Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Daren, Stoke Newington

I returned recently to Stoke Newington in north London, an area with an impressive concentration of ghost signs. A few changes had occurred since my last visit four or five years ago. Sadly, as Sam Robert had commented, the glass of wine had been painted black by Hackney Council. Yet there were some more positive surprises, including the reappearance of the ghost sign below for Daren brown bread.

Only the part that was once hidden by a hoarding has survived but that's enough to identify the brand advertised here, especially since there are several similar ones around London. Examples published on this blog so far include these from Camberwell and Vauxhall.

The origins of Daren go back to 1875, when Leonard Keyes established a milling business at Brent windmill in Dartford. A few years later his brother Sidney K. Keyes joined the firm, which moved to Colyer's Mill on an artificial channel of the Darent. As their business expanded the two brothers looked for a site with greater production capacity and in 1891 they purchased Daren Mills on Dartford Creek.
The sucess of Daren, like that of Hovis, was linked to the growing demand for unaldurated flour and healthier bread in the late 19th century. Research carried out throughout the second half of the 19th century had revealed that millers and bakers often adulterated their wheat flour with rye, barley, Indian corn or bean-flour. Even worse, as a majority of consumers preferred white bread, a large proportion of them did not hesitate to add alum (around 50% in the mid-1850s) or copper sulphate, a highly toxic chemical, to make their bread look whiter. Those findings were reproduced, sometimes in a simplified form, by leading newspapers and had a huge impact on society. In this climate, consumers turned increasingly towards brands that claimed they could guarantee the quality, and safety, of their products.
Additionally by the end of the 19th century doubts began emerging about the nutritional value of white bread against brown bread. The campaign for more nutritious bread intensified during and after the Boer War as some linked the poor physical condition of British recruits (40% were declared unfit for military service) to the consumption of white bread; although this was more due to poverty and the associated consequences of bad housing and insufficient food than just a lack of vitamins in bread.
As Daren flour was used to bake brown bread (but not wholemeal), the company benefited from both factors. Demand grew steadily during the first decades of the 20th century, leading to the expansion of Keyes Daren Mills (see aerial views from 1924 and 1929).
In spite of the popularity of Daren loaves, the situation of the company deteriorated after the First World War. Competition with Hovis, Turog and other brands was extremely harsh. Furthermore, as production techniques improved and more modern mills were built around the country, milling capacity exceeded demand for flour in the 1920s. To counter competition from northern millers (essentially Joseph Rank Ltd from Hull and W. Vernon & Sons from Merseyside, both of which were expanding rapidly through mergers and acquisitions) seven independent millers from the London area formed in 1921 the Associated London Flour Millers. Each company retained its own identity though. Unfortunately information about Daren is rather patchy and I have not found a document stating clearly it was one of the founders of the Associated London Flour Millers but several suggest it. In 1929 Keyes Daren Mills Ltd became Daren Ltd, probably following the retirement of its founders. By joining forces the seven milling companies could lower their costs and make subtantial savings. As a result the Associated London Flour Millers returned healthy profits for several years. Yet following a first loss in 1929, its financial situation became precarious in the early 1930s and in 1933 the concern was absorbed by Ranks Ltd. Ranks kept the Daren brand and Daren loaves continued to be baked around the country. However Daren bread disappeared in the late 1960s or early 1970s. In 1962 Ranks had acquired Hovis-McDougall Co and after a few years it decided to keep only its bestselling brand, Hovis.

There is no online mention of a bakery at this address. The first part of the baker's name is missing but it may well have been "Raleigh", preceded by an initial (without it, the name would not have been centered).

... Raleigh's
Best Brown Bread

Location: Stoke Newington Church Street / Picture taken in May 2013

1 comment:

Sam Roberts (Ghostsigns) said...

The name of the baker was William Smith Hurstleigh and he took over the premises from the confectioner/baker Zieglar in the late 1880s. He remained at this address until the business (Hurstleigh's Bakeries) moved to a new location in SW1 in 1940. The premises still housed a baker after this date, the Record Bread Company, although this was replaced by another business before 1945, marking the end of a long history of a baker at 62 Stoke Newington Church Street.