THE STRAWBRIDGE FAMILY BAKERY
Many people in Fishguard and the surrounding areas have fond memories of Strawbridge’s bakery, with its fresh bread and varieties of cakes. The bakehouse was a place to call in for a warm on a winter’s night, and a generation of schoolchildren have memories of sneaking out of school at lunchtime to collect a piping hot pasty straight from the oven.
The founder Robert Strawbridge was originally from Monkton in Devon, one of 6 boys. He did an apprenticeship and worked as a baker before joining the army at the outbreak of WW1. He was stationed in the trenches in France, where according to family folklore, he contracted malaria and was invalided out. He apparently could not hold down a job because of his illness and he made his way to Fishguard where he met Martha Owen. However postcards written at the time show that the two had met in 1913 and corresponded during his time in France. One of the postcards from Robert says that he has seen ‘Rees the baker is looking for two men’. In 1915 he was stationed back in Godalming and Aldershot where Martha visited him. They married in February 1916 – Robert was 34 and Martha was 19.
Martha was one of 13 children born to Thomas & Mary
Ann Catherine Jane Owen who lived in The Slade. The family owned 3 houses in Bank Terrace.
The bakery was started from a house in Newport Road, Lower Town. Family history says that Robert used to walk down the quay to the flour store (which is now the Yacht Club) and buy enough to make one batch of bread dough. He would have to sell all the bread to get enough money to buy more flour.
In 1926 the family moved up to the premises in West Street. The shop had formerly been Oliver’s shoe shop and then became the ‘West End Bakery’. Today it is the Fishguard Kebab House.
As the 3 children, George, Nan and Ivor, grew up they joined the family business. George originally went out delivering with a cart and pony called Tiny who was kept on a rented plot of land on The Grange, where the school field is now. George later worked in the bakery while his wife Blodwen worked in the shop. Nan took over the deliveries, driving a van for more than 50 years.
After George left in 1971, Ivor’s wife Jen worked in the shop and his son Roger joined the team. Roger recalls that he and his sister Marilyn helped out with the bread round on weekends and holidays. He remembers that they used to ‘post’ loaves into the clean milk churns which were left for farmers when the full ones were collected. However, on one occasion unbeknown to the delivery team, the roads had been blocked by snow , and the milk had not been collected. Roger subsequently posted a loaf into a full churn of milk at Tan y Mynydd farm !
The family continued the business for another 20 years until retirement in 1993.