Tag Archives: Eltham Bakehouse

ThrowbackThursday: Old Eltham Bakery, cnr of York and Main, Sept. 1979

#ThrowbackThursday – Who does not enjoy the aroma that permeates a baker’s shop? Often when going into a bakery the smell can instantly take us back in time to a favourite bakery of our childhood and the anticipation of some freshly baked bread, still warm from the oven or maybe even some small sweet treat.

The former Eltham Bakehouse, corner of Main Road and York Street, c.September 1979.
(Photo: Joh Ebeli; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
The former Eltham Bakehouse, corner of Main Road and York Street, c.September 1979.
(Photo: Joh Ebeli; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

Today we time travel back to September 1979 to the old Eltham Bakehouse at the corner of Main Road and York Street. It has not been a bakery for some time now and looks sad and run down.

But this was once at the centre of a thriving community. It is nearly 120 years old and has stood on this spot, still recognisable, since the 1860s. It even holds some secrets; an unsolved murder mystery from the late 1890s. And it seems those secrets may never be revealed for today we are to witness the demolition of this once busy building.

There has recently been a substantial amount of publicity in the local press regarding the demolition of the old baker’s shop on the corner of Main Road and York Street, Eltham.

Baker and Grocer shop, corner of Main Road and York Street, Eltham, c.1910. Sign on side of building “”Baker, Grocer & Summer Drinks”
(From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Eltham, Main Road, c.1910. Looking north from Bridge Street. “Nearing Eltham Station.” Gahan’s house on left. Bakery on right.
(From Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection, No. 618 in partnership with Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

The old weatherboard building  comprises a dwelling with a shop in the front room opening off a timber verandah deck which directly fronted the Main Road footpath.

The Old Bakery and House, York Street and Main Road, Eltham, c.1970s
(Photo: Hugh Fisher; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Looking east along York Street, the old Bakery on right, c.1970s
(Photo: Hugh Fisher; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

At the rear is a brick building of much later date which was for many years used for the bakery. The buildings are being demolished for flat construction.

Main Road, Eltham, c.1967. Looking north; York Street and old Bakery on right.
(Photo: Michael Aitken; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

Recent publicity has been oriented towards moves to preserve the weatherboard building. Preservation initiatives have come from a number of individuals including members of this Society. It should be noted that the Society has no official connection with any proposal to retain the building or any part of it on any other site. The issues involved in this matter are part of a wider consideration of the matter of preservation of historic buildings.

In this case the Society and in particular the committee has been aware for some years of the impending demolition. The possibility of the preservation of the building has been canvassed on a number of occasions. The Society’s view is that whilst the baker’s shop is an interesting old building which contributes to the character of Main Road, it is not of sufficient importance to wage an organised campaign for its preservation. It is considered that if the building were to be preserved for historical reasons it would be far more feasible to retain it in its present location than to re-build it on another site.

Demolition of the former Eltham Bakery in progress. Society member, Joh Ebeli along with Howard Elwers arranged to preserve parts of the house
Note on wall says “You can have all other bricks.”
“Please leave all front 2 rooms & front wall & windows for Eltham Historical Society.”
(Photo: Joh Ebeli; from the collection of Eltham Disrtict Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Demolition of the former Eltham Bakery in progress. Society member, Joh Ebeli along with Howard Elwers arranged to preserve parts of the house
Note on wall says “You can have all other bricks.”
“Please leave all front 2 rooms & front wall & windows for Eltham Historical Society.”
(Photo: Joh Ebeli; from the collection of Eltham Disrtict Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Demolition of the former Eltham Bakery in progress. Society member, Joh Ebeli along with Howard Elwers arranged to preserve parts of the house
Note on wall says “You can have all other bricks.”
“Please leave all front 2 rooms & front wall & windows for Eltham Historical Society.”
One can see the southern half of the complex of flats at 836 Main Road already under construction.
(Photo: Joh Ebeli; from the collection of Eltham Disrtict Historical Society @elthamhistory)

Unfortunately as we can see standing in front of the building on this grey September day in 1979,  demolition is now well in progress. It is not known whether the proposal to retain part of the building for re-erection elsewhere is proceeding or not. Substantial funds would be required for any re-erection and restoration project. The Society considers that at this time the highest priority for allocation of any funds available for local historical preservation works is the restoration and preservation of the old cottage in Ely Street. But that is for the future and another leap in time.

Back to the future – Whilst the Society was not engaged in any preservation efforts, Society member Joh Ebeli along with Howard Elwers certainly did try to salvage some portions of the building. Enquiries today indicate that ultimately nothing came of this but hopefully some of these items; the timbers and fittings did find new life, integrated into the fabric of other buildings, either new or restored. And maybe, just maybe, those other secrets may still be discovered.

Corner of Main Road and York Street, Eltham, October 2017 (Google Street View)

 

Reference:

EDHS Newsletter No. 8, September 1979

 

 

 

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Eltham Bakehouse Secrets

The following newspaper article comes from the Diamond Valley Local, Tuesday, February 16th, 1954.

It relates to a site at the corner of York Street and Main Road, Eltham. It contained a weatherboard shop and dwelling fronting Main Road and a brick bakery at the rear fronting York Street. The shop was at various times a baker’s shop and a grocery shop. These buildings were demolished in 1979 and replaced by residential units named Bakehouse Court.

Murder Mystery-3-2

“WAS WOMAN FOUND IN WELL PUT IN IT? 

Eltham Bakehouse was the scene of a drama whose details have never been cleared. Was the woman whose body was found in the old well inside the back part of the home murdered by her husband? Eltham bakehouse and residence now occupied by Mr Jim Arnett and family is one of the very old residences of Eltham. Mr J. J. Burgoyne, father of J. N. Burgoyne, so long known in Eltham in connection
 with the P.O. and store took over the bakery in 1896. At that time mystery was at its height, for the baker’s wife had been found down the well.

Did she fall, or was she pushed? No one knows.

But her ghost didn’t trouble the Burgoyne family, who had plenty of work on hand. The bakehouse supplied 20 large loaves of bread a day to far-scattered pioneers. Mr Burgoyne recalls his breadcarting days, and says that roads were rough. But they had metal on them. At least that puts them a few points ahead of how they stand today. When the bakehouse was sold six years later it baked 200 loaves a day. All of this is early history stuff, now being collected by the LOCAL. It has some wonderful stories, too.

Right, or Else 

Today, the quaint old house is still giving shelter and the bakehouse is equipped with an automatic “no-hands-touch-anything” machine which forms 2,000 large loaves an hour. What happens inside that bakehouse is worth telling. Strong and weak flours are blended to make dough. Strong flour alone would provide a loaf burst everywhere and misshapen. Weak flour bakes into a hard, miniature loaf. Just the right mix has yeast food added, then a malt improver, then vitamised powdered milk, then yeast, and finally water. The temperature of the dough is carefully regulated. If it goes over 82F. there is trouble. Ice water keeps it back in very hot weather. Acid calcium phosphate is added to prevent sourness during hot spells.  A lot of trouble isn’t it? But if the dough is one degree over 82F the oven will require 15 degrees more heat. The huge 18ft. by 15ft. Scotch oven is fired to 550F. Its firebricks glow all over. When the dough is ready a very wet cloth is scuffled over the floor of the oven. This produces steam and temporarily cools the sole of the oven to 500F. The burn on the sole of the oven is just taken out long enough to save burning the bottoms of the loaves.

Endless Care 

Loaves stay 35 to 40 minutes in the oven. Then they are turned out on to movable wire-mesh trolleys. Old J. J. Burgoyne would indeed be astonished if he could see what has been put inside his old bakehouse without changing the outside appearance. There are some thousands of pounds’ worth of the most modern machinery very much in use inside. Master baker Jim Arnett is obviously a man who takes a pride in the quality of the bread he bakes. The trouble and care taken is a revelation to anyone who hasn’t thought previously of what goes to make a loaf of bread. Formulas are exact. Records are kept of each bake. On big master sheets every detail of dough temperature, outside temperature, and oven temperature are kept. After so much care has been taken to produce good bread, it seems a pity that bread-eaters don’t keep it as carefully as they keep milk, for example.”