I grew up in a household where it was normal to bake bread. My Mum stubbornly refused to succumb to the “life is too short” mantra that was persuading many people to get out of the kitchen in the 1970s and to buy convenience food, white sliced “Mother’s Pride” being one of those. I have for many years been interested in the politics of food, how it is sold to us and the effect that it has on our health, happiness and well-being and of course the environment. Bread is the perfect example of how food culture in Britain started to break down in the 1960s onwards and how its production reflected the drive by big food manufacturers to get us out of our kitchens and to embrace any food item that reduced our effort at cooking. Quick was good. In those early days we trusted that what was being sold to us would do us no harm. I grew up in Basingstoke. Money was tight, but it was always important to my Mum that we were well fed with wholesome, home cooked food.
When I had children it was easy to see the impact that good, home cooked food had on them. From lighting up their senses, bringing something smelling delicious and looking delicious from the oven to the table, to seeing their strong, healthy bodies and minds develop over time. It does take time and effort, but you make that time and effort for your loved ones.
I had always had a dream to open a bakery. Bread has a special place in my heart. It was in 2012 that I started to think about making this dream a reality. We had lived in a rural part of Hampshire since 1997 and it was almost impossible to find good quality bread. The supermarkets had their “in store bakeries” but they just provided the illusion of freshly baked bread, bread that looked and smelled good but that was full of additives, emulsifiers and preservatives. If I wanted good bread then I felt that others must want it as well and that there could therefore be a market for it away from the supermarkets. I also wanted to prove that good food, real food could get to the consumer at a reasonable price and that a business doing this could still have principles and ethics and make a profit at the same time. I spoke to a lot of people in the know, people with commercial real bread baking experience. None of them were very encouraging so I didn’t take the plunge.
In 2014 an unloved old coaching inn came on the market in the village of Inkpen. It had a restaurant, bar, tiny kitchen, 10 guest bedrooms and a converted barn where the owner lived. I saw my chance to refurbish this beautiful old pub and use the old barn space for a bakery and small coffee shop and Honesty was born.
Since 2014 we have moved the bakery twice as a result of growing demand for our bakery products and we are now in Turnpike in Newbury producing bread, cakes, pastries, pies, pasties, soups, stews, sandwiches and salads.
Alongside the development of the bakery and kitchen at Turnpike and the pub we now have 10 coffee shops, the first of which opened in 2016. It was a small shop on the high street in the village of Kingsclere near Basingstoke. When the site came up for rent it seemed the perfect place to showcase our bakery range. Most of our shops are on small village high streets, away from the big brands. We sit in the communities in which we serve, adding value and reflecting those communities, not imposing ourselves upon them.
In 2019 we added the wonderful Saddleback FarmShop to our group of businesses. The shop was built from scratch by Claire Whidbourne in a converted piggery and it is now a much loved business in the area, supplying quality local produce, with a cosy tea room and cafe.
In September we took over the running of another village pub in the village of Donnington in Newbury. We have a seasonal menu there that changes weekly and reflects the best of local produce. A small coffee shop selling our Honesty baked produce can be found nestled in the courtyard at the back of the pub building.