two shops in the Ridgeway had been open from midnight until 8am to sell the Buns but only 20,000 were sold.  It was reported that: 'There is little of the tradition left of bygone years.  The buns are not made in the Ridgeway but in Plymouth and brought by van as sales require'.