This is a wonderful recollection of an exchange between a customer and Caroline Cowley. The newspaper cutting (date and publication unknown) was sent to me by Gill and Vernon Cowley. (You can read about the contact from Gill and Vernon in ‘The Tunnel’ above.)
A Cross Exchange of Words!
(date and publication unknown) which Vernon has kept and which confirms the existence of the tunnel. It is also interesting to note the suggestion that the original buildings were established to serve as the bakery for the Royal Pavilion. Note: For clarity the original cutting has been split in to two separate images.
I was contacted in 2009 by Gill Cowley. Gill told me that her father-in-law, Vernon Cowley who was a master baker in Newhaven, remembered an ‘aunt’ who had a bakery in Brighton and that he recalled a story about a tunnel from the bakery in Pool Valley to the Royal Pavilion which was used to “take cakes to visiting royals”. Gill has kindly sent me a newspaper cutting
Early in my family history research I discovered that my great, great grandfather,
Francis Cowley (b abt 1806), was a baker in Brighton. In the 1841 and 1851 censuses
he was trading at 9, Prince Albert Street. Paul Jordan at Brighton History Centre
has also found a listing in an 1845 Brighton street directory with this same address.
In the same directory a ‘Sarah Streeter’ was listed as a ‘bread & biscuit maker'
at 9 Pool Lane (later Pool Valley).
The first record that I have found of Francis running a bakery business at 9, Pool
Valley is an advertisement (see left) in Melville’s Directory and Gazetteer of Sussex,
1858. This also confirms that the business was formerly run by ‘Streeter & Son’.
One of the booklets below shows that the bakery was founded in 1794, I assume by
the Streeter family. Francis Cowley is listed at 9/10 Pool Valley in the 1861, 1871
and 1881 censuses. The business was evidently thriving as in 1861 and 1871 Francis
was employing some 26 people. Francis Cowley died in 1881 and left estate valued
at £4350 2s 9d - around £210,000 at 2011 value.
By 1881 Francis’s daughter, Caroline, was working in the bakery and in the 1891,
1901, and 1911 censuses, following the death of her father, she is listed as ‘head’
of the household and has taken over the business. Her fortunes may not have been
as great as her father’s as, when she died in 1934, her estate was valued at just
£182 12s 11d.
The pictures below provide a fascinating pictorial history of “Ye Olde Bunn Shoppe”
during the course of the last 100 years. The first five photographs and the images
of the Cowley ‘booklet’ are from the collections at The Royal Pavilion and Museums,
Brighton & Hove and are reproduced here with their kind permission.
Click on an underlined place name to see a Google map
Click on the name box
This photograph also dates from around 1900 showing the front of the “Cowley Bread and Biscuit Baker” shop. A man in baker’s uniform is standing to the left hand side of the shop behind the Cowley handcart.
This black and white photographic print dates from ca 1900 showing Pool Valley, Brighton. It is a posed view of a family with Ye Olde Bunn Shoppe visible in the background.
These two monochrome photographic prints showing “Ye Olde Bunn Shoppe” are believed to date from the 1930s.
This postcard shows Grand Junction Road, Brighton with "Ye Olde Bunn Shoppe" somewhere amongst the buildings.
I found this postcard after my father, Charles Leonard Marshall Cowley, died in 2003. It was sent to him by his father, Charles Leonard Cowley, on 3rd August 1939. Grandfather writes: “Take care of this card, no more obtainable”.
Douglas d’Enno found this card for sale on an internet auction site. I bought it
for the princely sum of 75p! The card is postmarked 5 July 1956 and was sent to an
address in Forest Hill, London.
The final sentence reads, rather strangely - “This picture is not to be confused
with the Labour Exchange”.
This detail is from an article published in the Brighton newspaper, ‘The Argus’,
and shows the sad state of the building despite it being listed as Grade II* by English
Heritage for its architectural and historical importance. Click on the image to
read the full article. (This is split in to 3 parts to aid display and reading.)
This photograph was taken during my visit to Brighton in 2012 and thankfully shows
the ‘Bunn Shoppe’ in course of restoration to its former glory. The brick tiles
had yet to be replaced.
The building has now been re-let for commercial use.
I found this watercolour very recently on the V&A Images web site. It was painted
by Charles Knight (1901-1990), in 1940.
Click on the link above to read the full details from the V&A web site.
Thanks to the power of the internet my knowledge of the the history of the Cowley Bakery just keeps on growing. But none of this would be possible without the enormous interest and contributions of the many people who have contacted me.
Particular thanks go to - Kevin Bacon and Paul Jordan at Brighton & Hove Museums and Brighton History Centre Gill and Vernon Cowley Kristen Bailey Michael Beard, Editor & Bill Gardner, Reporter at The Argus for permission to reproduce the article from The Argus
The Royal Warrant
Several of the photographs of 9/10, Pool Valley show a Royal Crest above the Cowley
The Royal Warrant Holders
Association has confirmed that Miss Caroline Cowley held a Royal Warrant of Appointment
from HM King Edward VII. It is thought that the Warrant dates from 1908 as Caroline
joined the Association on 10th October of that year. According to the 1912 Register,
the ‘Board of Green Cloth’ (supervising Warrants) gave Caroline permission to continue
using the Royal Arms after the death of King Edward VII in 1910. It is not clear
why this dispensation was granted. Caroline eventually resigned her membership on
5th October 1921 when the dispensation came to an end.
From the Melville’s Directory advertisement above it would seem possible that Francis
Cowley may also have held a Royal Warrant but this will need further research to
These are images of a paper guide booklet for 'Cowley - Fancy Bread and Biscuit Maker, 9 Pool Valley, Brighton’ - from The Royal Pavilion and
Hover mouse & click
Museums, Brighton & Hove. The booklet apparently shows the variety of different breads and biscuits made by the Cowley bakery.
I came across these two images whilst ‘trawling’ the web on a lovely blog site designed by Kristen Bailey. Kristen had found the card being used as a bookmark in a charity shop paperback book and rescued it.
Click on the link to read the full story and enjoy the rest of Kristen’s blog.
"The World", Christmas, 1886.
"Here you have a genuine bit of old Brighton, in the quaint bun-shop, which from
time immemorial has been known as "Streeter's." Cannot I recall the particulalry
toothsome square sugary bun - it was a sort of aesthetic Bath-bun, if my recollection
serves me - and the crisp "parliament" they used to sell at this establishment? The
place is not the least changed. Young people have told me that the buns are still
toothsome and the parliament still crisp. I am glad that there is something which
still remains unchanged here."
"Brighton Gazette," December 22nd, 1900.
"At No. 9 is an establishment reminding those of us who are in the sere and yellow
leaf of Brighton's early days, and whose fame stands as high as ever. We refer to
the bakery and confectionery shop carried on by Miss Cowley, which was famous when
the Pavilion was a Royal residence. Notwhithstanding the age of the business it
has kept thoroughly abreast of the times, and is up to date in all other respects.
The house is chiefly noted for biscuits, which are to this day made on the premises
by hand. Many and various are their shapes and flavours, and wholesomeness and delicacy
in taste are combined in an eminent degree."