Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: January 29, 2021
Webpage updated: January 29, 2021




From the humble beginnings of an agreement with a local baker to allow a commission on the sale of bread to members, the Plymouth Mutual Co-operative and Industrial Society eventually opened a bake house of its own at the rear of number 30 Newsick Street, Plymouth, in 1868.  However, there were many complaints about the standard of the bread until a satisfactory baker could be found to take charge.

Only two years later, 1870, the Society opened a better bake house in Vennel Street, at Bretonside, in premises next door to the King's Arms Hotel.  That one was destroyed in a fire on March 26th 1896.

The bakery was rebuilt in 1897 with the most modern machinery.  In that bakery they had 15 ovens which turned over 38,000 sacks of flour into some 1,705,557 loaves every year.  But the working space became very congested and it was decided to look for a more spacious site upon which to not only erect a new model bakery but also homes for the bakery workers.

The Model Bakery belonging to the Plymouth Mutual Co-operative and Industrial Society

Thus, on Wednesday October 7th 1903, after laying the memorial stone of a grocery warehouse at North Quay, Sutton Harbour, a large party of around 100 members of the Society travelled by four-in-hand wagonettes to Beauchamp Road, at Peverell, where Mr W J Lapthorn laid the memorial stone of the new model Bakery, pictured above.  The site covered some 3 acres and cost the Society 2,797.  It was planned to equip the four storey building with fifty ovens and to provide for a separate confectionery branch.

The new model bakery was officially opened by Mr C J Vaughan and Mr H G Wilkins* on Wednesday May 10th 1906.  Once again a large collection of Co-op vehicles was paraded around the Town in celebration.  The bakery was thrown open to public inspection after the ceremony and it is said that some 10,000 people availed themselves of the opportunity to see for themselves how Co-op bread was manufactured.

There were twenty draw-plate ovens fired with producer gas made on the premises.  Storage was provided for 10,000 sacks of flour and two moulding plants were capable of turning out 3,000 loaves of bread per hour.

With the opening of the new Bakery the old one in Vennel Street was closed down and the former bread room and flour lofts were immediately fitted up as a boot warehouse.

The Bakery, which had become the property of the Plymouth Co-operative Society Limited in 1916, was equipped with brand new machinery in 1929 and re-opened by Mr J Hayne Pillar on Wednesday June 19th 1929.

As from March 4th 1962 the bakery was transferred to the control of the Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited

Now it just happened that in 1972 the Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited jointly owned Messrs J W French (Milling and Baking) Holdings Limited, who in turn had a 24.9% share of Messrs Spillers-French Holdings Limited.

The demolition of the Co-op Bakery at Peverell.

The demolition of the Co-op Bakery at Peverell.
Western Morning News Company Limited.

Presumably this was how the Plymouth Co-op bakery came into the hands of Messrs Spillers-French, who were trying to compete with the other major bakery conglomerates, Rank-Hovis-McDougall and Allied Bakeries.

On Friday April 7th 1978 Spillers-French announced that they were going to withdraw from the bakery industry and that the "Homepride" works at Peverell would close on April 22nd 1978.

The last loaves were baked during the night of April 21st and when they completed their work over a hundred of the staff met at the Cherry Tree Public House to bid farewell to each other.  Out of the 240 staff only 24 were able to secure fresh jobs at the Rank-Hovis-McDougall "Mother's Pride" bakery in Burrington Way.