International Heritage Centre blog

Pastries with Principles: The Salvation Army's Social Wing Bakery

The Salvation Army Bakery header from The Darkest England Gazette, 1894

Pastries with Principles: The Salvation Army’s Social Wing Bakery

Our regular readers will know that each year The Salvation Army Heritage Centre team celebrates the Great British Bake Off by cooking up our own bevy of bakes. Last year we took inspiration from historic Salvation Army recipes discovered in the archive, all of which can be found in our 2020 Bake Off blog post.

This year we’ve dedicated our bakes to the Social Wing Bakery, one of the many social schemes initiated by The Salvation Army at the fin de siècle. This blog has previously explored several of The Salvation Army’s ‘Darkest England’ schemes including The Salvation Army Match Factory, Salvage/Recycling Centres and Rescue Homes. With the arrival of autumn and #GBBO baking fever we thought it was high time for The Salvation Army’s Social Wing Bakery to see some of the limelight; so, grab a cuppa and a piece of cake and prepare to have your cravings fed!

If you were to peruse The War Cry in 1891, amongst the ads for hats, hosiery, books and ‘Darkest England matches’ you may spot the sporadic advertisement for The Social Wing Bakery.

The Social Wing Bakery ad, The War Cry, 1891
'The Social Wing Bakery', The War Cry, 14 November 1891

Devised on a similar model to The Salvation Army Match Factory, the Social Wing Bakery provided employment for local workers and produced essential funding for The Salvation Army’s social assistance programmes. All profits made from the bakery were pumped back into the Men’s and Women’s Social Services departments ‘to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless’.

The bakery boasted

Twenty Thousand Loaves per Day of the best Bread in London

as well as a mouth-watering selection of sweet treats such as ‘small fancy breads, tarts, scones, custards, buns, shortbread and cakes of all kinds’.

...Anyone else feeling hungry yet?

The Social Bakery advertisement, Darkest England Gazette, 1893
The Darkest England Gazette, 9 December 1893

In addition to this, the bakery offered daily deliveries of bread and pastries from their factory in Islington, which, as we know from the advertisements, was situated on Hawthorn Street (now Hawthorne Close) near Balls Pond Road. This handful of advertisements from The War Cry and the Darkest England Gazette, along with a few snippets from The War Cry’s ‘Winglets from the Wing’ social section in the 1890s, are the only known sources in our archives about the Social Wing Bakery.

Further investigation at the Wellcome Collection reveals The Salvation Army Bakery referenced in Islington’s Medical Officer of Health reports from 1898-1914. During this period bakehouses across London were inspected as a matter of routine by a Health Inspector each year. There is some discrepancy over the spelling, with the reports recording ‘Hawthorne Street Salvation Army Bakery (Factory)’ or ‘S.A. Bakery, Hawthorne Street’, but these reports tell us that the bakery was still in production, at least up until this point. In 1915, the bakeries cease to be listed by name in the Medical Officer’s reports, so we lose sight of The Salvation Army’s Social Wing Bakery again at this time.

Medical Officer Report 1912
Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Islington, Metropolitan Borough of, 1912, p210 [Wellcome Library,]

However, our sources from the Darkest England Gazette also tell us that while the Social Wing Bakery had

everything in apple-pie order and spotlessly clean

not all London bakeries held such standards. Whilst researching the Salvation Army’s bakery I came across a most unsavoury article in the Darkest England Gazette entitled ‘THE HORRORS OF A LONDON BAKERY’.

The Horrors of a London Bakery, Darkest England Gazette, 1893
The Darkest England Gazette, 5 August 1893

Following this eye-catching headline, the article reported the closure of an unnamed ‘west end’ bakery that had been condemned by the Marylebone Vestry after its health inspection in 1893. The report states that the bakery was

swarming with Blackbeetles and Cockroaches

which, as well as being physically perceptible ‘crawling over the dough’, were also detectable by their characteristic ‘bad smell’ which clouded the bakery. The bakery was immediately closed, and its baker instructed to carry out the recommended hygiene improvements within six weeks. Cross referencing this description with the Marylebone Medical Report from 1893 indicates that the bakery in question was most likely that at 58 George Street, Portman Square, as detailed in the below report.

Marylebone Medical Officer of Health Report, 1893
The sanitary chronicles of the Parish of St. Marylebone being the annual report of the Medical Officer of Health for the year 1893, p22 [Wellcome Library,]

Highlighting the poor practice and hygiene of a competing supplier in a revealing expose, dovetailed with mouthwatering advertisements for The Salvation Army’s baked goods demonstrates a shrewd marketing strategy from the editor of the Gazette. However, the marketing also had a moral goal: to demonstrate that it was possible to provide high-quality goods produced from fairly-paid labour, and to reap profits that were invested back into The Salvation Army’s social support schemes. The moral of this tale can only be…

'Order you bread of the social bakery'

In celebration and memory of the Social Wing Bakery (and because we love an excuse to bake and eat cakes), for this years’ Great British Bake Off bake-along we have drawn our inspiration from the Social Wing Bakery menu. With a wide selection of cakes, tarts, scones and buns, and more types of bread than you can shake your rolling pin at, we were spoilt for choice...


Maddie’s Manchester Tart

This is a traditional English tart made with shortcrust pastry coated with jam and filled with custard. Maddie opted for a rich cherry jam filling and found the tart ‘tasty but not visually appetising’!

Maddie's Manchester Tart

A modern take on fruit cake…

Inspired by the fruits of his labour Steven whipped up a plum cake using homegrown fruits from his allotment. For those who aren’t a fan of a traditional fruit cake we can safely say that this one is deliciously moreish and didn’t last long!

Plum Squares

Time for tea

Ruth opted for a teatime classic and tried her hand at a traditional scone recipe – delicious with lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Ruth's scones

Autumn flavours

Taking us into the cooler months, Steven opted for an autumnal classic, ginger cake. This Victorian recipe sourced from English Heritage is made with a generous helping of black treacle which makes it a chewy, rich cake, closer to a traditional parkin.

Steven's Ginger Cake

Back to basics

From humble beginnings to a luxury biscuit, shortbread has been beloved by the Scots since the medieval era and was one of the ‘small treats’ baked by The Social Wing Bakery in the 1890s. With a soft cakey centre and satisfyingly crunchy base, it’s easy to see why shortbread has successfully stood the test of time.


Fit for a Queen

These Victoria Buns celebrate a recipe devised by the original queen of baking, Isabella Beeton! They’re not as famous as her Victoria Sponge but these buns were also named for Beeton’s monarch, Queen Victoria (1832-1901), and have the texture and taste of a rock cake crossed with a scone – a tasty afternoon treat!

Victoria buns

November 2021

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