Sunday, 18 December 2016

A bready ramble round Barrow, Bury and Manchester


I'd been meaning to take a look at Peace and Loaf in Barrow for some time. It sounds such a bold venture, but it's true - a proper sourdough bakery on the corner of Barrow market. The loaf I got was a straightforward white loaf, beautifully baked, with that blistery crust that is so hard to do at home, and expert slashing, which is also so hard to do - at home or anywhere else for that matter.

The bread had a distinctly sour tang to it - in a good way. Not all sourdough is particularly sour, and this one is a lot less sour than the stuff we had in San Francisco, but you certainly couldn't mistake this for anything other than sourdough. Great stuff, and long may Peace and Loaf prosper. They are a really nice couple, and well worth a visit to try their bread. And of course they are using Heron Corn Mill spelt flour!


Bury market is a bit like Marmite. You either love it our you hate it. I think it is really a case of where you shop. There is proper black pudding to be had in spades, if that's your thing - hot or cold. And the meat and fish hall is pretty good whatever you are looking for.

Bread is not so well catered for. The best I found was the Greek deli, which seems to have quite a few languages being spoken. They offer bread styles from several countries, and it's definitely worth a look. I thought the Italian olive bread looked best on the day, but I have to say it was a bit ordinary when I got round to cutting it.

Katsouris have a good cheese counter, including proper Lancashire cheese, which we are struggling for in Lancaster now that the covered market has collapsed. And I can vouch for the pork pies.

Oven bottoms - proper muffins - are on offer all round the market. Some have a hole poked in the top before they are baked, which accounts for the advertising slogan "Lancashire bagels". But I have to say they all looked pretty anaemic to me. I think the days of the oven bottom are long gone. Most of us cook on shelves and very few have access to a brick oven, so it may be a vain dream to create something that worked perfectly with the old fashioned ovens.


As part of a day mooching round the Manchester transport system, I naturally visited Chorlton's Metro station. This is a place full of childhood memories for me, and a lot of them were reignited by this old picture of the advertising hoardings on what was then the railway bridge - now the Metro bridge.

You can see the old station buildings under the hoarding. As well as the gentle rise of the road as it goes over the tracks, there is a steeper slope down behind the hoardings towards the station buildings. Because of that, the hoardings needed to be supported from behind by sort of iron flying buttresses. And this meant that there was a space between the hoardings and the supporting ironwork which irresistably suggested a magic walkway for kids. As a result, there was a well worn path just behind the railings, along the top of the slope - much better than walking along the road! On my 0.7 mile walk home from junior school for my lunch (yes - think about that for a moment!) I used to slip off the road and follow the jungle path between the coal merchant's yard and the hoardings, rejoining the road at the top.

The station buildings then looked much the same as in this old picture, except of course for the top hat and tails (on the men and horses respectively).

I clearly remember crowds of people going down to the station and through that door on the right to the platform for a mystery excursion on Saturday morning. But my best memory was standing on the platform, under the veranda at 8 p.m. when the Pullman went roaring through full steam ahead, and woe betide anyone who wasn't standing back from the edge, I tell you!

Going back to that advertising hoarding, the poster on the left is for sliced bread, wrapped up as was the way back then in waxed paper.

A mere £125 will buy you this poster of Moore's Luxury Loaf, which apparently made boys good at sports and gave them bulgy biceps -

It seems strange for a commodity like bread to be promoted in such a gender specific way. Presumably these lads would then grow up and drink Bass -

Moore's bakery seems to be an old family business, mainly making biscuits like Dorset Knobs. Here are the workers, hard at it with the biscuits. Just think of the price you pay for hand made biscuits now.

Going back to the advertising hoardings again, the second poster shows what was on at the Essoldo cinema -

This was a great favourite of mine. We used to go to Saturday morning cinema club, where you got a selection of cartoons and serials, complete with genuine cliff hangers. You know the sort of thing - hanging onto the edge of a ledge over a ravine by the fingers of one hand, with river rapids a sheer drop below. Who could fail to come back next week? Magically, by the beginning of next week's instalment, the hero had both elbows on the ledge!

After a chequered history, the Essoldo finished up as a bicycle superstore, but was then  closed after a wall collapsed and killed someone.

The other posters on the hoardings show a strong tendency towards dairy products. "Drinka Pinta Milka Day" was an advertising campaign by the milk marketing board, along the lines of "Go to Work on an Egg". And then "Enjoy Anchor butter" - never my favourite brand, and why import butter from New Zealand anyway? (It's been made in England since 2012.)

On the other side of Chorlton, we used to shop at a grocer's called Whitelegg's. I remember being fascinated by Mr Whitelegg's cheese wire. They had whole deep cloth-wrapped cheeses (not the flat wheels you often see wrapped in plastic these days) of red Cheshire and white (presumably) Lancashire. A real shop! And look at the Hovis advert outside!

I don't think you would quite get  away with "Big chief he say Hovis (not just brown)" these days!