Currently for sale, Harleys Bakery at 138 Shortmead Street is the oldest continuing bakery in Biggleswade and the only one still operating in the town. Ken Page has traced the history of the ancient building that is now 136 and 138 Shortmead Street.
The first record is from the 1841 census with John West, a baker aged 39. He was still there in 1861. The business was continued in 1871 by his son, also John. William Alexander Medlock, confectioner was in an adjacent building. There was a passageway beside the shop next to The Peacock beer house at no. 140 leading to West’s Yard that had six houses.
In 1881, W.A. Medlock seems to have continued with the bakery. Not only was he a confectioner, but he was also town clerk for many years, later moving to St. Andrew’s Street.
James Gaylor was the baker in 1891. At this time, there were other bakers in Shortmead Street including James Howard whose bakery was next to the Long Twitchell and who employed William Sugars as his assistant.
In 1900, Wells & Co. sold some properties that were not part of the brewery business including the premises comprising ‘a bakers shop (138) occupied by William Sugars at £18 per annum and the dwelling house (136) occupied by Robert Wormsley £18 per annum’. John Moore, the High Street grocer, bought these for £415. Mr Wormsley was still living there in 1901 but had moved to Sun Street by 1911.
In the 1901 census, William Sugars was listed as a baker, a corn dealer and manager of the sub-post office at 138 Shortmead Street. He died in 1919 aged 47. He left a widow and son, Cecil Sugars, who continued as baker but tragically died in 1920 aged only 20. His widow Mary Sugars sold the business in June 1922 to Cedric Rouse of Lancashire.
The Rouse family continued to manage it for 58 years. Ken Rouse followed his father, but in the late 1970s an explosion in the oven injured him while he was taking out a batch of bread. Ken Rouse died in 1980.
Frank Harley was the next baker and he carried out structural and internal alterations to the timber-framed building in 1990 at the time when he showed Ken Page around the premises.
Soon afterwards David Gray and Linda Beard took over the business as Harley’s Bakery. It is now closed and awaiting sale.