The Communal Bakehouse is located on The Moor, on the stretch between The Angel and Pitt Lane.
The building in which the Communal Bakehouse is located has a history which goes back much further than the ovens themselves. The construction of the building, with one wall in single brick and the others of double brick, and the age of the timbers, suggests that it may have started life as a gunpowder store for the local mines. At one time miners were responsible for purchasing gunpowder for use in blasting. There were a number of powder stores in the area, which would have been redundant after safer dynamite became in more general use after 1867.
It was listed as a "Croft" in the Tithe Map of 1842 and the property of Sir George Beaumont. The term "Croft" was often used to denote a parcel of land - not necessarily a small cottage as we use the term today. The conversion to a Bakehouse certainly came later as the window cut into the South Wall overlaps the construction of the ovens, and the oven brickwork does not connect into the brickwork of the adjoining walls. Currently we do not have any other dates which would give us a better Time Line.
In December of 2010 during the very bad weather the roof collapsed taking out a large part of the South Wall and the Gable of the East Wall.
The Coleorton 2000 Committee (which became the Coleorton Heritage Group) led by Mike Cox, undertook the restoration of the building and through the following year the volunteers gradually took the old bakehouse from a ruin to a viable structure. The bricks were re-used as far as possible with additional bricks obtained from an old building being up-graded, and from the old mine buildings at the Swannington Windmill site. The timber was largely rotten and beyond recovery and new larch was used for the main purloins and wallplates. The door lintel was made from seasoned oak, and the rafters were re-cycled from a building having a roof extension. The roof tiles were used where possible, but a substantial number of re-claimed rosemary tiles had to be incorporated. The old window frame was recovered from the ruin, restored and re-installed, although it was fitted a little further East to avoid the structure of the ovens.
The final tiles were fitted and mortared to the chimney on the 2nd of December 2011. The window was glazed to stop birds nesting in the building, and a new oak door installed, donated by a local company. A walk-way was made around part of the building using the remaining bricks.
The internal oven structure has yet to be restored. One of the ovens was largely destroyed to make way for a hearth, but the other oven is essentially intact and only needs a cast iron door to enable bread to be baked once more.
There were other communal bakehouses in the area. One in Aqueduct Road survived until the 1980s when it was demolished.
Brick ovens were excellent for baking bread as their thermal mass maintained a high temperature after the initial firing so other items could be cooked as well. Most village houses wouldn't have had room for such an oven, so would rely on a communal bakehouse for bread, roasts etc. However not all villages seem to have communal bakehouses so it is perhaps an indication of a benevolent landlord?
The Saidal Artisan bakery website, linked at the end of the Plumtree page, has a photo of a bread oven not dissimmilar to our Coleorton ones.
Note that Plumtree Village were so enthusiastic about oven-baked bread they built their own clay oven and baked bread successfully. More >>
The Bakehouse on the Moor is the last surviving bakehouse building in Coleorton - there used to be four - and it was one of the first sites to be designated with the Coleorton Blue Plaque.
Since restoration there has been concern over maintenance and long-term viability since it was still in private ownership. Thankfully the owners, Bernie and Vena Jacques, were well aware of the value of the Bakehouse to the community and has transferred ownership to Coleorton Parish Council. The Heritage Group will be working with the Parish Council on a plan to tidy the surrounding area, set up a maintenance schedule and provide an information board so the public can read about the history. We'd also like to restore the ovens if possible and maybe use them for baking some bread!
Bakehouse destroyed in 2010
Plaque acknowledging thanks to Vena & Bernie Jacques for the gift of the Bakehouse and surrounding land