After the announcement reported in the Romford Recorder that Percy Ingle Bakeries, the 66-year-old East End baking empire, will be closing their doors, we’re paying them a farewell with your memories. We’ve gathered up your anecdotes, recollections and remembrances from all of those who loved to swing by Ingle’s to pick up a fresh cream tart, or three.
As these heartwarming memories show, the humble baked good constitutes a lot more than mere sustenance; for many, these affordable tasty bites represent the most precious of family moments. Percy Ingle has been baked into the hearts of an entire generation.
Percy Ingle is a local family-run bakery founded in the East End. The family-owned business has been passed down five generations. At present, grandsons Michael and Paul Ingle are the bakery’s directors.
Since 1954, their products have been rooted in family traditions emanating from grandfather Percy Ingle’s recipe book, which featured a variety of treats from sausage rolls to Tottenham cakes. In particular, the fan-favourite at Easter was Hot Cross Buns, traditionally made with their own blend of spices, raisins and sultanas, left overnight to infuse before being added to the dough.
Within the East London and Essex community there is a Percy Ingle on every corner (48 high street stores, to be exact), loved by local residents and customers for their traditional treats and recipes.
For 66 years they have provided cakes for birthday parties and weddings, as well as playing a part in those smaller special moments in life – a donut on the way home from school. The Roman Road branch opened in the early 80s and has been part of residents’ memories ever since.
Shirini Ali recalls how Ingle’s Belgian buns were a prominent staple in her childhood: ‘they were always my treat for a job well done since my school days.’ Continuing the tradition, Ali rewards her girls with Ingle’s chocolate flake cake. Oh and ‘a visit to the parents is always better with bags of Ingle’s half-nuts and massive icing rings’. Frequenting the branch in Watney Market, Ali appreciates the friendly staff who always ‘loved having a good laugh’.
Wendy Dempsey had a similar experience while growing up in the 80s. ‘I lived on Bethnal Green Road and we used to pass Ingle’s on the way to school each day. For us, treats were cream horns, bread and butter pudding and doughnuts – the best doughnuts in town! If we were really lucky, we sometimes got Kaiser Rolls for lunch during the holidays.’
Now, Dempsey has carried on this tradition with her own daughters, who are treated to Ingle’s ‘excellent bread and delicious sausage rolls that beat anything you’d find in other bakeries; the East End high street won’t be the same without them’.
Like the family-run bakery itself, visiting Percy Ingles became a family activity too, and was passed down the generations. Sammie Brooks remembers: ‘my mum used to send me to their Broadway Market branch to get a loaf of poppy seed bloomer. Then she’d moan at me because I’d start eating it on the way home – one of my fondest memories as a child!’
Christine Golding, too, recalls how working at the Broadway Market branch in 1975 was her first ever job. ‘My mum already worked there so she got me a job and pretended I was 13-years-old when really I was only 12-and-a-half! I loved it; the staff were lovely and the customers were great too.’
One memory stands out for Golding in particular – when a bread shortage struck the bakery. ‘My dad had to stand at the door to make sure that there was only one loaf per person. He didn’t work there though, Mum just employed him as the stand-in bread minder!’
During the 90s, Emma Inwood visited her grandma’s house every Saturday. ‘The whole family got together and we’d buy Percy Ingles rolls and fish and chips from Savvas on Roman Road. This went on for a good 10 years; my Saturday was never complete without this.’
Throughout the same decade, Tina Brown recalls how important Percy Ingle’s was for her father.
‘My dad suffered from a brain injury. He used to walk the same circuit every day – a couple of miles around the East End – to try to recover. He would stop off half way at Percy Ingle for a tea and one of their cheesecakes, the dry, ‘hairy’ type, not the ones topped with fruit. It was a place of safety for him and an incentive to fight to regain his former self after the devastation of his brain injury. Every day, I would ask the same question: “Did you go to Percy Ingle?” and he always replied, “Yes, I had tea and a cheesecake” and I would say “Was it nice?” and he would say “Cor yeah, it was lovely”. That is how I remember Percy Ingle’.
Sharon Burns was also a big fan of Ingle’s famous ‘hairy’ cheesecakes. ‘They had the best cheesecake, although my aunt called them “hairy Mary’s” because of the coconut on top. The first time I went alone as a child when I was 11, I asked for a hairy mary and the lady looked so confused. I was so embarrassed but she just started laughing. I still call them hairy Mary’s.’
Ingle is not just a provider of delicious cream-filled bakes. Any establishment embedded in the Cockney consciousness is likely to foster even more special memories. Joyce Rose remembers how much her dad also adored Percy Ingle, frequently visiting the one in Barking. ‘He would spend hours in there, and even got himself a date once, in 2005, with someone who was working there. She was a lovely lady called Margaret.’
‘My poor dad, for years he called them Percy Ingrams and I always corrected him but gave up in the end’.
Linda Holmes, who is originally from Bethnal Green, loved going to Ingle’s after school. ‘It was the perfect Friday treat, picking up a strawberry tart on the way home’. Later on in life, she chose Percy Ingle to make her wedding cake in 1975.
‘It was three horseshoe tiers, all fruit and I loved it. Everyone else loved it too. I saved the top tier for my daughter’s christening and put it with another cake.’ Now living in Holland-on-Sea in Essex, she says ‘our roots will always be Bethnal Green. We always say that’s where we’re from’.
Jacqueline Stromberg was also a regular at the Bethnal Green Road branch in the 70s – it was the first shop she ever went to. ‘I loved their eccles cakes. When I moved to Devon in 2007, I got my sister to send them to me through the post! I sure will miss them’.
From wedding cakes to the humble Danish round, Percy Ingles holds a special place in many East End hearts. After 66 years of business, the bakery scene won’t be the same without them.
But don’t worry, they won’t be shutting just yet. It’s been reported that all their stores are set to be closed by March 2021, so fill up on Tottenham cakes while you can.
A very special thanks to Edna Bannor for her words and research.
Hungry for more? Read our interview with David Miller – the man behind Breid Bakery.
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