Biggs Bakery is celebrating 80 years of serving people in the Wick and Littlehampton area this year.
It is having a celebration this Saturday (August 8) and Mark Biggs, who runs the bakery, is looking forward to seeing old and new customers on the day.
He said: “I am the fourth generation to run the bakery, with my wife and my dad, and I’m the fifth generation in the family to be a baker.
“With the celebrations for our 80th year of trading, I now I find myself looking back at the history of my family’s firm.
“I have been looking through old photos, documents, invoice and artefacts that we have collected over the years.”
The bakery (originally A.W. Biggs) was first opened on August 4, 1935, by Mark’s great grandfather and his wife, Arther William and Lilian Biggs, and Mark’s granddad, Dennis Biggs, as a bakers, confectioners and tea rooms.
The building was a purpose built bake house with all the mod cons of the day.
The old side flue oven was built on site and is still there today.
The bake house was half the size it is nowadays and the only equipment was the oven and a machine to make cakes.
The bread dough was made by hand in bread troughs at 3.30am.
A.W. Biggs would then go round the houses with his hand drawn cart to sell bread to customers.
In 1938 the company had a hand drawn cart and a van and another bread baker.
The cream teas were served in the back of the shop until an unfortunate accident when a little boy soiled one of Lilian’s best chairs, and that was the end of the tea room service.
In 1939 the Second World War started, which meant the bakers were called up for duty and women took the place of men.
After the war Mark’s grandparents had a baker’s shop at 1 Wallace Road, Rustington.
The shop was only open for one year and was closed due to Mark’s grandfather’s health.
In 1950 the Wick shop was selling over a thousand loaves a week and 100 apple tarts a day.
Mark said: “We had three hand barrows, one trade bike and two vans to do the rounds.
“Sacks of flour came in 280-pound bags and the bakery was using 38 to 40 a week.
“Back then the bakery trade was on the up in the area and there were 29 small bakers in Littlehampton.”
“The bakery trade then changed and the rounds soon dwindled, and granddad bought a bakery called Pratts, in Bayford Road, which then would become our second shop.
“We also had a travelling bakery that went to Angmering and Climping, amongst others.”
After 12 years the Bayford Road shop was closed and they moved everything back to the Wick store.
The bake house itself has changed a lot from the old days and in 1991 the bakery was modernised and the side flue oven was boarded up, as it not being economical to run due to the ever-decreasing amount of bread that was being made.
It is still there today and Mark’s grandfather put a time capsule in there explaining the history of the baking trade in Wick.
Mark said: “The shop has always been very popular and we have some very loyal customers, some of which are still coming into the shop now after coming in when the shop was first opened – and they have seen some changes over the years.”
The shop was originally A.W. Biggs Jubilee bakers, then A.W. Biggs and Sons Ltd., then A.W. Biggs.
Finally, it changed to Biggs Bakery in 2003.
After Mark’s grandparents retired, his parents, Dennis and Sally Biggs, took over the running of the business, while his grandparents still helped out when then could.
He said: “My grandmother, Sylvia Etherington, was still working, and worked in the shop up until recently, and only retired due to ill health at the grand age of 86, three years ago.
“She still, to this day, wants to come and help in the shop.”
The shop itself was modernised in 2003 by Mark’s parents, and this was around the time that Mark came into the family firm as a junior partner.
He said: “We all ran the business together. It was mum and nan running the shop, and dad and I running the bake house.
“We have had some lovely times together, however, with the sudden loss of my mum in 2009, it was my turn to take the reins and run the family business with dad.”
“The baking trade has changed a lot since the old days and we have all got some very fond memories of our time baking bread and cakes for the good customers of Wick and Littlehampton.
“The baking trade has been constantly changing, and times have been hard and stressful, working long hours putting our heart and soul into the company to make it what it is today.”
“We have pulled through and if it wasn’t for the loyal customers and our friends and family we wouldn’t be here today, for that I am grateful.”
The shop is changing again for its 80th year.
The business is now run by Mark and his dad, with the help of Mark’s wife Sarah, who is manageress of the shop.
They have made some changes and given the shop a revamp, which you will be able to see at the celebrations on Saturday.
There will also be a window display showing the history of Biggs Bakery.
Mark said: “I look forward to seeing you all at the bakery on Saturday (August 8) to celebrate our special achievement of possibly being the oldest family-run shop in Wick and Littlehampton.
“We will be giving away free cream teas to customers and the first 50 customers will get a free small Biggs birthday loaf.
“We also have a raffle to win a £100 wedding cake or two novelty cakes of the same value.
“There’s also a guess the weight of the cake and guess how many coins in a bottle, with the proceeds going to charity.
“And don’t forget to get a piece of birthday cake, which will be made and decorated by myself to celebrate the special occasion.”