‘The rise and fall of John Spicer’s model bakery/shop’ at the Bracken Court on Weds next

by Rose Barrett
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Balbriggan & District Historical Society presents their August talk by Frank Whearity: ‘The rise and fall of John Spicer’s model bakery and shop Balbriggan (1904-1999): an overview of parts 1 and 2’

Frank is a renowned local historian and a long time member of the local history society, author of many publications including the publication Balbriggan a History in iMaps and he has given many talks for the society and others.   In this talk, he will speak about the bakery branch opened by John Spicer, a Navan based miller and baker.

“He will trace the story of Spicers that many of us remember from its foundation until the bakery ceased production in 1993, while the shop carried on until 1999 before it closed down,” said Bernie Kelly.

“In 1902, Spicer had two flour mills, known as the Boyne and Blackwater Mills, a bakery, and a coal-yard, all at  Navan, Co. Meath. When an opportunity arose to expand into the area of north Co Dublin, by buying out the Cumisky family’s bakery at Drogheda St Balbriggan, he jumped at the chance.

“His new bakery revolutionised the breadmaking process in North county Dublin, because he brought up-to-the-minute production methods to an area still making bread by the largely handmade processes of yesteryear. An example of such an establishment was the Old Mill bakery in Skerries, which was owned by Balbriggan man William Ennis of Clonard.”

Above: local historian and author, Frank Whearity, Balbriggan Photo Fingal County Council

“Spicers bread and confectionery were much appreciated by Balbriggan people who relished the loaves and sliced ‘Champion’ and Nutbrown’ sliced pans. When it came to pastries, the most popular was probably the ‘Chocolate eclairs’ made with fresh cream. The culinary highlight of the year was surely the Spicers’ Christmas cake selection with exotic sounding names like ‘Gala’  ‘Festival’ and ‘Dundee yule’ which whet the appetite!  

“When it came to home baking, the discerning housewife, in 1916, was encouraged to use Spicers flour as it was made the ‘Connoisseur’s bread’. As time went along, the bakery ceased production in 1993, while the shop carried on until 1999 when it too closed down. While it was a sad loss to Balbriggan when it went, there nevertheless remains to this day a fondness for the bakery still felt among a cohort, albeit an older one, of those halcyon days when one could splurge on an eclair and dodge the cream!”

“Sadly, the whole firm of Spicers in its Navan headquarters went into liquidation. Frank would like to mention his granduncle Eugene ‘Bay’ Melia who became a baker in Spicers, Balbriggan branch in the period 1934 to 1938, when his indenture document was signed by John Spicer’s daughter, Madeleine.”

That’s on the coming Wednesday, August 30 at the Bracken Court Hotel, Balbriggan, commencing 8pm. Admission €5 per person, members free.

Date for your diary: “For our September talk on 27/09/2023 we are delighted to present Cora McDonagh speaking on a very fascinating subject ‘ Balbriggan Stockings, Old Masters and the Bells of Howth: North County Dublin contributions to the nineteenth century Art & Industry Exhibitions'” concluded Bernie.

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