I am writing about Cheetham’s Bake House which was situated in the middle of Ryton Street on the left hand side.
This was owned by Mr William Cheetham who started the business in the 1940s, it was then taken over by his sons Vin, Len and Billy, they also had a sister Maud who was my father’s mother, my grandmother. My grandfather, Maud’s husband was the baker alongside Vin, Len and Billy.
When my father was 13 he passed his exams to go to grammar school, but my grandfather wouldn’t let him go as he had to go into the family business as an apprentice baker. My father always said this was his greatest regret that he never got to go to grammar school as he never wanted to be a baker.
My earliest memories are of going to the bakehouse when my father was working especially in the winter when it was cold and you would step into the warm bakehouse smelling of fresh bread that were being made. As a treat my brother and myself would be allowed to go into the stoke room at the back of the giant ovens where the coke was kept to fuel them and dad would shovel coke into the bottom to keep them up to the right temperature to bake the bread etc.
My brother and I would sit in there keeping warm eating a teacake fresh from the oven (no butter needed). There was a window in there which looked over the River Ryton and we would watch the swans swimming past with their baby signets. They were used to my dad as he would feed them with dry bread which was left over, they got so tame that they would come right up under the window and dad would lean out and hand feed them.
There was also Cheetham’s shop and cafe which was situated on Bridge Place and from the back of the cafe you could access the bakehouse. The shop was at the front on the main street with the cafe at the bottom end, then upstairs was the restaurant which was quite posh in those day. It was all Silver Service with posh cups and plates and fancy cake stands and a bit more expensive than the cafe.
Cheetham’s also had an outside catering service, catering for weddings, parties and many dinners and conferences for the local businesses and companies in the area. They also catered for North Notts Farmers who were based right at the end of Ryton Street which is now the Guardian/Trader offices. The farmers used to have a refreshment tent at all the agricultural shows in the area i.e. Yorkshire Show, Lincoln Show and many more. My mother was a waitress and used to cater for all these and when we were on holiday from school my brother and I used to go with them and help set out all the table and chairs in the tent and carry all the food in. As I got older I also used to help the waitresses. It was such an adventure going to these shows as we would wander around all the stands and see the cows and horses and watch the horse jumping and collect all the freebies from the stands. This was in the 60s when children could wander about on their own without any worries!
Eventually Billy and Len retired and Vin ran the business with his son Gary, who then took over when Vin retired and eventually Gary retired and the shop is now Thorntons. The bakehouse no longer exists but is now an Indian restaurant. Everybody knew Cheetham’s and it was very popular. When my father Reg Wright reached 50 he’d had enough of being a Master Baker and took a job with British Rail working as a train preparer until his retirement.