Suffolk: Family-owned bakery Palmers of Haughley stays true to traditional values

From left, Lynn Smith, Rosemary Tunney, Kenneth Palmer and Kieron Palmer.

From left, Lynn Smith, Rosemary Tunney, Kenneth Palmer and Kieron Palmer. - Credit: Archant

Palmers of Haughley, one of Suffolk’s longest-established businesses which has survived by moving with the times, is noting an upturn in trade as the economy recovers. JAMES MARSTON reports.

Haughley is a picture perfect Suffolk village.

And since 1869 the Palmer family have ensured that the village has its daily bread.

Today the Suffolk-wide family business is run by father and son team Kenneth and Kieron Palmer and still maintains the traditional baking methods that were used by their forefathers.

Keiron, 39, said: “We bought it as a going concern in 1869 but there has been baking on the site since about 1750.

“It was bought by my great-great-grandfather William James Palmer. The business passed to his son William Ewart Gladstone Palmer who developed the business by buying a farm and a mill and property. It passed to my grandfather Roy who died in 1989 and is now run by my father Kenneth and me.”

It is a rich heritage and one that the business is hugely proud of.

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Kieron said that over the years, as lifestyles have changed, the business has changed and developed to meet people’s needs.

“We stopped home deliveries in the 1980s. No one is at home during the day anymore, everyone works.”

Today from the Haughley bake house, Palmers supplies eight of its own shops in Haughley, Stanton, Woolpit, Stowmarket, Ipswich, Needham Market and Claydon.

Keiron said: “The mill is now closed and the farmland is contracted but the company still has a portfolio of about 200 residential and commercial properties across the UK.”

Originally the site of Norman market stalls when Haughley was a bustling town, the bake house itself dates from Tudor times.

Inside the ceilings are low and timbered as the bakers tidy up from the night’s baking shift.

Kieron, who learnt his skills as a baker from his father and grandfather, said the company still uses 200-year-old brick ovens to bake around 5,000 loaves of bread a week as well as a variety of artisan breads, cakes and pastries.

He added: “We are short staffed at the moment so I started work at 2am. The first shift starts at 1am to 9am, the next shift works from 5am to 1pm and the final shift works from 1pm to about 6pm”

“Everything is made on site and we transport the goods ourselves to our bakeries and customers.”

As the consumer becomes ever more discerning following food production issues such as the recent horsemeat scandal, Palmers has noticed an increase in trade.

Kieron said: “If you buy cheap rubbish you get cheap rubbish. The horsemeat scandal wasn’t that much of a surprise.

“We have survived two World Wars and the Great Depression. Business is good at the moment. Businesses have been through difficult times in recent years and though people still need to eat they do cut back. We have noticed an increase in demand recently.”

Tourists have also boosted trade in the bakeries.

He added: “Tourism seems to be increasing and more and more people are staying at home and holidaying in the UK.”

Using simple ingredients - flour, butter, sugar, eggs, salt, yeast – Palmers aims to source ingredients locally.

Kieron said the family business also benefits from loyal and long serving staff.

He said: “There is a sense of community here in Haughley and it is a very pretty village.

“As much as we can we maintain those traditional values of personal service and high quality products.”

And what’s it like working with other family members?

Kieron is diplomatic. He said: “Its fine. Though we do enjoy the odd lively discussion.”