Foster’s the Bakery, Number 65 Milford Street, stood on the corner of Milford Street and Guilder Lane. White’s the Bakers traded from the site initially but it was later taken over by Mr and Mrs Foster who ran it until their retirement in 1970. Foster’s is remembered by nearly all the people interviewed for this project and emerges from the interviews as a real focus of people’s everyday lives and a hub of the community.
Used to be Whites the Bakers…and then Whites gave up and Mr Foster bought the business and he lived in the little house, round next to the shop, round the corner. (Phyllis Maple)
Mr Foster’s kind nature is remembered by many children in the area: Michael Winterman remembers delivering papers to Foster’s as a paper boy in the 1950s:“One of the highlights of going to Foster’s bakery with my newspapers was the doughnuts, and this man used to give me a couple of doughnuts everyday…he used to stick these two doughnuts in a bag, red hot and …occasionally I’d eat one on the way but I’d have sugar all over me and all over the papers.”
Les Hayter had particular cause to be grateful to Mr Foster: “I mean then you used to play in the street, I can remember playing tops up Milford Street, a whip and a top and you hit the top and he fly off to make him jump and spin and on the corner of [Guilder Lane] was Foster’s the bakery and I’ve known a top to go though his window and he was such a nice chap,’ that’s alright my boys, make sure it don’t happen again,’ and paid out for it himself. “
Foster’s and the Community
Foster’s not only baked fabulous bread and mouth-watering cakes but helped local people with their washing and Christmas cooking. “We used to have our goose there, cooked on Christmas Day up there. And oh yeah he used to do nearly all the big birds that was up there, anybody who had. He used to shut the bakery down and do them.” (Margery Bodger)
Jeremy Moody remembers that one of the bakers employed by Mr Foster was a prisoner of war: “I got quite friendly with the guy who cooked the bread, who was Polish and he was a prisoner of war, of the Second World War and I’d go in there and he’d have like, if you could imagine a gold bar wrapped in this sort of greaseproof paper, that was bars of yeast and he’d cut off a chunk and give it to me to eat.”
Barbara Blandford worked at Foster’s during the Second World War years both in the shop and as a delivery driver. She describes the inside of the shop: “And then there was the big room at the back when the cakes came down from upstairs in the big lift. And then you had to sort of pull the strings to get the lift back up to the bakers to get down the next lot of things. But we used to wrap the cakes in cellophane, at a great big table when they all came down the Swiss rolls and different things, sat at the table and wrap up the things to go in the shop.” And she describes her experiences of delivering the bread: “Well, as I was saying, it was a bit bad when it was that bad winter, ‘cos Molly, the driver, she had to put the chains on the wheels to get up some of the hills. You know, up by the park, Queensbury Road, you know, places like that. It was a bit of a do delivering the bread. But as I said you could go in people’s houses, they didn’t lock the doors. They’d leave the money on the table, what they wanted, and you just left it. And they’d leave the whole amount for the week. So, you know, you were trusted in those days. You just went in and took the money and came on.”
And the best jam puffs!
Memories of the bread and cakes made there still continue today, long after the shop has closed down. “But the best place was Foster’s bakery with the jam puffs and the cream horns, I’ve never found another shop that’s made those like they did. Fact, I don’t know of any shop that makes jam puffs, seems to be something that’s forgotten but it was the most wonderful patisserie.” (Rita Jacob)
As Foster’s was such an important shop for many people in the area is has been represented on the Milford Street Bridge mural. The original building still stands today but sadly is no longer a bakery.